Life After Pregnancy

I shared in my previous post that a part of me is relieved knowing that we aren’t planning on having any more kids.  Contraception is an even bigger deal to me now that it was when I first started birth control pills when I was around 16 or so.  My husband and I want to do something permanent so that I don’t have to take synthetic hormones, but the thought of having a vasectomy freaks him out, which isn’t unusual.  I wouldn’t mind having my tubes tied but there is the potential for a lot of hormonal after effects.  I’m sure I don’t want more than two children and so is he, but it’s just going to be a matter of deciding exactly how we’re going to accomplish that.  I’ve looked into getting the Mirena IUD and now I’m back at square one, considering birth control pills again.  I guess I just want to get something “done” as soon as possible and then I’ll have loads of time to decide on something different, if I want.

All of this decision-making has made my anxiety a bit worse lately but surprisingly it isn’t too bad.  I’m just a planner and like to get er done.  As soon as I have an idea I want to act on it or do something towards fulfillment of it, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness!

Brock’s first birthday party was a success last weekend.  Family and close friends attended and he had a blast.  My friend brought her 15 month old daughter and he was loving on her and flirting with her, it was so cute!  That cemented the feelings I have about having another baby so soon, it’s going to be great when they can play together.

I do wish I could take my Klonopin right now to take the edge off.  I’ve been having a hard time driving, I don’t like it when anyone is behind me, even if they’re not following too close.  I check and recheck my rear view mirror and find myself getting more and more amped up and irritated.  When someone IS following too close it’s much worse.  I’m having more paranoid feelings and I can’t quite tell if it’s the pregnancy hormones or just my anxiety, or both.  I can usually keep myself on an even keel most of the time but lately the smallest things are really setting me off.  Half the time I’m hyping myself up for no reason but once I can vent to someone it gets better.  Life is just a huge balancing act as we all know, and sometimes I feel like I’m totally going to fall!

Also, it might sound weird but my self esteem has been at an all time low since I had Brock and got pregnant again.  I feel like my body isn’t mine and I can’t focus on myself as much as I should because everything is all fucked up with me being pregnant.  After Emma is born, I can work toward my goals again without anything hanging over my head.

I am definitely more confident when it comes to my “mommy” abilities though, and that’s really rewarding for me.  One day at a time, and while I look forward to the future I’m also trying to not start worrying about it until it’s actually here.  I am hoping that for the first time in a long time (like, ever) that I can focus on settling down and not always racing to get somewhere. 

 

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Round 2

I haven’t posted in a while, mainly because a lot of changes have occurred in my life (like moving into a new house!) and I’ve gotten a lot better at handling my anxiety. Now that Brock is turning one year old this coming Wednesday, he has changed so much! I sincerely believe I am a person who doesn’t particularly like the “baby phase” because as a toddler, I am having a lot more fun with my son and there is more interaction with him. I also started taking Inositol again and it’s really taken the edge off, which is important because I can’t take my Klonopin since…

I’m pregnant with baby #2!

I wanted to wait a while before blogging about it so I could come to terms with how I feel about it, and the truth is I feel pretty damn good. A little scared, sure. Overall though, knowing that after my little girl Emma is born I won’t have to go through this again is a huge solace for me. That isn’t meant to sound crass or bitchy, but it’s how I feel and only pertains to me in my world especially with my health problems. Every time I get pregnant there is a risk for fetal heart block because of my lupus autoantibodies and in a way it feels really selfish for me to keep putting these precious little lives at risk. My doctor told me kids after 30 isn’t a good idea either for my own health and I happen to turn the big 3-0 this September. Some women have more than one or two kids and that’s great for them if it works with their family! I’m just ready to be done and I’m one with the fact that we don’t want more than two children. It’ll be hard not only focusing on my little man anymore. A part of my PPA that really affected me was knowing that Brock wasn’t going to be my only baby and that eventually I’d have to go through all of it again, “it” being the pregnancy, childbirth and the hard newborn and baby stages (not necessarily PPA, although this time I’m sure I’ll have an adjusting period but that’s a given). Of course it’s all worth it in the end and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just ready for my life to settle down a bit. I have really embraced my role as a mom, and chasing after my son, having food flung on me and dampening tantrums is just par for the course. I am due on 5/31 and have had some medical issues so far but nothing to be super concerned about just yet. The kiddos will be about 15 months apart. Emma wasn’t planned but she’s definitely a blessing. I think God really does know that I’m mostly a Type A personality and that “getting it over with” would be better for me than waiting, haha. At least, that’s what I am telling myself.

