Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Goodbye maternity leave, hello new reality

Peace

Today was a landmark day.

1) Hannah went to daycare for the first time.
2) I went back to work.
3) I signed up for a gym membership (and then un-signed up, with intentions to sign up again immediately...we'll get back to this).
4) All of the above happened, and I still felt peace.

Let's review each in detail.

Hannah went to daycare for the first time
Yesterday's anxiety about this event was actually worse than today's. Have you ever noticed how that happens? Anticipation of an event is often FAR more excruciating than actually experiencing the event.

I am on drop-off duty and Jason is on pick-up duty, but for the first day I asked Jason to join me in case I fell apart/lost my way/needed a hug/needed to be talked out of turning around and taking her home. To both of our amazement, we walked her into daycare, set her down in her room, went through a few things with the staff, and left without a breakdown. In fact, I think my moment of calm came in when Miss Jill, the gal who was overseeing our angel, brought out the activity mat. Hannah (a.k.a. Baby Party Time) loves her some playmat. We set her down on the mat and she began to go nuts. I'm convinced she no longer knew we existed. So we left, and I felt OK about it.

I went back to work
After leaving Hannah, I turned on some happy music in Sully (side note: we named our Honda Pilot "Sully" after Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III - the amazing dude who landed the plane successfully in the Hudson River in '09), and I followed the concrete path all the way to the workplace. I felt kind of like a kid returning to school after summer break.

The warm "welcome back" I received was indescribable. My friend Christie gave me a card and an Independence Day-influenced seed of happiness. It worked - I felt much happiness. My friend Gina also gave me a card with the kindest handwritten sentiments. My boss Michele brought in gooey butter cakes (how did she know this was a favorite of mine???) and I may have had a piece or two and shared them with my buds. I spent a fair bit of the day catching up with friends, visiting with my pals Kim and Jenny for a good length of time, spending quality minutes with my two favorite Kristins/Christins (one with a K, one with a C-H), and generally just hugging many people and shooting the breeze.

And then, naturally, I dedicated much of the day to going through the email pile, sorting through what was pertinent versus what was instantly delete-able. I was afraid that I would feel anxious, but I didn't. Not even after the 3 or so cups of coffee I downed at my desk.

I signed up for a gym membership (and then un-signed up, with intentions to sign up again immediately)
Mama needs to get back in shape. So, Jason and I have been discussing the fact that in order to do so I need to find something that maintains my interest. I recently saw my friend Shauna at a wedding, and she looked very physically fit, so I inquired about how she achieved her nice figure and she said that she took classes at a local gym. I have been thinking about doing Zumba and/or other classes for awhile, and at that point I decided I would sign up for a gym membership where copious amounts of classes were offered.

There's a Golds gym near my house and near work, so this seemed like the right fit. I paid ol' Golds near my house a visit this past Monday and got some info about how the gym was configured, classes offered, membership fees, yada yada. Then I decided today that I would also check out the Golds near work to see if I could dig their chili too. I went during my lunch hour, and I dug their chili, so I enrolled in a membership. I went back to work and told my friend Marci that I had enrolled, and was then informed that if I enrolled via my company I would receive a discounted monthly rate. GAH! I like discounted monthly rates. So I went right back up to Golds after work, abolished my contract, and my next task is to fill out the paperwork so I can enroll through work. The monthly fees will be deducted from my paycheck, but we're getting merit increases soon, so I won't even know what I'm missing. At least from a monetary perspective........I will know what I'm missing when I shed this entire second baby's worth of weight that I'm carrying around. Gross.

All of the above happened, and I still felt peace
I can't say for sure who all was praying for me today, but I definitely felt the presence. I also received messages today from a lot of people checking in on me to see how I was holding up...my Aunt Kathy, mother-in-law, Cup, Kelly, Lara, Cari, Shayne...the list goes on. And of course Facebook friends were wishing me well after I mentioned something about receiving a "mom's survival kit" from daycare that I had hoped contained Kleenex, Xanax, and a flask of Jack.

