Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I debated about whether or not I should blog about this, because I know that some people I know in real life read my blog. But I guess I've blogged about every other aspect of my pregnancy/motherhood, and what I'm about to say really isn't anything to be ashamed of, so, here goes.

I've been feeling really crappy lately. I'm not sure when it started. I was feeling okay for awhile, or maybe I was just too busy and worried about Caroline to notice. I also kind of assumed that it was just a situational thing, because I had to make such a big adjustment in moving from school to staying at home, and all the other changes having a baby brings to your life. And, you know, it's pretty isolating to stay at home with a baby when all of your friends are either far away or in an intense dental program... and none of them are even thinking about having babies of their own.

It wasn't just that, though... ever since we brought Caroline home from the NICU, I've been having nightmares. Horrible dreams that she's dead in the bed with me. I wake up several times a night from the same dream, digging frantically in the blankets for her because I'm convinced that she's in there. And I think about the NICU and the midnight transfer in the ambulance all the time. I still cry about it every day. It was a traumatic experience, for sure, but still feeling like this just doesn't seem normal to me. I was hoping that all this would go away with time, but it just... hasn't.

So, I was going to my OB today anyway because I was having an issue with my IUD. I brought up my concerns with the nurse practitioner and she left the room for a long time. When she came back, she told me that the OB on call wanted me to go to a psychiatrist across the street, and that they could see me immediately. I went over there, feeling kind of like I had done something wrong and lost my recess.

I talked to the psychiatrist for a long time, over an hour. When she was done asking me questions (questions that included things like "can you tell me today's date" and "what do apples and oranges have in common"... ummm... I'm not that far gone, lady), she put her clipboard down and said:

"I think you have post-traumatic stress disorder, and moderate to severe postpartum depression. You went through a very traumatic experience, what with having your new baby in the hospital in uncertain condition, right in the middle of a mess of postpartum hormones and physical pain. You've had to continue struggling with her health and weight gain, and to give up breastfeeding for a much more mechanical, demanding way of feeding her. You're continuing to torture yourself with all this pumping in order to try to live up to this unattainable ideal that our society has of the perfect mother, who gives her baby breastmilk, no matter what. You had to suddenly leave your program and all its activity and human interaction to stay at home with your baby, with no friends who understand what your new life is like. On top of it all, your pregnancy was unexpected, you say you were an anxious person to begin with, and depression runs in your family. How could you not be depressed?"

Well. I have to say, she heard me. It felt like a huge weight was lifted, that somebody understood me. I've sort of brought it up with Tyler and my mom, but Tyler just said "she's healthy now, why is it still bothering you?" and my mom just gave me a look that I couldn't quite read. So, it was such a relief just to have someone tell me that it was okay to feel sad. In general, I try not to think about any of that, because I don't have time for self-pity and it doesn't do anything for me anyway. But clearly ignoring it isn't helping, so I have to try something else.

She suggested that I start two medications, check in with her over the phone while we're in ND, start counseling once we get back, and quit pumping. I told her I was fine with all of that except the pumping, and that I just can't quite do that yet, I'd feel too guilty. She went over to her desk, handed me a picture of a really pretty girl about my age, and said "this is my baby. I had to quit breastfeeding her after one month. And you know what? She's fine. She's great. How you feed your baby is just one tiny part of being a good mother. You've done everything you can for four months... do what's best for you, but also know that maybe it's time to give it up in order to focus on all the other very important pieces of the puzzle."

So, that might be happening in the near future, I haven't decided yet. All in all, I'm so glad that I said something to the nurse at the OB. Maybe the medication will help me feel more like myself. All I can do is try it, right? So... wish me luck!


A said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you're dealing with all that! It sounds like a good thing you spoke with your doctors, and they did the right thing. The psychiatrist sounds like a very practical person! You've had a tough time and it's OK to acknowledge it and do what it takes to make it easier!

I don't know if it would help knowing there are other people out there, but I had an unexpected pregnancy as well, and I started seeing someone almost immediately after finding out I was pregnant, and it was incredibly helpful. I still see her once in a while, and she keeps me on an even keel.

