Postpartum Depression

“It gets better.”

That is what I kept hearing after I had my baby. And every time I heard those words my brain would scream “WHEN?!”. I felt like I was drowning. I was raw – literally, figuratively – all of the ways in which someone can be raw. Isolated, yet with constant calls/texts/notifications. Alone, yet surrounded by people. Stagnant, yet always moving/doing. Silent, yet screaming inside. Feeling everything, yet nothing at the same time.

I don’t believe you can truly ever be prepared for the day you become a mother. You can try. You can ask a million questions, take a million classes, read a million books, but the second you hold that innocent child in your arms – everything changes. It’s a strange concoction of pure joy and complete terror. Here it is – this thing you made – now keep it alive. Oh, and while you are it, make sure to raise it to have upstanding morals, good character, and without traumatizing it too much along the way. [No pressure, right?!] Wrong, lot’s of pressure – all the pressure – [What have I done?! What do I do now?] These feelings are “normal” they say. [Who is they anyway? Why do they always have an opinion?!] After your hormones settle down, after you get home, after you get in a routine, after the “shock” wears off, somewhere – sometime – you embrace the joys of motherhood and find peace with your new role. For some reason, this wasn’t as easy for me. My feelings grew stronger, more terror, more overwhelmed, more anxiety, more confusion, and eventually converted numb, mundane, empty, helpless. LOST.

A looming shadowing lurking over you, keeping you from fully enjoying your new baby, your family, your life. A weight with more pull that any gravitational force –  causing your feet to drag like concrete blocks.

Postpartum depression.

Let’s discuss my experience.

There is a stigma here, I’d like for you to try to set aside your previous thoughts, feelings, judgements concerning mental health. If you are unable to continue reading with an open mind – please click away from this post. This is a safe space. This space was created with love for others who might stumble across it looking for someone to relate to, a story to read, or out of general interest on the subject matter. This place is for expression, relation, uplifting interaction. It is warm. It is comfy. It feels like home. Let’s keep it this way. It should go without saying that negative comments will be removed as they are not helpful.

Postpartum depression is only part of my story.

While I was born many years ago, this part of my story begins in fall of 1998.

Specifically it begins on October 13, 1998 – the day my brother died. Most people who know me personally are aware that I have a deceased sibling. What those people may not know includes the following: His name was John. He died at the age of ten from brain cancer. He was a light this world needed – a light dimmed far too soon. His death shaped my life. It is the reason people pitied me in middle school. It is the reason I feel uncomfortable when people ask, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”.  It is the reason I have depression (one of several). His death left a void so deep inside of me, there are days I am afraid it will never be filled. However, his death does lead me into positive ventures as well. It is the reason I joined a sorority that supports Make-A-Wish Foundation. It is the reason I went into healthcare as a profession. It is the reason I stay close with my friends and family. His death makes me live. So, there is a happy ending if you dig deep enough to find it. Needless to say, this was a traumatizing event in my lifetime. Paired with my genetic susceptibility, it seemed inevitable that I would suffer from some degree of depression. And I did, I do, I will most likely until my last day on earth – not to be morbid – just honest. There is so much more to be said about raising a child after suffering the loss of a close loved one – yet this post is not the place nor the time. [I anticipate a future post soon]. This is for you to understand me a little bit more.

