Episode 70: Stephanie M.’s Story

This week, Stephanie M. shares her postpartum story on the show. Stephanie is a 26 year old mother of a eight year old girl and a nine month old boy. She experienced mild postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter but her second round of postpartum depression has been much more difficult.

 

 

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Stephanie and her children

During her second pregnancy, Stephanie had crazy dreams that involved bright red blood and her baby being ripped out of her stomach. By the end of her pregnancy, she was convinced that something bad was going to happen and told her boyfriend if the doctors could only save on life, she wanted them to save her baby.

Late in her pregnancy, Stephanie felt intense abdominal pain that was not a contraction. She went to the ER multiple times but an unsympathetic doctor kept sending her home. During her last trip to the hospital, she felt a gush and assumed her water had broken, but when she looked down, she saw bright red blood, just as in her nightmares.

The baby’s blood pressure dropped and Stephanie needed an emergency c-section. She started hemorrhaging, nearly died, and needed an emergency hysterectomy. She woke up two days later in the ICU.

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Finally meeting her son Kai for the first time

Stephanie is currently dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD from the traumatic birth of her son. At first, her doctor put her on Zoloft but that did not help. Lexapro, however, has reduced the severity of her symptoms. Now that her son is nine months old, she is starting to feel better but she has not fully recovered from her ordeal.

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Stephanie and her family

Thank you, Stephanie, so much for sharing your journey.

Episode 69: Thoughts on Mother’s Day

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States, and I felt inspired to share some thoughts and rants on the holiday.

When I recorded this episode two days ago, Nathan was scheduled to spend the weekend in Las Vegas with his best friend. A few people were horrified that I would let him “abandon me” on Mother’s Day, but I did not feel that way for many reasons.

  1. Nathan supports me throughout the year. He makes sure I get plenty of Me Time on the weekend so I can write and get massages. I take a spa day at least every other month (but really, it’s becoming more of a monthly tradition.)
  2. I don’t think Mother’s Day is the sort of holiday that needs to be confined to a single day. Last weekend, I got a pedicure and massage. Sometime later this month, I’ll take some more relaxation time. The spirit of Mother’s Day will be honored.
  3. I don’t need cards or expensive bouquets. I’d much rather buy myself a house plant and get cute handmade gifts from preschool.
  4. I’m playing the long game. Nathan and I take turns taking mini-vacations. He went to Vegas last summer. I went to Manhattan with my sister two weeks ago. Once Nathan goes to Vegas, I’ll have credit to take another trip in 2018. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but just the prospect energizes me.

But since recording the episode, things have changed. Pippa has pneumonia. So far, she has been a trooper. But yeah, as much as I want Nathan to get the chance to recharge his batteries in Vegas, I’m not comfortable with him taking that trip while our daughter has pneumonia.

Pippa’s pneumonia guarantees that Mother’s Day will not be about me. I’m not rushing off to a spa while my 5 year old has pneumonia. And I’m okay with that. Instead of wallowing in negatives – “woe is me, pneumonia on Mother’s Day!” – I’m focusing on the positives. Pippa had a mystery fever for several days. Of all the possible diagnoses in the world, pneumonia is not so bad. It’s 2018, we live in Pasadena, and have access to excellent medical care. She’s taking antibiotics and will make a full recovery. That is what matters.

On my first Mother’s Day as a mama five years ago, I was in the darkness of postpartum depression. If Pippa had had a cold, I would have been overwhelmed. Now, I’m able to look at pneumonia as a blessing! I’m so grateful that I made my mental health a priority and got myself to this place.

Episode 68: Lauren’s Story

Lauren Patterson shared the story of pregnancy and postpartum adventures for Episode 68. Lauren is a stay-at-home mom. She resides in Louisville with her supportive husband, domesticated dog, and two feral daughters whom she loves with every fiber of her being.

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Lauren spends her time negotiating with a toddler, rewashing the same load of laundry three times, feeding two small humans (one of whom literally sucks life out of her), cleaning the kitchen 9x a day, figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up, teaching her children how to speak and read and be functional humans, disposing of both human and canine poo, and checking her phone constantly for a human connection. Her hobbies include Pinterest fails, coordinating outfits based on breastfeeding accessibility, running (to the nearest liquor store), and using humor to deescalate the chaos in her postpartum brain.

Lauren can’t wait for the day that it gets “easier.”

