Tag Archives: PPD

First and Last: Happy Diamond Anniversary, Postpartum Progress!

7 Jul

Since having children, I find my life is often measured in firsts and lasts.

First poopy diaper, first bath, first words. First steps, and a first day of school.

Last swaddle, last bottle, last diaper.

Each milestone a testament to the bittersweet passage of time, and a common experience among all new mothers.

And then some unique to 15% of us.

First intrusive thought.  First time I screamed at my baby.

Last time I felt like myself.

My time as a new mother is marred by these moments.  Like scars, they fade with time but will never disappear altogether.

First antidepressant pill. First therapy session.

I can accurately recall dates for the onset of each depressive episode and panic attack.  Appointments for hospital visits and therapy sessions are buried in my phone’s archive.  At times it seems that the history of these 5 years is written in the margins of patient files and on the labels of pill bottles.

But as I look back at my journey through PPD, I find moments of light.

First tweet to Lauren Hale.

First visit to Postpartum Progress.

Last time feeling alone.

I wish I could remember which link brought me to Postpartum Progress…that I could point to a date or a website or a moment and bring back the relief I know I must have felt when someone finally told me I was not a bad mother.  I was not a freak.

First blog post.

And though I know I deserve credit for all the hard work of recovery, the simple truth is that I could not have done it without my tribe.  I would not be who I am today without Postpartum Progress, without Katherine Stone.

Last baby.  First joyful birth.

Because of Katherine, I found the doctors I needed to finally have the pregnancy and postpartum period I never knew was possible. Because of Postpartum Progress, I discovered a tribe of women just like me, whose strength and courage filled me when I had none of my own.

First time meeting Katherine.

Last doubt of my calling as an advocate.

And as she has morphed from a Bono-like celebrity in my eyes to a mentor, resource, teammate, and finally friend, I have constantly found myself honored by her presence in my life.

When I think of her impact on my life and multiply it by the TEN YEARS she been advocating for women and families, I am inspired to do more and be more.  You see, Katherine’s gift is that she doesn’t just help women like me.  She doesn’t only provide them with resources and information. She empowers them.

Last shame.

Last regret.

With Katherine by my side, I find myself grateful for where PPD has led me and who it has helped me become.  So when I tell her “thank you,” that really doesn’t even begin to cover it.

She didn’t just save my life.  She gave me a new one.

katherine and me

 

Postpartum progress 10 year

July 13th marks the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress.  YOU can help moms just like me by donating to the non-profit by clicking HERE.

You can learn more about Postpartum Progress and our mission HERE.

You can read other Diamond Anniversary Blogathon posts soon!  Link is coming!

Stigma Fighters

2 Jul

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Stigma Fighters today, writing about how stigma continues to affect me, even 5 years post-diagnosis.

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I’d like to say I’m immune from stigma. After 3 years of blogging about mental health, and 2 years as an advocate, you’d think I’d be able to shake the shame surrounding my diagnoses of postpartum anxiety (and postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder) with ease. And from the outside, it must seem that I do.

I speak freely about my experiences with friends and family. I’ve hosted public events, fundraising and educating my local communities. I write for Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog on maternal mood and anxiety disorders. And I’m helping organize and direct an entire conference dedicated to those Warrior Moms who have survived from them.

But what you probably don’t see? Is that when I speak in person about my mental illness, I measure my words carefully, making note of my audience and surroundings before I ever open my mouth. I watch the face of my conversation partner for signs of disgust disguised as pity, and I find myself wondering at times if that mom from playgroup doesn’t ever drop her kid off to play because “she’s afraid I might go cray-zee.”

You see, the only stigma I’m immune to is the one I hold against myself…

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To read the rest of the story (you know you want to!) please head on over and say hello at Stigma Fighters.  The work Sarah is doing to raise awareness and change the way the world views mental illness is so important.

Stigma Fighters

I’m Back

11 Jun

Recently, I stood in a public space for four hours and advertised my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. You would think that after years of blogging about how I suffered, I’d be used to speaking about PPD, but there’s something unique about face-to-face interactions.

b.good benefitMy local b.good restaurant was kind enough to host a benefit night that my new friend and fundraising partner, Candice, cleverly named “Take a Bite Out of Stigma.”  We felt so professional, with our glossy signs and our fancy raffle tickets, and I’m convinced we appeared professional as we greeted customers, shared b.good tattoos (fake, I promise!) with the kids, and spoke about PPD.  But deep down?  There was a part of me that wanted to shrink back from the arena, that wanted to hide behind the 15 latex balloons that announced our presence.

