We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression

I have to admit that I have been putting this off for some time.  I first heard about this endeavor in late 2016 and wanted to share and be part of this movement. But, figuring how and what to share has been difficult.

I had another post written. I detailed those first few days and weeks after the birth of my first son and explained to all you beautiful, wonderful people how much I was going through. I expressed in my best words how it felt, why it was happening, and all the things that were working against me.

And then I stopped.

If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.

I stopped because I was justifying my feelings. I was trying to justify the fact that I struggled for months with undiagnosed postpartum depression. I explained everything that was going on because I didn’t want you to think I am weak.  I so want you to understand my deep struggle and the visceral heartache that still plagues me that I wrote a very meaningful piece that did nothing.  I think it would have been fine, or even good, to share all of those things for the simple fact that I know other moms feel the exact same way right now [and dare I say that moms well beyond those newborn days feel the same? Moms of toddlers, elementary school kids, preteens, teens, and beyond? Moms who have lost children, moms who never got to meet their babies, moms who adopt, moms who perhaps never got to have children at all?].  My post was true and deep and meaningful and difficult, but I do not believe it was the right post for this cause.

This cause is about ending the stigma of postpartum depression – PPD – and postpartum anxiety – PPA.  If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.  It certainly feels good when we someone else understands the way we feel and why we feel it, but even if no one else ever understands the way you are feeling, you are still dealing with depression, and that’s okay.

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This is after we got to our recovery room. I had been awake for about 36 hours at this point and just had a C-section. 

I want you to know that it is okay to deal with depression even if you had a beautiful birth, just the way you wanted.  It is okay to deal with depression even if you have a beautiful baby that you cherish, love, and adore. It is okay if you have depression even though breastfeeding went well for you.  It is okay to have depression even if your baby sleeps through the night.  It is okay to deal with depression whether you prayed for your child for years or you had no idea motherhood was before you. It is okay.

Our first picture as a family of 3

There is no qualifying list, no one way depression manifests itself.  In the midst of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation, depression can seem like it will take care of itself if you can just sleep, just relax, just get away, just have one minute to yourself.  And sometimes it does, but other times, in darker times, it sticks around.  It follows you like a lurking shadow.  No matter how bright the lights are, the shadow is still there, attached to your every move.  The shadow is not nimble, it is cumbersome, it is exhausting.  Your shadow is a physical weight that you carry on a daily basis, an emotional sink that you keep pouring into, but never fills up.  The shadow clouds your judgement, you ability to think and concentrate, your patience and ability to deal with your ever-changing emotions.

One of my favorite pictures, but one that I forced myself to take because I knew, someday, that I would want to see pictures of his little face.

There are signs of PPD/PPA, certainly, and I had many of them.  I felt disconnected and numb. I told myself I HAD to take pictures and I HAD to tell Vincent that I loved him everyday because I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I wanted to get away from the baby, but as soon as I was away I dealt with anxiety that something terrible would happen while I was gone.  I was irritable and impatient with the baby, but as soon as I felt myself snap I would melt into a big ball of tears. But the fact of the matter is, you can hide these things if you really want to.  The shadow can continue to follow you if you let it, and many times, no one else realizes it’s there except for you.

We must act. We must speak out. We must advocate for each other. And in order for women to seek the help they need, we must end the stigma.

You can read more about my newborn experience here.  I won’t detail it in this post, but I will tell you that I was struggling and I didn’t know how to tell people I was struggling. How do you verbalize a change that happened so quickly you don’t have time to process it? It’s more than, “I’m having a hard time.” I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have had help. I wish I would have known how to do more than take the 2 minute survey at the doctor and be told my feelings were normal.  [and yes they are normal, but there was MORE going on and I wanted SOMEONE to see it and identify it FOR me, I just wasn’t able to do it myself]

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So what I want to share is this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need or what help looks like. If you start to ask for help you will find relief and reprieve, you will find healing. The road will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I would also add that as a culture, WE MUST SLOW DOWN.  If you know a new mom, slow down enough to look her in the eye and say, “How are you doing, really?” And when she says, “Oh I’m fine, just tired,” look her in the eye again and repeat, “Really?” I fear that our culture has become so fast, so focused on posting the perfect Instagram picture, so busy, that we won’t slow down enough to see people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of a friend.  New moms especially fit into the category. Your ENTIRE world was just changed and now you have the responsibility of raising a tiny human. The pressure, the loss of independence, the sleepless nights, the physical recovery that has to happen all while caring for a newborn is more than anyone has ever dealt with before and it is okay to not be okay.

I give you permission to not be okay.

