Category Archives: tears

Reclaiming the Anniversary: One Father’s Journey

On April 9, 2009, I posted a moving story from Joseph Raso over at the Postpartum Dads Project. Susan Stone had originally posted this at Empowher.com and I reposted with her permission. The piece stayed with me.

On Wednesday night, I received an email from Joseph. It included a link to a video montage of his daughter, Crystal, set to the Rascal Flatts song, “Why.” Crystal tragically shot herself shortly after giving birth to her second child, Max. No one knew she had been struggling. They simply thought Crystal was being Crystal and worrying just as she always did. No one was let in to help her. Her world turned upside down, inside out, and the only way she saw out was to leave her family behind in the most tragic way possible. Joseph has worked courageously and tirelessly to share Crystal’s story with as many people as he can in order to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. And for that, I commend him. It is difficult work to take such a dark event and turn it into something so showered with light nothing can touch it.

Today, February 27, 2010, marks the second anniversary of Crystal’s tragic passing. Please join me in respectfully remembering her life. Join me in praying for her family, her parents, her husband, her children – praying they will continue to find strength and that God will bless them each and every day. Join me in sharing her story to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Click on the candle picture to light a virtual candle which will burn for 48 hours in honor of Crystal and mothers everywhere who needlessly lose their lives to Postpartum Mood Disorders each day.

I charge you with a simple task today. If you know an expectant or new parent, male or female, make a point of asking how THEY are doing. Encourage honesty. Don’t judge. Listen with compassion. Educate yourself and expectant/new parents about Postpartum Mood Disorders. Feel up to more? Challenge your local L&D to educate new moms if they aren’t already doing so. Please don’t let any more mothers suffer so alone and so silently. It’s just not okay.

(Before you click on the video below, please know that it made me bawl like a total baby after having read Joseph’s piece. And I don’t cry or bawl. Often. If you are not emotionally stable right now, you may want to skip the video. There is nothing graphic in it at all. It’s just very very moving. Kudos to Joseph for putting together such an amazing montage.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYIRZbyXnu0]

The following is what Joseph shared with me via email when he sent me the video:

“This Saturday (02/27/10) is the second anniversary of Crystal’s passing.  Mary, I, and the whole family miss her so.  Seeing her children, Hannah and Max, almost daily is double edged sword.  On one hand, being a huge part of their lives brings such joy, but on the other hand, every time we see them we are reminded WHY we are such a big part…  it is because Crystal is gone.  I thought you might want to keep this video in your library.  Someday you might want to forward it to someone who could be at risk of postpartum depression.  This song “Why,” by Rascal Flatts, not only tells the story of how our actions can affect others, it is also so beautiful, anybody could enjoy it.  When I first heard it, I was  reminded of what we went through after Crystal died.  God Bless You.”

If you, a loved one, or a friend are coping with the recent loss of a loved one to suicide, please read this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you are contemplating suicide, there IS hope. There are people who love you. People who care and want to help you heal. Need someone to talk to right now? Click here for a comprehensive list of resources in the US.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, contact Postpartum Support International‘s warmline at 1.800.944.4PPD. (I may just be one of the people to return your call – I’m a volunteer for the warmline in addition to providing support in my home state of Georgia)

Bottom Line here? There is hope. There is help. And above all, you are absolutely NOT to blame. And above that? You WILL be well.

Please feel free to share any of the above information on your blogs or within your networks. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Below is a button for you to place on your blog in remembrance of Crystal. The only rule is that if you download it and post it, it must be linked to Joseph’s YouTube video.

Here is a list of blogs participating in today’s remembrance event. A big Thank You goes out to all of them for great posts! (If you posted and you’re not listed below, please let me know so I can add you to the list!)

What a week!

Monday was Charlotte’s cleft repair, pharyngoplasty surgery, and ear tubes.

Tuesday morning she got the nasal tube they put in to aid in breathing removed. Then she ate. And ate some more. And drank.

So we were discharged Tuesday afternoon.

She stopped eating Wednesday morning. Stopped talking by the middle of the day. She was also refusing all medication and foods.

We were instructed to return to the hospital.

So we did.

And there we stayed until yesterday morning when her appetite and fluid intake finally picked up enough to make me feel comfortable with bringing her back home.

Our stay was riddled with issues.

