Scripture Case Pattern

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Postpartum Depression

This post is going to be raw and very personal, but I feel that I need to share what I've been through and what I'm still going through.  If it could help even just one person, then mission accomplished.  I'm not here looking for pity, I just feel like I need to share my story, and possibly keep sharing it.  Hopefully this will be therapeutic for me also.

I'm not going to lie. This whole pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience has been very traumatic for me.  I still freak out and cry every now and then when I think about what happened.  The more I found out how close I came to having full blown eclampsia and death, the more I freaked out and am still having panic attacks. I'm so glad my doctors stayed calm throughout the whole ordeal, and I'm also thankful that it didn't drag out and that I was able to have a quick, safe delivery and a healthy preemie baby.

The hardest part has come post delivery. Those that know me, know that I have never been a fan of breastfeeding. I nursed Gavin for 4 months almost exclusively and hated it.  I was finishing up school, so he got one, maybe two bottles a day.  He would take 1 1/2 - 2 hours to nurse and ate constantly.  I would have to be in a dark, quiet room and would have to concentrate really hard on getting my milk to let down.  Nursing was HARD. He also got very sick 3 times (RSV, pneumonia, croup) during those 4 months and I didn't have the time to nurse him constantly to build my supply up.  The 3rd time he got sick (with croup), I also got sick with pleurisy, pneumonia, and a partially collapsed lung.  That was the final straw. My supply dipped so low that there was no coming back from it while I was still in school, so I decided to call it quits with the nursing. I wasn't too attached to nursing, so it wasn't that big of a deal for me.  As my milk dried up, though, I found myself getting kind of sad and missing that bond I had with Gavin, but I quickly got over it.

When I had Kade, I decided I would only nurse him for the first week so that he could get all that yummy colostrum. I was surprised that I got kind of weepy and sad like I did when I stopped nursing Gavin, but again, I got over it quickly.

With Ander I was planning on the same route that I did with Kade, but that changed when he was born 8 weeks early.  I felt so helpless and useless while he was in the NICU.  Pumping seemed to be the only thing I could contribute to his care, so I put my heart and soul into it. I diligently pumped every 3 hours around the clock.  The Lord really blessed me this time.  My milk let down so easily and pumping was a breeze. I was able to give Ander the nutrients that he so desperately needed. A couple of weeks after he came home, I decided I would be done with the pumping. Breastfeeding wasn't going to happen, and pumping was taking up so much time. I felt like I needed to get back on some medication that I couldn't take while nursing. I also don't lose any weight while I nurse, and I so desperately wanted to get the weight off, so I stopped with the pumping.

The first couple of days after I stopped, I felt fine emotionally, and then depression started to creep in. I started feeling extremely guilty for quitting. I felt so selfish (which I was partially being), inadequate, like a failure of a mother, etc. Over the next few days I could barely get myself out of bed to take care of the kids. I honestly felt like I had failed the world. I was crying constantly and beating myself up. Each day got worse and worse. I had my postpartum checkup (8 weeks postpartum instead of 6) and so I started googling postpartum depression, thinking I may have it. During my research, something caught my eye. There was a mention of PPD being correlated to breastfeeding, so I started searching for PPD and breastfeeding. There was a blog post (HERE) of a lady that shared her story about weaning her baby from breastfeeding at 8 months and as her milk dried up, she got PPD.  There aren't many studies done on it because PPD is only really looked for in mothers soon after childbirth, not months later, but there were literally hundreds of commenters on this blog post sharing very similar experiences.  With the drop of pitocin and oxytocin (the milk production hormones) levels, some women start to go through severe depression.  I knew without a doubt that this was what was going on with me.

The depression and constant guilt got to be so much that I started looking into relactation.  It had only been a week since I had stopped pumping, and had only been a day since I felt the presence of milk, so I figured I should give it a try. That Saturday I started pumping diligently once every 1-2 hours and every 3 hours during the night. I got at most 1 tsp of milk for that entire day, but as I pumped, I could feel my mood lift. By Tuesday, when I had my doctor's appointment, I had gotten up to about 3-4 oz of milk a day. The depression was completely gone. I felt like I was on cloud nine. I thought it was so strange that I would be so attached to something that was so solitary, something that lacked any interaction and emotional connection.  It was so obvious that my need to pump was completely hormone driven.  I talked to my doctor about my experience with getting depressed.  She suggested that when I felt like it was time to stop again, that I should try weaning slowing instead of going cold turkey and see if that helped and if it didn't then to give her a call and she would prescribe me something for the depression.

