Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sharing My Experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

One thing I have learned in therapy is that in order for me to be
the best mother I can be I have to make my mental health a priority.

This post has been very difficult for me to write.  I have so many topics swimming around in my head, but until I get this post out there I feel as if sharing anything else would be a misrepresentation of what's going on in my life.

It's always scary when you start a blog, you're putting your life out there for the whole world to see.  I've shared breastfeeding, relationship, and perineal stories but my mental health is by far the hardest thing to talk about.  I ask myself why it's so easy to share embarrassing personal facts but talking about postpartum depression/anxiety is so difficult, and it all goes back to the way our culture and society deals with mental health.  It's something that should be kept behind closed doors, that shouldn't be talked about, something that may even  be shameful.

I started my blog for many reasons but one was to talk about aspects of motherhood that people don't like to talk about.  To let other moms know that they're not weird or crazy, there are plenty of women going through the same thing they are.  Since having Alice I've had to deal with the difficulty of transitioning from a one child household to a 2 children one.  It's been filled with so much joy but also with hardships.  I've had my newborn baby crying and needing me to nurse her, while my toddler cries and wants me to hold him.  I've felt overwhelmed and guilty that there aren't two of me, so that I can give both of my children all of the attention that they need and want.  On top of all of that I started to notice that I was having recurring symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety.

When I had Ethan I went through postpartum depression, unfortunately I didn't realize I was going through it and therefore didn't ask for help.  With all of the information that's out there you may wonder why I stayed quiet.  After having Ethan I had told myself that if I got depressed I would tell someone, and seek help right away.  Since I never felt depressed I figured that I was fine.  What I didn't know is that depression isn't the only way that postpartum depression presents itself.  After having Ethan I became very anxious and afraid.  Fears plagued my every move.  Fears that were so real it became difficult for me to convince myself that they weren't.  I'm not going to go into detail because that's one thing that is much too difficult for me to write about.  At 3 months postpartum my fears peaked and I'm very surprised that I didn't have a nervous breakdown.  At 6 months postpartum the haze started to clear and I began to feel like myself again.  I had a friend who had recently returned to work and was telling me about her postpartum depression when I realized that I had been suffering from it as well.  I was devastated that I hadn't asked for help.

After having Alice the fear, loneliness, and anxiety started to creep in.  This time I made sure to let Jeff know, and to call my OB.  He referred me to an amazing psychologist who has been helping me through this difficult time.  Having someone to talk to and learning of ways to cope with my anxiety has made all the difference.  What I still struggle with is the question that every new mom gets, how are you doing? I dread being asked that and I always hesitate because I think to myself, do they really want to know? Or are they just asking to be polite?  Sometimes I say I'm doing fine because I don't want to have to explain what's really going on.  On other occasions I find the strength to be honest and I say. "I'm not doing so great, I've been suffering from postpartum depression."  This has lead to awkward silences and sudden changes in the mood of the conversation.  I wish our society would be more O.K. with sharing our mental health struggles, I think it would help a lot of people.  I wish I could be more honest about what I'm going through.

If I had a cold and someone asked me how I was doing I would say, "Not so good I have a cold."  They'd nod and tell me how terrible that must be with 2 small children.  It would be nice if our society could get to a place where sharing that your emotional health isn't doing well could be met with the same normalcy as physical health.

If you read this post and know me in real life please don't feel sorry for me, or sad.  When you see me, if I'm happy, know that in that moment I am definitely happy.  My children bring so much light into my life that some days they are the only thing that keeps me going, and I am so thankful for that.

I found this list of symptoms very helpful after I realized I'd been suffering postpartum depression/anxiety with Ethan: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english.  If you're going to have a baby or have just had a baby take the time to read it and be aware of the symptoms.  One thing I've learned from this experience is that there is no shame in asking for help, taking care of my mental health has made me a better mother and I'm so grateful for all the people that are supporting me on this journey.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Postpartum Products

This is a photo of Ethan when he was 5 days old that Jeff took.

*I was not compensated for this post.  These are products that I love, have purchased, and wanted to share with my readers.

