Tell me about the first time that you thought you might be suffering from PPD. How did you cope with it?
We were living in South Carolina and miles away from any family or support when our first daughter was born. Just a few months prior to her birth I discovered the online community at iVillage.com and became quite active there as I did not have any friends or family nearby and was practically bedridden due to severe pelvic misalignment issues. Allison’s birth was quite the traumatic experience (the doctor is very lucky I had a moment of sanity and decided NOT to kick him) and no one really seemed to offer any help after she was born. It was kind of an in and out experience, which, unfortunately, is the norm nowadays.
Once we got her home, the first thing that happened was an employee of yours stopping by the house with her son who was sick and sneezing. He proceeded to touch all of the baby stuff and I totally freaked out. At the time I did not see this as the beginning but the level of anxiety I felt that day took a very long time to dissipate. I really started to sink lower when you went back to work and remember standing over Alli’s crib and apologizing to her because I had no idea what to say to her. I thought she was judging me for not knowing how to be a good mommy. I was also very upset with myself because motherhood was what I wanted – even more than being a wife – I grew up wanting to be a mommy more than anything and here I was, finally a mom, and felt I was failing.
I realized it might be PPD through the online community at iVillage and reading things other women had posted. At three months postpartum and after some serious soul searching, I finally made an appointment with my OB. I was tired of the intrusive thoughts, the anxiety, the anger, I was tired of not being myself. So I went online, took a screening test and scored severely depressed having answered the questions about self-harm and harming my infant with a yes. I took this to my OB and he refused to acknowledge the possibility of PPD but did admit something was going on – PPD, no – because I was more than 6 weeks PP and my “hormones should be back to normal by now” Calm down now – it gets worse. Alli was screaming to be nursed as we discussed things (crying is my WORST trigger) and my OB brazenly asked how important it was to continue breastfeeding. What he said next shocked me. He refused to medicate me because I refused to quit nursing. His precise words were that I refused to stop nursing for trial therapy. I have my medical records to prove it. Because I was clean, had applied make-up, and was well-spoken, I couldn’t be depressed. Because I didn’t “look” the part, that couldn’t be what was wrong with me. He admitted something was going on but refused to admit that it was PPD. I was referred to the in-house counselor but they kept changing my appointment which made things worse so I refused to go and canceled my appointment.
Just two months later we moved back to Georgia and things started to improve because we were able to leave Alli with your parents and I started to get some time to myself. I thought I was recovered but sadly we discovered after I gave birth to Charlotte that I had not and things were worse than ever.
After giving birth to three children, how did your pregnancies differ in relation to your PPD experiences?
My first pregnancy was the easiest but I think all Moms say that – after all, you don’t have other little ones to chase around or keep up with. My first round of PPD was also mild compared to the second time around.
The second pregnancy was a bit easier physically because I knew what to expect but harder in the aspect that I had a toddler to run around after which is the last thing you feel like doing when your stomach is revolting against well, the world. The postpartum period after Charlotte’s birth was the most intense – her cleft palate, my depression and subsequent hospitalization, her multiple surgeries, Alli’s terrible two’s, your stressful and exhaustive job, pumping full time for Charlotte… you name it, there wasn’t a roadblock we didn’t face. But we made it through, clutching the bar holding us down into the roller coaster until our knuckles were transparent.
Honestly, how supportive was I when you were going through such a terrible time? What do you wish I had done differently?
Wow. Hard question. I think you were as supportive as you could be given the existential circumstances of each situation (no support system, birth defect & NICU, unexpected pregnancy), the information available to you at the time, and the irritability that you were constantly ducking from me. I am sure you probably felt as if you were walking on eggshells most of the time, not knowing if the next word out of your mouth would set off an “episode.”