I’m a bit terrified to have two kids under 18 months, but I just have to take the adventure for what it is and remember that the hard times don’t last forever.

My next step is to get Emma’s room organized. I am so much more relaxed with the pregnancy this time around than I was with Brock because now this isn’t my first rodeo. I know what to do and what not to do, and what is a big deal and what isn’t. I’m really thrilled for the new addition to my family and can’t wait to meet her!

Poop

I ended up having an awesome weekend. Made it through not just two but three days with Brock. My mom helped me today so I got out of the house for about four hours and was able to feel somewhat normal. Spent some quality time with good friends. I treated myself to a Lush face mask and some Tranquil Dream tea from Teavana. Totally divine.

So the title of this post is poop because that’s what I was anxious over last night. Brock is a pretty regular fellow and has been eating solids for about two weeks now. Well, he didn’t poop yesterday so I was dreading him pooping in his sleep and not realizing it or having to change him and make him even more awake than necessary. So either way I’d be fucked, unless his little body decided not to poop. These are the things I get obsessed over. If he poops he poops and if he doesn’t he doesn’t, right? Ugh, it had so much more meaning than that for me last night.

Brock ended up sleeping from 6:30 PM straight until 5 AM and didn’t poop during the night. Instead I was treated to a particularly smelly, potent diaper right after his second feeding and was peed on not once but twice. I love this boy of mine! (Truly, I do).

These are the days I need to hang on to and remember how I feel when I’m having the bad ones. I simply loved being a mom this weekend 🙂

Vitamins and Supplements

I thought it might help to post the vitamins and supplements I take for PPA and general well-being:

1. Omega-3 fish oil (cannot stress this one enough!)
2. Gaia Herbs Stress Response
3. Herbally Grounded “Balance”
4. Herbally Grounded “Even Sweet”
5. Relaquil
6. Vitamin D
7. Rainbow’s End Whole Food Multivitamin
8. Vitamin B Complex
9. Liquid Vitamin B-12 (Methylcobalamin)
10. Vitamin C

I also drink lots of chamomile tea with raw honey, especially at night. I also recommend DoTerra essential oils for aromatherapy purposes.

Dump Trucks

“Just remember Tracy, you aren’t alone and thousands of women go through this every day. It will be okay!”

These are the words my gynecologist told me two days after I had my panic attack when my blubbering, disheveled mess of a self was sitting in his office. He’s also a coworker of mine so we have a very laid-back relationship. He came in and asked “Tracy, what’s wrong?” and I just started bawling. I did the same thing at Urgent Care two days before and also all day every day while I was on the phone with everyone under the sun I could think of who could possibly help me. My eyelids were half swollen shut from crying and I didn’t want to be seen in public, but I knew I needed help. Was a suicidal or homicidal? No, thank God. Many women do get this way and I can’t imagine how scary it is. Well then, what was the problem? I don’t know how to be a mom and I don’t know what to do with my baby during the day. He intimidates me. I don’t know why, can’t begin to even fathom why, but’s it’s how I felt and it was very visceral and real. For seven weeks or so before this when he was a newborn I was doing okay, and then just WHAM! I was hit with this bullshit. That’s how I felt about it too, that it was all bullshit. It wasn’t fair. I should be able to just snap out of it. What the hell is wrong with me? Why don’t I have control over my own mind?