I actually felt good today. Really, really good. Somehow happiness feels best when it's unexpected.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strength

Weird...I just finished my last post and went to the Scripture Confessions booklet my mom gave me and found this little nugget. I hear you, God!


Take two of these and, dear God, please stop calling me

Well, the results are in from my psychiatrist and primary doctor visits. Here's what we've found:


Goose Egg
After an array of blood tests, X-rays, urinalysis, ultrasounds, lengthy question/answer sessions, a bucketful of medication changes, and a Harvard tuition payment worth of copayments and post-insurance bills, the doctors cannot find anything physically wrong with me.

Good news, right? Meh.

Naturally, I am grateful to be in sound physical shape. However, that leaves no solid explanation or quick remedy for the physical symptoms that I have when I am "in hell" during the hormone/serotonin crashes. All of my doctors (and I've seen six of them in the past three months, as well as consulted with several additional doctors/nurses/experts on the phone) are reaching the same conclusion on this: I drew the postpartum short straw. My hormones are still in the process of leveling out, and when they fluctuate my neurotransmitters go on a wild ride which causes me to feel uncontrollably depressed/anxious/on death's doorstep, burning sensations throughout my body, dehydration, fatigue, constant headaches, loss of appetite, tingling in my arms, and an overall sensation of despair. Why can't they draw a tangible conclusion beyond just this educated guess? Because serotonin can't be drawn through blood or any other measure. The only way to acquire my serotonin levels would be via brain biopsy. Um, no thanks.

So what do I do now? I go on with life and pray daily that I don't have another hormone dive. I tick like a timebomb and hope that the fuse stifles before it reaches the gun powder.

It's frustrating, disappointing, frightening...and I will NOT let it win.

These terrible feelings cause me to have very ugly thoughts, and I have to train myself to firmly believe they are just feelings that will pass because I've been through it twice now - once lasting 3 weeks and the next time lasting 5 days. It will pass. I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me (my favorite verse - Philippians 4:13).

I am mentally strong and happy. I have been blessed beyond words. This trial can't take that away. Good always prevails.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hannah's acts of heroism

Face of a hero
Don't let that innocent face fool you. Hannah has been accomplishing majorly heroic things lately! Here's the rundown:
  1. Yesterday she rolled over from her stomach to her back. Whoa!
  2. She has been sleeping through the night  for almost a week now, which tells us it's a habit. Hallelujah! 
  3. She just drank a full 8 oz bottle (although subsequently spit up approximately 2 oz of it, but whatever).
  4. She's really, really, really cute. All damn day.
  5. When Jason was feeding her this morning, she held her own bottle (although we don't think she knew she was doing it).
  6. She snuggled with me twice yesterday, nuzzling into my face, which really lifted my spirits.
  7. Her poop diapers smell like flowers. FLOWERS! (Alright, that's a lie.)
  8. Occasionally she makes giggle noises, which misleads Jason and me into believing that we're hysterical people.
  9. During BPT (baby party time), she swats at the dangling toys on her play mat and makes substantial contact. Future volleyball star.
  10. She has graduated into 3+ month sized clothing. We jam her awesome little robin belly right into those onesies. Sweetest sight to my eyes.
The list grows daily! What a superstar. My pride and joy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Overcoming fear

Here's a beautiful excerpt from the booklet my mom gave me. This empowered me today, and I hope it does the same for anyone who reads it.

A good morning indeed

Today is a good morning, and how could it not be with this little thing staring back at you?





Things are looking up. Psychiatrist visit today, doctor visit tomorrow.....and positive thoughts for good health at all times!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healing

To aid in my recovery, my mom shared a booklet with me with prayers I can say out loud called Scripture Confessions, and I have been repeating the one dedicated to healing. It is as follows:

Healing

I proclaim healing for my body. By Jesus' stripes I was healed. The healing, life-giving, disease-destroying power of God is working in my body. It drives out all manner of sickness and disease. I am full of life, health, strength, and vitality. I am healthy and whole from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Every organ in my body operates and functions the way God created it with no disease or malfunctions. Every system in my body operates and functions with supernatural efficiency. My nervous system, lymphatic system, digestive system, electrical system, circulatory system, and every other system function with 100 percent efficiency.