Have you taken Caroline to any baby classes? It is a great way to meet other parents, and definitely helped me stop feeling isolated at home. Some MyGyms run an infant class for 6 week to 6 month olds, and I know there are a few Mommy and Me yoga classes around Connecticut for young babies. Maybe you could look in ND too and see what's available there for the summer?

The Paro Family said...

Julia, I am so sorry you've been through so much. :( I know it sure isn't easy. I could really relate to your post bc I, too, had some very scary thoughts for a while there, and I haven't even had to deal with the struggle to get the baby to gain weight as you have. I really hope the meds help & you're so strong & brave for getting help for it!

As for the pumping, thank you for posting what the doctor said about doing what is best for you. I STILL haven't stopped EPing and it's driving me insane, slowly but surely. You can text/call/bump/whatever me if you ever need to chat or need assurance...I know (for me anyway) the guilt won't subside easily. GL with everything and I hope y'all have a great summer in ND.


Anonymous said...

I don't know you, I found your blog one day on accident and I guess became "hooked". Pretty much am just a lurker however, this post made me want to say something. You are normal for your feelings, that is your child, a part of your heart and it scared every fiber in your body to go through that. Things will take time and you will get through it. Please just know from this comment, that people that may not know you in person, but are praying for you. Good luck darlin!
- A Mississippi Girl

Troy & Amy said...

Hi, I don't know you either. I also found your blog one day by accident and became hooked. I had no idea that you were going thru all this. It took a lot of courage for you to tell your doctor about how you were feeling. So many people go thru life and if they aren't feeling good - they keep it all inside. Not good. You deserve to be happy. This is a great time in your life. You are a great person - I can tell just by reading your blogs. Do what your psychiatrist is saying - they know what they are doing. Best of luck to you and your family! Hope you are feeling more like yourself again!

ksizzle said...

Like many others I stumbled across your blog and became a follower. I admire your strength for all that you have dealt with - unexpectedly expecting, staying in school as long as you could, delivering early, and all of the medical troubles. Most people don't have to deal with half of the stuff you have in your life.

I think now is important time to start networking (in person) with other mothers in particular mothers of preemies, similar health concerns, or who have been diagnosed with ppd. People in similar situation are more apt to understand your feelings and provide solutions you may not have thought to consider.

Seriously consider what the psychiatrist told you. In the end a healthy and happy YOU will help you to make a healthy and happy CAROLINE. I wish you and your family the best.

Hannah F.R. said...

I agree with most of the posts above. It is more important to be a happy mom and using formula then to be a depressed mom and nursing. It is the difference between homemade pasta sauce and store bought! I have posted on here before and I think I have mentioned that I work in outpatient psychiatry. Anyway, it is very common to experience depression and/or anxiety (repetitive negative, intrusive thoughts for example) and I am glad to hear that you were heard and helped. It is a good first step.

My saving grace has been baby classes, it truly is a great way to meet other moms. My non-parent friends just don't get it and it is really great to hear other mom's experiences.

Eris1995 said...

I'm glad you said something to the nurse and they were able to refer you to a psychiatrist. Hopefully with the medicine you will be able to feel like yourself again. You are a GREAT mom to C. I know it must be hard to think about not EP'ing anymore - but you need to do what's good for you.

I'm not that far away from you, let me know if you want to get together when you get back from ND.

Kittybits said...

I'm so glad you decided to share this. I think you are doing a fantastic job with everything you have been given and hope you feel better soon!

Molly said...

hey julia, i am also a random follower of your blog. i also had an unplanned pregnancy and can relate to a lot you are going through. good for you to have the courage to speak up and get help. that's the hardest part. i know you will do what is best, but nursing caroline for 4 months is fantastic. you should have no hard feelings if you stop now. honestly you gave her the best start that you could. she is as healthy as she is because she has a great mom. good luck to you!

KMc said...

