|Sharon Jones: PPD Took Me By Surprise -- Twice|
By Sharon L. Jones
When people talk about postpartum depression, it’s usually because there is a particularly disturbing case in the news.
A pastor’s wife tries to drown her two young daughters. What a monster!
An anonymous woman writes Dear Abby that she has a baby she doesn’t want and worries she might hurt. What is wrong with her! Send me that baby!
The first time I experienced postpartum depression, it wasn’t anything like that.
In December 2000, I gave birth to my first child. I was nearly 40 years old and had had a successful career as a journalist. My husband, Steve, and I were thrilled and delighted with our baby girl, Zia, and the first month was truly magical. Read more ...
By the time she was two months old, however, the wonder had been replaced by anxiety. I could no longer sleep, even when Zia was sleeping. I spent three days without sleeping at all and then called my doctor.
My obstetrician wasn’t that helpful, but my daughter’s pediatrician gave me the name of a psychiatrist who specialized in postpartum depression.
I started taking Zoloft and within a month started feeling better and sleeping better. I started enjoying my daughter again.
I saw Dr. Tam regularly for several years. She knew what medications were safe for breastfeeding. She guided me through infertility treatments that we knew put me at risk for a relapse. She helped me come to terms with my complicated family of origin. She often acted as a parenting coach and, as a result, I grew as a mother.
I started reading about postpartum depression. One out of ten women experiences it after birth. Most experience anxiety, as I did. Some experience sadness or obsessive-compulsive behavior. A rare few experience psychosis, the severest form of PPD, which can lead to homicide or suicide, as in the cases cited above.
I joined Postpartum Health Alliance, a San Diego non-profit that seeks to educate people about perinatal mood disorders. We operate a referral telephone service, where volunteers return calls from new mothers in distress. We have experts who do trainings and give presentations to health professionals. I was brought in to take over production of Crib Notes, the organization’s quarterly newsletter. In my research, I learned about the factors that make you a higher risk for PPD (family history of depression, fertility treatments, financial stress, to name a few). I worked to educate local media about PPD.
I organized a public forum about PPD after an older new mother (just like me) shot herself to death in a supermarket parking lot when her son was 3 months old. Annie Spangler was a pharmacist, yet she hadn’t been educated about PPD. She and I had the same ob-gyn.
When I became pregnant again, I was sure that I wouldn’t go through PPD again. I knew so much about it. I thought I could avoid it, by having the support in place and making sure I had time for myself. I was wrong.
At seven weeks old, our son Lucca developed acid reflux and began screaming in pain most of his waking moments — at least that is how it seemed to me.
At my lowest point, I didn’t love my son. I even resented his existence, since he was the reason I felt so terrible.
Again, drugs, therapy, exercise and lots of support from my husband, friends and family got me through it.
Now, I adore my Lucca, all 25 pounds of him. He is such a treasure. I feel so lucky to have him.
I am again active with Postpartum Health Alliance. And that is why I am telling you this story.
My advice to moms going through PPD:
-- Stay away from mothers who seem all caught up in being "super mom" and won't admit to there being any challenges. I don't believe them.
--Give yourself permission to be a "good enough" mom, a "good enough" wife, a "good enough" friend. Do not seek perfection in yourself or others.
-- If someone tells you that taking care of a newborn is the easiest stage in motherhood, that it only gets harder, tell them "No offense, but f--- y---." Two good friends told me this when I was at my lowest point. And that was my response to them. And we are still friends. My kids now are out of the toddler stage (one is in preschool and one is in elementary school) and I still regard those first six months of motherhood as the hardest for me. Every mother is different.
-- Get exercise. Take walks. Join Stroller Strides. Do yoga. Swim. Whatever makes you feel good.
-- Attend a support group. Hearing other moms talk about what they are experiencing may make you feel like you are doing okay -- or at better than some. Sometimes I couldn't believe what others mothers were going through.... seriously ill children, husbands who were in denial about the illness, inlaws who were hostile, etc.
-- Know that it will end. You will get through it. I did.
Sharon Jones, a former San Diego Union-Tribune writer, lives in La Jolla with her husband, Steve Simpson, and their children, Zia and Lucca. She is president of Postpartum Health Alliance. This article was written in the fall of 2006.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 22:39|