During the first few weeks after the major panic attack I had (technically the onset of my PPA), I kept wishing, hoping, praying that there was some way to fix myself overnight. It’s discouraging because antidepressants take a while to fully set in, then if one doesn’t work you have to try another one, etc. When you’re in the middle of it, it truly feels as if there is no end in sight. The major problem with my anxiety is that I live in a “what if” world, not the present. If I could stay in the here and now (which is my primary focus and what I struggle to do every day), I wouldn’t have some of the issues I do. Logically I know I can take care of myself, because I still do it! Logically I know that my husband and son aren’t better off without me. Logically I know that things will get better. Throw the logic out the window, anxiety doesn’t care. The anti-anxiety medications were helping me tremendously with the intrusive thoughts I was having and the other physical symptoms, but there were still nights I couldn’t sleep. If a miraculous cure-all existed (which it doesn’t), I desperately wanted it. I wanted to be myself again. I wanted to find my “new normal”. What I have come to realize over the past few months is that having people to talk to is probably the number one contributor to my recovery thus far. I’m not even talking about therapy per se, just getting it out and telling other people what I’m going through, whether they share it, understand it or not, it doesn’t matter. Just the vocalization and opening up has helped so much. Ergo, one of the reasons I started this blog.

I don’t believe that PPA ever just “goes away”, but it ebbs and flows. Some days are worse than others, some weeks worse than others. Some nights I will be trying to feed Brock a bottle while he screams like a banshee because he doesn’t want to sleep and I text my husband saying, “I never should have become a mother, I am not cut out for this shit. Never again!”. I know this isn’t true, it’s just a moment in passing and getting through those moments is becoming easier simply because I am getting used to it and I know that I will have moments like this long after Brock reaches his teenage years. All parents fuck their kids up, just “do it brilliantly” as my doula says. It’s just part of motherhood. What isn’t and shouldn’t be part of motherhood is letting a “moment” drag me down deep into the pit I’ve been struggling so hard to climb out of.

The week before last, I had somewhat of a relapse; the third one I’ve had. By relapse I mean going through about a week or two of how I felt initially when this all started. I was doing better when my parents got home and then it was time to go back to the office to work, so a couple of nights before the looming Monday (5/13), I started feeling disassociated again and was having a hard time sleeping. This time I was able to recognize the problem and it wasn’t a meltdown like I’d had before, but I had 2-3 days of crying spells and also got a new therapist. The second relapse I had was when Brock started fighting me with going to bed. He had a bad teething weekend and he was just screaming at the top of his lungs but I had already given him everything – Tylenol, whiskey (don’t judge me!), Orajel, and he also wears his amber necklace to sleep. After ten minutes of him crying — no, screaming — I started crying. I frantically texted a bunch of crazy shit to my husband and then called my doula. She didn’t answer so I called my mom. My mom said I had to go soothe him but I had tried everything. Holding him, rocking him, swaying, standing up, sitting down, laying him down… nothing was stopping it. He finally did end up going to sleep and the next day after much research and talking with the doctor, I realized that he wasn’t in pain. He just didn’t want to go to bed. The next night I knew what to expect and sure enough, he had a great day at my parents’ house and then it came time to sleep and he started screaming again. Thus, the sleep training began and things are getting better now. One little blip in my routine or change to what I know acts like a monkey wrench. Sure, part of it is I am a first time mom but the large part of it is the PPA. Realizing these things is half the battle.

