Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Experience with Post Partum Depression

This is really scary for me.
And embarrassing.
And scary.
Post Partum Depression is hard enough for me to say out loud, let alone write about for the world to see. 
I've felt like I should write about this for a long time, but now sitting down to actually do it, I have a knot in my stomach. Now people are really going to know. Will they think of me differently?
A big part of me feels like dealing with this right now decreases my worth.
According to the CDC website, PPD effects 10-15% of women....and that's just the cases they know about.
I know a lot of people who have had babies. I only know of three people who have had PPD. I don't think this means the statistic is wrong, I think most people just aren't willing to talk about. 
It's hard. 
At a time where I should be happiest, I'm fighting an internal battle with these emotions that don't make sense. 
I don't mean to sound dramatic.

I feel like I should write my experience with it. It could help someone. It could help me (undoubtedly). I didn't know of anyone who had had PPD before getting pregnant and maybe if I had, it would have helped to know that I wasn't alone. 
I think my PPD started the day Ainsley was born. I didn't go into a lot of details in my post about Ainsley's birth, but it was a traumatic experience for me. I hope I don't scare anyone, I'm just trying to be honest. The day Ainsley was born I was in so much pain that it was difficult to think about anything else. That, of course, triggered guilt that I wasn't bursting with happiness like I thought I should be. I was still happy she was here. I was still overwhelmed with love for her, but it was different. 

I don't even know how to get started. There's so many things I feel have attributed to my PPD. 

The first few months were...hard. Ainsley was not a good sleeper or eater and, as I remember it, spent most of her time screaming. It was never diagnosed by a doctor, but she fit the criteria for being colicky. I wasn't making enough milk (probably in part due to massive amounts of stress) and she was always hungry, which made me feel inadequate. Clint was only able to take one day off of school for her birth and was already in over his head so I was on my own when it came to taking care of this little body with  extremely strong lungs. When she was two weeks old, my brother got into a life threatening paragliding accident. My family rushed to see him in California in the Intensive Care Unit where he would spend more than the next two months of his life. The social worker just told us it was bad and we should all make it out to see him as soon as possible. My family left the night we got the phonecall, but with a husband in school and a two week old baby and healing of my own, I had to stay behind. My parents and brothers were in California whenever possible, coming home only a few days here and there to work. My sister was already living in California about an hour away from the hospital my brother was staying at. My family was there, I was here. I wanted to be able to be with my family. I wanted to see my brother and tell him I loved him. We really really didn't think he would make it. I think it was about 2.5 months before he was taken off the breathing machine and we were sure he would live. Even just writing this I can't keep it together. I can't tell you how devastating it is to be a state away, living every day unsure if your brother would make it to the next. I'm not trying to make myself the victim here. This is probably the biggest trial my brother will have and I still can't imagine what he's going through. I know my struggles relating to his accident are nothing in comparison to his, but I still feel it added to my PPD and that's what I'm trying to address here. I was so sleep deprived I was literally hallucinating. Ainsley would only sleep when held a certain way which didn't allow me to sleep. I felt like I was living a nightmare. Breastfeeding was painful. I almost gave up about fifty times. Almost every time I fed her I would cry from pain and frustration. Not to mention, I was also trying to heal from over two hours of pushing. Everything was really taking a toll on our marriage too. Clint and I didn't have time for each other, and we both grew to resent each other a little for that (which we have since resolved). 

Basically, I feel like there was a lot that attributed to why I got PPD aside from those nasty little devils called hormones. 

So how did it effect me? Mostly just on the inside. I've never felt more worthless, which makes no sense. I was doing the best thing I possibly could with my time, what God intended for me to do, but I felt like dirt. That's part of why PPD is so frustrating. It makes no sense. You think, "hey, this should be the happiest time in my life right now! I'm so blessed to have a healthy baby!" but really, you feel like a failure worth less than the onsie your newborn is wearing. The other part that makes no sense, is I was still happy during this time. I feel like I could give two completely different recounts of my first three months and both would be true. For example, I was being completely honest when I wrote this post. On one hand, I was filled with joy, happiness, purpose, and loved my baby more than I could imagine. On the other, I felt worthless, hopeless, depressed, and still loved my baby more than I could imagine. That part stays the same. Part of the reason this is so hard to share is because I feel like it might give people the impression that I love my baby less or that I'm chosing to be negative and not enjoy this time. I'm actually puting a lot of effort into trying to feel happier. It definitely helps, but it only goes so far. I am enjoying this time with Ainsley, but it takes a lot of effort and things are still difficult. 