But then?  Then my local bestie walked through the doors and I found myself squeeeeeeeing and running to hug her.  An older gentleman stepped through the doors only to walk back out and stand at our poster, reading carefully through the information, returning later to hand me a twenty dollar bill with only a few words exchanged.  I met moms who had a multitude of questions about PPD.  I saw old friends and heard about how I was inspiring people.  And I sat with Candice and we talked about our common hell over milkshakes and strawberry lemonade.

We walked out with over $250 for Postpartum Progress, a new partnership with a great local company, and a feeling of empowerment and sisterhood.

And now?  Now we have a new video promoting our Climb Out of the Darkness and the faces of our warrior moms, with an up-and-coming musician.

Special thanks to David Gray for the use of his beautiful new song.  It speaks right to the hearts of the Warrior Moms.  We?  Are BACK.  I have watched this as least 2 dozen times and it still gives me goosebumps.

You can donate to Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.  Those are the faces of your wives, your sisters, your daughters.  You neighbors, your childrens’ teachers.  Your mother.  Honor their recovery by supporting the recovery of moms just like them.

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All local donors can be entered to win our amazing local raffle, including a night tour of Wallace Observatory!

All non-local donors are entered to win a $20 gift certificate to my Etsy shop, Crocheted Happiness!

I’m a Boston Mama

27 May

If you need me, I’ll just be over here, fanning myself and trying to get over the fact that Christine Koh of Boston Mamas lent me some blogging real-estate this past week to talk about Postpartum Progress and Climb Out of the Darkness.

My five-year-old daughter bounded into my bed this morning, dashing my hopes of a few more winks of sleep with her Tigger-like enthusiasm. And as I returned her hugs and kisses, I cherished the small moment of happiness between us. Because there was a time when I could not return her love, when the gift of bonding was stolen from us both….

Please click on over to Boston Mamas to read more.

And if you haven’t donated yet to my Climb Out team?  This is a great time. Our fundraising website is giving away several prizes in June, including an iPad mini, Jawbone Jambox, and Reef Sandals!

Click to donate to Climb out of the Darkness, Mt. Washington

Climb Out of the Darkness and a Raffle!

13 Apr

It’s that time of the year again – when I ask you to support moms just like me – with your wallets.

Believe me, it’s awkward for me, too.  I’m not good at asking for help, and I’m definitely not a sales person or an advertising expert.  But I believe in Postpartum Progress and the work that Katherine Stone is doing to help new moms.  She gave me back the joy that was missing from my pregnancy and postpartum period and has given me a voice as a writer and advocate.  It’s my time to give back.

Whether it’s $1 or $100, every dollar helps get new moms access to up-to-date information about perinatal mental illnesses.  With the money raised, Postpartum Progress will be contributing to local organizations that support new moms and families.  We will be increasing our outreach by streamlining our widely popular blog (90,000 view a month!).  Your money will help this baby non-profit grow into the powerhouse advocacy organization that mothers and babies need it to be.

Here’s where I appeal to your sense of obligation:

Just $10 (the cost of a few coffees) from 50 readers would far surpass my wildest dreams of raising $400.

And your practical side:

It’s tax-deductable!

And the part of you that loves winning stuff:

Each $10 donation enters you in a drawing for a $20 gift certificate to my Etsy shop, Crocheted Happiness.

  • Shop the sale and get two ready-made hats!
  • Shop made-to-order designs and have something made for next winter or for that friend you know who is having a baby soon!
  • Have something custom-designed just for you!

Crocheted Happiness

All hometown donors are also entered to win a free piano lesson ($20 value).  I teach students aged 5 and above.

How to enter: Simply make your donation on the Crowdrise website.  I will add your name and entries to my list of donors and will randomly draw one name using random.org on June 24th, 2014.  Local donors will be added to both the Etsy drawing and piano lesson drawing.

Those of you who have already donated?  THANK YOU!  I am tracking all donations and have already entered you in the raffle.

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Letting Go of the Guilt

4 Apr

I’m over at Postpartum Progress this week with three posts.  Last night, I remembered that I hadn’t yet written a third post for the week, so I dragged my exhausted self to the keyboard and just started typing.  What spilled out turned out to be exactly what I needed to write.