I spent my formative years thinking “this is the grief process” and “it will get better with time”. I did not seek help, although it was offered. Instead I found my solace in creative activities – writing, dance, music – and through friendships. I pushed away the darkness as long as I could. In college, I did the same with new friendships, new writing, and long nights of studying at the library. I pushed away the darkness again – until I couldn’t any more. After several poor clinical experiences, I found a psychiatrist and a diagnosis I could trust. Generalized anxiety disorder with panic episodes and major depression. [Major depression? What is minor depression? How do you become majorly depressed?!] I worked with my doctor to find a medication regimen that worked best for me. I spent the next eight months of my life living happily – for the first time in as long as I could remember. I was able to feel real joy again – something I didn’t even realize I missed. I could breathe again. The weight had been lifted – the shadows gone. Shortly after my husband and I turned thirty, we had the “will we have kids” talk. I have had PCOS since I was a teenager. I am overweight. I have irregular periods. We had not prevented pregnancy for over five years at the time. Previous physicians told me, “it will be hard for you to conceive”. Mutually my husband and I decided that we would not undergo fertility treatments for financial reasons, and thus we figured we would not have children – instead we would travel and raise our two yorkies together. That was fine with me. And one faithful day in July of 2016 I thought to myself “well my period is late again, I guess I will test just to be sure”. Staring back at me were two pink lines. [TWO?!?!?!] Yes, two – the double stripe sign of soon to be motherhood [Surely this wasn’t real, right?!] Four pregnancy tests, a tearful phone call to a friend, and a pinteresting session later of “how to tell your husband you are pregnant” – it was real. I was pregnant. Immediately, I panicked. [What about your medicines?? Won’t they hurt the baby?] I called my psychiatrist and my obgyn, left hormone filled messages about my fears, and was reassured quickly that it was okay. I elected to wean off my medications for my pregnancy and surprisingly I did just fine. I was in my graduate program and working full time in the ICU. Busy was an understatement. I was distracted from the darkness, and I was one big ball of hormones. [I had survived without medication for 24 years – what was nine months?] And then on March 2, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. on the dot, my whole world changed – my son was born.

A beautiful, healthy 8lbs 4 oz angel delivered via emergency c-section. The best thing to ever happen to me.

TRIGGER WARNING. Also – slight disclaimer – I love my child more than anything in the entire world, I have always loved him. I always will. In no way, would I ever harm him or allow another individual to harm him – emotionally, mentally, physically. He is my world. The following is shared for others to read and understand – to break the stigma on mental health. Please be kind. 

I have never loved anything or anyone so much in my life. I can say this now without question. Yet, upon his arrival and the first eight weeks of his life I wasn’t so sure that this was the case. I loved my child because I knew I was supposed to, because he was part of me, because we spent hours together bonding, and because there was an instant connection between us. There was an immediate feeling of love – infatuation. I believed it was true love until it began to fade a few days after leaving the hospital. It wasn’t that I had complete apathy. I knew I loved him – I just couldn’t feel it. It was as if there was this wall between us, keeping us apart. It was almost as if I was looking through some sort of opaque window at him. It seemed robotic. I wanted so badly to feel this “indescribable love” I had heard so much about. Yet, I just couldn’t seem to reach that place.

The first two weeks home from the hospital were hell. I was recovering from my delivery, a hormone drop, latch issues, supply problems, pumping routine, and attempting to keep an infant alive. It was the longest, yet quickest two weeks of my life. Looking back it seems like a small blip – living in the moment, it seemed neverending. Every day I would cry. I was told “this is normal, it will get better”. I held out hope that it would. Week 3 after my son was born, he was diagnosed with acid reflux and started on medication. He cried every day without fail from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., which meant I cried too. Week 4, Week 5, Week 6 –  all came and went. Sometime during Week 7, he stopped crying during the afternoons, but I did not. [It will get better, right?!] Throughout this time I had extremely vivid dreams/daydreams of different ways he might be injured or even killed – falling off the counter, tripping while I carried him, or just finding him blue in the middle of the night. It was almost like PTSD. I would awake with a racing heart rate, sweaty palms, gasping for air, searching to see his face to reassure myself he was okay. And, he was. He was perfect. I was not.

Week 8 postpartum, I got help. I had finally decided it was only getting better if I made the decision to make it better – it being myself. I decided it was time. This was the first time I understood having unconditional love for my child. I wanted him to have an emotionally connected, stable mother. I wanted to show him what happiness could mean. And so I started back on my medication, even though I was breastfeeding. And I am a better woman, mother, person for it. By week 12, I didn’t cry anymore in the afternoons. Instead, I cuddled my baby. I hugged him. I kissed him. I LOVED him – truly, irrevocably loved him. And, it got better.

So I leave you with this:

It gets better – when you admit it to yourself, when you reach out for help, when you TRY to get better, when you come above water, and when you can finally take a deep breath again. It WILL get better. But, you have to be the reason it does. And when it does, it is worth it. I promise.