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But on a more serious note (though, quite seriously, I love that Lauren has managed to keep her sense of humor even while she is still in the postpartum darkness), Lauren came on the show to talk about her recent experiences with antenatal (aka pregnancy) and postpartum depression. She had these experiences after the birth of her second daughter who is now ten months old.

Though Lauren is still a little in the postpartum forest, she is finally beginning to feel more like herself, or at least what her “new” self looks like.
Her adventures began the day she peed on a stick and saw the double pink lines, just three months after a miscarriage. She suffered antenatal anxiety and depression thanks to a traumatic pregnancy complicated by hyperemesis, biliary colic, pancreatitis, cholysticitis, and gallbladder attacks. (That’s fancy medical talk for “excruciating and never-ending shit show.”)
Lauren then had a semi-traumatic birth. Actually, “semi-traumatic” is what she told me in an email. But after hearing her story, I’d dare say it qualifies as “fully effing traumatic.” Lauren’s blood pressure bottomed out while pushing; she lost consciousness; the cord was double wrapped around baby’s neck; and she does not remember her daughter being born.
Lauren’s postpartum journey was even darker than her pregnancy. She experienced severe postpartum depression, PTSD from her pregnancy, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, disassociation, and suicidal ideation.
Lauren went through this Hellscape of Terrors That Just Wouldn’t End despite having an incredibly support system. She had an amazing therapist from the first day of her pregnancy, an awesome doctor, a mother who’s a saint and who lives 5 minutes away, a husband who took charge of her health when she could not, and so many wonderful friends and family members who wanted to help, and yet she STILL suffered tremendously.
Lauren writes, “I am lucky. Had I not had them, I cannot honestly say I would be here today. Which is why postpartum mental health NEEDS to be a priority, and NEEDS to be taken seriously by healthcare professionals.”
AMEN.
Lauren has also written some personal essays for Scary Mommy. If you are interested in reading more snapshots of her journey, there is one HERE and another is right HERE. (These were written before the shit really hit the fan during her pregnancy but I think they are fantastic.)
Lauren’s first daughter is three years old. That pregnancy was textbook, labor and delivery was superb, and her postpartum journey was “rainbows and unicorn farts.” (Lauren, I love you!) The 16 months Lauren spent in a barren wasteland of despair after the birth of Daughter #2 was quite shocking.
Thanks, Lauren, for coming on the show! I can’t wait to have you back to hear about your further postpartum adventures.

Girl Tries Life

This week, I am so honored to be on the podcast Girl Tries Life. The host, Victoria Smith, was a guest on Adventures with Postpartum Depression way back on Episode 33. Since being on my podcast, Victoria has launched a show of her own that investigates different ways to go about the art of being a woman in the 21st century.

Check out the shownotes or listen to the episode now on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Pod Bean.

Pod Bean. How adorable is that? Now I’m wishing I had used Pod Bean to host my podcast just so I would have more opportunities to write Pod Bean. It sounds like the name of a lovely picture book.

Even if you are not interested in hearing me talk some more, I still recommend Girl Tries Life. It’s an interesting and vibrant podcast and I love listening to the episodes as I drive around Pasadena.

Thanks, Victoria! I loved being on your show.

 

Write Your Postpartum Story!

Writing my memoir was so cathartic, I would like to help other parents write their postpartum stories. My brain, the eternal perfectionist, wants me to spend months and months outlining a series of helpful blog posts before I share a single thought with you. My gut, however, says it’s time to start.

And so this is the first in a series of blog posts that will hopefully inspire you to write your postpartum story. I don’t know how many posts there will be, but I do know there will be a lot, because writing is awesome and I want to help any moms or dads struggling with writer’s block. So let’s get started!

My first tip for writing your postpartum story….

[insert drum roll]

Start journaling.

That’s it. You don’t have to commit to writing your memoir or a formal series of blog posts. Don’t get me wrong: publication is incredibly healing and cathartic. But I suggest you start small so that you don’t get intimidated and come up with a thousand lame excuses to procrastinate. If you are meant to write a memoir, don’t worry. The journal entries will (eventually) become the memoir. But if you are overwhelmed with parenthood, don’t think about writing a book. Just contemplate a singlejournal entry. Start with that. That’s enough.

I started with journal entries. I worked with a cognitive behavioral psychologist after I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and he encouraged me to write. In fact, he gave me homework assignments, e.g. “Stop checking the locks at night and write about how that makes you feel.” The homework assignments motivated me to journal daily, and eventually, the journaling turned into an 80,000 word memoir.