It was so refreshing for me to read this post. Although I'm truly sorry for all that you've gone thru and what you continue to go thru, I too experienced similar things. I had PPROM and my son was born 7 wks early. We had a very stressful wk b4 his birth as I was admitted for observation and hooked up to the baby heart machine 3 times each day. Bcuz he was a preemie I could not breastfeed. I wanted to very badly. I tried and tried but they had already given him bottles in the NICU and the Dr said prehaps he was too small to be able to after the easy bottle feedings. I tried for a month before deciding that it was better for him and me to use formula then be stressed out. I did manage to use a hand-pump and give him some feedings for his 1st 2 wks.

If that wasn't enough, we went thru 3 mths of colic. I was soooo depressed. I had moved to another country and had to deal with being away from my Mom & family at this critical time as well as deal with a different culture's view on everything. We moved to a new home when my son was less than 3 mths old and I had to rtn to start a new school yr @ work (I'm a teacher). I went thru really tough times. I was at my lowest. Although it was never diagnosed(I didn't know who to go to here), I'm sure I had post partum depression. And it felt like NO ONE understood or could relate to what I was going thru, it was so incredibly lonely. My hubby tried to help but didn't know how. But some how, my little guy kept me going and helped me focus on the good. Three years later, I feel like a different girl. It took time, effort, and positive thinking but I feel I made it past this. I wish the very best for you. You are a great Mom. Remember, and this helped me along the way, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby! :-)

Rebecca said...

I am glad that your OB's office was able to refer you for the help you needed, and that you were able to write about it on your blog. You have been through so much, and it's true that you are fairly alone in your situation, plus with your husband being gone so frequently...! I can't imagine it. So I'm glad that you've gotten help, and some of the previous posters are right, the healthier you are, the happier Caroline will be, with or without breast milk.

BambinoBlog said...

Julia, I just want to tell you that I think you're amazing, and even just from your pictures and your blog, you're an amazing mother. It's only three weeks until I'm due, and admittedly, I'm terrified. Excited, of course, but also terrified. I'm also worried because while depression runs in my dad's family, my mom "doesn't believe" in it. But in any event, I admire that you even brought the subject up and went across the street... because there are a lot of people who wouldn't have. I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for even talking about this subject.

cspurlock said...

Julia, I applaud you in coming to terms that you needed to speak up & tell someone that you've been feeling down & out. Congrats! I too don't know you, but I felt compelled to tell you that you deserve nothing but the best that life can give you. I too had to stop breastfeeding my child. Unfortunately, this was at 4wks of age rather than 4mos. My supply just never came in. Needless to say, I was really hard & critical on myself that I had to stop so early in the game. My husband & I supplemented our son's diet with breastmilk before giving him is full 4oz of formula in his early years. I thought I was a horrible mother, thinking that I couldn't give my child more than an oz of breastmilk at one feeding, have him latch on like so many others could with their children. Our son's pedi finally broke it down for me, explaining to me that I wasn't a horrible mother and even though he viewed breastmilk to be the best option it's just not the best hand at the table. Our son is now 15mos old of jublient energy, walking, talking & getting into trouble at every twist & bend in the road. Learning & exploring and healthy....a mother's dream and prayers answered.

Moral of my lesson ~
I was being too hard on myself. You need to let yourself breathe, knowing that your child is in the best possible hands -- YOURS! She is thriving and is having a great adventure while learning & growing. Formula has come a long way, over 140yrs. WOW!! So, cut yourself some slack, keep your eyes on the prize -- your daughter, who is a beautiful child, created by you & your husband and most importantly God.

Cheer up! You are in ND, where you have a clothes line. :) The best sleep one can get is sleeping on windblown sheets. :)

Jennie said...

So I am definitely so far behind on this, as in two years, lol, but I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate your honesty. As someone in the mental health field, and also someone who has battled mental illness myself, I can't tell you how many steps we take in the right direction every time someone shares their personal story with others. You are absolutely right when you say it is nothing to be ashamed of. But the less that we talk about it, the more people think that there is. It just goes to show that you can be an awesome mom and successful woman and not have it 100% together. In fact, if more people were as open as you, maybe you wouldn't feel so much pressure to have it 100% together. Because the truth is that no one does, and yet us overachievers still try and try. :-) Okay, end of public service announcement. lol