Sam was sick her entire pregnancy, from the day after she got the positive pregnancy test result until the day she gave birth at 37 weeks pregnant. She vomited 5-6 times a day and survived on Egg McMuffins and bean burritos. She was also working full time during the vomiting horror show – can you imagine?
At 37 weeks, she was induced. After 36 hours of long labor, she had an amazing perfect delivery. The nursing staff and physicians listened to her throughout the delivery and her obstetrician sounds like a total rock star. Her baby, now three years old, was healthy as could be despite all the nausea and puking. (So, all you moms out there: don’t beat yourself up about hitting all the recommended nutritional benchmarks! Egg McMuffins make healthy babies.)
The postpartum depression started as soon as Harlan arrived. Her baby slept constantly, but Sam could not sleep. She would feel tired and wired at the same time. Sam would lie down but her brain would not stop. Instead, it would rush through all the things that could go wrong with her baby. Sleep deprivation set the stage for her other symptoms.
Her other symptoms included tearfulness, loss of appetite, intrusive thoughts, rage, thoughts of hurting or killing herself, and plans to leave so her son could have a better mom.
When her baby was five weeks old, Sam started making suicide plans. Fortunately, she belonged to a supportive Babycenter birth group. When she told her friends how she was doing, one of them told her to call the doctor’s office.
Sam called her doctor and got to see her that afternoon. She had a panic attack in the waiting room and worried the authorities would take her baby away. In the examination room, she cried with her doctor. Her doctor prescribed Zoloft, and so began Sam’s slow recovery from postpartum depression.
A lot of our guests talk about how long their recovery took. I know this can be really discouraging but you will recover. I believe it is important to share the stories of slow recovery so our support team can fully appreciate just how much patience and love we need.
Sam attended Baby Blues Connection, a peer support group in Portland, Oregon. I just looked at the Baby Blues Connection website, and wow, I am jealous and inspired. If you live in the Portland area, you should definitely check them out!
Sam also saw a therapist for seven or eight months. I know we are all different and have different roads to recovery, but I think therapy is vital to making a full recovery from postpartum depression. When I talk to a mom who’s prescribed a pill and nothing more, I want to throw a tantrum.
Zoloft was not a magical solution for all of Sam’s postpartum problems. For example, she still felt guilty for the way she felt did during the first five weeks of her son’s life. Therapy and peer support were vital parts of her recovery. Her parents also helped out a lot. Internet friends were also important because they were there for Sam at all sorts of odd hours.
By early 2016, Sam was feeling much better but then she had to return to counseling. In November 2016, when Harlan was a toddler, she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Now in early 2018, she is finally feeling like her whole self but it has been a slow crawl to get where she wants to be.
Sam’s white hot rage was a sign of hypomania. She felt her rage as an out-of-body experience that was paralyzing. That was a symptom of bipolar disorder. I had no idea!
Since experiencing a maternal mood disorder, Sam is much more compassionate when she hears the sensational stories about postpartum depression in the media. She feels there was an element of luck to winning her battle.
Sam’s illness gave her sense of purpose. She has shared her story on her blog in a three part series. That has changed lives. The first post is right here. The second post is here. And the third is here.
Sam’s husband had a rough time during her illness but was as supportive as he could be. It was very stressful for him to see Sam suffering with maternal mental illness.
Breastfeeding was one of the issues that contributed to how awful Sam felt postpartum. She tried like hell to breastfeed but it just did not work. She exclusively pumped for five months but the schedule took a toll on her mental health. She wishes she had switched to formula sooner. During our breastfeeding discussion, I mentioned the book Bottled Up. Seriously, I cannot mention this book enough! We need as much education as possible about the actual benefits of breastfeeding so that moms can stop beating themselves up if breastfeeding is not the right choice.
When it comes to self-care, Sam is not so great at bath bombs and pedicures. Therapy has been an important part of her self-care. Writing is also essential. She also forces herself to socialize even when she’s not in the mood because she’s an extrovert and gets her energy from being around other people.
After the interview ended, Sam and I kept talking and discovered we are both members of The Self Care Squad on Facebook. I’ve mentioned the Squad many times but it bears mentioning again because it is such a supportive, non-judgmental community. The Squad is run by former guest Graeme Seabrook, who is truly called to help moms figure out how to take care of themselves.
Sam blogs at TheMothersideBlog.com and you can also follow her on Instagram @samanthajnw.
Thanks, Sam! You are an inspiration and I’d love to have you back on the show.