Jesus Himself bore my sickness and carried my diseases; therefore, sickness and disease are not allowed to exist in my body. My body is free from growths, tumors, or obstructions of any kind.

The divine life of God flows through me quickening and making alive my mortal body. My body is free from pain, discomfort, distress, and all symptoms of sickness. God's Word is medicine to my flesh. I am not moved by how I feel, how I look, or any negative reports, because I believe God's Word and His Word says I am healed. I am healed, healthy, and whole in Jesus' name.

Thank you, God.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Hannah

My sweet Hannah,
This has nothing to do with you. I do not want you hearing or reading about my battles with postpartum issues someday and thinking that you are in any way related or at fault. You are the glory that makes the war worth fighting. Every second I suffer, I find strength when I look at your precious tiny hands, your magnificent blue eyes, your smile that extends beyond your lips and lights up your whole face, your peculiarly over-sized feet ("skis" as we call them), and your sound that I want to record and play back eternally. You, your father, our family, our friends, and God's plans for us are worth fighting for. Just because you and I made it through your first terrible struggle coming into this world together does not mean that you are related to the fact that I continue to struggle as my body recovers. I do not regret for one minute the fact that I had to bring you into this world under frightening conditions because the end result was the sweetest gift: you, my baby. I am honored that I was chosen by God to raise you and watch you grow. My heart hurts that you will endure hardships someday, just as my mother's heart aches now as she watches me in my fight. Like my mother does for me, I will help, shelter, and protect you with every ounce of my ability. You and I are intertwined infinitely and that makes me the luckiest mother ever.
With all my heart,
Your mama

Progress today

Yesterday after I posted that I was back in hell things started to clear up a bit. A lot of the burning subsided for the first time in days, and the medicine seemed to be working. I was able to enjoy Father's Day with my family. I am getting ready to head to the doctor for an ultrasound. I should get results back today from that and the bloodwork they did over the weekend. Not sure what to expect, but in a way I wish they would identify an issue that has a definitive treatment rather than this constant guessing and fluctuating of anti-depressant/anxiety medicine that we're doing. In preparation for the ultrasound I have not been able to eat or drink anything since midnight, so at this moment I'm hungry, thirsty, and unable to take any medicine, so I feel a little crappy, but not as bad as it has been. I am continuing to act normal in effort to feel normal. We've been able to take Hannah home to stay the past two nights, which has been so wonderful. I love having her home. My prayer is that I continue to make positive progress and put this hell experience behind me. I pray this relapse ceases and I never have another one. I pray that the medical community figures out a quick treatment for this and wakes up to the need for more/better treatment options for women with PPD. I pray for God's strength to get through for me and my family.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrating Jason

Today is Father's Day, but my darling husband should be celebrated daily. I make attempts and surely fall short often. He is a perfect father to our baby daughter Hannah, and watching him care for her only amplifies my love for him. God, thank you for the gift that Jason is to us. I love him with everything I have.

