GUEST POST By: A’Driane, mama of three, wife to a nerdy futurist, and a color addict who gets a rush from putting paint to canvas. A PPD & PPA survivor, she now strives to find the beauty in living despite the chaos of Bipolar Disorder Type II & OCD. An ardent believer in the power of transparency and vulnerability, she owns her story by writing (and dancing) it all out on her blog, Butterfly Confessions. She survives the joys and madness with a carefully constructed cocktail of Lamictal, Twitter @addyeB and Jesus.
TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of PPD and Suicidal Ideation.
Alex’s pediatrician told me I had to choose between taking meds and breastfeeding-so I chose meds and quit breastfeeding because I felt like I was grasping at air to survive what was overtaking me, which I couldn’t name or find anyone to talk to about it. The pediatrician also implied choosing to take meds over breastfeeding my newborn would be very selfish, and that I just needed to pull myself together so I could be a good mother to my baby.When my symptoms got worse and my OB said to see my primary care doctor to address the issue further, she told me ALL moms are tired and feel “insane” the first few months. She didn’t think I needed anxiety meds or an antidepressant. I begged her for a refill anyway and thankfully she did.
I saw 2 different therapists during that first year who told me that as a single mom I was just “stressed” because of my “situation.”Alex was born in April of 2010. In July of 2011 I was sitting in the mental health clinic at the VA hospital in Philly telling a psych that if they didn’t help me RIGHT THEN I would end up killing myself within the next two weeks. I just couldn’t take or understand what was happening to me, and I wanted to die to spare myself and my kids any more pain.
I walked out of that clinic with a mood stabilizer in my system, medication to help with my anxiety and sleep, and a new diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar disorder type II & OCD.
Since my son Austin’s birth 8 weeks ago, I have been screened for PPD 6 times. Once by our insurance company when he was 2 weeks old, once by my OB at my 4 week check up, and FOUR times by his pediatrician at 1 week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks and just last week at 8 weeks. With each screening I’ve been able to get a clear picture of how I’m coping, ask questions about what’s “normal” in regards to adjusting to life with a newborn, gauge if I need to seek additional help or increase my self-care, and be heard without judgement. Every time, the screening has given me a chance to stop for 5-10 minutes and focus on my mental health and overall well being–something that can quickly be forgotten or brushed aside during these early weeks and months because BABY. KIDS. LIFE. I NEED SLEEP. EXHAUSTED.
My point? Had I gotten screening like this 4 years ago (during and after my pregnancy) by doctors who felt it was important, who talked to me about how *I* was doing mentally, and gave me real facts about PPD, I probably would’ve gotten effective help sooner; well before ending my life seemed like the best option for me and my kids.
4 years later, I’m on the right medications, and took them during this last pregnancy. I’m taking them now as I’m breastfeeding. My baby is healthy and perfect. I’m healthy. Am I struggling right now? Yes, some days. But am I in control this time? Do I have people to talk to, meds that can be adjusted, doctors to monitor me, friends who understand, and a husband who’s aware of what to look for? YES, I do, and it’s what’s making this postpartum experience 100% stronger than my last.
Can you imagine if this were the case for all mothers? It should be. The fact that it isn’t is appalling. This is why I’m a mental health advocate. This is why I do anything I can to help grow the advocacy of organizations like Postpartum Progress.
If you have a friend or family member who’s a new mother, do her a favor and give her 5-10 minutes of your (judgement free) time and ask her how she’s REALLY doing. And even if she says she’s ok? Point her to Postpartum Progress and tell her a stigma free community and resources can be found if she should she need it.
You just might end up saving a life. So do it. Please.