Tag Archives: Amber Koter-Puline

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Guest Post: Amber Koter-Puline’s “Banding Together Over Books – The Warrior Mom Book Club”

Continuing this week’s theme of celebrating National Book Month, Amber Koter-Puline of Beyond Postpartum shares about The Warrior Mom Book Club. It’s worth checking out! I thank Amber for her dedication to families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders. She truly is an inspiration on so many levels! Without further ado, here is Amber’s guest post:

 

This summer I began hosting a new feature at Postpartum Progress: the Warrior Mom Book Club. Even just since 2007 when I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, so much more information, education, and just plain old sharing around women’s mental health has occurred. From books on personal accounts of postpartum depression to the plethora of rockin’ blogs written by Warrior Moms, we have no lack of reading material right at our fingertips.

I don’t know about you, but with so much out there I often have difficulty choosing what to read, especially since I’m a married WAHM of two young boys. I just don’t have time to keep up with all the blog posts, and my stack of books waiting to be read is enormous (both on paper and virtually on my Kindle list).

As members of the Warrior Mom Book Club, we read and have casual talk about what we’ve read, in the midst of our busy lives. We read books about postpartum depression and related illnesses — approximately four books per year — and as a group we do a review after reading each one, which I then write up for Postpartum Progress so that everyone can read it there.

We began the club with Adrienne Martini’s awesome book, Hillbilly Gothic, which I first read when my first son was about two and then again for the club, three years later. I have to say I enjoyed it as much, if not more, the second time! In case you didn’t get a chance to read along with us, you can check it out on Amazon.

Right now we are reading The Ghost in the House by Tracy Thompson.  It’s a really eye-opening account of maternal mental health and its impact on the entire family from both a genetic and environmental perspective.  While the Book Club is currently closed because we’ve already begun work on it, you can still order a digital or paper copy HERE or do what many savvy mamas did with our previous read and order it from your local library.

The review of The Ghost in the House will probably be up at Postpartum Progress in November and then we’ll announce our third read.  Right now we plan to read Sleepless Nights by .  You are welcome to join us for that one.  Once the announcement is made, you can just email me at atlantamom930@gmail.com and join the Facebook Group “Warrior Mom Book Club” which becomes secret while the discussion is happening to protect the privacy of the participants.

We have nearly 50 moms who have participated so far and I look forward to growing the group as the selections change and time goes on.  Here’s what a few moms have to say about their experience as members of the WMBC:

“Being a part of the bookclub has helped me give words or describe some the aimless thoughts/feelings that I had, especially in the deepest part of PPD/OCD/Anxiety that I was unwilling or more likely, unable to speak about, name, and come to terms with.” ~TM

“I have found it invaluable to read these books. I had not read any of the ones that we have read while I was going through my struggle with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. Reading and reflecting on the books is helping me continue my recovery process. The book club offers me the ability to read other’s perceptions of the books as well which allows me to take different messages and incorporate it into my own recovery.” ~Jennifer Pody Gaskell



”Being a part of the WMBC has been like a life raft for me. I live in area of the country with almost no PPMD resources and no in person support group. This book group has enabled me to feel part of a community of amazingly strong and courageous women (authors and fellow readers). Reading these works has also assisted me in gaining more knowledge about PPMD, which has helped me tremendously in making sense of my experience and continuing my journey to wellness and health for me and my family.” ~Becky Ruess

I hope that reading can be a cathartic experience for you, as well, regardless of whether you join a book club, read a book with a friend, or on your own.  Reading is one of the few self-care activities that I prioritize and tends to be a great source of enjoyment and escape for me.  I personally have found that reading a combination of fiction, non-fiction (self-care/help), and faith-oriented books allows me to balance and blend my reading hobby in a healthy manner.

Thanks, Lauren, for inviting me to write about the Book Club!

Take good care,
Amber Koter-Puline
Beyond Postpartum

Mom and wife.  PPD Survivor/Advocate. Yoga lover. Oh…& coffee, bacon & prayer. Amber also blogs at atlantamom.net- a site devoted to information, inspiration, and networking opportunities for all moms in the Atlanta area.

 

Sharing the Journey with Michael Puline

A couple of weeks ago, we shared the journey with Amber Koter-Puline. Today we’ll get her husband’s point of view. It’s important to include dad in the postpartum experience because his support is invaluable to recovery. I want to thank Michael from the depths of my heart for sharing his story so openly and for supporting Amber so wonderfully during such a difficult experience. I hope this provides invaluable insight for new or expecting fathers who may either find themselves in a similar situation or know someone who is already there.

What makes you tick? Tell us a little bit about who you are!

