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.

Five Years of Mamahood!

My baby girl is five years old today! That means I have been a mama for five years! I have learned so much from motherhood, but here are five big lessons that come to mind immediately:

  1. Healthy, happy kids make messes. Lots and lots of messes. Sick kids, though, make very few messes. So instead of cursing the mess, bless the health.
  2. Screaming does not make anyone feel better.
  3. Time makes everything easier. If I’m rushing, tempers flare. But if we have heaps and heaps of time, everything feels magical.
  4. Everyone learns by experience. You can’t tell a baby how to walk or eat or even how to play. And I certainly won’t be able to teach my children how to live authentic, fulfilling lives via a series of lectures. I can only teach by example, and they will only learn by living their lives.
  5. Mistakes are vital and important. I let my kids know when I have made a mistake so that they can witness firsthand that imperfection is wonderful.

I should really be filling this post with photos of my sweet Pippa but eh, it’s late and I’m exhausted from birthday party preparations. Tomorrow is going to be a big day and here’s one more lesson I’ve learned: SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL.

Episode 61: Kelly Thoele’s Story of Pregnancy Depression and Postpartum Depression

This week, Kelly Thoele, a thirty-year-old mother to one-year-old Marley, shares the story of her postpartum adventures.

Long before she got pregnant, Kelly had a bad experience with depression when she was in high school and college. She started taking Lexapro when she was sixteen and weaned off it after about six years.

Looking back, Kelly’s problems started during pregnancy. She had some difficulty getting pregnant and then hated pregnancy when it finally happened. She had so much morning sickness, she puked forty times in one day! (Holy. Crap.) She felt guilty for hating pregnancy – wasn’t this what she wanted? – and was also exhausted because her job keeps her on her feet most of the day. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and Kelly can now see that she experienced pregnancy depression.

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Kelly did not get the labor and delivery experience that she imagined. She assumed she would labor at home for as long as possible and daydreamed about having a magical experience. Instead, at the 20 week ultrasound, her daughter was underweight. At 39 weeks, her water broke but only a pinhole of a break. The doctors gave her Pitocin and broke her water.

Then things got worse.

Kelly felt horrible labor pains and needed an epidural. The baby crowned but after three pushes, alarms were going off. The doctors could not find the baby’s heartbeat. Ninety seconds and one emergency c-section later, Kelly’s daughter was born and thank goodness, she was a perfectly healthy baby.

It was difficult for Kelly to process her experiences. She was not prepared to have an emergency c-section and felt like she was in a fog. She had not researched the recovery process. Also, skin-to-skin contact with her newborn was delayed for several hours because of a few complications from the c-section. After that, Kelly was able to try breastfeeding but Marley would not latch. Kelly did not get any sleep in the hospital and basically, her experience was absolutely miserable.

Her mom came to visit which was a tremendous help; but then Kelly’s mom left and her husband went back to work at the same time.

Kelly was alone with the baby. Even diaper changes felt like a burden. She was not bonding with her baby. For example, Kelly kept saying “the baby” but would not refer to her daughter by name. Add this to your list of red flag behavior with postpartum mamas!

Kelly felt guilty. She compared herself to another sister who already had children and had bounced back from each of her pregnancies. Kelly, though, could not even go to the toilet by herself. This was a huge infringement on her sense of self and independence.

For the first six weeks of Marley’s life, Kelly hung out at home. She realized something was amiss. At her six week checkup, she met with the midwife in her doctor’s practice. The midwife screened Kelly for postpartum depression and anxiety but then sent Kelly home empty-handed. She said Kelly’s hormones were out of whack and needed some time to settle.

[Insert here an image of me striking my head against the wall.]

From six to twelve weeks postpartum, things went from bad to horrific. Kelly stopped responding to texts. She did not want to deal with people. She obsessed over the dishes and insisted the sink be kept in immaculate condition but did not care about the rest of the house being a mess.

Kelly had bad nightmares. She committed suicide in a dream and woke up crying because she was still alive. She knew that wasn’t a good thought but also didn’t want to be alive.

Kelly had terrible premonitions and got transported into terrible intrusive thoughts like seeing herself getting hit by a semi while driving her car. She also thought about not going home.

She slept horribly and would wake up feeling more drained than ever.

In the shower, she sobbed, trying to figure out what was wrong with her.

Then, in her Facebook feed, she saw something about the documentary When the Bough BreaksKelly watched the movie while nursing. Her jaw dropped. She identified with all the women. The husband of Kelly Martinez, a mom who committed suicide, shared his wife’s story. Hearing this man talk about “his wife Kelly” jolted Kelly to life. She did not want her husband to have to give that sort of interview about her someday. She wanted her baby to have a mom.

Kelly’s husband got home shortly after she finished watching When the Bough Breaks. Kelly was sobbing. She told her husband that she was worried that she was going to go from sad to inconsolable and actually do something to herself.

When the Bough Breaks lists the number for the Postpartum Support International warm line. And in case you need it, that number is:

1-800-944-4773(4PPD)

At the end of the movie, Kelly called. Then she called her obstetrician for an appointment and told the nurse she did not want to kill herself. The nurse gave her an appointment for the next morning.

The obstetrician was awesome. She sat with Kelly for forty-five minutes and gave her a hug. At this point in her story, Kelly was 12 weeks and 4 days postparutm. The doctor put her back on Lexapro and this was the game changer. Days later, she felt better. Kelly became a person again.

