Thursday, February 7, 2013

From his Cradle to my Cross


Or: That Which didn’t Kill Me Made Me Stronger

On Getting Through Three Weeks of Postpartum Depression

Nativity I

My baby was only four days old when I knew that I was getting depressed. How did I know? Basically I was crying ALL the time. The tears started on Christmas Eve (I was very disappointed in how the gift-giving played out) and didn’t stop, really, until I saw my doctor and asked for help.

It came in the form of medication: 20 mg. of Prozac which I take daily.

It came at a time when I needed it most.

“What you are going through isn’t pleasant,” my doctor told me, “But it is understandable.” My husband’s unemployment & our consequent pregnancy; the demands of home schooling & drudgery of housework;  the birth of Nicholas & its stress on my body…it all factored into my emotional spiral.

Baby Nick (Thank You's)
Making these cards was therapeutic.
It helped to be doing something creative.

Emotionally, I just couldn’t cope.

“Why even bother?” I asked myself. “What’s it worth?”

“This is all just WAY TOO MUCH.”

Little Mother II
Cate is very much my right-hand gal. At 12, she’s a little mother.

My family could see that I wasn’t handling life well—Hello?! My wife/our mom is crying again!—but try as they might, they just couldn’t help me. In my mind, my life was larger than life. I was frustrated and discouraged by all the To-Do’s I couldn’t get to—this is very much a postpartum emotion, by the way, for depressed mothers and otherwise—and consequently I kept trying to control everyone around me.

Guess what? I found out that people do not like being controlled.

Least of all, those full-grown men.

Little Mother
Gosh, I’ve been thankful for this girl! 
I plan to homeschool her through college.

Depression is as hard on the family as it is on the person who has it. Maybe not as hard, but they do suffer. I know mine did; between the tears and the arguments between my husband & me (I’d push; he’d push back), everyone knew something was horribly wrong.

One night my son had a basketball game, and my husband asked that I stay home. This was the night of Nicholas’ baptism, by the way, and I had been an emotional wreck all day. Yet, I was so angry to be refused like that—shocked, and angry—that I called my dear friend in Alaska to talk it through.

She has a very soft shoulder, my friend Sarah. She listened quietly, without judgement, then suggested…perhaps…that I might be depressed.

I took an online test that very evening. I took two online tests, and I failed them BOTH.

Baby Nicholas (Lover Dove)
 This little light of mine. I like to watch him shine.

People react differently to being treated for depression but I was better, thank God & St. Dymphna, within a day of starting the Prozac. I think, in part, it was just knowing that I had sought help and been given it, but emotionally? It was like night and day.

It’s never easy to admit something’s wrong, least of all that something’s wrong with us. That is why I’m talking about this. If someone knows that I have been there, then maybe they won’t feel so alone. Perhaps the weight won’t be as heavy; perhaps they’ll reach out and get the help they need. I’ve never been suicidal nor have I wanted to hurt my baby, but I know how quickly the dark one can move in. In the words of Mrs. Hughes to Mrs. Patmore, “If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.”

(Forgive me. I couldn’t resist quoting Downton Abbey.)

It’s been three weeks since I saw my doctor and I haven’t broken down since. My life’s no less perfect—not me, nor the people in it—but the big difference is: I can cope. The little snafus of the day don’t upset me. Well, they do...sometimes...but they don’t set me off.

My life’s no longer overwhelming.

Nativity II

(Please God,) I can handle the cradle and the cross.

32 comments:

  1. So glad you sought the help you needed, and so glad that you are doing better. Thank God for dear friends who can say the hard things without offending.
    Congratulations again on that beautiful baby boy!

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  2. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Glad you are doing better. You and your family are in my prayers. Thank you for your BLOG.
    Cheri

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  3. My heart goes out to you, Margaret. i am so glad that you were able to seek help and are feeling better for it. i suffered terrible post-partum depression after the nirth of my daughter 13 years ago. She was 11 months old before the light came back on. Praying for you {{hugs}}

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  4. I really appreciate you blogging about PPD. A really good friend of mine had it so so so bad. I think it is something that no one thinks you should talk about but the more people know about it and hear about it, the less 'taboo' it is. And PPD is not be a 'taboo' topic! Love DA too! I cannot wait for Sunday nights

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  5. I only pray that your story encourages others to seek help when they need it! Thank you so much for sharing your struggles.

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  6. Great post! Thank you for sharing. :)

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  7. I suffered with undiagnosed PPD after my third baby and just figured I was just the most impatient/un-understanding person in the world. It never went away and 7 years and 4 kids later I realized it was a cross that could be carried much easier with Celexa :) Thank you for sharing a positive note on medication; so many people have reprimanded me for "resorting to drugs".

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  8. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Thank you for sharing. Prayers for all of you.

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  9. I'm so glad you are improved. Thank you for your grace and courage in sharing this with us. I hope you continue to feel strong and that your family is blessed in all the ways it needs.

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  10. Thank God for your friend! Glad to hear you are doing better.

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  11. Sooo glad you are feeling better and that PPD IS treatable. I wish it were easier for us women to ask for help! This is such an encouraging post to read. Prayers for your family, Margaret. Hoping this year brings the blessing of work for your husband <3

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  12. Bringing a newborn home, at Christmas, amid a large family, their incredible (and often unrealistic) expectations, with unemployment, and thus financial woes, would be an enormous challenge for any one. Topped with post partum depression ...well, I'll just say I am really glad you were aware of the warning signs and sought help. And I am so glad you feel better!

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  13. Thank you for sharing this! I know too many women who sit and suffer rather than getting the help they need. I struggle with depression. We've a long family history of it. Praying for you and your family!