I just haven't felt like myself. After a blogger meetup earlier this month, I came home and cried to my husband because I just feel so awkward...out of place...and not myself. Some people have told me they haven't noticed much of a difference, but there's always the possibility (a strong one) they're trying to be nice. Either way, I don't feel the same inside. I think that's a huge reason that I'm having such a hard time with my body right now. Yeah, I've posted about my post partum body issues a million times, I know. Maybe the reason I feel so awful about my body is that I'm trying to find a reason I feel so bad inside. I think that's true for a lot of people who have body issues. I feel like if my body was different, I'd feel different about myself. While pride absolutely comes from putting a reasonable amount of effort into your appearance, I think most of our confidence should come from inside. Easier said than done, right? 

Another way PPD has effected me is paranoia. The first two months or so was the worst. I constantly thought someone was trying to break in and hurt Ainsley. I would run through scenario after scenario all day of what I would do. I was always worried she'd spontaneiously stop breathing (although that still worries me sometimes). I worried that crying around her was going to give her some kind of issues as an adult. I was always worried about her growth. I was worried with every sudden sound and movement she made. I'm getting better at letting things go, but it has taken a lot of effort and a lot of communication (read: prayer) with Heavenly Father to help me. 

Then there's the guilt. Ah....the guilt. The guilt that I had to lay down my crying baby for 3 minutes so I could use the restroom. The guilt that I had to supplement with formula for a week (sidenote: I don't think anyone who uses formula is bad! I wanted to breastfeed, and when I thought I wasn't able to, it felt like I was failing). There was guilt of not having the house completely clean because she could catch a disease. I felt guilty that I wasn't fitting into this new role effortlessly. I thought I would only be able to handle having one child and I felt guilty for that. There was guilt for not inviting people over to see her (the reason I didn't invite people over wasn't because I didn't want them to see her, but because I already felt so overwhelmed). I felt guilty every time I cried. I felt guilty for looking like I got struck by lightning. I felt guilty for not being a good wife. I felt guilty every time I felt guilty. 

I don't want this to be a sob story. I want to be constructive. I hope that someone who has felt the way I described above will feel comfort knowing that they aren't alone. 
 The advice I would give to others struggling with PPD is to stay close to God and other things that give you purpose and lift you up. Take the time to nurture your marriage. Know that you are enough. That child is yours for a reason. No one could be a better mom to your baby. Don't feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Get as much sleep as possible. Try to eat well. Put a reasonable amount of effort into getting ready for the day- this may mean just putting on mascara. Recognize that it's okay to struggle and it's okay to not feel the same as your other fifty mom friends who seem to get the greatest joy from mountains of laundry and wiping spit up off their shirts (more power to them!). For goodness sakes break down and buy yourself a pair of pants that actually fits! Be nice to yourself. As much as you want to hide under your covers in bed, get out. Put on a bra (okay, so that one's not so fun). Take yourself out to lunch. Watch a movie during your 12 daily breastfeeding sessions. Remember that this time you have right now is not forever. They grow so fast. Try to focus and enjoy your days with them. Be present. Push out the bad thoughts about yourself. 

And if all else fails, you can write me an e-mail and vent about everything :) You know this sista will help you out! 

p.s. Thank you to everyone who has been so loving and kind to me these past few months. It has meant a lot. 


Megan said...