Xoxo, Annie

Worrying Your Way Through Motherhood

Annie’s Thoughts

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you stopped worrying about your child’s development for one second? [Incredible? Freeing? What would I spend my time thinking about?] I am pretty positive that most of my time is dedicated to watching my child develop, scrolling through instagram/facebook, spotting other people’s children reaching milestones,  questioning why my child hasn’t started doing x, y, z yet, googling childhood milestones frantically, and then worrying until my child starts doing x, y, z. [It is a vicious cycle. I can’t stop. Help.]

Why do I do this to myself? I have found myself constantly comparing my child to every other child in the universe. Instead of celebrating and reveling in the milestones, I find myself anxiously awaiting the next. He can hold his head up, yet when will he sit up? He can sit up, yet when will he crawl? He can crawl, when will he start to pull up? It seems that this stage of wonderment will never end. As mothers it is easy to get lost in the cycle of “is my baby normal?”. It starts from birth – are they breathing? how many toes does he have? why won’t she latch? did he pass his hearing screening? – the incessant need to make sure that our child is as perfect as we view them. And who can blame us? These are our children, we are responsible for them, their development, and their livelihood. Because if not us, then who?!

Currently, I am blessed to have multiple friends with children age 2 and under. This is helpful in many ways – giving and receiving advice, snapchats of cute kids, and birthday cake every weekend [Is it just me or is every Saturday birthday party day? How am I supposed to be on a low carb eating plan if there’s delicious cake every weekend? What is a summer body anyway?!] With these friends comes many child related discussions. “Guess who just sat up!”, “Guess who got a tooth!”, “Guess who just waved bye bye!”, “Guess who just took their first steps!”. Yes, I love getting these messages. Yes, I love celebrating with your baby and you. Yet, I can’t stop the natural urge to compare my child to yours. Why isn’t my baby standing/walking/talking/sleeping/teething?! [Honestly – it is enough to make you go insane. You should see my google history….you would be ashamed.] In the beginning I drove myself insane with these thoughts. [Not sure how I didn’t end up in an institution.] It was constant, continuous, and CRAZY as hell.

As the first year of my child’s life rapidly comes to a close, I consider each milestone to be bittersweet. While one part of me is happy he can finally pull up, wave bye-bye, and sleep through the night [THANK YOU, LORD!] another part of me deep down inside is sad. I am sad that he is no longer a baby. I am sad that in a few long, yet quick years I will drive him to his college campus, unpack his dorm room, and wish him off into adulthood. It is moments like these that I wish for another child. [But could I ever go back through all of that? The sleeplessness, the hormonal swings, the pumping?!?!] If I was blessed with another child like this one, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. [Don’t freak out, this time I would like to be a little more prepared!] With that said, I will leave you with a quote that I have carried with me:

“Comparison kills creativity and joy” -Brene Brown

Xoxo, Annie.

Tamekia’s Thoughts

Am I the only one that finds themselves comparing my child to other children? Don’t get me wrong my little one is pretty much perfect (Except for when she isn’t!) but I often find myself scrolling social media looking at everyone’s child reach different milestones. I often think their child is ALREADY doing this or that. It was a lot worse when my little was an infant. Not only would I scroll social media, I would drive myself crazy googling (Is googling a word?) I would look for “evidence based” articles telling me that my child should be rolling over or sleeping through the night by now. Then don’t get me started on Facebook mom groups where every child is perfect and saying full sentences at 3 months (I may be exaggerating. Well, just a little).
Why do we do this? Why are we so busy worrying and stressing over what our child isn’t doing? One minute we are excited that they reached a certain milestone. Yay! She is crawling but oh wait-when will she walk? Yay! She can say the alphabet! But oh no- she can’t recognize the word cat.  From the moment I knew I was pregnant I had what I call “mom worry”. Mom worry is irrational and crazy. We know it makes no sense but yet we keep doing it. I have this perfectly healthy and happy little girl. Shouldn’t I be celebrating that? Yes! Yes, I should but then mom worry takes over and I’m a crazy person. But, if I don’t worry about all these things, who will? I am responsible for making sure she reaches these milestones. If she doesn’t then I am also responsible for making sure she gets the help she needs.
So how do we alleviate some of the anxiety mommy worry brings? I have learned that utilizing my mommy friends is important. I have several friends with kids of all ages. This is a true blessing. I can reach out to the mommies who have already been through what I’m going through with my child. However, I can still give advice to the mommies with babies younger than my little one. We have to stick together! I mean, do any of us first time moms really know what we are doing? I know I’m winging it most of the time!
I saw the following quote on someone’s Instagram page (As, I was comparing my child to theirs lol).
“The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else”.
Isn’t this so true? How can we revel in the beauty of watching our child learn and grow if we are so busy comparing and stressing over those comparisons? Let’s all make a conscious effort to live in the moment and enjoy the milestones are children are reaching.
Love, Tamekia
Let’s reminisce a little. Does anyone want to share their favorite milestone story?!