Jason meeting his new daughter

In the hospital

First day home with Hannah

Daddy on the night shift

Back in hell

I don't understand what is happening to me. We are all taking guesses around here - perhaps a hormone fluctuation, perhaps the medicine stopped working as well...nobody knows. The past few days have been a nightmare. I have hit a new level of fatigue, body aches, and the burning returned. I wish there was a way to describe it that would do it justice. It's like that feeling you get when you hit your funny bone, only for me it resonates from the top of my head through my entire back and down my arms - all day long without anything that relieves it. I am a prisoner in my skin. I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday, we upped my meds, but through the week it has just gotten worse. I've called his office several times each day begging for help (the secretary says "Hi Rebecca" when she answers the phone now). We changed my 'band-aid' medicine because the one I was on before that had saved my life last time isn't effective this time for an unknown reason. The new band-aid medicine didn't do squat so now we're trying the old one again today. We added abilify to my meds yesterday but that made me feel out of body so he told me to stop taking that today. It's hard to take pills because I am having trouble eating but I don't want to take them on an empty stomach because that often makes me nauseous. My body has physical pain so I went to my primary doctor's office and they did a urinalysis and ruled out a UTI, did a chest x-ray since my chest/back hurt and I'm short of breath (which I attribute to anxiety so I don't expect anything there), drew blood to analyze, and I am supposed to go back tomorrow morning for an ultrasound to check my gall bladder...the doctor said gall disease can be common after giving birth so he wants to check for that. If I don't feel better today my psychiatrist wants to put me back in the psych ward for monitoring while he changes my medicine. I am scared to start over with a new medicine and I am scared to go back in the facility. It feels like prison and that can do a number on an anxious person. I am so much more comfortable at my own home...I wish he would just move in with me until this is fixed. I also wish someone could really pinpoint the actual problem and why it returned if the medicine I was on that fixed it the first time a month ago hasn't changed at all. I think I need hormone therapy of some sort but nobody will touch that. I realize every postpartum woman's experience is unique but I struggle to believe that there isn't a way to better pinpoint what a woman is suffering from and treat it specifically. I feel like we're continuously throwing ice cubes at a fire in hopes that one of them or enough of them will stifle the flame. Jason looked into a perinatal psychiatric women's center in North Carolina yesterday. We talked about going there because they are the country's only specialized mental health center for postpartum women. They are a 5-bed unit and allow your baby to be with you all day (just not at night). I am not sure what that would cost but when you're desperate you're desperate. Jason spoke with nurses and doctors from there and basically we would need to wait until Monday to discuss admissions because that office is closed over the weekend. If I'm admitted there, my family could stay at a nearby hotel for a low rate and the hospital has shuttles that would take them to and from the facility. We'll see if we even end up doing anything about that. I desperately wish they had something like this in St. Louis. I spoke with Linda from Mother to Mother and she said there was such a facility in St. Louis some years ago but for whatever reason it dissolved.

I've been trying my hardest to push through this. It's a constant battle. I often don't feel like doing anything but watching the clock hit 10 pm so I can take my ambien, pray to God that I'll wake up feeling better the next day, and pass out. Mostly against my will my family has taken me out places. I even went to a wedding two nights ago that under normal conditions I know I really, really wanted to go to. It's hard to speak to people right now. It's hard to get dressed or get out of bed. I miss my baby insanely. She has been staying with my mom and we've been visiting her. She stayed with us last night, which was really nice.

I'm incredibly anxious about my recovery. It is discouraging to have a relapse like this. I am scared I will never feel better and return to normal. I look at forthcoming appointments and get very nervous...I have things I am supposed to do this week that I don't know if I can. I am supposed to go back to work next Tuesday, and Hannah is supposed to start her daycare that day too. I'm not sure what will happen there. Jason tells me not to worry about it, but naturally I do. This is my life and I want it back.

I pray boldly to God that I receive His healing NOW. And then I sob. And sometimes I scream. Occasionally I break stuff but nothing irreplaceable (sunglasses, etc.). Help me, God. I've been pushed to my knees. Please save me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

set back

I've had a set back in my recovery. Some small signs have been there for about a week or so, but unfortunately it hit hard again these past couple of days. I've seen my psychiatrist and he's upped my dosage. I pray that helps. I'm scared. I just want to feel normal again. Prayers.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Make a postpartum plan a priority