“I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety with a side of OCD for two years after my first child was born.  And though I sought treatment and began my path to wellness after my baby had her 5 month birthday, it took every last day of that additional 19 months for me to feel like I wasn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If you asked my husband, he’d tell you now that I’ve completely recovered from my PPD and from the antenatal depression that hit when my second child was still baking.  But he’d also tell you that I still suffer.”

I hope you’ll join me over at Katherine Stone’s place to read the rest and find out how I’ve battled the guilt that followed my severe PPD.

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Click the image to DONATE to my Climb Out of the Darkness hike!

Climb Out of the Darkness 2014

2 Apr

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 3.08.38 PM

I’ve written extensively about my experiences suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, and antenatal depression and anxiety.  I don’t shy away from telling how devastating my first couple of years as a mother were, both for me and my family.  And I’ve told you how I found myself severely depressed when I was only 7 weeks pregnant with my second baby.

Today, I’m asking for your help.  I’m asking for you to support my work as an advocate for moms, for babies, and for families.

Postpartum Progress, and its founder Katherine Stone, were instrumental in my path to wellness.  Because of Katherine, I found an amazing doctor who gave me the tools (and the medications) to make my second pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experiences joyful.  Because of Katherine, I found support from mothers just like me.  Because of Katherine, I found my voice as an advocate and writer.

Postpartum Progress is growing, taking on new challenges and projects, and is as dedicated as ever to decreasing stigma and increasing awareness of antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  And that?  Takes money.

15-20% of all women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. That’s 1 in every 7, more than the number of women who will get breast cancer.  That’s your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend.  And quite possibly, you.

Please help me help new moms by donating to my Climb Out of the Darkness hike!  I’ll be climbing Mt. Washington with a team of women from Massachusetts and New Hampshire in June!  Yup, climbing a mountain.  Me.  Because that’s how much I love Katherine and believe in what Postpartum Progress is doing for women all over the world.

If you can’t donate, please pass this along.  Ask your friends, family, neighbors.  Let them know there is an army of Warrior Moms hiking in solidarity in June on the Summer Solstice.  Together we can drop kick despair.

Every Mother. Every Time.

14 Mar

Petition

I was in my first trimester of my first pregnancy when antenatal anxiety washed over me like the tide, insidious and unstoppable.  We were living on our own in the midwest at the time, and the loneliness was crushing.  I compensated for my irrational worries by donning a brave face and making light of my anxiety, to both friends and my doctors, and I assumed all newly pregnant women felt the same trepidation and slight panic I was suppressing.

I was 8 weeks pregnant when my OB called me into her office.  My fears and worries were suddenly compounded by a previously-undiagnosed kidney disease.  A giant mass in my abdomen.  And they had no idea what it was.  I taciturnly absorbed all the doctor said and then politely asked for a few moments alone.  When the door shut behind her, something in me broke.  I walked out of there a shadow of myself.  The next 6 months brought a multitude of diagnoses.  I was ultrasounded and MRIed (twice).  I met with several surgeons and had a cathertized void test done.  There were very few cases of pregnant women with my eventual diagnosis of severe hydronephrosis with 1% kidney function, and so few doctors could tell me exactly what to expect or how it would impact my pregnancy.  And that scared me to death.

Six months into my pregnancy, we moved to the North East.  My need for my family (who had moved up to the Boston area a few years before) outweighed my terror at the prospect of moving, but leading up to moving day, I had increased symptoms of panic attack.  I refused to drive while house hunting, irrationally fearful of the alien traffic patterns of our new-home-to-be.  I fought back waves of nausea at each apartment-hunting appointment, instead playing the part of the happy, expectant couple.  The night before our final flight out of the midwest, I became convinced I had a blood clot in my right leg – and the resulting (unnecessary) hospital trip ended in a 2am leg ultrasound for me and a busted blood vessel in my husband’s eye from the stress.  My husband tells me that when I fainted from panic on the 4 hour flight to Boston the next day, he took special notice of the halfway mark in the flight.  “At least there was no turning back,” he says, only half-jokingly.

Unfortunately, arriving in Boston alleviated the anxiety only temporarily.  As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I began having irrational, intrusive thoughts about my husband leaving me.  “He’s only staying until the baby is born,” the lies whispered, “he never wanted a baby anyway.”  I became increasingly irritable and emotional, and finally suffered enough to mention it to my OB, a high-risk, high-profile doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital.  With my mother in the room, I explained my heart palpitations and my trouble breathing.  I outlined my mood swings and my panic attacks.  It took every ounce of courage in my body to admit that I was struggling.