Kelly’s work gave her four months maternity leave. Going back to work gave her a lot of anxiety but as soon as she got there, she felt welcomed and even rejuvenated. For the first time in four months, Kelly was needed for her brain. She was happy to have an identity outside of being Marley’s mom.

Breastfeeding was the hardest thing Kelly has ever done, but it worked, and she is still doing it. She even breastfed Marley during our interview! A lactation consultant helped Kelly solve a bunch of problems and once Kelly was on Lexapro, breastfeeding became easy.

At the beginning of her postpartum journey, Kelly did not see a therapist but she is seeing one now. She needed to get her chemicals organized and get her headspace back before therapy could be productive.

Before she got pregnant, Kelly was nervous that she might get postpartum depression. Her knowledge about postpartum depression was, however, limited to the sensational stories that make it to the news. She did not know about the spectrum of symptoms that exists between the baby blues and killing your baby. For example, she had no idea that rage can be part of maternal mood disorders.

Kelly wrote about her story for When the Bough Break’s Facebook page and you can read that piece right HERE

This year, Kelly is leading Team Orlando for the Climb Out of the Darkness on June 23, 2018. Head over HERE to donate to her personal Climb or HERE to sign up for Team Orlando. You can learn more about the Climb Out of the Darkness right HERE.

Also, at the beginning of the episode, I read an excerpt from Graeme Seabrook’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up at The Postpartum Mama for Graeme’s weekly wisdom.

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Adventures With Brattiness

I told Pippa that she was a brat this weekend. It was not my finest parenting moment.

I was making the kids a snack on Saturday. Pippa wanted an apple. She has been eating a lot of apples lately and has strong opinions on whether she wants a pink or red one at any given time. Rather than hazard a guess as to what she wants, it’s best to just ask her.

So I did. I asked her what apple she wanted. She got out two magnet tiles, one red and one green, and told me that she was going to hold up red for red apple and green for pink apple. (We have no pink magnetic tiles.) So she went through this elaborate dance, moving the tiles around, and I smiled and waited and waited and waited and finally, she held the red tile high up in the air. Red apple! Okay!

I selected a red apple. Pippa watched.

I got out the cutting board. Pippa watched.

I got out a knife. Pippa watched.

I sliced off the first piece of red apple. Pippa cried out, “No, I want pink! I changed my mind, I want pink!”

And I cracked. She is a picky eater, and this is fair, because I was a picky eater, subsisting off a very narrow range of bland foods for most of my childhood. Now I eat just about anything, so I accept that Pippa is entitled to be a picky eater.

But Friday night, she had been extra difficult. We were across town at my parents’ house (and remember, by “town” I mean “the other side of Los Angeles County”). She mentioned in the early afternoon that she wanted spaghetti for dinner but we had no spaghetti. I just wanted to feed the kids before driving back home to Pasadena so they could fall asleep and not be hungry horrors, so I ordered pizza. Pizza that Pippa has eaten before and loves. When the pizza arrived, she was outraged. I found leftover spaghetti in the fridge, the remains from her cousin’s dinner the night before, and I gently washed away all the meat and tomato sauce because when my daughter wants spaghetti, she literally only wants the spaghetti. I prepared the spaghetti for Pippa, she took one bite, and declared it tastes weird. I ended up leaving the room so that my parents, sister, brother and sister-in-law could trick Pippa into eating a few calories for dinner.

Back to the apple. Friday night had used up all my sympathy for picky eaters. I told Pippa that she had to eat the red apple, end of discussion.

She protested. Shouted. Stamped her feet. Whined. I argued with her (always a mistake) and after going back and forth several times, I raised my voice and told her she was being a BRAT.

I did not like that. It felt wrong. Was she being difficult? Yes. Fussy? Yes. But a brat? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s a fair word to use with a child. (To their face. Behind their back is a different story.) After all, Pippa is a child, an she’s just doing her best to navigate the world. The girl has opinions, and I don’t want to beat them out of her. She also has very little control over her life, but she can control the food that she puts into her mouth, chews, and swallows. Maybe she was just having a moment where she needed to feel like she was in charge of her body.

But she pushed my buttons and I lashed out and called her a B-R-A-T BRAT.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I took the kids to an indoor playground at the mall. Julian kicked his shoes off in the car and was less than cooperative as I tried to put them back on. Since we were going to a Socks Only establishment, I just left his Crocs in the car and carried him.

As we walked, Pippa said, “Julian is being a brat.”

I winced. Oh, it never feels good when Pippa repeats my lesser moments.

I said, “Let’s not use that word. It’s not very nice.”

“But mama,” Pippa said, “I learned this word from you. If you don’t want me to say it, you shouldn’t teach me how to use it.”

Well. Shit.

The universe really knew what it was doing when it decided Pippa should be my daughter. The girl will not let me sit back and half-ass motherhood. She is forcing me to think and write and consider my mistakes and grow into a better person.

And so, here’s to another day of motherhood! I have two goals for today. First, I want to be as patient as possible with my children, even when they are pushing my buttons. And second, I want to be gracious with myself when I feel impatient. I have a lot to learn in order to be the person I want to be, and I’m going to have to make a lot more mistakes to learn it.

Thought it would be nice if I could find a way to remove all my buttons and become a model of transcendent serenity.