Episode 53: Sam Kimura’s Story of Traumatic Birth Experience, Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum Depression

After a long break, I am so excited to be doing interviews again for the podcast. During my interview with Sam Kimura, I kept thinking about how much I missed this work. I am so excited to do more interviews in 2018!

Sam’s story begins with the birth of her daughter in 2013. She had her heart set on a vaginal delivery without any pain meds, but things did not go according to plan. About twenty-two hours into labor, she accepted the pain medications.  Around the twenty-four hour mark, Sam looked and noticed that blood was everywhere. She had placental abruption, a rare and serious pregnancy complication in which the placenta detaches from the womb. The doctors performed an emergency c-section, and Sam was pumped with so many drugs, she does not remember the first days of her daughter’s life.

This was a traumatic birth, but Sam did not feel allowed to experience the trauma of her birth. She had a healthy baby.  She was healthy. She was supposed to feel thankful – right?

But Sam wanted to have a beautiful labor and birth experience. And that’s a huge deal! She is now being mentored by a psychiatrist in London, England who specializes in traumatic births. This is a new area of research. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but we know now that women can experience Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a traumatizing birth.

Sam’s traumatic birth set the stage for her subsequent experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety. When she learned she was pregnant with her son, she immediately resolved to avoid another c-section. From there, things went downhill as she set high expectations for getting the beautiful birth she missed having with her daughter. 

Sam developed prenatal depression, but she was never screened for depression during her pregnancy. She assumed she was just the sort of person who does not love pregnancy. When her boss told her that some coworkers were concerned that Sam was not acting life herself, she took this as a personal attack. Looking back, though, Sam’s grateful her fellow nurses were concerned.

The birth of her son was everything Sam hoped it would be. She loved the feeling of having her baby on her chest but also did not experience the relief she had been expecting. All the stress she had felt during pregnancy was still there.

Sam went home. She copes with stress by staying busy. That is exactly what she did. Rather than get the rest she needed, she ran around, feeling she needed to be perfect and have people admire how well she was doing.

Sam knew she was not doing well, but she did not think she had postpartum depression. She did not even think anything was wrong. She just assumed that this was the way all mothers feel after the birth of a second child.

She did not take any time to practice self-care, not even ten minutes to nurture herself. About two or three weeks postpartum, she started having irrational thoughts and would hide the way she was struggling, crying every day for a half hour after her husband left for work. But she still went out every day, saw friends, and filled her days with activities.

At the six week appointment, Sam cried and told her doctor she was not doing well. Her doctor gave her a prescription but did not discuss the medication with her. Sam sees this as a system failure. Doctors just do not have enough time to talk with moms. When she got home, Sam ripped up the prescription and decided there was a better way to feel better.

She started running.

Sam joined a running club. For many moms, this would be great motivation to get out of the house and make new friends. But for Sam, the running turned into a metaphorical running away from her problems. She even experienced intrusive thoughts while running along busy streets, thinking that it might be better to just get hit by a car than continue living the life she now had.

Four or five months postpartum, Sam told her husband that she was struggling and was going to the doctor for medications. Her husband was stunned. He had no idea how badly she felt.

Lack of sleep was a huge issue for Sam. Her son had some bad sleep habits, needing to breastfeed throughout the night. She was sleeping 25-30 minute stretches for a grand total of 2-3 hours of sleep each night. She realized she needed more sleep and that she did not have the capacity to sleep train her son, so she hired a sleep coach. Within a couple of days, her son was sleeping through the night. Sam was still awake and worrying, only getting 2-3 hours of sleep each night.

By this time, Sam was running 10 kilometers every day. She had lost her appetite and was eating the bare minimum to survive. She ran so much, she got a stress fracture. Still, she kept running. Her perfectionist tendencies were a huge part of her postpartum problems.

Sam went to her family doctor and asked for medication. The first two medications made her anxiety and intrusive thoughts worse.  Zoloft was the third medication she tried. By the time she tried it, she was numb, convinced that she was the one person who could not be helped by medication. It took two weeks for the Zoloft to start working. In total, it took about eight or nine weeks of experimenting with prescriptions to find the one that worked for Sam.

Sam had still not seen a psychiatrist.  Her son was about eight months old.  Her family doctor confronted her and Sam admitted she was not feeling safe. Her doctor made lots of calls and found a mobile support team. A psychologist and two nurses came to Sam’s house. At last, Sam was starting to get the professional help she needed to recover.

But it was not quite enough.

Sam did not want to be admitted to the hospital. She had a huge mental block against this. As a nurse, she knew what she had to say — and what she could not say — to avoid a hospital admission. Everything, though — the lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of support and secrecy about her struggles from all but a few people — was taking a major toll on Sam. 

In November 2016, when her son was just over a year old, Sam went back to work. This was difficult. They had to switch to a new day care, but her daughter struggles with separation anxiety, so there was a lot more crying during the morning drop off. That created extra stress for Sam. Her twelve hour work shifts were hard on her already abused body. Then Christmas came and the extra stress of the holiday felt like too much.

Sam was tired of living with so much anxiety. There was still a tiny piece inside of her that wanted to live and hoped that something good could come from all that she had suffered. In the beginning of January 2017, Sam decided to be admitted to the hospital.

Sam spent five days in the hospital. The doctors gave her Atavan to settle her worried brain. After over a year of sleeping only 2-3 hours each night, she was finally able to get some much needed sleep.

After she was discharged, Sam joined an out-patient program that takes a multidisciplinary approach to recovery. She had access to psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, occupational therapists… at last, Sam was getting the professional support she needed! As of the time of our interview, she was nearly done with the program and projecting that she would finish in January 2018. She is confident that she now has the tools she needs to keep anxiety from ruling her life.

In March 2017, The Mama Coach approached Sam about joining their team. The Mama Coach is a team of Registered Nurses committed to making motherhood easier. Sam jumped on the opportunity and started working as a Mama Coach in May 2017. She LOVES the work she is now doing,

Sam also runs a free postpartum group on Fridays that meets at a grocery store. How awesome is that?! Good conversation with mamas and then a chance to pick up some milk? Perfection. 

Sam received further training from a webinar series through Postpartum Support International. She highly recommends the program to anyone looking for more training in the arena of maternal mental health.

Sam lives in Calgary, Alberta but thanks to Skype and the Internet, she can work with mamas living anywhere in the world. You can reach her at:

www.themamacoach.ca

FB @samthemamacoach

IG @samthemamacoach

Sam believes that telling her story is the best way she can help other moms, and I couldn’t agree more. If any of you beautiful mamas want to share your story, please email courtney@PPDadventures.com. Interviews are fun and we will make them work for your busy mama schedule.

Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story!

p.s. As I mentioned at the end of the episode, I am moving old episodes to Patreon. For the cost of $2/month (less than a latte!), you can support the show and get access to all the old episodes. With the holidays coming, it will take me a copy of weeks to get all the old episodes uploaded, but the first five are already there. I was going to stay mum about Patreon until everything was moved over, but I figured this keeps me accountable. If you just can’t wait to support the show, you can check it out HERE. Thank you so much!