In return, she told me to “stop worrying.  Pregnancy is an emotional time.”

That was it.  We moved on to belly measurements and discussions of pain management during labor.

With only two sentences, she had me doubting my need for help. I suddenly “just wasn’t trying hard enough.”  And I believed her.

EMET Quote

Throughout the course of my first pregnancy, I saw 5 different OBs, 3 surgeons, 2 primary care physicians, and a myriad of nurses and techs.  None of them EVER asked about my emotional well-being, and when I did speak up for myself?  I was ignored.  Dismissed.  And the thing that angers me the most is that MGH has a world-renouned Center for Women’s Health, run in part by the incomparable Dr. Marlene Freeman, an expert in the field of pre and post-natal mood and anxiety disorders.  Sitting in my OB’s office, I was one elevator ride away from help.

Instead, it took me 5 months after my daughter was born – five months of intrusive thoughts about shaking my baby or letting her slip in the bath tub (I would like to emphasize here that intrusive thoughts are distinguished from psychosis by a mother’s ability to recognize the thoughts as scary) – five months of obsessively folding and lining up burp rags and matching bottle tops to bottle bottoms by shape and color – five months of rage and of falling apart behind the scenes before I recognized I needed help.

It’s hard for me to think back through that time because I find myself so ANGRY.  My struggle was preventable.  Avoidable.  Not once during or after my pregnancy was I asked about my emotional well-being.  A few simple questions and an honest conversation with a trusted doctor was all it would have taken.

It’s all it will take… because I am committed to getting new moms the help I didn’t receive.  We need mothers to be screened for antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  Every mother.  Every time.

Please.  For me.  For my daughters.  Go sign this petition.  Then share this post, share the petition and help us make this go viral.

From the petition website:

Suicide is a leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth. 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated. In pregnancy, maternal mental illness negatively effects fetal development, and leads to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can impair infant and early childhood cognitive and emotional development. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence, there is no universal mandate for care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anxiety, or family history of mental illness–a well established risk factor. Screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

If you can’t sign the petition, you can still help!  Spread the word!  Donate to Postpartum Progress!  Ask a new mom how she is REALLY doing.  We can each do something.

Click to Donate to Postpartum Progress

Click to Donate to Postpartum Progress

Dear K

26 Feb

Dear K,

I don’t know you, but because we both love Story, I know you must be good people.  The best people.  Because that’s what Story is.

Six weeks in with each of my babies, I began to wonder what I was ever thinking by having children.  The sleep deprivation devoured my brains and even the cat wasn’t immune from my resentment.  So if you’re having a hard time, I want you to know that it’s so, so normal.  A rite of passage, almost.

Story wrote you a wonderful list of 8 things she wish she had known about having babies.  I’ll add on my “things I wish they’d told me” below, with so much love and affection.

~ Susan

(9) You belong to the club now. There is no secret mom handshake, but you will find yourself exchanging knowing glances with other moms out in the world. Let these remind you you are not alone.

(10) There is an industry out there that makes a killing off of mothers’ insecurities.  Promising “the right way” to get your baby to sleep/eat/poop/nurse/learn/everything, they sometimes have helpful nuggets of information.  But mostly?  All those books, magazines, and videos just make you doubt yourself more.  Put down the books.  Listen to your mama gut.  It is there, I promise.

(11) It is okay for other people to take care of your baby differently than you do.  When I stopped thinking about leaving my baby as depriving her, and began thinking of it as enriching her life with the other people who love and care for her, it became easier to make time for myself.

(12) Nobody knows what they’re doing, even if they look like they do.  And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, everything changes.  I may know babies now, but I’m in uncharted territory with my 5 year old.  And that’s okay.  The “muddling through” feeling is okay.  Really.

Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance and Living Dairy-Free

8 Jan

I had never heard of milk intolerance before becoming a mom.  Lactose intolerance, sure.  But milk protein intolerance is completely different.  Not really an allergy, MSPI (milk-soy protein intolerance) is when the body is unable to safely process the large protein molecules found in cow’s milk.  As a result, the stomach may overproduce acid and the intestines become irritated, leading to mucus and sometimes blood.  Both my babies were born with an MSPI.  And, being a first-time parent, my first baby suffered for 3 months because I just didn’t know enough to ask more questions of the pediatrician or to advocate for myself.  But as it turns out, all my knowledge and experience still left me unprepared for my second baby’s MSPI as well.

