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Happy Mother's Day and more research and resources to share today!

Posted Jan 27 2009 7:17pm

Hi all- I hope you all had a great Mother's Day. I was really spoiled by my husband and son, which was special. I was woken up on Sunday morning to two lovely square boxes- one larger than the other. The first gift was from emerald cut green amethyst and diamond ring for my right hand. The next was from my hubby- a gorgeous watch that I felt overwhelmed by, simply because I never thought I would receive such a piece of art and craftsmanship. It's not about the cost necessarily, though my husband's generosity is appreciated. The idea that this special day (while a "hallmark holiday") was so recognized brought great joy to me. My husband wanted to do my first Mother's Day up right and he certainly succeeded. So while I wait for my ring to be sized, I am enjoying checking the time regularly, mostly because I look forward to going home to spend time with M. and L., but also because this watch is so beautiful to look at. To top off the day, we spent time together as a family- shopping, dining out, and taking an evening stroll around the neighborhood.

I must say that the most meaningful part of the day happened at an unexpected time. M. and I drifted back to the early days of my PPD. I asked him when he really knew that things weren't right. I had recently come to the conclusion that the signs were there from the start, but was surprised to hear that he did not notice a real issue until weeks later. His definition of this turning point was described as "when you started talking in circles." He further explained that I didn't seem to be able to use my voice, not physically speak, but to emotionally express my opinions, needs or wants. I thought back to a time when I was out to lunch with my friend J. and she mentioned that she knew I was not myself when I couldn't even decide what to order for my meal. Not surprisingly to those of you who know me, I am generally about the most decisive and opinionated person on the planet- so something was definitely off in her opinion. Back to my own ponderings about the beginning of the journey down the PPD road for me...I now realize that things were off from the start. During my c-section, which took place after 46 hours of labor and no sleep for nearly that long, I began to shake uncontrollably. The shaking wouldn't stop and I couldn't get past the feeling of discomfort with the fact that I was laying flat (with a HUGE 34 pound belly on top of me) with my arms out-stretched. While I cannot imagine the pain that Jesus endured emotionally or physically on His cross, I must admit that I paralleled my experience in surgery with crucifixion. I was tied down in this position and my belly cut open. In both cases, this was for the purpose of bringing new life to the humble little life with my husband and son...and Jesus' salvation life brought to all the people of God through his death and resurrection. Maybe this is why I was able to keep the faith through all of this from start until now, where I hope the fork in the road is ahead of me and I am able to choose the path to recovery. Even in the scariest, most brutal and invasive situation of my life, I remembered that Jesus was beside me.

Once out of surgery, I was taken to a small recovery room where two nurses- one for me and one for my baby, tended to paperwork. Every few minutes they would ask for an update on my pain level and my shakiness. Each time I would respond similarly and tell them I was not recovering quickly from the surgery and anesthesia and that I was not yet ready for "visitors"- including my baby. Thinking back, I can't believe that I didn't muster up some super-human strength to find a way to see the baby I had been yearning for. During the three weeks prior to L.'s birth while I waited for him, already having begun my maternity leave, I had literally swayed for hours in my glider, reading a book of prayers for moms gifted to me by my friend J. and praying that God would bring my baby to me. I wanted him/her (at the time we did not know the sex for sure, but I knew in my heart he was a boy...) in my arms more than I could fathom and so the tears flowed often. After his birth, how could I not have wanted to catch a glimpse of this beautiful boy and bring him immediately to my breast as I had planned? Other signs were the difficulty I had getting in and out of bed or being motivated to walk. Also, when my OB asked if I was ready to go home on Thursday, I wanted in my heart to reply, "no!" but instead, knowing the appropriate answer was "yes" I managed to fake a grin and seem excited by taking my son home. I had been in the hospital since Saturday afternoon and in labor since Friday night. You would think I would have done anything to return to the solace of my home, but instead I was scared to death. I didn't want to go home where I couldn't call for room service each time I had a craving or call a nurse when I needed baby advice, help, or just a little rest. I didn't want to be the main caretaker and be responsible for all the decisions I needed to make about every aspect of my son's day. I needed the lactation specialist at my fingertips and a nurse who could help to discern the best next steps for things like when the milk was taking too long and my baby needed more than I could provide. If I made those decisions on my own, then I would have to take full responsibility! For the first time in my life, I didn't want to. I didn't want to be in control! I wanted to be told what to do and how to do it and be helped in the process. This should have been the second clue to my unhealthiness.

I will continue to blog about the experiences of the past 7 months every few days. It is healing for me and I hope will be beneficial to others, as well.

