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.
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.
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.