Knowing what we now know as a couple about PPD, obviously there are some things we would have done differently like gone for a second opinion, pushed for better treatment, worked together instead of drifting apart into our own worlds which I think led to the path on which we found ourselves after Charlotte’s birth. I wasn’t able to be there for you and you felt as you couldn’t show any emotion when all I wanted was for you to show something – to let know that I wasn’t alone in feeling so lost about her cleft palate and the NICU stay. Of course I didn’t say this to you – I expected you to read my mind and got pissed when you didn’t. That’s just not fair at all (and is hallmark behavior of a postpartum woman)
Overall, you did a great job keeping us together as a family even if it meant putting on a show for me and for everyone else. As for having done something differently, hindsight is 20/20 and there’s nothing we can do to change our past behavior. I believe strongly that our marriage can now withstand anything anyone wishes to toss our way. We’ve certainly been through quite a bit in six short years.
You have certainly turned some very tragic events into ammunition to help other women fight PPD? How have your PPD experiences helped you help others?
I have found my inner strength, beauty, and grace as a result of the darkness of PPD. The same strength with which I battled my own PPD energizes me each and everyday to help other women who are in the same place I used to be. I will NOT let another woman suffer alone if there is anything I can do to change that for her. Each day I wake up with the goal of helping at least one woman. Small contribution but it goes back to a quote I fell in love with while in college by Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What role has your faith and belief in God played in your battles with PPD?
Raised Christian and having given my heart to the Lord at the tender age of 6, I had fallen away from the Lord and had really not been close with him for quite some time when Alli was born. I started to pray more and continued with this throughout my pregnancy with Charlotte. After Charlotte’s birth, I could feel His presence and let myself lean on Him although not as much as I should have, looking back. God knew he wasn’t done with me yet so He sent us Cameron to show me how much of a miracle He was capable of making. And He made a cute one!
When I first started helping others with PPD, I was uncomfortable talking about faith and God. Now it’s one of the easiest things to talk about. God has truly taken me into his Arms and blessed me. And I figure – if Jesus died for our sins, what a small price PPD is compared to His sacrifice. It’s taken me nearly four years of intense growth and molding to come to that conclusion and is not something I have come to believe lightly. My faith is stronger than ever and is still growing.
On the other side of the coin, have your PPD experiences affected your faith? How?
My PPD experiences have certainly brought me closer to God. I have come to realize that He has big plans for me and I have learned to quietly listen to his voice and truly lean on Him during times of need. In fact, if I start to worry now, I instantly pray rather than let it spiral out of control. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for all the growth He has allowed in my life over the past few years!
Life can be busy. Ours certainly is. You are a mother of three, homemaker, PPD advocate and wife. It almost seems impossible what you do. So I have to know, how do you do it?
I have no idea. If you figure it out, let me know.
Seriously though – I grew up watching (and helping) my mother around the house. She was a Stay at home mom too and I picked up a lot of tips from her too. I still call every day (HI MOM) well, almost every day as I’m much busier now and she gives me lots and lots of tips.
A lot of the PPD work I do is online so I can do bits and pieces here and there. I’ve also got the housework down to a science and can have that going while I’m working on PPD stuff in the living room.
One rule I’m working on is that when the girls are awake, I am all theirs unless I have to cook or clean. Even then I try to get them involved so they don’t feel left out or get them playing with play-doh at the dining room table so they’ll at least be having fun. I love my times with the girls as it’s what keeps me sane – well, along with time with you too!
What do you find most challenging about motherhood?
It never ends. My mom has a cartoon on her fridge at her house that I would LOVE to have – a census worker is at the door and a woman is standing there. She is saying, “Work? I just wake up and there it is.” I am never off – I am on call 24/7. Just today I was mother, nurse, friend, poopy cleaner, fan fixer, chef, linguist, wife, writer, brain-stormer, dishwasher, laundry lady, pie maker, dog walker, hand-holder, singer, and most importantly, ME.
What is your favorite thing about motherhood?
Seriously though – I would have to go with getting the kids to laugh and have a good time. There is NOTHING more heartwarming and uplifting than allowing myself to be a total kid right along with them. I know this is not something you’ve seen terribly often but I’m working on it. At least I’m singing more in front of you more, right?
And last, but not least. What is it like being married to such a hunk and amazing man?
I’ll let you know when that happens.
It’s like the way the Earth smells right after an afternoon rain shower. No matter how many times you experience it, it’s always new, refreshing, and uplifting even though the storm that brought you there may have been the most difficult storm you’ve ever experienced.