The first issue was failure to get written consent for her ear tube surgery. The surgeon took the time to track down where the breakdown in communication happened and did apologize to us but then just a few sentences later admitted that post-consent happens quite a bit in her practice with her adults. Yeah. We’re SO not going back to see her.

Second issue arose during our return to the hospital. The ER had a hard time getting ahold of Charlotte’s doctor to approve admission even though we had been instructed to return by them. We arrived at the ER at 830p but did not get a room until nearly 2a Thursday morning.

Third issue was our day nurse on Thursday. She was a bit flighty and had a propensity for over-explaining things and failed to be prompt in her attention to us. My daughter’s med pump went off repeatedly as did her fluid pump with no response from her whatsoever. She was apologetic and spent some time trying to kiss Charlotte’s behind but I had the nurse replaced. It’s not my kid you have to impress, lady.

Fourth and fifth issue happened on Friday.

Fourth: A tech walked into our room and asked if I wanted to give Charlotte a bath. I said that I did. So she got everything ready and decided we needed to give Charlotte a sponge bath in bed. We had Charlotte lean back over a bowl of water and wiped her hair down. The tech realized she didn’t have water to rinse with so she went and got some while I tried to keep Charlotte calm and still. The tech returned with the water and began to pour it on Charlotte’s head. Charlotte screamed. I reached up and felt the water. It was absolutely scalding. I immediately told the tech to stop and get out of our room. The water she had gotten was entirely too hot! She acted surprised and I had to ask her several times to leave the room. I asked our nurse to make sure she was not allowed back in our room. I didn’t see her again during our stay.

Fifth: At about 1p the phone in our room rang. I answered. It was a prank call. I hung up. They of course, redialed. I was very unsettled (they said horribly mean and rude things to me) and called our nurse. He came right away and handled the situation beautifully. Unplugged our phone and had our phone number changed. A report was filed.

I don’t tell you all of this to complain. I’m telling you all of this to stand strong. I got flustered only twice during our stays. The first was immediately after surgery when we had to hold Charlotte down as the anestethia worked its way out of her system. She was angry, confused, and frustrated. Kept pulling at her IV, her nose, and wanted to be done with all of the pain. I admit that I cried. It took four hours for her to finally calm down.

The second time was when we got prank called. I was very very scared. I didn’t know if it was someone from inside the hospital or outside. I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I even had a plan in place if someone we did not know were to burst into our room. But nothing came of it and I was able to get back to sleep within the hour.

I am glad this past week is behind us.

On a positive note, Charlotte’s speech is ALREADY improved. She’s saying words that we can now understand a lot more often. There are sounds she struggled with before that she is now making with seemingly no effort. We still have quite a bit of work ahead of us but for now, we’re miles away from where we were this time last week.

Last night was rough but I have hopes tonight won’t be as bad. I think she’s got some night terrors and trauma residuals going on as a result of spending the week at the hospital. Teething tablets and a night light finally helped her go to sleep on her own last night but she spent the bulk of the evening in the living room with me. We’re going to have her return to school so her mind will have other things to focus on as well to help leave the memories of this past week behind.

One Year Later

We have said goodbye to marijuana.

She hasn’t shown her funky green face here for a year now. She is not missed.

It’s been a hard road. There have been fights. There have been tears. Lies, broken hearts, scars, wounds, screams, regrets – both good and bad.

But there have also been long talks. Good talks. Open doors, open hearts, forgiving souls, forward motion.

We’ve learned some difficult lessons through all of this. The biggest lesson of all is to keep moving forward and not linger in the past. For if you are not careful the past will painfully dig its claws deep into your heart and never let go. You will suffer catastrophic heartache if you cannot leave the past behind.

Philippians 3:13 -15 sums it up well: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

I know our journey is far from over. I’d be an ignorant ostrich if I didn’t admit that there are many bumps in the road ahead of us. Burying my head in the sand won’t do anyone any good in the long run.

This past week has been rough. I’ve been hashing last year’s events over in my head – the soft rain falling as my fingertips and toes went numb after my car crumpled into another vehicle in the dark night. The rescue worker who spread his arms and jacket above me to shield the rain from my face as I was lifted into the ambulance. Memories of sitting in our living room wrapped in two blankets as I clutched a cup of coffee and with a quiet anger read the riot act to my husband for my three hours in jail.

