Deleted Scenes: The Inner Monologue Of A Mom With Postpartum Anxiety

My memoir on postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD should be out soon (fingers crossed!) (tightly crossed!) In the meantime, here is a deleted scene that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of an anxious mind.

We paid a local maid service to clean our house every other week.  Given my new obsession with germs, a reasonable person might assume I would hire the service to come more often.

I was not a reasonable person.

A trio of cleaners always came on the same day of the week, but their arrival time was uncertain.  The day before the scheduled cleaning, the service would call and give me a two hour window for when the cleaners would arrive.  Sometimes, the cleaners arrived a half hour before the window; other times, not until fifteen minutes after the window expired.

This was not a problem for most customers who worked away from home and gave a spare key to the cleaning service; but there was no way in hell that I was giving a spare key to a bunch of potential maniacs.  I therefore had to be at home when the cleaning service arrived to let them in and then stay at home to supervise them and make sure they did not steal a laptop or scrub the counters with rat poison. 

This should have been easy for an agoraphobic recluse.

It was not.

It was hell.

What if I was breastfeeding when the doorbell rang? 

What if I was changing Pippa’s diaper?  And I got distracted and walked away to answer the door and Pippa rolled off the table and smashed her head open? 

What if Pippa was napping and the cleaners woke her? 

Whatifwhatifwhatif?

While the cleaners worked, I listened. 

Was that a sniffle?  A cough?  A sneeze? 

Was someone sick? 

Monsters!  

Was that another sniffle? 

Should I ask the sniffler to wear a face mask? 

Would she hate me? 

Oh god, she would hate me. 

Was that another sniffle? 

She said it was allergies. 

What if it was pneumonia? 

Was it contagious? 

How long could germs linger on a counter? 

The cleaners clomped and stomped and jumped and bumped and crashed and thrashed and made an ungodly racquet with no regard for humanity.  The vacuum cleaner was so goddamn loud.  What the fuck were they doing, vacuuming a pile of nails and tossing around bolts of thunder?  Was Zeus himself vacuuming the bedroom?

And what was that vile smell?  

Bleach? 

It smelled like death.  It was death.  There was poison in the air and Pippa would breathe it and suffocate AND DIE.

This was not a cleaning service. 

This was a barbarian invasion that would be the death of me and all I loved.  

I blamed my anxiety on the cleaning service, fired them and felt a surge of bliss and wellbeing.  But like the calm I felt after washing my hands, it was very, very short-lived.  

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Deleted Scene: That Crazy Postpartum Guilt

My postpartum depression memoir is getting closer and closer to publication – yay! In the meantime, here is a scene that will not be making the final cut. 

As I carried Pippa to the changing table, I paused at her closet door.  Pippa was wearing a white kimono-style t-shirt, diaper, and nothing else.  That had been her uniform for the past week ever since we brought her home from the hospital.  If she was chilly, we wrapped her in blankets.

I had not yet dressed her in any of the outfits hanging in her closet.  I had bought a half-dozen dresses and friends and family had sent many, many more.  Pippa would soon outgrow the newborn outfits — before I had a chance to maneuver into labyrinths of ruffles and bows and then document the moment with the camera I had bought for the sole purpose of capturing the highlights of Pippa’s childhood.

Tomorrow, I told myself, I’ll start using the cute clothes tomorrow.

I set Pippa down on the changing table while my stomach acted as if I was on a cargo ship at sea.  If I dressed Pippa in the cute clothes, then I had to take photos; but if I took photos, everyone would see the piles of unfolded laundry and abandoned takeout food containers.  Even if I shoved the mess into a closet, there was still no where to take a social media worthy photo shoot.  How did bloggers do it?

I eased Pippa out of her shirt and dropped it into the hamper.  My baby was the queen of spit up and got it on everyone’s clothes — hers, mine, Nathan’s (he invested in twenty white t-shirts), and my parents (who soon learned to always bring a spare outfit when visiting).  It was no big deal when Pippa spit up on a white t-shirt, but what if she got baby puke all over a fancy dress?  Or worse, all over the sweater I had knit?

