A Lonely Road: My Story and On-line Resources
By Lauren Hale, HF Guest Writer
Motherhood. What a powerful word and concept. To some mothers, there is nothing wrong with that word. For others, it dredges up painful memories, feelings of inadequacy, flashbacks of a delivery gone horribly wrong or the opposite of the expected outcome. For those Mothers, instead of feeling more connected to the world, they feel even more isolated and alone, blaming themselves for their failures and confused about why they are not happy like the Mothers in all the baby commercials on TV. However, they are not alone, not to blame, and they will be well. We need to reach out to them, give them our shoulders, our strength, and our hands as they travel the lonely road full of potholes called Postpartum Mood Disorders.
My entire life I wanted nothing more than to be a mommy, just like my mom. As a girl, I would place pillows under my shirt and pretend to give birth, lovingly caring for my infant pillow as gently as I could. Once it came time to birth a real baby however, I was strongly reminded by a line from Gone With the Wind, spoken by Prissy, Scarlett’s maid: “I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin no babies!”
My first labor was started with my water breaking the evening prior to an appointment at which we were to discuss induction as I was a week overdue. The following labor was intense and poorly managed by the hospital staff. The anesthesiologist attempted to place the epidural seven times during transitional labor and Pitocin administered without any staff offering any explanation. Once the epidural was placed, it quickly became apparent that my epidural was one sided and I repeatedly asked for an ice pack or heating pad to help with the pain but never received any assistance. At 8cm dilated, I felt the urge to push and started doing so quite involuntarily, again, with no assistance from staff. Once completely dilated, I pushed for nearly an hour and a half and nearly kicked the doctor in the head (yes, on purpose) during the birthing process.
My second labor was much easier and did not become traumatic until post-delivery when the Lactation Consultant discovered our daughter had a cleft palate and everyone piled out of the delivery room, leaving me exhausted and numb from the waist down and wondering where they had taken my daughter and if I would see her again. I sat alone for what seemed like ages with no communication from any staff. My husband finally returned to the room an hour later, able to update me on our daughter’s condition. This episode of PP OCD eventually landed me a weekend stay at a mental facility for observation. A negative reaction to the anti-depressant I had been on had caused me to spiral down even further. Once my meds were changed and after I stopped Exclusively Pumping for her at seven months postpartum, I began to improve and this is when I became involved in helping other woman through Postnatal Mood Disorders, which can strike 15-20% of all new mothers, with Military moms being at higher risk than most of the general population (Banas).
During my first year of sharing my story and building support for new moms in the same boat I had recently departed, I became unexpectedly pregnant. After reading Karen Kleiman’s book, What am I thinking? Having a Baby after Postpartum Depression, I started to blog (www.unexpectedblessing.wordpress.com) in an attempt to reframe the pregnancy in a positive light as well as share my journey for those who had boarded the same boat of being pregnant after experiencing a Postpartum Mood Disorder.
One of the more harmful side effects of Postpartum Disorders is the silence that goes along with the experience. Women are afraid to speak up to let anyone know they are not happy at a time when we are conditioned to be our happiest. They are also fearful of admitting any negative thoughts because someone may take their children or people will think they are a horrible mother. At my worst, I hated to go outside. I felt like a fish in a bowl at a pet store – everyone stared and knew my deep dark secrets and terrible thoughts that zoomed in and out of my head at any given moment. Repulsed by myself, I retreated even further into my dark world and built walls so no one else could see inside.
My third delivery went well until the time came to push and the epidural wore off. I found myself flashing back to my first delivery and completely lost control. My doctor was able to refocus my attention and I made it through. I am happy to report that this time around I have had a normal postpartum experience, something I am certainly not taking for granted.
The most important resource for a new mother is family and friends who take the time to educate themselves and be supportive if the mother is experiencing problems adjusting.
Two websites that are wonderful for postpartum families are: www.postpartum.net or www.postpartumstress.com.
The first is Postpartum Support International. They have caring and knowledgeable Coordinators all around the world as well as a warm line you can phone and speak with a volunteer about how you are feeling.
The second link is Karen Kleiman’s site. Karen has developed a wonderful site full of wonderful suggestions and facts. She has truly dedicated herself to helping families in need. Please remember that you are not alone, not to blame, and you will be well with help. If you have a loved one or friend suffering with PPD, the best thing you can do is listen without judging. Sometimes they may not want to hear it but just keep listening, even if she is quiet.
Last, but certainly not least, here are some links regarding PTSD specifically:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After Childbirth: www.angelfire.com/moon2/jkluchar1995/
In closing, I urge all women to support one another for it is in supporting each other we will find our greatest strengths and virtues, sharpening our skills for motherhood and setting a wonderful example for generations to come.
A Yankee living in enemy territory, Lauren transplanted from NJ to VA and somehow ended up even further south in Georgia, marrying a good ol’ Georgia boy. Together they have three children age four and under. Any spare time Lauren has, she dedicates to supporting women and their families as they experience Postpartum Mood Disorders. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from LaGrange College (even further south than she is now!) and hopes for acceptance to UGA’s Social Work Graduate program for fall of 2009.