Last night we had a great talk as we sat on the front porch with a couple of pre-embargo vintage Cuban cigars. I admitted I had occasional regrets about not having seized the opportunity a year ago to leave. As good as it felt to get this off my chest, I am glad I’ve stayed.

I’m glad I’ve been here for the rebirth of my husband. He’s truly come into his own and has shed quite a bit of old skin. I’ve been reborn too – learning patience, forgiveness, peace, strength, and love all over again. I’m excited to see what the next year holds for us. Right now, we’re on Day 7 of The Love Dare. I gave it to Chris for Christmas but we waited until Fireproof came out on DVD to start. It’s making a difference already.

I want to take a moment to thank my husband.

Thank you. Thank you for being man enough to admit you had made a mistake. Thank you for growing. For being brave enough to shed your shell and let people get to know the real you. For not hiding behind the marijuana anymore. For truly accepting God’s word into your life and your heart. For stepping it up and coming into your own as a father and as a husband. For finally being here for our family. I’m so lucky to know you. I’m blessed to be married to you. I’m thankful to be by your side as you emerge from your chrysalis. I can’t wait to see your shining colors. I can’t wait to face whatever challenges lie ahead of us. Together. Forever. Just as we promised on June 15, 2002. All I want is you. It’s all I ask for – the real you. I love you.

Nicholas Fuelling promises to wait for his wife

Earlier this week, Kristina Fuelling found herself sentenced to the lowest possible sentence for the death of her eight day old infant. Fortunately she found herself in the presence of a very compassionate judge and prosecutor who were both able to recognize her actions were a result of Postpartum Psychosis. She is currently being held at a mental facility and will be transferred to a state prison for the remainder of her sentence once her mental state stabilizes.

Her husband, in exclusive first statements to a local news station, has promised to wait for Kristina and opened up about signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Psychosis. He encourages fathers and loved ones of new mothers to educate themselves and become familiar with signs that things are not going well.

According to the article, Nicholas’ statement of encouraging awareness is:

“I would tell new mothers, or expecting mothers and fathers to research it, look into it. It’s just as important as any other factor of raising a child,” he said. “There are signs: lack of sleep, having trouble with breast feeding, having trouble taking care of the baby, lot of anxiety. But sometimes it comes just unexpectedly.Even in hindsight now, I don’t even think I could’ve been able to change it unless I knew beforehand,” Fuelling said.

“So I would tell people out there to look for signs of severe anxiety. Get help. Ask your friends and your parents, family, to come over to help take care of the kids. Don’t be alone on it if you feel any feelings of being scared or not being able to handle the situation,” he added.

You can read the remainder of the article by clicking here.

Health care practitioners discourage disclosure of Postnatal Depression

Picture by Flickr

Picture by Flickr

In a study published yesterday, UK researchers reviewed the disclosure of Postnatal Depression from three different vantage points – the mother, the GP, and home health visitors.

The results are chilling.

The mothers reported making a conscious decision regarding their decision to disclose symptoms of Postpartum Depression which is not terribly shocking because I went through the same thing. It is most definitely a conscious decision and a difficult one at that.

The chilling result lies within the response of the Health Practioners  “described strategies used to hinder disclosure and described a reluctance to make a diagnosis of postnatal depression, as they had few personal resources to manage women with postnatal depression themselves, and no services to which to refer women for further treatment.”

I feel as if I’ve been punched in the gut. I want to cry, scream, yell, stomp my feet. But I know that won’t change what’s going on over there and even over here because I’m sure this attitude is very pervasive in the medical community here in America as well.

Where’s the responsibility of the medical professional who turns a blind eye to the struggling new mother and actually uses strategies to prevent her from admitting she’s having a hard time? How does that serve anyone but the selfish nature of that physician? What happened to the Hippocratic Oath and “Do no Harm?”

If we pretend a problem doesn’t exist, it doesn’t go away. What if we pretended cancer was all in our heads and didn’t offer chemo, radiation, or other therapies? Would it go away or would it sit and fester, eventually killing us and hurting those around us? I think we all know that answer. It is no different with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Left untreated a new mother may even slip into Psychosis as she tries to rationalize intrusive thoughts or fall even deeper into depression and attempt to take her own life or even worse, that of her infant’s.