Bean was 8 weeks old when I finally called “uncle” and went to a lactation consultant for help with my screamy baby who was clearly hungry but fussed every time I attempted to nurse her.  She had gone from the 35th percentile to the 10th but the pediatrician didn’t have any ideas for me other than to try formula.  Every feed was a nightmare and getting her to eat required a combination of baby wearing and bouncing on a big exercise ball in the bathroom with the fan running.  It was exactly the kind of horrible breastfeeding experience that prevents new moms from nursing long-term. But I never suspected a milk intolerance because her symptoms weren’t as severe as her big sister’s.

My oldest would projectile vomit after feeds, her diapers were filled with mucus, and the pediatrician found signs of blood in her stool.  But with the littlest, the only symptoms were her fussiness and her trouble breastfeeding.  I spent 8 weeks convinced it must be something else before the LC suggested I visit a pediatric gastroenterologist who diagnosed her right away.  Grudgingly, I went on a dairy fast, giving up any food with soy or milk protein.

Within a week, I had a whole new baby.  She was sleeping better, screaming less, and after two weeks, had jumped back into the 30th percentile.  It was, quite frankly, a miracle.  I had seen similar results with Doodlebug, but giving up the dairy was so hard on me emotionally, that we ended up using hypoallergenic formula with her.  I remember rocking her in the big reclining rocker at my parents’ house sobbing “I’m sorry” over and over as I filled her up with formula.  Looking back, it was absolutely the best thing for both of us.  She thrived on the formula and it immediately alleviated much of the anxiety I was suffering from.  With Bean, giving up the dairy didn’t seem as daunting, perhaps because I had already had some practice.  Also?  My overwhelming PPD and OCD the first time around made breastfeeding torturous, let alone an elimination diet.  With Bean, I was mentally healthy enough to take on the added challenge.  And is is a challenge.

It’s been 2 years, and though we keep attempting to introduce dairy into her diet, every week spent with milk results in sleepless nights and a cranky toddler.  I’ve been able to reintroduce cheese into my own diet (I could hear angels singing, folks), but for the first 18 months, I was completely dairy-free.  I wouldn’t wish such a difficult diet on anyone, but it is possible, and for some mom-baby pairs, may make life much easier overall.

So let’s be honest.  Dinners weren’t so hard to modify.  After all, spaghetti and meatballs is dairy free, as is most grilled meats, fresh fruits and veggies, and many breads.  But how did I live without cheese (and ice cream, and milk, and cookies, and chocolate)?  While there are really no good soy and milk-free cheese substitutes (I really did give them a fair shot), I found that hummus often worked in place of cheese in fajitas and even sandwiches.  Whole Foods sells a cheese-free pizza with roasted veggies that is pretty yummy for those days when you Just. Want. Pizza.  And So Delicious makes coconut milk yogurt, ice cream and my favorite, coffee creamer.  I actually prefer the coconut coffee creamer now.  Coconut milk is great for baking, as is Earth Balance soy-free margarine, and to my surprise, cocoa butter isn’t actually butter and contains no dairy!  So as long as your chocolate doesn’t list casein, milk, or whey as an ingredient, you can eat it!  Lindt makes a dark chocolate that we really love here, but my favorite trick is to buy a huge 1 pound block of 65% chocolate from Whole Foods.  We chop it up and snack on it for a month!  The key for me was finding substitutes for my favorite foods so I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of the comfort foods I loved.

Here are some of my favorite MSPI and Dairy-free resources:

MSPI Mama – tons of recipes and resources, including a QUICK START recipe list for the first few weeks of MSPI eating when everything is so overwhelming.

MSPI Mama links to restaurant allergen information HERE

More facts about MSPI

The differences between allergies and intolerances from PIC (Protein Intolerant Children)

Tasty Eats at Home – my friend Alta writes about her food journey and has many recipes and resources for eating dairy and gluten-free

The best advice I can give you is to be realistic with yourself about how the MSPI diet is affecting your happiness.  If it makes you miserable, it may not be worth continuing to breastfeed your MSPI baby.  But it DOES get easier with time.  After about 6 months I stopped missing cheese, and these days, I don’t even mourn the ice cream any longer.  Truly.  It also had the added benefit that watching my diet carefully taught me to be aware of my food.  I eat a much healthier diet now, just because I learned to read ingredients and to cook more food from scratch. But each mom has to decide what’s best for her family. Hopefully you have enough support no matter how you decide to address your baby’s MSPI.

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