I enjoy business – specifically the retail real estate business.  I enjoy all aspects of my business.  I spend a good portion of my time dedicated to being successful in my work so that I can provide for my family.  I also enjoy spending time training Gracie jiu jitsu; its something that I have always wanted to get into before but didn’t have the opportunity.  When we moved to Atlanta and I found a place to train and I immediately began.  I am a morning person!  I like to get up very early before others to accomplish things.  I am generally waiting for the gym to open at 4:45am when I arrive.   Sometimes they let us in early.  On nights that I am not at jiu jitsu, I play the guitar and enjoy spending time with my family.

You’ve walked the dark path of Postpartum Depression with your wife. Share with us what it was like to watch the woman you loved seemingly slip away into a dark shell.

It was awful.  I saw a highly motivated and capable person become so helpless and undergo such a radical change.  It is almost as if you no longer know the person.  They are someone else.  It was very difficult for me because I didn’t really believe it was happening.  I thought that it would go away on its own.  But, when Amber came to me and recognized that she was in need of professional help I knew that it was serious.  It was  very difficult to deal with.  I had to change my work schedule and Amber had to even come with me to work some days.  It was almost as if she had regressed mentally to a 4 year old.  She had to be at my side almost 24-7.  You can’t believe it until you experience it.

How did your faith support you through Amber’s recovery?

It helped in many ways.  One of the biggest was seeing the outpouring of help from our church community.  Even people who we did not expect to come through for us came and truly tried to make a difference in our lives and help us with this difficult situation.  As a result of having gone through this, my faith has grown stronger and I can now see why God chose this to happen to my wife.

What has it been like to see your wife take something so painful and turn it into such a point of strength and grace?

It has been really nice. I know she enjoys it. Anytime you go through a challenge and are able to transform it into a positive aspect of others lives I believe it is the ultimate blessing you can receive.  Amber has done this.  She has put her heart and soul into a blog, website, communicating with others, and constantly trying to reach out and help others. It is very commendable. I love her for it. It feels really good to know that she wants to help others. She took the situation, transformed it, and is giving it back to God by helping others. It’s the only way to live.

Did PPD affect your marriage? If so, how?

Yes, in many ways. It has changed our plans for future children (we had previously wanted a larger family.) We had to change our schedules and had to change the dynamics of our child-rearing than we had previously planned. You see, Amber and I had initially thought about having several children, however when she went through such a severe PPMD it really changed her desire and made her feel as if she could never handle more than one child, as she could barely physically and emotionally handle this one. As she had continued to get better, I believe her opinion continues to change slightly. For the first 3 or 4 months I had to do the lion’s share of the night-time wakings, because she needed to rest. At first I think I resented her for it, but now I think it helped me to build an irreplaceable bond with my son. While it was difficult at the time, I am very much thankful for the opportunity to do that because the benefits clearly outweigh the sacrifice I made. Hey, whats a few hours sleep for a guy who gets up at 4:30am anyways? I think as a result we take specific time in our day to better ourselves- praying together, reading and discussing books together, etc. We truly want each other to grow and develop everyday as individuals and parents. We are much more committed to each other. Not just to having our marriage be ok or something we endure, but to flourish. It also changed how we now interact. We have a different relationship. It’s much stronger.
Fathers need to remember not to lose themselves in the process of parenting. What is it that you do to just hang out and be a “guy”?

Jiu Jitsu.  I train.  For me, jiu jitsu offers me the opportunity to escape.  Going to the gym is similar, but jiu jitsu provides me the one on one competition that drives me to do better every day.  I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that I wrestled as a child.  I always enjoyed wrestling and jiu jitsu is similar, but you wear a gi instead and the object is to submit an opponent vs. pin them.  Outside of that, I really like to watch football.  College, NFL, it doesn’t matter!  My wife will watch “our teams,” but can’t understand at all why I would watch other games.  For me, this is how I relax…sitting on the couch or in my chair, with a cold beer Sweetwater 420 (shameless local beer plug!) in my hand.  That’s my release.

3 things that made me laugh…

Telling others a story about how a rock hit my windshield.
My son saying “mango” as one of his first words.
Remembering when my wife saw a coyote walking down the middle of our street when she had PPD.  I asked her if it was real.  She replied, “I am crazy, but not THAT crazy!”  The next day we got a notice about a neighborhood coyote spotting.  :)

What do you find the most and least challenging about fatherhood?

Having patience with my son has been challenging.  I sell things…I am a salesman.  I have absolutely NO patience for anything and I don’t care to.  For me, patience was not important at all.  But now, with my son, I start to realize that there are times where it is needed.  I think that because my love for him is so strong I am able to be more patient and give him the attention that he needs.