With all the online resources, training, and knowledge at the fingertips of even lay-people such as myself, there is no excuse for medical professionals to ignore this condition anymore. Any medical professional in my opinion who would implement strategies to hinder disclosure of symptoms should be stripped of the right to practice medicine. It’s wrong and it should NOT be acceptable. Mothers deserve to be treated honestly and with respect. They need to be given a safe place in which they are able to admit any emotional trauma or difficulty they are having. Giving them this space will foster the growth of trust and compassion rather than continue to grow the cold shoulder on which they have apparently been leaning upon.

So what can we do about this? Write about it like Katherine Stone, myself, Cheryl Jazzar, and others. SPEAK like Natalie Dombrowski, become active in online peer support like Tonya Rosenberg, talk to another mom and let her lean on you. Let her know you too have been there. Talk with doctors or their nursing staff about your experience and how important their role in discover and recovery can be. Write your Senator in support of The MOTHER’S Act as this wil laid in the growth of knowledge and support among the medical professional as well as research regarding how to bring the new mother and medical professional together. Sharing your story is the best thing a survivor can do. Our voices woven together can be the strongest advocate for increased treatment and acceptance. Won’t you lend us yours?

Sharing the Journey with Natalie Dombrowski

Not too long after launching The Postpartum Dads Project, I received a comment from a reporter based in Illinois requesting contact from someone with the project. I emailed and finally touched base with her last week. While doing research for an article about Natalie Dombrowski’s experience, she came across the Postpartum Dads Project site. I began to notice some traffic being directed to Unexpected Blessing from The SouthTown Star’s website and decided to check it out. This is how I discovered Natalie. Like me, she’s experienced Postpartum Depression but to a much higher level. She is also SPEAKing out about her experience and has written a book detailing her journey. I hope you enjoy reading her interview here and if you’re interested in reading her husband’s point of view, I’m happy to tell you his interview is available at The Postpartum Dads Project! You can also keep up with Natalie at her blog.

Thank you Natalie for being brave and courageous in sharing your story. It’s because so many more of us are SPEAKing up and out that the stigma is slowly being stripped away from this very real illness that rips at the very heart of so many American families.

Natalie and son Brian

Natalie and son Brian

Tell us a little bit about Natalie. What does she love to do when no one’s looking?

Well I am thirty-four years old. I am very happily married with one child presently. I love to read when I get a moment, most of the time it’s before I go to bed. I’m usually asleep after fifteen to twenty pages. Currently I am reading ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” for my book club. My mother-in-law is teaching me to crochet. I thought it would be nice to learn. When I was little I used to do latch key kits. I love going to the movies. I love to shop when it is feasible; however I always pamper myself by getting either a pedicure or massage once a month. And, I enjoy having an occasional glass of wine.

As both of us know, motherhood isn’t always smiles and kisses. For some of us it gets very dark with no sign of light and the whispers we hear aren’t search parties setting out to rescue us. How dark did your experience get and what finally brought the light back into your life?

My illness was so advanced that I had to be hospitalized for twelve days. If I think back now I can still remember the immense internal pain. I was so hopeless, I felt like anything would be better than feeling the way I felt. I believe that was the darkest part of my experience. I had never felt like that in my entire life. I certainly didn’t understand why I would feel this way when I just had a baby. A baby that I planned for and wanted. Wanting to end my life was scary, but not as scary as the intrusive thoughts I had to harm my baby. At one point I imagined my son to dying from SIDS. I could not understand these immoral thoughts, but they would not stop coming. I have always fought my way through things. Between the choice of fight or flight; fight always won. This time I saw no way to fight. I didn’t know that I was sick and that I needed someone else to fight for me. That someone ended up being my husband. I remember the first time after my baby Brian was born when I truly felt hope. It was on the Fourth of July. We were going to host the Fourth but decided it wasn’t a good idea. Brian already bought fireworks, so that night I had my own personal fireworks show. Outside, monitor on the front porch, an ear’s length away from my baby, fireworks and my beautiful husband made the hope in me ignite! That is when I knew it was all going to be ok.
You also experienced a traumatic childbirth. Do you think this contributed to your experience? How have you reframed your experience?

