Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Truth About Postpartum - Postpartum Anxiety

I have thought a whole lot about whether to share this post with others.  At first, I felt ashamed. I did not want people to know, especially people that already know me "in real life."  Yet as time went by it seems I have already told about everyone (and it was not hard to see anyway) so I believe it is about that time to write about it.  Why?  Maybe because writing is therapeutic to me and maybe to let other mommies out there know that there is nothing to feel ashamed about, that there are others out there too, and that sometimes it is not all puppies and rainbows.

I also feel the obligatory need to say the line here about how much I love Baby Lee.  He is a joy.  He is my genius baby and I would not change having him for the world.  However, now that I have given the obligatory caveat that all mothers feel they must say to others (who are not their close friends) before adding in the words "but"....

How can you not love this face!

Before Lee was born, I knew a little bit about postpartum anxiety and depression.  Not much but once I saw a webpage on it and sent the link to Aaron saying we should watch for this and that was that.  No one really talked to me about it not my friends and not my doctors.  After Lee was born, I was on an adrenaline high.  Take running a marathon or any other race and multiple it by 1,000 and that's how I felt post giving birth naturally.  I could not take my eyes off the little man.   I just wanted to stare at him all the time.
Post Baby Bliss - nothing like it

But soon enough, we were at home and reality had set in - I was not sleeping (do new moms and dads ever really sleep?),  I was, in my mind, having trouble breastfeeding, and Lee was crying 24/7.  For five weeks, he would not sleep during the day and would get small amounts of sleep at night.  When he was awake, he was inconsolable most of the time. It was a nightmare.  There was no quiet, there no rest, there was just constant fear, anxiety, and crying from all household members (ok just Lee and I).  It turns out, in the end, Lee has a dairy protein allergy meaning he was allergic to the dairy he was receiving via my breastmilk (i.e., what you eat gets in your milk and is transferred to your baby) and also he has reflux. Fun times!  This was not fully discovered until 4 weeks but it caused the non-stop tears.

No mommy, I want to be a vegan baby!  If only babies could use their words

During the first two weeks of Lee's life, I was not doing very well.  I kept stating how overwhelmed I was and crying all the time.  It was not until my lactation consultant mentioned something that we realized that this may not be normal.   I had an emergency session with a therapist that night and Aaron, the therapist, and I decided that we would not take the medication route just yet but intended to deal with it through healthy coping mechanisms.

Long story, short.  That was not enough for me.  I had full on postpartum anxiety.  For me, this meant I could not handle all different kinds situations.  If I had to make a decision, it took an hour, at least, discussing the options with Aaron over and over again, no matter how insignificant.  I would get stuck on an issue and could not let it go until it was resolved.  I would have to hand Lee to Aaron at points and go do things for myself because I was so very anxious.  And of course the lack of sleep did not help.

How can you have postpartum when they are this cute?!?

By Week 4, Lee was diagnosed and the doctor told me that I would just stop eating all forms of dairy until Lee was one young and keep on breastfeeding.  I was SO MAD.  I may have cried in the doctor's office and said like a 5 year old that "Lee would be getting formula."  I calmed down and then drove straight from the appointment to Robin's house where she helped me reason this whole thing out, as good running partners do.

The next week was considerable hell as my anxiety got worse. I tried to go off all forms of dairy and continue breastfeeding Lee.  Even though my breastfeeding experience had not been in anyway joyful, I just could not imagine the idea of giving up that task.  Ultimately, at the end of the week my midwife prescribed me anti-axiety medication which would require me to stop breastfeeding.  Her telling me I had to stop was all I needed to stop breastfeeding and start using hypoallergenic formula. Stopping breastfeeding was the best decision for us - more on this on another post.

Turns out Lee really really likes formula

Unfortunately, she prescribed too large of a dose.  It caused me to have panic attacks.  I woke up twice in the middle of the night crying, gasping for air, and with a racing heart.  I knew this was not normal.  Then for three days I had this type of out of body type disassociation where I could talk to you and converse with you but did not feel truly there.  It was awful and scary.

As an aside, I am in a book club and recently we read the book "The Unfinished Works of Elizabeth D." by Nicole Bernier.  This is worth a read by the way.  At one point in the book, the main character is in a highly superficial mommies' group and she tries to keep up and act like all things are perfect when things are not; they are hard; babies are hard! I do not know what I would have done if I was in such a group.

Unlike most of the mommies in this fictional book my group of friends, all of which who have had babies in the last few years or months, or even those who have not came to my rescue.  They brought food over and sat with me and told me stories of their postpartum depression and anxiety.  That is was pretty normal to feel like heading for the hills; to just want to cry; to feel overwhelmed.  These mothers were mothers I looked up to and adored.  I saw them as the "perfect" moms, knowing that they had struggled gave me hope.  Others who did not have babies were just as supportive.  They were all amazing.  One friend in particular was my life line.  She told me about her experiences and recommended an amazing doctor.  She let our family come over each week and sat and talked with me and helped me with Lee - I think her husband had enough of me by week 8.  Another friend spent the entire night when I was alone without Aaron.  Others were always willing to chat....

I saw the psychiatrist who believed that my initial prescription was way too high and caused the disassociation and panic attacks.  We then worked for another 3 to 4 weeks to get the dosage right.  It took from December 28th to February 24th to finally get the medicine right and for it to "kick in" so to speak.  Anti-anxiety meds take 6-8 weeks to work!!! That is not very helpful when you need it now.  There are immediate short attacking drugs for panic attacks and the like but generally 6-8 weeks to make the long term stuff yea that was fun.  For that time, I continued therapy, I took the medicine and things began to start working again.  About the time of our trip to Florida for one of my best friend's wedding, I finally began to feel like me again.  Previous to that though, I was always, never myself.

These shirts were never so true haha 

I could take care of Lee and Aaron was super super supportive and helpful.  However, I could not truly enjoy all experiences with the anxiety hanging over my head.  The other part of it was sleep.  My doctors believed it was essential for me to have a full night's sleep.  Once I stopped breastfeeding, Lee and Aaron were super helpful to that end - Lee got better sleeping and Aaron took anything that had to do with nights.  I felt super guilty but realized it was the only true way for me to recover.  Yet, even with that help, I woke up every two hours and could not sleep - it would take hours to get back to sleep.  It is only recently that I have finally started to get full nights sleep.  I know I know I have a 5 and half month old baby, I should not expect sleep.  However, for me and my family, sleep was essential and had to occur.

Today, I feel a lot more like me!  I am overall very happy and less anxious even with A TON of stressors going on in my life.  I am able to let things go.  I do not obsess over every little thing Lee does or every decision that has to be made.  I do not turn to Aaron and ask the same question over and over again.  I think clearly and enjoy life and my baby.  Aaron tells me to be proud of myself and I am.  I am proud that I accepted what was hard to accept, talked to people, and took action.  Proud because I know getting help is important to my family's stability and overall happiness.


People do not tell you  the truth.  They do not tell you about how hard postpartum is!  When I was diagnosed, my midwife said that it  happens to so many people and that they don't tell people because they do not want to scare them.  Ummmm..... yea.  Maybe for some it is not hard.  But for me, in the beginning it was very very hard.  I wanted to post about it to tell all you the truth.  To tell you my story and to help you cope if you need to or be ready if you need. And to get help, to talk to someone, anyone.  I am always happy to answer questions and be supportive too. And if not, it is just another blog post....

Did you suffer from postpartum troubles?  What are some truths about postpostpartum no one told you about?

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