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  14. Thank you for your open honesty and sharing a very real and difficult part of life. As always, you continue to inspire, even when admitting you aren't perfect or Superwoman. I'm glad that you were blessed by a dear friend and a caring physician as well. May the days, weeks and months ahead become a little easier and filled with grace.
    Praying for you, dear Margaret.

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  15. Hi Margaret, thank you for your honesty and sharing. You are a blessing and example to me.

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  16. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Many blessings to you and your family. Thank you for your honesty. Several years ago, after my daughter was born, I struggled with depression. She was born mid-Nov in MN and the weather had turned cold and rainy, she hated her car seat and stroller and screamed at the injustice of being strapped in, my husband worked long hours, etc., etc. It seemed like pp depression was kept so quiet that I had hardly heard about it but once I reached out to a friend and she shared her experience, I didn't feel so alone. Take care and don't be afraid to make a library run by yourself :) And one thing that helped me was pumping so that baby still had breast milk but I could be gone longer than an hour and a half. Maybe have coffee with a friend and if I was really crazy...the grocery store by myself!

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  17. Thank you so much for sharing your story ... you are brave.

    I'm praying for you Margaret and for your family to be blessed with real hope and change this year. Take care ...

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  18. I'm pregnant, I'm crying, I'm praying. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. So glad you are starting to feel better!


    and as for that special little girl that is helping so much - God Bless her! You know she actually CAN homeschool college. It's becoming quite the thing and you might want to check out College Plus! for her. It certainly was a blessing for our family and our finances.

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  20. Linda3:37 PM

    I suffered with PPD 15 years ago, and did not know what it was until my little one was 2 years old. Such a difficult time in one's life. I am so glad that you were able to get the help you need!

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  21. Thank you for blogging about this.

    I found the website postpartumprogress.com to be very helpful, s I had some postpartum anxiety

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  22. So glad you are getting help. Prayers for continued hope and for your dh to find employment. Thank you for being honest. All too often we try to be superwomen. You continue to show us that Superwomen aren't "perfect" they are "honest".

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  23. Glad you're feeling better!!! God Bless !

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  24. Thank you, Margaret. You are a blessing!

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  25. Anonymous11:27 PM

    Thank you so much for writing about this!

    I think I have had PPD twice, but I just thought I was a horrible mother, since my kids were healthy, and alive and I still cried for DAYS....my poor husband did not know what to do,..
    What helps is sharing like you did!

    God bless your special 12 year old...what would you do with out her???
    Sincerely,
    Donna L.

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  26. I am glad you got help quickly.not to take away from the seriousness of the discussion, but I kinda giggled at"unemployment and subsequent pregnancy"...like one caused the other.

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    Replies
    1. Consequent pregnancy you said, sorry...

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    2. Actually, I like your word better, mel. I meant to say subsequent but will leave it at "consequent" in all humility. : )

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  27. Linda8:58 PM

    OH DEAR...Been there felt that..and it stinks! So glad you got help so quickly! At the time I went through my post-partum depression, a friend in the mental health field confided..."I'd rather have breast cancer than a depression." When you have caner people rush to be of help. They organize a dinner chart, help with the cleaning, put you on prayer chains, offer to drive you to appointments. When you whisper the word depression...all conversation ceases in the room." Bless your heart for whispering the word and offering to shed a bit more light on the cross so many bear and so few want to talk about.

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  28. Thank you, dear Margaret for opening your heart to us. I suffered terribly with PPD after my 3rd babe - and my family more so! I wish I had known to ask for/seek help. If it had not been for my first digital camera (sony mavica - huge!) - I am not sure I would have pictures or memories of those years, the children - the baby (no pictures of me though - ha!) God tend to you - and allow (as you seem to do so much better than I) others to love and care for you. I read you all the time - and have prayed for you and am so delighted for your family for the addition of another to your ZOO! ;-) He - and all your kidlets - are precious. I had our -now 4yo- at 43/44 (?) and am so loving be an older mama...what would I rather be doing!?
    Love to you - eko (Elizabeth)

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  29. I'm SO HAPPY you are talking about this. My cross is anxiety vs depression, but its a similar cross. I've been walking around all week thinking "I"m so stupid. My baby is about to turn 1 years old, and still I'm in that raw, emotional space that I'm usually at when a baby is six weeks old."

    It's so hard because I think this is why some Moms don't want to have more kids. You don't want to go back to that raw, embarrassing place that seems to actually be more intense with each pregnancy--rather than less.

    At the same time, we WANT more Moms to have more babies. So we feel like talking about the emotional suckiness is just going to reinforce everyone's idea of "WHOA, glad I stuck with only two!"

    I just think that Honesty is healing. If nothing more than for the writer of the blogs themselves.

    So don't worry about being more depressing that Pioneer Woman. (Who by the way, was the first woman I ever read who was honest that her emergency c-section line was bothering her b/c it was crooked. She said something like "I'm glad he got out of course, but could we please have cut me a little straighter?" I thought I was the only superficial woman out there who had those regrets while a healthy toddler was held in her arms.)

    We read to know that we're not alone. We take risks as writers to help others, and help ourselves. Thanks for being a good writer and a good Catholic!

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  30. Hi Margaret, I just had a baby on January 2. His name is Nicholas, too. I am permanently on Wellbutrin but used to be on Prozac due to low grade chronic depression (dysthymia) . I remember the day the medicine started working about 18 years ago. The grass seemed so much greener and everything so much brighter. 18 years later I don't feel the dramatic difference I did then but I know that if I stop taking the meds I will be much more irritable and "unable to cope" as you said. Thanks for writing about this. It is a subject near and dear to my heart. From your neighbor to the south in Iowa

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