I absolutely know that the traumatic birth contributed to my illness. I was not medically diagnosed with PPPTSD. But if more physicians were better equipped to understand and deal with mood disorders, I certainly believe it may have been my medical diagnosis. I can’t say that I have reframed my experience. What I have done is educate myself. I understand what happened to me. With this, I believe I have reframed my previous thought ‘I don’t want to have anymore children.’ I want to give myself and my husband another chance at a happy and healthy postnatal experience. And I want to have more children like I always did.

Back to You, your book about your struggle is now available at Amazon.com. What made you decide to write this book and share it with the world?

The book was originally a journal I set out to write as part of my own therapy. I had replayed everything over and over in my mind. I wanted to move on. I believed if I wrote it down I could. When I was finished I read it out loud to my husband; he encouraged me to share it with others.

What are three things that made you smile today?

Well, today, my son repeated what I said, “what happened.” He had his hands out stretched and had a look of confusion on his face! It was adorable. I smiled when my little brother, not so little – he is 31, told me that he was going to Virginia to visit a girl he met on his New Year’s cruise. I know it’s early but I love weddings. I also smiled today because I know my husband was happy to have completed a long and difficult job.

What do you find the most challenging about motherhood nowadays? The least?

I find motherhood very exhausting. I am a stay at home mom, and by the time my husband gets home I am seriously exhausted. I am thankful that he takes our little guy off my hands for an hour or more before dinner. This is an underestimated profession and lifestyle. The least challenging thing about motherhood is in the pure fact that your child makes it all worth while.

I am a strong believer that Postpartum Mood Disorders affect more than just Mom. They disrupt the entire family balance. How did your husband handle your diagnosis and hospitalization?

My husband handled my diagnosis and hospitalization in a very mature and understanding manner. He was truly my rock. However, when I was better he began to get very angry. At first I didn’t understand, but as time went on, I realized what had happen. He had to stop living his life too; not only because we had a child, but because I was sick. He certainly was not prepared for that. He was only supposed to be off for two weeks. One of which was spent with us in the hospital for the first five days of little Brian’s life. He was supposed to go back to work, his life like normal. I think this whole idea of back to work, back to normal should be redefined. New baby = a new life & change.
I read in the news article at the South Town Star that you posted notes all over the house to yourself about how you were a good mother, not to blame, etc. What were some of the other little things you did to help yourself recapture a positive mindset and come back from the dark?

That was a big one. I truly needed to replace my negative thoughts, with positive ones. Even if I didn’t believe them right away. This technique in therapy is called CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This was the approach I was given to follow. Also, the home-health care nurse we hired was a very big part of my recovery. She was my coach, cheering me on and teaching me the challenges of motherhood. We really didn’t have the money for her but we decided to use money from our wedding.
Tell us about SPEAK. What does it stand for and what are your hopes for this project?

SPEAK… stands for (Spread Postpartum Education & Awareness Kinship…) It is a five point presentation intended to educate women. I have created this from my own personal experience and my active role in learning about postnatal mood disorders. I intend to SPEAK… I taught middle school math, algebra, and geometry for almost seven years. Now my goal is to teach moms-to-be, new moms, family members directly involved with the care of a mother, everyone about this under diagnosed and under recognized disorder. Women and babies have lost their lives to this illness. I almost did. This is pointless. I know, from the conferences and books I have read that a lot of people and organizations are taking the much needed steps to push the Mother’s Act through the Senate, hopefully with the new 09’ Congress. In the meantime I feel those that do know about postnatal disorders have an obligation to help all women right now. We need to educate all women about the possibility of postpartum depression after birth. And I am not talking about the brief 15 seconds that were allotted in my own birthing class. I am talking about dedicating 50 minutes or more about the myths of motherhood, the risk factors, the screening tools that are available on-line, signs & symptoms, the law and what they can do to advocate for their health & care right now and finally I offer suggestions of how to treat this devastating illness if it happens to them. Awareness is the key.

Last but not least, what advice would you give to an expectant mother (new or experienced) about Postpartum Mood Disorders?