Motherhood Minute: Meet Autumn

For this month’s Motherhood Minute, we would love for you to meet Autumn. She is a full-time working mother of two super cute kids, Caroline, 3, and Tripp, 1!

When asked for her best memory of motherhood [so far] she states, “One of my favorite memories are when the kids were still newborns and had that ‘new baby’ scent – I would sit and hold them forever. I’m still in denial that that’s why they’re spoiled today!”

She also shares that her “scariest memory so far was when Caroline choked on a piece of corn-dog. Instead of performing the Heimlich, naturally I turned her upside down and beat her (kidding…slightly)”!

Biggest challenge in motherhood? Autumn says, “Hands down, my biggest challenge has been becoming a single mom. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help. From here on out, it’s about surviving and thriving!”

Need a life/mom hack? Autumn shares  “BABY WIPES. I, REPEAT, BABY WIPES. Butt need wiping? Baby wipes. Car need cleaning? Baby wipes. Ran out of makeup remover? Baby wipes. Did I mention baby wipes?”

Autumn also shares her thoughts about changing the past, “I’m not going to give you the cliché answer of, “nothing, everything happens for a reason”. If I could do it all over again, I would pick my battles. I would worry less, pray more. I would stay off my phone more. I would’ve co-slept longer (because they won’t want to when they’re   let’s be real, that’s weird).”

Autumn wants other moms to know, “Be in the moment. It has become so habitual to pick up our phones or cameras when little Billy Jo is doing something cute, but pictures can wait. Enjoy it while you can.”

 

Would you or someone you know like to be featured on our Motherhood Minute? Email us at managingish@gmail.com

Am I a terrible friend?

I feel like I am terrible friend…

Two weeks ago we posted a great blog [I mean..not to toot our own horn or anything *toot toot*] detailing the trials of losing yourself in motherhood. Click here to read more! This inspired me to discuss some further trials I find myself dwelling over in the late hours of the night.

So back to the original statement: I feel like I am a terrible friend. I am blessed to have made many friendships over my years in high school, college, sorority, nursing school, getting my master’s degree, various jobs here and there, and just life. In fact I consider myself a “people collector”. [Before you freak out, no I am not skinning people and wearing them prancing around my bedroom at night]. I find meeting people and hearing their stories to be enthralling. I consider it like my own little reality TV show. [Speaking of this season of Vanderpump rules is a dud – can I get an amen?!] With that said, I have a lot of people I try to keep in touch with from time to time. But, here recently I feel like I just can’t keep up! I mean…I am wondering if I am in early onset dementia at this point. I feel like I forget EVERYTHING. I find myself never responding, forgetting to check in on people, double booking playdates, visits, or lunches with friends. I THINK I AM GOING INSANE. I even have a digital planner and a written planner.

