Every Friday, I am the volunteer on duty for Postpartum Support International’s warmline. (That’s right – you can call for them for help and I’ll actually call you back on Fridays! It’s staffed every day of the week by amazing volunteers though!) A few months ago, right after I started volunteering, a woman named Joan phoned the warmline. We talked and she used the term “Warrior Mom.” If you read Katherine Stone’s blog, you know that’s how she refers to Postpartum mamas. I asked Joan if she read Katherine’s blog. She said she did. Somehow we ended up talking about my blog as well. Turns out she reads mine as well. By now, we were both practically in tears. I had never spoken to someone who actively read my blog before. To hear the emotion in her voice as she talked about how much it meant to her truly blew me away. Joan and I have kept in touch via email since then. It is with her permission I share her story with you.
Joan emailed me today to ask a question of me. As soon as I read it, I asked her for permission to post her words to my blog. She agreed and I hope y’all will provide some good feedback for her current concern. Without further ado, here’s Joan’s email:
I hope all is well with you. I have contacted you in the past, and I hate to be a burden, but was wondering if you could shed some light or your perspective on something I have been thinking a lot about lately. During the recovery process, how does a mom know if she is getting “better” versus the normal adjustment period to motherhood. PPD/PPA throws you all off and it’s hard to remember what “normal” is, especially when nothing is normal anyway after the birth of a baby. I have started a new med (2 weeks in – gradually increasing and so far – knock on wood- no weird side effects) and I know I need to be patient with it for sometime still, but I’m stuck in that conundrum. Is this PPD/PPA or is this a normal feeling? I think when you become a mother you give up so much naturally of yourself and you become someone else (for example I will forever be Joan plus J’s mom plus working Joan plus friend Joan, etc. etc. ) and need to merge all of those identities together. It’s hard when PPD (and the darn anxiety that about kills me at times) makes life so unbearable at times. It would be hard without the evil beast mixed in to straighten that all out in my head.
If I can ask, what were signs for you that things were returning to “normal”? Or, is there a common theme amongst survivors about when they knew that they were beginning to get well? I have read a lot of blogs, but am looking for any kind of advice if you are willing to share with me (if you don’t mind).
Any words of encouragement/advice/insight you can provide are always appreciated! Thanks for everything you do!
My husband and I cajoled each other about our “new normal” after the birth of our second daughter. NICU, Cleft Palate, crash course in at home neo-natal care, both of us on antidepressants before it was all said and done, yeah, there was no going back to our own normal life. Hell, I think Normal may have even sprouted wings and flown to Jamaica. Not that I blame it at all, just wish it had offered a ride or at least one last romp before bailing.
I know my new normal settled in slowly. At first there was a routine of what I did when I first got up in the morning. Then I would add a new thing the following week. I stopped obsessing about how much milk I pumped because instead I was munching on chocolate. I began to think of pumping as me time instead of “I have to do this” time. I had more days of happiness versus irritability. I began to realize slowly that a bad day did not mean a downward spiral. I knew my signs and triggers and more importantly, I knew how to stop them. The world around me seemed to brighten. For me, recognizing my arrival at better involved my ability to take better care of myself WITHOUT guilt or anxiety about those around me not being able to function if I did take time away from them to do so.
What did “better” look like for you? Do you still struggle with adjustment to motherhood? What’s the most challenging for you as you journey/journeyed to better? Let’s get to Just Talkin’ and help a mama out in the process!
Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time out to post my question. It means so much to me. And, I can’t thank you enough for calling me back that day that I called the Warmline. Your voice at the other end of the line really helped me to make it through one of my very rough days.
Well I definately cannot answer this queston because I am still struggling myself, but a interested in hearing what others say. I know I still have a road ahead of me.
Right now? I’m doing better.
Better means that I’m able to get out of bed in the morning. Better means that I’m putting on makeup, shaving my legs, & at least contemplating an iron.
Better means I can blog with substance, complete tasks on time, & stay (moderately) focused at work.
Better means I can relate to my husband, kiss him, & at least pretend I’m a shadow of the woman I used to be in bed.
& more importantly, better means I can feed my son a bottle. I can pick him up when he cries, even if I don’t know what else to do.
& you know, those baby steps make it SO MUCH BETTER.
Blair – I have followed your blog as well, and have been cheering you on from the sidelines! So even those baby steps that may seem small, are huge, because I believe wholeheartedly that one day they will turn into full strides. Or, that’s my mantra for myself, and I believe it applies to all of us suffering from these horrible PPD demons (whatever flavor you got stuck with). You are a wonderful mother for fighting through it all – working and doing your best by your son. Good for you and thanks for the comment! ~Joan
It is a question I have been asking myself ever since my journey began! LoL
For me, a quick-version answer would probably be that I know I am in my “normal” mode when my thoughts aren’t overly occupied by mental illness. When it starts to interfere with my thoughts and daily life, then I know I’m slipping. I know I need to engage the emergency brakes and try to get a grip on things.
My situation may be different than most, though, because it is believed that my PPD/PPA triggered Bipolar Disorder. Yay for me, right? Blah
It took me 18 months to even begin the journey to better after my first son’s traumatic (to me & him) birth. This past pregnancy was so
Different in that depression & anxiety were fought head on the 9 months and at only 3 weeks post partum I am not suffering like I was. Returning to normal meant:
Not wanting to escape the baby and my life. Being able to say I’m a mom and name my son.
Listening to DS cry and not breaking down in tears or screaming in fury. Being able to give him comfort.
Beginning to comprehend what others were saying to me. Being able to answer back and have conversations.
Being able to get out of the house w/o someone else w DS even knowing I might have a panic attack but would still survive the excursion.
Being able to laugh
Remembering the days events
While I don’t consider it normal now w a newborn, I am able to accept the circumstances I am in. So for there’s only been moments of the OMG what am I doing and feeling like the sadness is endless. Then, I cry and I ask for
Help and it’s over. I mean win the day I am able to reconcile
Feelings. I’m allowed to be crabby and tired and overwhelmed but I don’t need to
Stay that way! It’s truly
Miraculous feeling. U. Have support
Me this time returningto normal took place before Birth! I mourn who I cant get support
From an what I went thru w my son but praise that this time I know I don’t have 2 live thru that forever. I can enjoy even the horrible
Moments-Laugh at lifes irony. The fact that u know where to get help and are looking toward the light, these are normal. We r alive! We
Thank you to the other mamas for answering my question. Your willingness to post about your experience means the world to me! You will all be in my thoughts and prayers as we continue on the road to recovery, and we will make it there. I just know it – as they all say, this is temporary and treatable. And with that will come to our own “normal”. Thanks again!