My advice would be to attend a SPEAK… presentation; however, they may not be in the Chicagoland area, so therefore I would advise them to be aware of the different types of mood disorders. They should know there are screening tools that can be requested especially if they have some risk factors. Her family and friends should be knowledgeable of symptoms as well. (These people closest to her need to be aware!) And in the case that she has a mood disorder, she needs help. A treatment and/or support plan can and should be in place ahead of time. A care calendar should be set up in advance for the mom. The calendar should be for no less than six weeks of care after the birth of the baby. (The mother needs to be cared for too. If she had surgery, a caesarean birth, she is unable to move around even less. Meals and infant care should be a huge part of the care calendar.) Also, the name and number of a therapist in the area that has experience with women’s health needs to be available. This is not an illness that should be learned about after the fact. Measures need to be in place ahead of time. This is the best advice I could ever give. Just like some of us may have forgotten to plan our marriage when we were planning our wedding, we really need to plan for more than just the birth of our child.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to SPEAK… :)

Sincerely, Natalie

Two Hours to finish a Smoothie?

My attempt at hiding Alli’s medicine in a smoothie failed miserably.

It took nearly two hours for her to finish the thing and if I had recorded the sounds she was making the entire time, you’d expect me to be announcing the birth of a child after it was all over. Seriously!

What the heck is going on here??? Why won’t my kid take her medicine? Chris says it’s because she’s got his discerning palate which means she’ll be a chef someday. I don’t care about someday, I told him. All I care about is that she take her medicine now so she can go back to school.

I just got off the phone with a very unfortunate nurse at my pediatrician’s office who’s first suggestion was to hid the medicine in some yogurt or pudding. Were you NOT listening to what I just told you about the friggin smoothie???  The medicine was hidden in blended layers of frozen blueberries, yogurt, banana, and blueberry juice. AND SHE KNEW IT WAS THERE!!!! Then the nurse brilliantly told me to hide it in some Sunny D. Listen here sweetheart, my kid’s got strep. I’m not giving her something as acidic as Sunny D. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that’d be a bit like rubbing salt in an open wound. And then Brilliant Nurse Idiot suggested I not let Alli see me put the medicine in whatever I’m hiding it in. Really? Oh My God. Thank YOU for that brilliant tip. I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT ONE!!!! The pediatrician is supposed to call me back. I think I got a bit too belligerent on the phone but I’m at my wit’s end, can ya blame me?

I want to go curl up in our bed and go to sleep.  I think I will right after the ped calls me back.

Anyone have a tracking number for that Cuervo?

Astounding Testimony of Postpartum Experience

Over at The Prodigal, Dave Loveless has been doing a Mental Illness series. Yesterday’s post was a rather detailed and honest account of a Mormon Mom’s experience with Postpartum Depression, including how her faith affected her recovery. I would strongly recommend reading it but do warn that it is graphic and long.

The Insanity of Sickness & Christmas

Oh how it royally bites to be sick on a holiday. Especially when you’re the one cooking THE MEAL and it’s your first time at the helm for such a big event. I somehow managed to hold it all together and pulled off an awesome Christmas Lunch of (get this) Roast Beef Tenderloin with Beef Mushroom Sauce, Carrot Souffle, Green Bean Bundles, Creamed Corn, and Yorkshire Pudding. I baked a Scripture Cake the night before in honor of the man of the day, Jesus.

Yet once I stopped moving frantically about in the kitchen and sat down, my body realized the rush was over and apparently gave itself permission to implode.

My left hip? Out of alignment for the better part of the afternoon and evening. Only heat and a whopping dose of Tylenol and Ibuprofen cleared that up. And thank goodness it did because I was unable to bear weight on my left side without almost collapsing and crying outloud.

My head and chest? Obscenely Congested. Tylenol Cold did nothing for me. Ended up making a Walgreens run at 10p last night for myself and for Cameron. I got Severe Cold Meds and Nasal Spray. He got a little Flowing Vapors desk thingy by Triaminic. (Have I mentioned Charlotte’s sick too?)

All of this started last Friday when Alli was coughing slightly. The cough got worse and by Sunday evening I was at the ER with her. First thing I did when we got ushered back to a room? Turned on the NY Giants game! (Thank GOD they won!) She had to get a strep swab, flu swab (which is a nasal swab and not an easy thing to watch), take some ibuprofen and tylenol, get some chest x-rays, get said x-rays done again, and finally ended up with a diagnosis of Possible Pneumonia. She was given antibiotics there and we were sent home with a prescription. Half an hour after she took the antibiotics she threw up. Repeated this again in the morning when we tried to give Motrin. Off to the ped’s office with a feverish uncooperative toddler in tow.