So, mama, I give you permission to struggle and need help. I want you to know that people see you and hear you.  We know the heartache and we are here for you. We want you to feel free to share what is going on so that we can better help you.  We are here, and we are here to stay.  It’s okay to not be okay.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.}

 

5 Things That Made My 2nd Pregnancy Suck Less

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If you know me at all you know that I am not a huge fan of pregnancy. It’s okay and I guess its cool to feel the baby move, but really I don’t care for it.  Being nauseated, an alien being flipping around in your stomach, the aches and pains of your body relaxing to accommodate this big thing growing in you.  I could really do without all that. But thankfully I found some products that helped me cope better the second time around and I wanted to share them here!

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Beautycounter Balancing Face Oil

The first thing that I am so thankful for is Beautycounter’s products, especially the balancing face oil.  My skin in my first pregnancy was TERRIBLE.  On top of feeling disgusting because I was pregnant, I also felt terrible because I wasn’t confident with my skin.  Everyone kept saying, “oh your skin will just glow!” – well this was not the case for me.  This time around, though, I am using Beautycounter products and they have made such a HUGE difference!  I think that the balancing face oil is the one product that I can’t give up, but there are a few others that I would also recommend for pregnancy and post-pregnancy skin.  If you struggle with skin issues (whether you are pregnant or not!) I would be happy to talk about options with Beautycounter for you!

Here is my website if you want to browse (specific link to face oil in the caption): http://www.beautycounter.com/amypietch

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Leachco Back n’Belly Contoured Body Pillow

Okay – this is by far the best purchase that I made for this pregnancy. I wouldn’t say that I sleep as peacefully as the lady above (is she even pregnant???) But it does make me much more comfortable! I really like that there are pillows on both sides, this has really helped my back and hips.  It also means that when I turn over I don’t have to rearrange all the pillows to try and get comfortable again.  I actually flip it the other way so that the open end is at my head, then I can use my own pillows for my head.  There is a downside – this pillow is HUGE. We have a queen bed and Bryan gets maybe a third of the bed these days. I think if you have a King bed it would be fine, but it’s tight in the queen. Thankfully, my husband knows how important sleep is for me so he puts up with the pillow, but I’m pretty sure he is counting down the days until it’s gone.

You can get it on amazon prime here: https://www.amazon.com/Leachco-Belly-Contoured-Pillow-Ivory/dp/B0002E7DIQ/ref=sr_1_14?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1471785251&sr=1-14&keywords=body%2Bpillow

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Bai Bubbles Drinks

Okay so if you are TOTALLY cutting out caffeine, then this one isn’t for you. There is a small amount of caffeine in these drinks (about 25 mg), but for me this is the perfect amount!  I loved having these mid way through my day as a little treat and pick-me-up.  The flavors are incredible (Pink Grapefruit is my favorite, but all the flavors are great) and they were something different from just plain water all the time. It was nice to have a sparkling fun drink option. You can purchase directly from the website here: http://www.drinkbai.com/voyager-pack or at Costco (which is where we get ours)!

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Vegan Smart Nutritional Shake

 

 

 

 

Next is this meal replacement shake by Vegan Smart.  Especially in my first trimester I was very nauseated every morning. It was terrible. I didn’t want to eat ANYTHING but knew I needed to get nutrients in my body.  This was a great option for me!  I could make this shake in the morning and shake with ice cubes so it was super cold (which was the only way I could stomach anything) and I knew that I was getting some good nutrients every morning.  I had tried other shakes, but many are soy based which my body does not do well with.  This shake is soy and gluten free but packs 20g of non GMO protein.  I still drink these daily, as soon as I wake up, to make sure that I am getting some good nutrients in the morning.  It blends pretty well (sometimes I get clumps, but if I use a blender bottle its usually pretty smooth) and the taste is actually quite good. I have only tried the chocolate, but it’s not super chalky which was another requirement of my first trimester stomach. This was a life saver for me with second baby!

Again, available on amazon Prime here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FYD5MVA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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Guys – I cannot explain what a difference good, supportive shoes make.  My feet hurt SO BADLY with Vincent and never fully recovered after the pregnancy.  The only shoes that really made my feet feel okay were sneakers and I can’t wear those to work and they are too hot for summer so this pregnancy I was on the hunt for something better. Thankfully I discovered Born sandals! I picked these up at DSW and they are FABULOUS!  I don’t know exactly what is wrong with my feet – high arches, overpronation, or something along those lines – but these shoes are super supportive (they come all the way up the arch of my foot) and cute! And sandals! So many good things.

So these are 5 things that really helped me feel better in my second pregnancy – what else has helped you guys feel your best while being pregnant?