Lauren Hale, a mother of three who sleeps in until 630a every day, Lauren survives her days on nothing more than Starbucks and sheer grit. She’s sassy, outspoken, and hardly ever takes no for an answer. Unfortunately, her kiddos are just like her and choose to exercise these qualities as she blogs about Postpartum Mood Disorders . She’s found a cure though – headphones and Pandora.
"I don't handle stress well."
I told my OB this at my very first pregnancy appointment in response to his question about why I had been on Prozac for PMDD.
I wish I had gotten the joke then. Instead, it took me three kids and a very long trip through hell to comprehend the irony of his statement as I sat there, covered only by a paper gown, naively excited about the birth of our first child.
Three months after our daughter's birth, I again sat at the same doctor's office. This time, I didn't have to hop up on an examination table and I got to keep my own clothes on instead of donning a paper gown.
But I still got a grin and a smile.
Turns out I had dressed myself out of a depression diagnosis. It's in my medical records that I was well-groomed and smiling. If I was smiling, it was because I was grinning at the idiot to back out of the appointment. You see, I had filled out a questionnaire online admitting to negative thoughts about harming my baby and myself. But that was not possible, he said. Why? Because I was more than 4 weeks postpartum. And at 4 weeks postpartum, all your hormones slide magically back into place. Any ensuing craziness is absolutely not Postpartum Depression. Oh, and I refused to stop nursing when he asked me if I would do so for trial pharmacological therapy. He asked as my daughter screamed beside me because she was hungry. Dad was not there because he had to work at his Restaurant manager position. So I smiled and nodded my way out of the appointment. I sucked it up and went at recovery alone.
Not the brightest decision in the world.
My second pregnancy dug me even further into the hole. I slide into a dark depression of which I was not even aware. I hardly ate, I didn't take my prenatal vitamins, and I just wanted the pregnancy to be over. I found it hard to be excited about much of anything.
Then our second daughter was born with a cleft palate.
Wall? Nice to meet you.
She had surgery at 9 days old. More surgery at 3 weeks. Even more surgery at 5 months old and 1 more surgery at 3 years old.
At 10 days old, I went on medication. At 56 days postpartum, I found myself on a weekend hold at a nearby mental hospital after curling up in a ball because I checked out.
I avoided the hospital at which she spent the first 21 days of her life. So did my husband. She had a follow up at 9 months old after her cleft surgery. We did not make the appointment. We did not go until she was two years old. I could not make myself pick up the phone and make the appointment. When we finally went back, I drove. My husband came with me. I had to drive so I wouldn't ruminate the entire way there. Upon arrival, just seeing the sign for the hospital brought raw tears and anxiety to the forefront. I let it take its course. Within a few minutes, it had passed and I was okay. Without medication and almost a year of therapy, I don't think that would have been the case. By the time we went back, I had dove in headfirst to supporting other mothers through their Postpartum Mood Disorder experiences. Through supporting others, I had gained a new confidence in supporting myself.
I've been med free for a couple of years. Sure, I still struggle. Still have triggers and still have to be wary of the stress factors in my life. But I cannot live life in a bubble. I have to take it as it rolls toward me. But you know what? My journey through hell taught me the pitfalls to avoid, the road signs that pop up when I've made a wrong turn. G.I. Joe really knew what he was saying - "Knowing is half the battle." And a battle it has been - but I am winning. I intend to keep it that way.
Would I want to repeat the years I spent in Postpartumville? Absolutely not.
Am I grateful for them? Absolutely.
Those years I set up house in Postpartumville were the hardest of my life but they prepared me for times that would have been even harder if I had not had them under my belt.
My desire to help others has continued to grow. I blog, I am a Community Leader at iVillage for the Postpartum & Pregnancy Depression board, and I host #PPDChat every Monday at Twitter.com. Every morning I wake up with the goal of helping just one woman or family on their journey in Postpartumville. So far, so good.