I can relate to all of this all.too.well. You describe the feelings of PPD perfectly and it really feels like you are so out of control and can't get a grip on anything. You are torn between so many emotions it's so overwhelming. I think you are absolutely amazing and you have done an incredible job at getting through this trial and loving that little Ainsley girl. You are blessing so SO so many lives with this post, I just know it. This needs to be talked about more and not looked down upon. Thank you for being so honest and raw and courageous. I love you!!!

Brooke said...

Although I haven't experienced this, your words struck me to the core Alexis! I'm SO SORRY you've been feeling these things, and I'm beyond impressed with your perspective. The amazing thing about this is the encouragement you can give to others who might not even be struggling with PPD... like me for instance :) This means a lot to hear this today, so THANK YOU! Thank you for your honesty and willingness to help, despite how difficult it's been for you. You are amazing! Beautiful, and amazing :)

Tarin Rose said...

Alexis, you are amazing! As an expectant mommy- I just want to thank you for being real in your blogging. It really is helpful to hear about some of the struggles you have had- and I know it's difficult to share because you feel like everyone expects you to be perfect. You are doing great! There was a talk that President Hinckley gave, speaking to the women of the church, when I was in high school that really stood out to me and has helped me through some hard times. Here is a little excerpt for you:

Many of you think you are failures. You feel you cannot do well, that with all of your effort it is not sufficient.

We all feel that way. I feel that way as I speak to you tonight. I long for, I pray for the power and the capacity to lift you, to inspire you, to thank you, to praise you, and to bring a measure of gladness into your hearts.

We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do....

...You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure. Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do. Then leave the matter in the hands of the Lord. You will discover that you have accomplished something beyond price...

...May you be given strength to carry your heavy load, to meet every obligation, to walk side by side with a good and faithful and caring man, and together with him rear and nurture and bring up your children in righteousness and truth. Nothing else you will ever own, no worldly thing you will ever acquire will be worth so much as the love of your children. God bless you, my dear, dear young mothers.

You are doing better than you think you are- and you are a great example to the young mother's around you, even with the trials you have been faced with these last few months. Again, thank you for sharing your experiences! You're amazing!

Here is the link to the entire talk if you are interested:

Talisha Reupena said...

Thanks for sharing. It's never easy to share such a touchy subject and share your thoughts and feelings like you just did.
Please never excuse your pains, sorrows or angst to anyone. These are your trials. They are what you are going through and you should not feel bad. You are right, staying close to God will always help you through the tough times as well as help you recognize the good times.
I can't imagine having to go through so much in such a short amount of time.
Please know that thoughts and prayers go out to you.
These are such great tips. We must always remember to be nice to ourselves. After all we are our worst critics.
Thanks again for sharing, this was such a heart felt post!

Bethany G said...

I just really like you. You are super brave and so honest. And seriously, a great momma!

Elisabeth @ Imma Walking Fashion Crime said...

Alexis! I love this post! Thanks so much for expressing how difficult it is to be a mother. Growing up, you always think it's going to be this wonderful, awe-inspiring experience (and it is!!), but it is also SO DIFFICULT. Although I can not relate to PPD at this time in my life, I'm so glad that I was able to read this and know that if I struggle with this same experience that I will be able to realize that it's not just me who is going through this. You got this, girl! You are one of the most amazing girls I know! Lots of prayers being sent your way!! :)

Jenna said...

I'm glad you're writing about this, Alexis. I had some serious PPD after both my kids' births, but especially Carson's. My uncle traumatically ended his own life 2 weeks after Carson was born, and then my grandmother died two weeks later of breast cancer (and I believe a broken heart from losing her son, too). I also had a rough delivery and felt like I would never be the same again -- not to be TMI, but we literally could NOT have intercourse for 6 months after the birth. Add all those things together and I was a wreck. Paranoid, anxious, crying and basically non-functioning. It went on for a very long time before I finally decided to consider I might have a hormonal imbalance. I had a pretty severe one and was put on bioidentical HRT (hormone replacement therapy) right away. I can't tell you the difference it made. It was incredible! It's not for everyone but please e-mail me if you're interested in my doctor's holistic approach to dealing with depression.

allora said...