Much of this past week has been spent in a headlock with Alli to get her to take her meds and trying to conserve the tissue use because her nose has been running a freakishly long marathon. We’re all coughing (except for Chris) and today has found me in bed for the better part of it – I’ve been awake a couple of times but not very long. I’m due to take some more medicine here shortly (I think – how bad is that!) and am ready to crawl back into bed and rest. I just can’t take being awake anymore. My head is pouding, my voice has apparently bought the last ticket to Clarksville, and this cough and congestion is driving me insane.

And for the record, Chris has been absolutely awesome today. He’s really taken the reigns and let me pass out. I can’t even begin to express how much that has meant to me!

So forgive me if I haven’t posted much the past week or don’t post much for the next few days. I’m taking my own advice and doing some much needed self-care.

Sharing the Journey with Adrienne Griffen

Meet Adrienne Griffen, an amazing woman, mother, PPD Survivor, and fellow PSI Coordinator.

Adrienne has been volunteering with PSI for about as long as I have and is located in VA. She recently launched her own non-profit, Postpartum Support Virginia.Not only is she one dedicated woman, she’s from my home state, VA. Gotta show the love, right?

Her first postpartum experience was awesome – she even held a dinner party for 40 people when her new daughter was just three months old! (YOU GO GIRL!) It was with her second child that events quickly spiraled out of control and Adrienne found herself struggling for someone, anyone, to listen compassionately to her and show her the way back out. Finally her husband located a physician who specialized in women’s mood disorders. Adrienne began to recover having finally located the correct help. Her third pregnancy was a lot like mine – she stayed on her meds, educated her doctors (even received an apology) and received a screening questionnaire at her 6 week checkup. (By the way, HAVE you written or called your Senator about the MOTHER’S ACT yet?) Impressed with how far the medical community had come, Adrienne felt great and was now fully dedicated to improving things even more. Read on to find out more…

Just like me, you’ve been driven to help other Moms struggling with PPD through an experience of your own. Would you mind sharing that experience with us and why it inspires you to help other mothers?

After my second child was born six years ago, I had a fairly significant episode of postpartum depression and anxiety. I knew something was wrong because everything about this birth and postpartum period was the opposite of my first experience with childbirth two years earlier. My second delivery was rather traumatic (emergency C-section); my second baby ate more, slept less, and cried more than my first; I had a toddler AND a newborn (which I believe is the hardest stage thus far of parenting); I was totally sleep deprived; and I just couldn’t imagine how I was going to survive the next 18 years until this baby went off to college, never mind the next 5 minutes. Compounding my misery was the fact that my next-door-neighbor had just had her second, and my sister just had her fourth, and they made it look so easy.

The hardest part was finding help. Despite realizing that something was terribly amiss, I couldn’t find the help I needed — or at least the help I wanted. At my 6-week postpartum, I told the OB/GYN that I wasn’t feeling well, and without any discussion she offered me Prozac. When I called the Behavioral Medicine branch of my HMO, I was hoping for a verbal hug from someone who could reassure me that others had felt like this and that help was available. Instead, I was told to call back during normal business hours, overheard the intake nurse tell her supervisor I was “homicidal”, was told that they would report me to Child Protective Services if I had hurt my children, and was charged two co-pays since I saw a nurse AND a doctor. The psychiatrist recommended sleeping pills — I wasn’t sure if he meant for me or for my baby. I called mental health providers but couldn’t find anyone accepting new patients. I called about support groups, only to be told that they were now defunct. I saw a psychologist for several months who never understood how desperate I was. I felt like I was banging my head on a brick wall. Finally, when my son was six months old, my husband located a psychiatrist who specializes in women’s mood disorders and gave me the reassurance and care I needed.

I vowed during this time that I would someday do something so that others could find help more easily. This isn’t rocket science. PPD is relatively easily diagnosed and treated. The hard part is getting information to new mothers and connecting them to health care resources.

Tell us about your organization, Postpartum Support VA. How long has this been in the works and what does it feel like to finally have it up and running?