Postpartum plan
Having a baby is a beautiful, life altering, and sometimes petrifying experience. Women need to have a realistic expectation of the postpartum period, as well as a solid post-birth mental health plan. I want to scream this from the highest of heights so every woman who is currently pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant hears it and prepares herself. I'm not trying to frighten anyone, but we need to get real about the fact that postpartum depression (PPD) exists and can be addressed before it appears. It rears its ugly head unexpectedly and indiscriminately to a wide variety of women and surfaces in the form of baby blues, depression, anxiety, psychosis, a little sadness, a lot of hell, or, for some lucky women, not at all. So far my postpartum depression/anxiety has been condensed into just a few short weeks and I am gratefully on the upswing, but I have learned so much about how to deal with it and heal that I feel inclined to share. Here is what I wish I would have been told before postpartum depression/anxiety punched me in the face:
  • Rally a rock solid support system. Know who you're going to call on if things get rough. Surround yourself with people who care about you, believe in you, and want the best for you. Avoid people who might be toxic and stick with people who want to help you and who will influence you with optimism. And let them help you. As women we have a tendency to think we need to do it all on our own. We don't, and when it comes to this big of a life change, we shouldn't even try.
  • Learn what might put you at higher risk for PPD. There are a lot of triggers that might make you more susceptible to suffering PPD, such as a history of anxiety or depression, age, and even the complication level of your delivery. There are several consistent lists of risk factors for PPD, such as these published by the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and the Center for Postpartum Adjustment.
  • Trust your intuition. The reason so many women put off getting the help they need is because they second guess that what they're going through merits medical intervention. We've all heard of "baby blues," so when you're experiencing it for the first time you might assume that your thoughts and feelings are normal and will pass with time. That might be the case, but maybe not. Only you know what you're feeling and how deeply it is impacting your ability to function. If it doesn't feel right, trust your instincts and don't hesitate to get help.
  • Have a psychiatrist / counseling team prepared in advance. Knowing that I had a history of anxiety, one of the biggest lessons I learned was that I could have avoided a lot of my postpartum problems if I would have developed a PPD plan with a psychiatrist during my pregnancy. Medicinal therapy can also be made more effective when done in conjunction with talk therapy. It makes it easier if you know who you're going to work with before you decide you need them.
  • If necessary, take the medicine. Antidepressants take weeks to get into your system and make a difference, so the sooner you take the medicine you're prescribed the sooner you'll feel better. There are several antidepressants that are considered safe to use while nursing, so if that is part of your plan you may want to know up front which medicine you will consider taking.
  • Try to be positive, but definitely be honest. PPD sucks beyond belief, and it has nothing to do with loving your baby or your life in general. A lot of people will tell you to think positive thoughts, and that's good advice. But, sometimes it's not possible, and it just feels damn good to acknowledge that you feel bad. It's also OK to vent to people in like situations, but make sure you don't spend too much time dwelling on what's going wrong. If too much heavy conversation starts to weigh you down, it might be time to change the subject.
  • Put yourself first. You can't take care of a baby if you don't take care of yourself. Once you are in good working order, you will enjoy motherhood far more than if you were only functioning at half capacity or less. Try to avoid the guilt we all inevitably feel when we decide that we deserve to be a priority.
  • Have faith in yourself and the healing process. Give it time, and trust that it will pass. And give yourself a break. You're not a failure because things didn't work out as planned. It isn't an overnight thing, but if you believe in yourself and your ability to feel better, it will make it easier and probably speed things along quite a bit.
  • Have faith in God. During my worst PPD moments, I begged God for healing and at times wondered if He had abandoned me. God knew how I felt, including my anger at Him for allowing me to suffer. My faith kept me alive. I hated the experience, but I have always known a God that is not the author of trauma but occasionally allows it as part of a grander plan. I have to keep my trust there.
  • Rest. Lack of sleep is par for the newborn course, but it also has a tremendous impact on your mood. Rest is so vital to your ability to feel good, so do everything you can to take it easy when you can.
  • Once you reach a conclusion, stop. When you're an anxious new mother, you may have a tendency to try to diagnose everything about yourself and your new baby on your own. But it might be dangerous to read too much about a topic, and there are certainly a lot of opinions out there. Too much research can scare you more than it can help you. So once you take a stance on something, stop reading. I try to use my expert resources (OB, psychiatrist, pediatrician, etc.) as often as possible when I have a concern so I can avoid looking things up online or in books because there are so many conflicting opinions available for the reading. Find a trusted source, formulate a position, and then let it go.
  • Listen to music to suit or change your mood. Music has healing powers. I personally recommend a mellow, optimistic soundtrack for therapeutic purposes. As I went through my troubling time, I listened to Josh Ritter's Lark and sang the words "I am assured peace will come to me" out loud. I was comforted by the words "You are not alone in this; as brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand" in Mumford and Sons' Timshel as I thought about all of the people who came to my aid during my darkest moments. There are so many empowering songs available to help you heal.
  • Keep moving. Exercise or simply just stay moving. A walk outside in the sunshine can do wonders for your soul. A good hard run on the treadmill releases endorphins. A simple trip out to the store can help you feel human. Even when you feel completely unmotivated, move. Starting is the hardest part, but once you get going you will be glad you got moving.
  • Know that you will probably feel disappointed in the dissolution of your plans. You've been anticipating the arrival of this beautiful baby for months. So why aren't you feeling anything but ecstatic when he/she arrives? Because having a baby is a shock to your system, and things like hormone fluctuations, serotonin level changes, and interruptions of the best-intended plans happen. I was going to spend my maternity leave showing off my daughter, enjoying the spring weather, nursing, and dressing her in all of the cute baby clothes we were given. Instead, I suffered a severe postpartum mental crash that kept me indoors and agoraphobic, prevented me from being able to breastfeed, and by the time I came around she had already outgrown some of the outfits. "Disappointed" doesn't do the feeling justice. But, I am grateful for the help that got me back on track, I am thankful formula exists so she can eat and thrive, and she still has plenty of cute clothes to wear. Sometimes you plan life, and sometimes life plans you.
  • Know that some people might disappoint you. A lot of people won't understand what you're going through, but they should still trust that you're suffering if you say you are and want to be there for you. If they hold your problem against you, forgive them and move on. Sometimes it takes the trials of life for you to separate people who care for you from people who don't, and that's actually one of the benefits of enduring a hardship. If you don't know who you can count on, adversity will help you find out pretty quickly.
  • Don't worry what other people think about what you're experiencing. One of the reasons mental illness is so controversial is because the afflicted person can easily appear fine but still be fighting their demons on the inside, so to the outside world they appear to be thriving and anyone in contact with them might find it hard to believe they are struggling. A person suffering a mental setback often rides a roller coaster of good moments and bad moments, and sometimes they are just pushing through and trying to act normal in an effort to feel normal. People are a lot more sympathetic to physical injuries than mental issues because they are visible and tangible. For instance, if I were to get in a bad car accident and go out in public in a wheelchair, people would know I'm still struggling and be sympathetic regarding my recovery. However, if I have a bad mental breakdown but get medical treatment and feel up to going out during a good spell, people might assume I'm completely healed because I'm there. Try not to get too disappointed by someones lack of understanding.
Granted, not everything that works for one person will work for someone else. I would love to hear what has benefited others and continue adding to this list, and then get it in the hands of women so that we can all stop being caught off guard and sweeping this under the rug.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hands!