This life is crazy – mom life. Half the time my hair is a mess, my clothes are stained, and my house looks like Toys-R-Us threw up in it. But when that little boy looks up at me and smiles, I just know that it doesn’t matter – he’s happy. And his happiness is the most important thing. Still, I find myself second guessing my ability to “mom”. I doubt myself constantly. I compare and contrast my life to other mom’s lives. [Don’t worry – that blog post is coming soon!] I even compare my life to my child-free friends. [Freaking instagram…] By the way, that is never a good idea. It never ends well. Yet, sometimes I find myself scrolling to see what my friends are up to. Just to feel like I can keep up with their lives. And, partially, to help myself remember exactly what they told me they were up to. Because, let’s face it, I have motherhood induced early alzheimer’s. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast [wait….did I even eat?] There’s no way I can keep up with who my friend met a the bar last weekend, or who they matched with on tinder, or what weekend trip they have planned. And, yes part of me REALLY wants to keep up. Then there is that small part of me that just feels too tired to try. Just when I think I can handle a full blown text conversation and gather all the of “dirty” details from my friend – I find myself falling asleep reading text messages, or forgetting what I just said to my friend on the phone, losing my train of thought mid sentence, or jumping up to catch my baby from busting his head open during bath time. So how do I cope with this? I tell myself things like –  I AM GOING CRAZY. I tell myself I am not good enough. I tell myself I should be better. Yet, why do I do this? [Maybe I should expound upon this in a future post].

Is this normal? Are you crazy too??

This is a normal part of motherhood I’m sure. And, this is probably the reason my childless friends say parents only talk about their kids. [Can you blame us? First of all, they are cute. Second of all, we are over here surviving not thriving!!!!] Let’s be honest here, my mind is in a million places at all times. [No wonder I am so obsessed with organization posts on instagram.] One second I am getting my kid ready for school [daycare] and the next I am trying to remember to pick up my groceries. [Shout out to Walmart grocery pickup – girl, you can even have them bring toys to your car – also wine, hello!] Then comes the full time 40+ hour a week job I work, cleaning the house, laundry, meal planning, and just general necessities for surviving. And that is just DAILY ACTIVITIES. That doesn’t include the ridiculous amount of time it takes to wash, dry, and fix my hair. [Hence the reason why I have a “mom bob”. Don’t knock it til you try it, ladies!] 

The craziest part is – I ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD – and a man child [Husbands….am I right?]. How are you moms making it with more than one kid??? I would love to hear!!! Comment below pleaseeee.

I love my friends. But, it is exhausting trying to find time to keep up. So, that is why I feel like a terrible friend. And, I am sure that everyone understands, especially my mom tribe. I just can’t help but feel like I am losing touch with people I truly love. I know this is a season in life, and sometimes friends grow apart. But, I hate being the one growing apart the fastest. I have to remind myself that my family is my priority. [Sounds obvious right? But sometimes I miss that life before kids]. I know it sounds crazy. I have always been the type of girl to consider her friends soulmates. And I still feel that way. Of course my closest soul sisters will always be in my life, and perhaps when they begin families of their own we might find new ways to connect. These seasons of life are bittersweet for me. Since my brother’s death in 1998, I find it hard to move on from seasons of life. I don’t like goodbyes, and change is hard for me to accept. Albeit, change is a great thing.

New seasons of life bring new people, new friendships, and fantastic new experiences. So new season of life are a GREAT thing. And I am SO grateful for that.

For now, I’d like to send my “old season” friends a little open letter.

To my “old season” friends: I love you each very dearly. We may not speak everyday anymore. I may not remember to answer your texts. I may not remember our lunch dates. But I promise to always remember you. I will always love you. But, right now, life is busy – extreme – hectic even. I am stumbling over myself to work full time, raise a child, maintain a household, try to find myself, and then when I get one minute of peace I treat myself to a bubble bath, a good book, or an ounce of sleep. After all of that, I might find the energy to write you back or check in. But don’t hold it against me if I can’t. It’s not you. It’s me. It’s this season of life. It will pass. I will miss these days, and I might even look back and regret missing a few things. But, this baby is only a baby for a little while. And I am going to miss that the most. So just know, I still love you. I still want to know what’s going on in your lives. Please reach out. Even if I don’t respond – keep trying. I promise I will get back to you eventually. And it isn’t because I don’t think you are important. I do. It is because I have this beautiful angel child looking up at me. It is because I owe him everything. It is because he deserves his mommy when he needs her. It is because I am giving him the best life I know how. And that means sacrificing my time in other ways. That means bringing him to our lunch dates, letting him learn to love you as much as I do, and making new memories together. I may not be as carefree as I once was. But deep down inside, I am still a good time. 🙂

Does anyone else feel this way? It can’t just be me. Leave your thoughts below! I’d love to know I’m not alone.

Xoxo,

Annie