But the 80,000 word memoir started with a single journal entry.

My first postpartum journal entry wasn’t very good. It was just me babbling the thoughts pinging around in my head. But damn, it felt good to get those words on to paper.

If you feel any inclination towards writing about your postpartum experiences, I think you should give it a try. Start small. Start with a single journal entry. It does not have to be very long. In fact, I’m giving you my permission to just write a single sentence and call it a journal entry. If you want to, write another. Or don’t. Maybe write one sentence today, two sentences tomorrow. Like a baby learning to walk, step by step, you can build a writing practice, sentence by sentence. There is no right way to write your first journal entry.

But I promise: I’m going to do my damnest to help you loosen up and hone your writing muscles and write your postpartum story.

Episode 67: Emily Richter’s Story

This week, Emily Richter shares her story on the show. Emily was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder as a child. Medication helped her cope and seemed to bring her symptoms under control. In high school, she decided to wean off the medications and felt well for many years.

Both pregnancy and childbirth went well for Emily. In hindsight, she realizes she should have been talking about mental health issues with her doctor from the beginning of her pregnancy, but her OCD and anxiety disorders were not at the front of her mind.
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After she gave birth, it took Emily a few months to admit she had a postpartum mood disorder. She assumed at first that her feelings were just due to the normal new parent experience of exhaustion and around-the-clock feedings. When her anxiety interfered with her ability to care for her son, she realized something was wrong.

When Emily’s baby cried, she would collapse to the floor herself, crying, She did not think she could be a mother. She felt more resentment than love towards her son. Emily went online and took some self-diagnostic quizzes which confirmed her growing suspicion that she had a postpartum mood disorder but she still waited a few weeks to call and make an appointment with her doctor. Emily finally realized she was not bonding with her baby, and that motivated her to make an appointment.

For Emily, OCD was experienced as anxious thoughts. She had obsessive thoughts about breastfeeding. Her heart would start racing if the baby made a noise and then Emily would be unable to sleep.

Her scariest thoughts happened at night. She had fears of hurting and losing her baby. Emily had a history of inappropriate thoughts but having a baby kicked it to a new level.

After several months of suffering, Emily saw her primary care doctor. She cried. She explained that she thought she had postpartum depression. Emily and her doctor decided she would start taking medication, Paxil, which was exactly what Emily needed.

At first, Emily’s progress was slow. But a few weeks after starting medication, Emily realized she could finally say she loved her son.

After she was on medication for awhile, Emily started seeing a therapist. She is working with the therapist now so that she is prepared if and when she has a second child.

Right now, her son is two years old. (He turned two in March.) Around the time of his first birthday, she felt like herself again and weaned off Paxil. She is still doing therapy.

During her interview, Emily talked a lot about breastfeeding issues. Listen to the episode now on iTunes, Google Play and Podomatic for the full discussion.

In June 2018, Emily is leading Team Hershey for the Climb Out of the Darkness. For many mamas, including Emily, leading or participating in a Climb is a very cathartic experience. Check out Team Hershey to join Emily’s Team, or learn more about the Climb Out of the Darkness in general to find a Team near you.  Head over HERE if you want to donate to Emily’s Climb.

Emily blogs about her experiences at The OCD Mama. You can also follow her OCD Mama page on Facebook.

Thanks, Emily, for coming on the show! I loved talking to you and I’m thrilled to share your story with the Adventures with Postpartum Depression community.

What Will My Daughter Think?

Here’s the thing about hosting a podcast and publishing a book about my experiences with postpartum depression: my story is out in the world and I can’t call it back. Someday, my children will know my entire story. Not just the PG parts but the Rated R “suicidal/thinking about throwing my baby” parts.

What will Pippa think when she knows the full story?

(I don’t worry so much about Julian’s reaction to my story since he did not live it. Pippa, though, was there for the entire adventure.)

Nathan read my memoir before I published it. I gave him absolute veto power. He did not exercise that power, but he was concerned that I decided to share — multiple times and in graphic detail — about the dark thoughts I had about throwing Pippa. He reminded me that Pippa is going to read my book someday and it might be difficult for her to know I had these thoughts. I understand his concerns.

But I was not going to edit the scary, ugly bits out of my story.

Pippa might experience postpartum depression someday. I want her to know it’s okay and that no matter how dark her darkness gets, she will find the light and recover. At least, that’s my rationalization for including every part of my story.