I think just having fun with my son comes easily and naturally to me.  Ball, guitar, piano, wrestling, etc.  If there is one thing that I know how to do, it’s how to have fun!  I have spent my whole life enjoying every moment.  Get the fullest out of life.  I want to look back and say I wouldn’t have done anything differently.  It’s the only way to live.

Amber’s PPD Support means…

Alot to me because it means a lot to her.  I think it is important to her.  It helps her grow as a person and move past this terrible part of her life that occurred.

Advice…

This is REAL.  It can happen to anyone.  Don’t feel badly.  Don’t try to hide it.  Don’t ignore it.  Seek professional help right away.  Be more proactive in finding out how your spouse is feeling postpartum.  Ask her- Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Are you feeling depressed?  Can we go for a walk and talk?  Observe her.  Is she getting enough rest?  She is human, too.  She needs more than 2 hours of sleep a day.  Is she getting it?  You are much better off taking the necessary time off in the beginning to try to avoid a PPMD getting worse than to let it evolve untreated.  It will get worse before better.  In closing you’ll note that in the beginning it may be harder to detect, but easier to cure.  While left untreated, it will become VERY apparent and much more difficult to cure.  My suggestion is to be proactive.  It really can happen to your family.

Sharing the Journey with Amber Koter-Puline

I had the pleasure of meeting Amber during an initial meeting for the formation of Georgia Postpartum Support Network. Amber is a mom, a working professional, a blogger and a dedicated Postpartum Peer support volunteer who facilitates two groups in Atlanta. She also serves as GPSN’s Secretary. Thank you Amber, for being a brave and courageous woman in adding your voice to the ever-growing group of advocates for PPD Support!
koter-10Tell us about yourself. Who is Amber when she’s not being a mom?

I am a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and also a career-oriented woman.  I enjoy my work in service as Director of Intergenerational Ministries at my church.  I also provide one-on-one and group volunteer peer support to women with Postpartum mood disorders.  I do this through email, meeting moms in person, the telephone, and also a support group in Midtown Atlanta that I facilitate twice a month.  I also host a playgroup and mom’s discussion group at the church, each once a month.  I serve as Secretary of GPSN and I hope that this role will allow me to help bring awareness and education to Georgians and all Americans someday.

Share with us how your Postpartum Experience unfolded. Did you feel prepared for childbirth and the postpartum period prior to giving birth?

I was commited to a natural birth, but after 36 hours of labor I had to get an epidural and then after ten more hours I had an emergency c-section.  My birth was completely different than I had planned or hoped for, and I was devastated.  I began my postpartum experience filled with regret, shame, and completely sleep-deprived in addition to being physically unwell.  I utilized the Hynobirthing method in preparation for and during labor.  I did feel completely prepared for a natural, vaginal birth.  Unfortunately, in my desire to be commited to natural methods I didn’t even consider the possibility of it not unfolding the way I wanted.  This left me disappointed and shocked.

What prompted you to seek help – what wasn’t going well and what helped you get on the road to recovery?

After 5 weeks of exclusively pumping breastmilk because my son would not latch on and not getting more than 2 hours sleep at night I felt completely a wreck.  I was scared, unhappy, exhausted, and I had so many unsettled feelings leftover from the birth.  On top of that, I was still recovering from major surgery.  My head was filled with obsessions and anxiety.  I knew that I needed help.  I was thankful that I had the business card of a psychiatrist my OB-GYN had given me early in my pregnancy (it was a surprise and I was not sure how I felt about it when I first learned I was pregnant).  What helped most was the medication.  After two weeks on anti-depressants I knew I was still very unwell and we added a couple of other meds to my regimen.  This helped SO much.  I really needed something to help me sleep and quell my anxiety.  Talking with my doctor who is an expert in this field made me feel normal and less alone.  The biggest thing I did to help myself was to admit to everyone how sick I was.  I told my parents and husband the truth about my obsessions, my depression, my lack of sleep, and how helpless and hopeless I felt.  Because of my truthfulness, they were able to be fully aware of my situation and to act appropriately to care for me and my son.  During the 4th week postpartum we had begun utilizing the nanny who had planned to be with my son once I returned to work.  After I was diagnosed and through my early weeks of treatment she continued helping several days a week.  Knowing my baby was well cared for was reassuring.  During the most difficult time (weeks 6-12 postpartum) my husband was my rock.  I am not sure how he was able to keep a positive outlook while living with someone who was so depressed, but he did.  Returning to work at 13 weeks postpartum was healing for me.  I found the me that had something to offer other than diaper changing and rocking.  Lastly, I have a best friend that was there for me in every way on an almost daily basis.  That support rounded out my treatment and allowed me to recover much faster. 

I know that you’ve had some Postpartum Thyroid issues. Share with us some of your experience and how your physicians uncovered the Thyroid factor.

