Saturday, July 24, 2010

Post Partum Depression...

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was happy, though miserable - I had a rough pregnancy. Through it all, I also had deep fears... I worried that about my ability to be a good mother. I worried about being able to keep my children safe; safe from the crazies of the world, from abuse, and trauma. I also worried about falling into a pit of despair known as Post Partum Depression. I had already felt that deep pit and with the help of medication and counseling I had begun to climb out of it. When I spoke to my Dr. about my desire to become pregnant, he suggested I wait, and stay on the medication for at least a full year. Back in those days not as many medications were available, and the medication I was taking was not great for pregnancy.

When I realized a week later that I was in fact, already pregnant, I went off of my medication cold turkey! Perhaps the joy of anticipation of the new life growing inside me helped me to not fall back into depression during the pregnancy. I worried a lot however, having read about the possibility of PPD, that after the birth I might fall into what had formerly been an abyss for me.

Then, events that had seemed a world away from me became up close and personal! Saddam Husein invaded a small country I had previously never even heard of called Kuwait. As the military started building up for War, I spent more time worrying, about bigger things than just myself, but when word came that my husband too would be joining the fray, life became somewhat of a blur... My husbands unit left for Saudi Arabia the first part of December 1990, when I was about 7 months pregnant. Here I was a young Army wife, and the Company Commanders wife decided since they had already been on orders to go home before the war broke out, she decided to go ahead and move back home to the US. None of the other Officers were married, so I became the Head of our Family Support Group and I had to try to help comfort and support all of the other wives and families in our Unit; Most of which had been married and part of the Military far longer than I had!

I was asked/or invited to attend the meetings on Post with all the Rear Detachment Commanders of the Post. They often had weekly or monthly meetings. This kept me busy, and again, perhaps unable to focus so much just on me, and my personal loneliness, etc.

I did however, have plenty of lonely times. Both of my parents had passed away before I had ever married. I spent much of my pregnancy wishing I had the support and encouragement that all young mothers probably want. I wished I had a mother I could call and ask questions of: Did you feel like this when you were pregnant? Did you get this ill? How did your births go?

After Christmas, my dear friend flew to Germany to spend time with me until my baby arrived. (She stayed for nearly 3 months). I was and continue to be so very grateful for her friendship and support. She became my secretary, my constant companion and confidant. She attended all the meetings with me. She attended my appointments with me, and was with me for every part of my birth.

Even though I had this wonderful friend helping me, I was still very alone; No Mother, No husband (for the time being), and about to have my first baby, far away from anything familiar - living over seas, in a foreign country. I worried about everything! I worried even more that I would have PPD. I certainly had plenty of reasons to expect trouble with it, from previous issues of depression, and going off of my medications, to having my husband deployed to a War Zone, and having a baby alone... My best girlfriend stayed with me until my baby was around a month old. I'm sure that her company, and all of her help was immensely important in my post partum ability to cope with things. Then she had to return home (to get married), and I was left on my own.

My baby was not as easy as I had imagined and hoped. She was probably as close to colicky as a baby could be without actually having colick. She cried and fussed a lot and spit up untold volumes. I think I still managed to hang on to reality for the most part, and again I'm sure the meetings I had to continue to attend and helping the other wives and mothers in our Unit, kept me going. But I do remember that I would often go days without saying a word. I would meet the physical needs of my baby, but she wasn't much of a conversationalist. When the phone would finally ring, I remember my voice croaking as I answered, being the first time I'd spoken in days! Then I would feel guilty about not talking to and interacting with my baby.

My husband came home from the war when our daughter was 3 months old. I had survived somehow, but only barely. Why I didn't suffer from full blown PPD, is still somewhat of a mystery to me as I certainly had plenty of 'reasons' to have suffered from it. I have compassion for those mothers who through no fault of their own, struggle and suffer from the often debilitating effects of Post Partum Depression.

I like the analogy of it taking a village to raise a family. A new mother and father, needs a village to help support and sustain her in the days and weeks (and years) after the birth of a new baby. Motherhood with a new baby while you are sleep deprived and often worse is hard. Again, I am ever so thankful that my dear friend Jessica was able to come and be with me for that first month. Without her help I am sure I would have swirled right down into the pits of despair.

For some mom's it takes even more, medication, counseling, etc. The link below has some really terrific information, stories and book suggestions to help. Check it out.

Gwyneth Paltrow shares her experience of Postpartum Depression on her Goop Blog.

When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter was born two years earlier. Instead I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life. For about five months I had, what I can see in hindsight as postnatal depression, and since that time, I have wanted to know more about it.

She has Dr's sharing information.
Dr. Laura Schiller - a New York city based OB/GYN and advice from psychologist and frequent GOOP contributor (and mother of two) Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes.

Also, her friend Bryce Dallas Howard - fellow actress, (Victoria on Twilight-Eclipse)

I recently saw an interview I did on TV while promoting a film. In it, I was asked about my experience with post-partum depression and as I watched, I cringed. I said things like “It was a nightmare,” or “I felt like I was in a black hole.” But I couldn’t even begin to express my true feelings. On screen, I had seemed so together, so okay, as if I had everything under control. As I watched, it dawned on me. If I had been able to truthfully convey my ordeal with post-partum depression under the glare of those lights, I most likely would have said no words at all. I simply would have stared at the interviewer with an expression of deep, deep loss.

a couple of book suggestions:
Brooke Shields “Down Came the Rain.”
Heather B. Armstrong “It Sucked and then I Cried,”