But you want to know the real reason I included all of the darkest details of my postpartum story in my memoir? Because my intuition told me to, and my intuition really knows her stuff. My intuition told me to write the book, and the experience of writing my memoir was so important to my recovery that I want to help other moms write their postpartum memoirs. My intuition then told me to start a podcast, and the podcast is so rewarding, I want to inspire other people to start their own shows. And when it came time for revising my memoir, my intuition told me to keep all the dark bits, and so that’s what I did.

I know, in my gut-heart-soul, that Pippa will understand that my dark thoughts are not a reflection on my love for her. She might have some complicated, messy feelings about this someday, but you know what I have learned? Complicated, messy feelings are beautiful. When the time comes for Pippa to read my book and process the gory details, we’ll process her feelings together. It’ll be another adventure!

Episode 66: On Stomach Bugs, Food and Spiritual Journeys

First and foremost, head RIGHT HERE for your free copy of my memoir, Adventures with Postpartum Depression! You can also buy the ebook right now on Amazon. (and for some annoying reason, I can’t get the image to center, but ah, breathe out, release my drive to be perfect, and hey, I’m letting this go!)

Money is beautiful, and actual sales do help the Amazon search algorithms. (Also, I like to use the word “algorithm” whenever possible because it makes me sound smart.) Whether you buy or not, reviews are incredibly helpful and help people find the book.

I talked a lot about food during this episode. The book that I mentioned is Geneen Roth’s Women Food and GodWomen Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything“>. For anyone who is ready for a new approach to weight, I highly recommend it.

I also mentioned the Alison Show. I love Alison. She is such an incredible inspiration. Her podcast, Awesome with Alison, is my absolute favorite podcast. Whenever a new episode drops, I listen right away. Head over to TheAlisonShow.com to learn more.

Finally, whew, Playing Monopoly With God, the one-woman show about postpartum psychosis, will be in New York from May 17-20, 2018. There’s a live broadcast that you can watch anywhere with an internet connection – but you have to register in advance! – on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. Head over to Playing Monopoly with God to learn more.

Thank you for listening and I hope you have a lovely week.

Episode 65: Rachel’s Story

This week, Rachel Duff shares her postpartum story. Rachel is a twenty-two year old single mother to five kids, two earthside: Rosalee who is two years old and Sebastian who is nine months old, and three angels: Anne-Marie (would be three years old) and Emery and Emmett (who would be 10 months old).

After a traumatic emergency c-section with her first delivery, Rachel became obsessed with birth and more specifically natural birth, VBACs and home birth. When she became pregnant with Sebastian, she was determined to have a VBAC and despite many challenges (Oklahoma is not VBAC friendly) was successful.

During her interview, Rachel opened up about a lot of important issues, including:

  • Two miscarriages
  • Issues with breastfeeding
  • An emergency c-section
  • Money issues
  • Relationship issues with her ex-fiancé, and
  • Self-harming.

As part of her struggles with postpartum anxiety, Rachel started cutting herself. This was something she did in high school but she had not cut herself for three and a half years. After the birth of her second child, she relapsed and started cutting herself again. Terrified that she would lose her children, she hid the cutting from everyone. She only cut herself at work. As time went on, the cuts got deeper and deeper. The last time she cut herself, she was bleeding through her jeans. This served as a wake-up call and she gave her blade to her ex and stopped harming herself.

Rachel, it is so incredibly brave of you to share this part of your story. Thank you. I know you are helping someone who desperately needs to hear your story.

Rachel is passionate about many things, including her family, her new springerdoodle Charlie, birth, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy and science. She hopes to one day either go to school for nursing or become a doula/midwife assistant. But until then, she enjoys working third shift as a laboratory tech.

You can follow Rachel on Instagram at @rachduffokc or you can follow her puppy (yeah, she’s that person) at @not_so_sorry_charlie.

I published my book!

The e-book version of my memoir Adventures with Postpartum Depression is now available on Amazon and I’d be tickled pink if you buy a copy:

 

That’s an affiliate link there. It does not increase the price of the book for the buyer, but I get a few cents back from Amazon’s cut. And hey, I wrote the book, shouldn’t I get the money?

Though seriously, I am so grateful to live in an era when it is so easy to be a self-published author and share your truths and stories with the world. In the coming weeks, I intend to post a lot here to explain the writing process. I will also have lots of journaling prompts for readers who feel inspired to start writing their postpartum stories.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey! I always feel as if I am fully recovered from PPD but now that my book is out in the world, I feel even better.