It is still unclear as to the severity of the thyroid issue or whether it has had any role in my postpartum struggles.  I have had fairly moderate gastic pain and also sleep difficulties and fatigue since I first gave birth.  In my efforts to explore what was wrong physically and emotionally in the 2nd month postpartum we learned that my thyroid was functioning in the hyper spectrum, if only slightly.  One year later, the results are the same.  I will be having a thyroid scan on Monday to determine how my thyroid is functioning on the whole.  I do know for sure that thyroid issues can have an extreme impact postpartum, though, and recommend that thyroid tests be done on anyone experiencing a PPMD.

At what point in your recovery did you feel the desire to turn your journey into support for other mothers? How empowering has the experience been for you?

I knew from the moment that I began coming out of the darkness (around 11 or 12 weeks postpartum, after 6 or so weeks on medication and with therapy) that I felt called to serve other women and to educate all people about PPMDs.  In my darkest hours I never felt alone and always knew that God would make good out of a truly horrific experience.  He has opened so many doors for me.  I am still amazed at how women find me…it feels very spiritual at times.  Being able to help others makes me feel purpose in my pain.  It allows me to relate to others and provide true empathy.  It is a precious gift.  As I often share; it took me 31 years to find my calling and spiritual gift.  I never was good at sports or music, and though I did well academically, I believe that this work is my true passion and area of giftedness.

Share three things that made you laugh or smile today.

My son trying to “swiffer” my hardwood floors at 16 months old.
Realizing that I endured 36 hours of labor naturally…and that really, I shouldn’t feel guilty or embarrassed…that’s not a bad track record!  (It only took me 16 months to get to this point!)
The thought of sitting on the beach reading a book in complete peace and quiet.

What has been the most challenging aspect of parenting so far? The least challenging?

For me the loss of identity initially was devastating.  I had a very difficult transition into motherhood that I believe they now call Postpartum Adjustment Disorder.  I simply could not accept that my life entailed changing diapers and trying to entertain a completely helpless being.  Finding a way to find myself again and then balance the “new normal” with fulfilling my own personal needs was a challenge.  I believe that it is only in the past 3 months that I have found my way again.  I typed the sentence, “the least challenging for me…” three times before I finally erased it and decided to share that I don’t think there are any aspects of being a good parent that are easy.  That’s the deal…you reap what you sow.  I know that each time I face a choice when it comes to my son that the “harder” option in the short term will be the better one for the long term.  That which takes effort is rewarding.

As you recovered from Postpartum, how much of a part did your faith play?

As you can tell from my previous answers, my faith was everything to me.  I am not a fundamentalist and I don’t feel like an extremely “religious” person, but I do believe that God can be seen so many times in my day, each day.  His hand touches my life with great blessing.  I am not rich, powerful, or even close to perfect, but overall I have a good life.  There was a time that I didn’t, so I think I appreciate my life now even more.  I believe that being in conversation with God through prayer during the difficult childhood I endured and the horrible PPMDs I overcame made the difference in who and how I am on the other side of all that.  Faith defines who I am.

Tell us about your blog. What should readers take away from your writing there?

My blog began as a way to talk about what I was doing with the mom’s groups and what I hoped mothers would get out of those groups.  I also wanted to document my experiences in an organized way and once I read another blog I realized that was a free and easy way to do so.  That was almost a year ago.  Since then, I have developed it into a much more comprehensive site.  I post news and research, personal stories, support group info and more at www.atlantappdmom.blogspot.com.  Had I realized that I would be writing in the long term there and that the readership would grow, I would have chosen a different web address.  In order to have a more educational site with a name that will appeal to everyone I created a website, additionally.  www.postpartumhealing.com has specific information for those who are just discovering postpartum health topics.  I hope that readers of my blog will find honesty and integrity in what I share about being a mother.  I try to tell it like it is, even if I am only feeling that way for a short period of time.  I know a few things I have shared have made people cringe, but I never was good at hiding the truth.  Maybe there are women who LOVE every moment of it.  But, I think that most of us dislike a lot of aspects of being a mom.  It doesn’t mean we love our children any less, though.

And last but not least, if you had a chance to give one piece of advice about Postpartum Depression to an expectant mother, (new or experienced), what would it be and why would it be important for her to know?

My advice to everyone, postpartum or not, is to have and to offer REALISTIC expectations of motherhood, especially the first 3 months.  It is normal not to fall in love with your newborn.  It is ok to feel inept and scared.  It is not really easy or fun to care for such a little person when they can’t even provide a smile to thank you for your exhaustingly hard work to keep them alive and well.  Being a new mother is a journey with challenges that match each joy.

Thank you for inviting me to share my experience with your readers.