Girl, you are amazing. I admire you so much for sharing this. That had to have been so difficult. But honestly I appreciate it so much. My mom suffered from ppd badly, and I know that it's genetic, so it is my greatest fear towards having a child. I cry endlessly to my husband about it. I think one of the reasons I am so scared by it is because it is such a taboo. No one talks about it, so it's only normal to feel completely alone. It's great that you have opened up and that you are so honest with yourself. Nothing can progress unless you are willing to admit that there is a problem.

I have never once read a post and thought that you didn't love Ainsley. It's so easy to see that you adore her more than life itself. But it is so refreshing to see you being honest and sharing less fun side of motherhood. I get so sick of blogs that simply celebrate the joys and neglect to discuss the ugly things that life throws their way. This is one reason why you are my favorite blogger.

Alexis you are so beautiful, inside and out. And In no way do I believe that you should be able to just shake this bit of ppd and move on. It is so not that easy. I believe that things like this take time and prayer and even in extreme cases, like my moms, medication.

But I do know that you are an amazing daughter of God, and that He is so pleased with you. I know that you are so smart and kind and loving. I know that you love Clint and Ainsley more than words can express. I know that you are so special and that you have made my life brighter by writing so honestly on this blog.

Thank you for all you do, and I will be praying for you and your sweet family.

Denise said...

I don't even know where to start! I can relate in so many ways. When Kyson was born I didn't really hold him until he was 4 days old. I didn't change my first diaper until he was a week old. It wasn't because I didn't love him because I did! I just kind of resented him. That's so awful but it's true. It went away after a few months but when he turned 3 it all came back! I started feeling all those same emotions again and I felt like the most terrible mother in the world! I talked to counselors about it and tried getting help but there was really nothing they could do. I finally came to the conclusion that being a mom is just plain hard. People say it gets easier but it doesn't! I'm not trying to scare you but I think you just get so used to it that you don't notice it as much. I've been a mom for over 4 years and I'm still learning with each new phase. I've definitely had to rely on Heavenly Father and just learn to take time to myself every single day! Even if it's just to take an uninterrupted shower, it makes such a difference to get that quiet time! You're an amazing mom and wife, Alexis and Ainsley is going to grow up to be an amazing girl because of all the sacrifices you give.

Anonymous said...

I think you knew that I had PPD with my first son, luckily not my second, and I can relate to everything that you said. I literaly thought my life was over, that everything I cared about or enjoyed for myself would cease to exist and that this sweet baby I loved so much was also completely holding me down from my happy life...its so wierd what we go through with PPD. Its hard to be positive when you honestly feel down right yucky. It's a hard topic to talk about, but you did so beautifully. No one will think less of you for your new mommy experiences, being a mommy is so hard and rewarding at the same time. I honestly think Heavenly Father did that on purpose... he wanted his daughters to get a front row seat to help us see how he feels about his children. What helped me most was Prayer, talks with my super supportive husband, and talking to other women who have been there done that. I think your great! Keep your head up and know it does get better! Karlee Frost

Katie Elizabeth Hawkes said...

Alexis, this is so wonderful. I think you are so brave and you shouldn't be embarrassed or nervous about sharing any of this. I'm sure you won't even be able to count the ripple effect and the number of women for whom this will be exactly what they need to hear. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there to help other people like that! And, it can benefit you too because now you can have more support and understanding from people around you. Isn't it funny how we can get so stressed that we're feeling guilty for having guilt? It doesn't make sense and yet I think we've all been in that illogical, crazy place. And more guilt is the last thing we need! I think you are very courageous and doing exactly what you need to do right now -- saying it loud and praying a whole lot. I really admire your honesty and bravery....and I do not think you were awkward at the meetup, but we probably all went home thinking the same thing about ourselves :) It is the way of bloggers, I think. Love you girl!

Mikelle Jade said...