Warning: I will be sharing a lot of personal information in this post.  If reading about women's bodies and bodily functions scares you, this probably isn't the post for you.
Whether you're having your baby in the hospital, or at home, when all is said and done and it's just you and your spouse at home with the baby, you have a moment where you think, Oh my gosh how the heck are we going to take care of a baby? Did they really just let us bring this baby home? We have no idea what we're doing! If you don't have these thoughts then awesome, but I know Jeff and I did.  Second time around it wasn't as shocking but there were new fears.  How am I going to care for two? Is Ethan going to feel left out? With all of that swimming around in my head one thing I didn't want to have to think about was my recovery and if I had everything I would need to feel better.  One thing that really helped me during that postpartum time was rest, I love this post from The Fike Life on How to Postpartum Like a Boss, it's all so true! The second thing that really helped are the products that I'll be talking about today.  Since I have never had a c-section I don't know if any of these products would be helpful for a cesarean recovery.

When I first had Ethan my friend Katie did the sweetest thing.  She already had a son and was well aware of how difficult postpartum recovery can be, so she sent me a care package with a lot of the products I'm going to mention today.  Not only did it feel wonderful to know that someone was thinking of me, but all of the products she sent were amazing, and really helped.  Since these are things people don't usually talk about I didn't have any of them, so they were a big help.

If you're an expecting mom and are reading this I highly recommend you purchase some of these products a month before you're due, along with the breastfeeding products I mentioned in my Tips and Products for Early Breastfeeding post.  If you're not expecting but know a new mom that is, it would be awesome to make up a gift basket with some of these and the breastfeeding products.  Most of them are very personal so it would have to be someone you feel comfortable giving these things to, but if you know this new mama doesn't have these products believe me she'll thank you for them.  

All of these products you will need right away which is why I recommend buying them a month before baby is due.  If you're giving it as a gift then drop it off on the mom's doorstep the first day she's back from the hospital and send her or her husband a text.  Most new parents prefer to be left alone for at least a week after baby comes, so it's good to get the gifts to mom right away, but not bother her with visitors quite yet.

Enough of my rambling, lets get started!

  1. Tucks: These are round medicated pads with witch hazel on them.  They're

    meant for hemorrhoids (which you may also have after giving birth), but they also feel great on your perineum (the skin between your vulva and anus).  I would put at least 2-3 of the pads on my industrial sized maxi pad and it really helped with swelling.
  2. Perineal Cold Pack: If you have your baby in the hospital they'll give these to you there.  When I had Ethan the nurse told me to hide the extras in my bag everyday, and that they would re-stock them, that way I would have some to take home.  These especially saved me with Ethan since I had a 3rd degree tear.  They're ice packs that look like a maxi pad, and believe me you will love these after giving birth.  Since I didn't go to the hospital this time around I purchased them, and even though they're expensive, they're worth every penny.
  3. Maxi Pads: Make sure you have different sizes.  At first you'll need the jumbo, overnight, super absorbent ones (I went through a whole bag in 2 weeks).  Then have a bag of the regular ones.  Finally, have a box of the light days.  It's  been a month since having Alice and I'm still using the light days pads so the bleeding goes on for quite a while.
  4. Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray: This spray also has witch hazel and feels
    so nice when you spray it on your perineum.  It has a fresh scent, and after I would wash with my Peri. Bottle, I loved spraying the bottom spray on.  Once you're healed, if you don't use it all it's also a face toner, so in the spirit of not being wasteful it can be added to your beauty regimen.
  5. Sitz Bath: When I had Ethan in the hospital they gave me a sitz bath to take home so I didn't need to purchase one.  It also works to fill the bathtub and sit in it, you can even add Postpartum Bath Herbs, or Epsom Salt to it for extra healing.  I thought the sitz bath was easier to set up than having to prepare the bathtub so I always preferred that, especially since I already had one.
I hope you find these recommendations as helpful as I did.  Any moms out there have other product recommendations they'd like to add? If you had a c-section what products did you feel were the most helpful with your recovery? If you're going to comment below make sure you're signed into your google account in order to do so.

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