If I had thought about it, I would have realized that some baby spit up on a fancy dress was part of the territory, but I was not rational when it came to my anxiety and guilt.  It was as if my body was constantly secreting anxiety and guilt that needed some sort of outlet, so to relieve the pressure, I latched on to whatever was at hand — in this case, Pippa’s clothes.

The anxiety and guilt might have been irrational, but the physical feelings were real.  That is what postpartum depression does to a mother.  The thought of Pippa’s unworn clothes made me feel the same symptoms of fear that I would have felt had I opened the closet and discovered a hungry bear.  Except with the bear, the feelings of fear would have faded away once the bear was back where it belonged; but with postpartum depression, the anxiety and guilt constantly thrummed in the background.

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Episode 39: The 2017 Climb Out of the Darkness

I am so happy that the Climb Out of the Darkness is continuing under the auspices of Postpartum Support International.

Climb Out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, bipolar/peripartum onset, and pregnancy depression and anxiety. It is held on or near the longest day of the year annually to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The event features mothers and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery.

If you have questions or would like to lead or join a Climb or become a Climb sponsor, email cotd@postpartum.net.

Thank you, Emily, for talking to us about the Climb and continuing working for this amazing event!

Operation: PPD Gideon Bible

When I was recovering from postpartum depression, the book Postpartum Depression for Dummies by Dr. Shoshana Bennett was a huge part of my recovery. I think every new mama should receive a copy of this book before she gives birth.

In fact, that is what I’m going to do: I’m going to start giving a copy to every mama I know after she gives birth.  I’m definitely bringing it to baby showers!

But that’s not enough. I want to get a copy of this book into the office of every obstetrician and pediatrician in America (and English speaking countries!) (and the world!)

But I don’t want to overwhelm myself, so let’s start with Pasadena, shall we?

I’m calling this Operation: PPD Gideon Bible. If every hotel has a copy of the Bible, surely we can get more information about maternal mood disorders into the hands of suffering moms.

Episode 38: Beth’s Story

This week, Beth shares her story of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety after the birth of her second child.  She also suffered from PTSD after the birth of her first child.

This episode does include a trigger warning: Beth’s ten month old son was diagnosed with an incredibly rare genetic disorder that affects his adrenal glands. If you are not in a place to listen to that, I understand. Just listen to the intro and then skip ahead to the last five minutes because wow, Beth ends with a powerful message.

Yay for mini-Princess Leia! 

Beth mentioned The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, a book that I love and highly recommend.

She also talked about how finding her Facebook tribe has been such an important part of her recovery.  If you are in search of a FB tribe, I recommend the Self-Care Squad for self-care support in general and the Postpartum Collective for anyone with any sort of interest in maternal mood disorders.

At the end of her interview, Beth talked about happiness and holiness. After we stopped recording, she told me she has been reading The Happiness Darewhich has inspired those thoughts.  I’ve already added that book to my wish list!

And lastly, and perhaps a bit weirdly, I talked about Missing Richard Simmons, a podcast about everyone’s favorite fitness fanatic. If you love podcasts, I highly recommend it!

Episode 37: Of Zoloft Weaning And Sensory Deprivation Tanks

It’s just me again this week talking about my mental health and advocacy work, but I promise, we’ll be back to interviews next week.  (Probably.) (You know how it goes.) (#MomLife).

I talked about my gradual tapering off of Zoloft.  I am down from 150 mg to 75 mg and easing myself into 50 mg. I was a bit cavalier this week and took 50 mg two days in a row before my body was ready for the leap and oh boy, did I suffer.

I felt like this:

But Nathan says I was actually more like this:

I feel better now. Whew.

But I jeopardized my mental health today by trying a sensory deprivation tank.  I was in the dark, floating in about six inches of water that was loaded with Epsom Salts for an hour. I thought it would be tranquil and energizing. It was quite the opposite. By the time the lights went back on, I felt like the photo above.

But hey, it was an adventure.

I just finished reading  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and loved it. I’ve already started The Four Agreements Companion Book because I can’t get enough. I highly recommend both books to anyone looking to improve their mental wellbeing. I wish I had learned this stuff before I had PPD!