I won't go into my whole relactation process. That's for another time, but after a lot of hard work, I got my supply up to be able to give Ander just breast milk. I felt so complete. I didn't feel the need to get on my medication. I was able to function without it.  I was determined to pump as long as my body would allow it. I DID NOT want to ever feel that depressed again.  It scared me to think about weaning off in the next year, knowing what was in store for me, so I'd push those thoughts aside and take it a day at a time.

A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel a shift in my mood. I started to become anxious, withdrawn, and detached. I wasn't fulfilling all of my motherly and wifely duties.  I was barely meeting the needs of my children.  All I could focus on was pumping every 3 hours to keep my supply up. I remembered reading something about prolactin levels naturally dropping off somewhere around the 4th month. I was pretty sure that was my body reacting to the drop off.  Each day I got a little worse, until this past Monday I could feel the deep depression sinking in and I couldn't take it anymore.  After A LOT of tears and talking to my mom, I felt that it was best that I stop pumping, get on some antidepressants and my other medication, and get control of my life again.  I wasn't being the mom that my kids needed any more, and the guilt was so intense. I needed to be more than just a milk factory.  Ander needed more than just my milk.  He would be fine on formula.  My other kids were.  My kids needed my undivided attention, and I couldn't give them that between taking care of Ander's needs and the need to pump. This time around, I knew that it wasn't selfish reasons to stop pumping, it's what would be best for my family and for me.  I found some comfort in that.

On Monday I called the doctor and got a prescription for an antidepressant and started taking it the next day. It takes a couple of weeks to feel the full affect, but just getting on that and back on my other meds, I am much more functional.  It's only been three days on the antidepressant. Starting around 4:00 as the antidepressant wears off,  I start to sink and loathe myself.  The guilt for quitting pumping has come back.  Every time I see a bottle of my stored breast milk or when I pump to relieve some pressure and then have to throw that breast milk out, I bawl and hate myself all over again.  I keep telling myself that it's for the best and that Ander will be just fine on formula. I KNOW everything will be ok, and I KNOW that this will pass. It just sucks. At least I'm out of the bed and doing things around that house now. I find some joy in that (weird).  I've been making dinner for the family again, which is a HUGE deal, so I'll give myself props for that too. I hope with all my might that this medication will help stabilize my mood and help me get from day to day until my hormones stabilize by themselves.  I'm proud to know that I was able to provide food for my baby for 4 1/2 months and that, if I wanted to and was emotional capable of, I could have continued to pump for an indefinite amount of time.  I'm hoping that once my milk completely dries up and I'm able to put away all of my breastfeeding stuff so that I don't have constant reminders, I won't be so upset with myself, and it will be one less thing to make me depressed.

This whole postpartum experience has SUCKED. I have never had such an emotional roller coaster.  I have never felt so absolutely worthless. I'm TERRIFIED of getting pregnant again. I've been told I should be done, and I'm planning on being done, but what if my birth control fails? GAH! That's another concern to handle when I'm more emotionally stable.  Until then, I'll be taking this one day at a time.

And here's little Ander:


Courtney Buell said...

Tricia! I wish I lived closer so I could be more supportive. Hormones are the worst. I obviously can't totally relate because I haven't had any kids yet, but PMS totally gets me, and I imagine it's only amplified with having a baby.

I hate that we girls are so good at feeling guilty about crap. I do it too. It's ok and important to be selfish sometimes. If you aren't happy and healthy and whole, it's hard for anyone around you to be healthy or happy or whole. But that's another thing to feel guilty about! UGH. I'm glad you're good at identifying problems for what they are - chemical imbalances - not emotions that you deserve to feel. You are strong and smart and fabulous and you are making a well-informed and well-thought out decision. LOVE AND KEESSES!

tamir said...

Tricia- I'm so sorry about your PPD. I had that with my 2nd. And PPD is something you wouldn't wish on your enemy. It's the worst.

My plan for the next kid is to make placenta pills after I give birth. That's supposed to help also. So let that give you some comfort in case you ever do get pregnant again.

But look at that sweet kid you have now! Hope you feel better fast!

Laura said...

Wow, what a saga. I had a very traumatic first delivery and left my baby in the nicu and I got PPD bad after that too. Dealing with a labor and delivery trauma is a long process, life and death you know. Be gentle with yourself and come sit on the beach if you need to, anytime!