This is amazing. Though I don't think I had PPD, I think my hormones made me a wreck. there are still bd days. I remember I was so stressed out the first week of Motherhood and I too had to supplement (for one day until my milk came in) and I was sitting with my Mother in Law, dreading the fact that it was time for Jack to nurse again and she turned to me and said "It took me a while to like Nate (her first one) I mean, I've always loved him, but it took a while for me to like him." and I get what she means. I thought back to what she said a lot because I too felt guilty about a lot of things, but it's just nice knowing other people feel the same way. I think it's something that people need to talk about more-- but people are a little ashamed? Anyway. I am glad you wrote this, I needed to read it. you are such a good mommy to Ainsley! and I am sorry she has been a little tough (ok a LOT) on you! She is so lucky to have you :) We got THROUGH SO MUCH for these little ones! Motherhood is truly amazing!

Camille Millecam Whiting said...

I so love you! What a brave, awesome post! I feel like almost every woman I've talked to has had PPD, and I'm sorry you didn't know more who did in advance!
One of the reasons I've put off having kids is I have heard so many negative birth stories, how awful the first few months are, and lots of comments about how your marriage won't be so great after. I have so many nieces and nephews I watch regularly, and I know how much work it is for only a couple hours!
You are just so normal! And I've heard many say motherhood just doesn't completely fulfill them, and if that's you- YOU'RE NORMAL! Some people work because they need to for emotional stability. Some work just to find an identity. Some stay home and are happy and fulfilled- and to them I applaud because I already know I won't be one of them.
I think you know you can call or text me anytime you feel sad or need a pep talk. And being real and saying "I'm depressed" is such a step in the right direction- so I totally applaud you!

Tia said...

Hey girl! I sent you an email, but thought I would post this here in case any other readers want to take a peek. It is a whole bunch of stories written by different women who have suffered from PPD. I always know it helps me to read others experiences that I can relate to.

karajean said...

I am so sorry. I know you've been struggling and reading this just breaks my heart.

In a little bit of an unrelated note, I'll be texting you soon b/c I am inviting a few friends and their babies to come swimming at my house and I want you to be there! Probably on Wednesday.

Courtney B said...

I finally remembered to come back and read this. Wish I could give you a hug again! It was my biggest fear to experience PPD after having my baby, but I really only went through a couple weeks of it. But I have been depressed before and I would never wish that on anyone! It's so rough. I look up to you so much for relying on the Lord and being able to come out so positive in the end! Like I said before, I think you are so amazing! I'm so happy we got to meet and I hope we stay friends forever!! You're an amazing example to me!

Tisha said...

Hi, Alexis. Thank you for sharing your story. I just went through the baby blues for a couple of weeks--I can't imagine how much harder it is for someone with PPD. I am also incredibly lucky to have help (we have a nanny) and my family nearby, but if I didn't have that support, I would probably have spiraled into depression.

I hope things are much better now. Hope you don't mind if I share the link to this entry through Twitter. You're in my prayers!

Kari said...

I'm just now catching up on blogs and I'm just now reading this.

I wish we were closer so Miss Ainsley and Cooper could hang out.

I completely understand where you're coming from. And I was diagnosed with PPD, as well as anxiety (which I always have had but actually just now did something about). I'm on a very low dose of medicine now and it's making a huge difference for me. (Though I know medicine isn't for everyone.)

Nonetheless, I have shed more tears than I care to ever admit since Cooper was born. I couldn't breastfeed because my milk never came in. He cried all the time..ALL THE TIME...come to find out he is sensitive to dairy and has mild reflux. I could go on and on..

But know that you are not alone. Our babes are within a month of each other. I get it, girl. Feel free to email me anytime you want. :)


Jacquie Lyman said...

I'm just now reading this post for the first time and I just want to tell you that it meant a lot to me that you would share this so candidly on your blog! I haven't had my little baby yet, but I have been experiencing a little bit of pregnancy depression here and there. It really is EXACTLY as you described.. You have every reason to be happy, and yet you're not - Not because you're TRYING to be miserable, or you're not having happy enough thoughts, but because something is off and you just don't know how to be yourself anymore! I also like that you mentioned that, yes, you were still happy during those times, that you weren't a sad, depressed person every second, but that it still was always there. Lingering. The advice you give at the end is great too! I just loved this, so thanks.