God bless you, Amber

More Info

Aside from biological changes, a variety of physical, psychological, and environmental factors can lead to postpartum depression.

  • Feelings of fatigue following delivery, broken sleep patterns, and insufficient rest often prevent a new mother from regaining her full strength for weeks, especially if she has had a cesarean delivery .

  • Taking responsibility for an expanding family can be overwhelming. Some new mothers have feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. They may doubt their ability to be a good mother .

  • Many new mothers suffer from stress, which can be caused by changes in work and home routines. Stress can also be caused by the pressure a woman places on herself to be the "perfect mother," a highly unrealistic goal .

  • New mothers often experience feelings of loss. After the birth of a baby, many women feel a loss of identity, a loss of control, a loss of a slim figure, and a perceived loss of physical attractiveness .

  • In addition, their free time is suddenly restricted, they are confined indoors for long periods of time, and they have less time to spend with their baby's father .

Treating Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is treated much like other types of depression. The most common treatments for depression are antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, participation in a support group, or a combination of these treatments. However, some antidepressants can contaminate breast milk. Women who breastfeed should talk to their doctors to determine the most suitable treatment option .

The most appropriate treatment depends on the nature and severity of the postpartum depression and, to some extent, on individual preference. It is important to recognize that postpartum depression is both temporary and treatable.

New mothers with postpartum depression can practice a number of self-care strategies.

  • Good, old-fashioned rest is important. Always try to nap during the baby's nap time.

  • Relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling. Do as much as you can, and leave the rest. If possible, ask your husband or partner to share night-time feeding duties and household chores.

  • To help you through the readjustment process, seek out emotional support from your husband or partner, family, and friends.

  • Isolation often perpetuates the depression. Get dressed and leave the house for at least a short time each day.

  • Make an effort to spend time alone with your partner.

  • Ask your physician to advise you on possible medical treatments. Be assertive about your concerns. Not all health care professionals recognize the symptoms or seriousness of postpartum depression. Get a referral to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression .

  • Talk with other mothers, so you can learn from their experiences.

  • Join one of the many support groups that are now available to help women who suffer from postpartum depression. Call a hotline to access information and services.

Postpartum Distress

You Are Not Alone.
You Are Not to Blame.
You Will Get Better.

PPD, or Postpartum Distress, is the name given to a wide range of emotional and physiological reactions to childbirth. At least 10% of mothers suffer from this disorder.PPDis more serious than the "baby blues", which come earlier, are milder, and pass quickly.

A woman suffering fromPPDmay experience one or a combination of symptoms, each ranging from mild to severe. Examples are:

· Exhaustion, insomnia

· Anxiety, tension, panic

· Irritability

· Hopelessness, tearfulness

· Poor concentration, memory loss

· Rapid mood swings

· Obsessions, frightening recurring thoughts

· Lack of enthusiasm

· Self doubt, low self-esteem

· Eating disturbances

· Feeling distance/removed from or lack of love for baby and/or partner

· Thoughts of harming self and/or baby

Good days can alternate with bad days. All of these symptoms can be equally distressing for the mother, and often leave her feeling like she's "going crazy."

Treatment forPPDvaries depending on the type and severity of symptoms. All of the symptoms, from mild to severe, are temporary and treatable with support and skilled professional help.

Why Does It Happen?
The exact causes ofPPDare still unknown. We do know that the pregnancy and postpartum periods are times of enormous biochemical upheaval, as well as a time of social and psychological adjustments, all of which create the conditions forPPD.

Current research indicates that this disorder is related to the brain's neurotransmitters, which are directly responsible for how we feel and are affected by heredity, hormonal changes and the environment.

While we wait for answers on the causes, it is important to realize thatPPDis a physical disorder, probably hormonally based, and that it is not self-induced. A woman cannot "pull herself out of it" any more than she could if she had the flu, diabetes or heart disease.

Take Care of Yourself! (Steps to Wellness)

· Education

· Sleep

· Nutrition

· Exercise/Time for Oneself

· Sharing the problem with non-judgmental people

· Support

· Referrals to professionals

· Medication, if indicated

Ten Coping Strategies

1. Joining aPPDsupport group

2. Setting goals for the day

3. Nurturing the couple's relationship (time away from the baby)

4. Asking for help

5. Accepting help

6. Finding resources for support and help

7. Investigating insurance options

8. Looking at the work situation (should I go back to work?)

9. Managing financial problems

10. Discovering free and low-cost activities

Here are two helpful documents that might help you and your family as you plan for treatment and then for recovery.

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