We've discovered our hands, and we like to chew on them. All day. Not because we are hungry, lest we would be eating all day. We just like to chew on our hands while staring at our favorite blue octopus. Weeeeee!
Hands!

Check her stats!

Hannah had her 2 month appointment with the pediatrician last Friday, and she checked out perfectly. Here are her stats:
  • 58.60% of growth percentile based on weight-for-age (11 lbs 0.5 oz)
  • 38.44% of growth percentile based on length-for-age (22")
  • 70.04% of growth percentile based on head circumference-for-age (15.5")
Basically, our baby is short, slightly heavier than average, and has a nice sized melon. Just how I want her!

Poor buddy also got some shots, which were painful for her and painful for me to witness. I've never seen her face get so red. The nurse injected the needle, and Hannah's little (or nice sized) head turned fire red and her mouth opened wide but it took about 20 seconds for any noise to come out...she just froze there...and then let out the most terrible wail I've ever heard. We had a nice big bottle waiting for her after her shots to take her mind off the inhumane things that had just happened to her. My little trooper.
Shots suck!

Baby Party Time - LIVE!

Yesterday I took a little footage of Baby Party Time. BPT is obsessed with her octopus (the blue thing hanging on the left). She lets out a nice little party holler around 0:34. Enjoy!

video
 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hannah is 2 months old today!

Our sweet little angel baby is 2 months old today! We celebrated by taking photos of her wearing a dress and hair bows that are slightly too big for her. She's the cutest baby I've ever had. Man, can I procreate!

Hannah Sophia - 2 months old