Postpartum Support Virginia is a not-for-profit organization providing hope and help for new mothers through:

  • support for new and expectant mothers (one-on-one and group support)
  • information and resources for new mothers and their families
  • outreach and education

I think of it as an umbrella covering all the activities ongoing in Virginia dealing with postpartum depression. The website (www.postpartumva.org) lists telephone and email volunteers, support groups, and mental health professionals who treat women with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.

I’ve been thinking about creating an organization like Postpartum Support Virginia for about three years, ever since I started to volunteer with mothers experiencing postpartum issues. But with three young children (they are now 8, 6 1/2, and 3) I couldn’t devote the time and energy until now. My approach has been to build the infrastructure first, then put the superstructure in place.

In other words, I’ve spent the last few years laying the foundation — helping other volunteers get started, speaking to maternal/child health care providers, leading support groups, networking with others involved with PPD throughout Virginia, attending PSI conferences. The past six months have been about formalizing these operations — creating a not-for-profit organization, building a website, creating a board of directors. The next few months will be focused on fund raising. Postpartum Support Virginia is still in its infant stage, and I really feel like I’ve given birth to my fourth child.

What do you find to be the most rewarding about helping other PPD Moms and families?

There is such joy in helping these new mothers who are swirling around in the whirlpool of depression and anxiety. To see the change after they get the help they need is so rewarding. In particular, seeing a new mother fall in love with her baby is amazing. And to receive feedback like this email from a mom who attended one of our support groups makes it all worthwhile:

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The knowledge and encouragement that you all gave me in only 2 visits put me on the path to a better life than I ever could have imagined. I went from the worst time in my life to the happiest I have ever been so I am very grateful. Thank you so very much.”
How did your husband handle your PPD? Any advice for dads struggling to cope with their partner’s PPD?

My husband kept our little family going while I had PPD. He researched this illness and found the psychiatrist who finally helped me. He would come home from work at a moment’s notice when I was falling apart. Whenever I feel guilty about how he carried me through this time, he reminds me that is what marriage is all about. Spouses who see their partners suffer PPD, please remember that this is not her fault, you are not alone, and with help she will be well again.
What is the most challenging thing about motherhood?

The most challenging thing about motherhood is being mentally present for each of my children. They are each so special and unique, requiring different parenting skills from me, that it takes time and energy to give each what s/he deserves.
What is your most favorite thing about motherhood?

The same as all other mothers – BEDTIME! Just kidding.

Three things:

  1. I love making my children smile.
  2. I love seeing the progression towards independence, which is bittersweet but the goal of good parenting.
  3. I love watching the sibling relationship develop.

How long have you been a PSI Coordinator and how did you first find out about PSI?

I have been a PSI coordinator for two years. I heard about PSI from another PPD survivor and volunteer, Benta Sims, who raved about the conference she attended a few years ago. Joining PSI gave me the sense of connectedness and credibility that I needed to do this type of volunteer work.

What do you do when you take time for YOU?

Oh, I take LOTS of time for me to ensure I have time and energy for my family. On a daily basis I exercise and nap — in fact, I have taken a nap virtually every day since I was pregnant with my first child almost 10 years ago. I go to bed at 10:00 every night (except tonight while I am answering these questions!). I see a therapist, go to a chiropractor, get monthly therapeutic massages, and practice yoga. I host coffee once a week with three great neighbors — we solve each other’s problems and keep each other on track. And I have terrific in-laws who take my children for a few days once a year so I can revel in being alone in my own home. This is the best gift ever — and usually when I fall into a novel and read non-stop for two days.

How do you balance motherhood and work?

Balancing motherhood and work is extremely difficult, as most mothers know. I don’t really consider what I do as “work” because I find it so fulfilling — and because I don’t get paid (yet). The way I balance it is being my own boss. I know that at this stage of life I wouldn’t be happy with someone telling me what to do, answering to someone else’s demands or expectations or schedule, and forcing my children into my work schedule. So with my own organization, I can do what I want when I want.

Practically speaking, it means working while my children are at school or at night so I can be fully present for them while they are at home. During the summer I hire a babysitter a few mornings a week to take my children to their swim team or the park while I work from home. I’ve been ramping up slowly, but this year will be a big turning point as my youngest starts half-day preschool.
Finally, if you had a chance to pass on just one piece of advice to a new mom (experienced or not), what would you share with her?

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.