Anyway, I digress. My third relapse occurred when my aunt stopped helping me with Brock on the weekends and I was thrown cold turkey into taking care of him all day long, which up until this point had been my biggest fear. I can definitely say now that when someone in your support system betrays your trust, or makes you feel strange, or is becoming a hindrance in ANY WAY, it’s time to cut him/her loose. I’ve seen many women experience this especially with spouses or in-laws which is very unfortunate. In my situation it happened to be my aunt. She is a recovering addict and I am not going to disclose too much here since my blog is public, but I couldn’t have made it through the month that my parents were gone without her. I will be forever grateful to her for the help she gave me when I needed it most. She stayed with us five days a week while I worked from home and even took care of Brock at night so both Rob and I could sleep. It was a blessing and I felt like I got to know her very well. I hadn’t communicated much with her in the past and it turned out we had similar senses of humor and our personalities just meshed. It was awesome! I knew to not get too attached because of previous family members’ experiences but my mom (who is her older sister) thought things had changed with her for the better. About two weeks ago we had a total falling out and it was one of those instances where you know damn well you did nothing wrong, but the other person involved either conceives something in her mind that isn’t really true just so she can cope with whatever is truly going on, or the relationship needed to end and there wasn’t an easy way for her to do it. With my situation it was a bit of both. I was ready to start “weaning” myself off of the support in a sense and was getting to the point where I was going to tell her to only stay on Friday nights and Saturdays, but it never got there. I haven’t heard from her now in over a week and I doubt I will for a while.

Not all women have family to support them. Even some of my friends have gotten weird on me now that I have a little one. A few of them haven’t even seen him yet and he’s almost five months old. My sister who lives in town is so busy with her social life that she doesn’t see him very often. My other sister with kids of her own doesn’t live here but she has her own problems and that’s an entire can of worms by itself. The point is, it doesn’t matter who your support is. I stumbled upon the Postpartum Anxiety Support Group on Facebook during one of my random midnight Internet searches to help me find anything that could help me. The ladies on the board all have their own experiences, vastly different from one another, but there is common ground there. It feels good just to be able to post and know someone else is reading it, someone else relates to me, I AM NOT ALONE.

My bonding with my son is getting much better. This is the second weekend I have had him by myself after my husband goes to work and my confidence is building. I am proud of myself for conquering my fear of this. I still have my moments and hours where I am wondering what to do with him, because not every day is a good day for him. Those are the days when I still wonder why I had a child. It helps me to wonder what I would be doing if I didn’t have him. I’d be sitting at home by myself with my dog and cat, reading or watching TV. I’d be going out to eat with friends or going to a movie. I would feel the missing piece that wasn’t yet there – my son. I can still enjoy my hobbies and do all the things I want to do, it just requires more planning and perhaps I am not able to indulge as often. But it’s all worth it in the end.

My number one cheerleader and rock star has been my husband. Many men do not understand postpartum issues but he is my rock. I remember quite a few mornings when I got up with the baby and had to go upstairs and wake Rob up two hours later because I couldn’t stop crying. He held me and told me it would be okay, that everything is all right. He stepped up to the plate and shouldered a lot of burdens those first couple months and I will never forget that. He kept believing in me and never blamed me for anything.

Some of my other family members have helped tremendously (including in-laws), whether it be having lunch with me to take my mind off things, meeting me at a doctor’s appointment, or just talking on the phone about how my day was. They’ll never truly know how much they’ve helped me.

I will also never forget my doula Erica Delmore and all that she has done for me. She will be my doula again if I have another child. My doctors, coworkers, therapists, family members, husband, neighbors, friends — even my dog and cat — have all helped me to some extent or another and I will always be grateful for it. Reaching out can be hard for some people, but for me it was the first thing I did and I still do it.

I guess I will end on the note that people are transient in our lives sometimes and serve one purpose or many. I learned that with my aunt. Everything happens for a reason and I believe that. I also believe that anyone who is negative or brings me down does not belong in my life, and it’s important to cut those people off as much as you can when going through PPA or just life in general, really. My old boss called negative people like that “dump trucks”, because all they do is dump on you. In addition to having a support system, it’s important to dump the dump trucks in your life.

Snowballing

When my anxiety is at its peak, it’s the most awful feeling. The week after my parents left town, I was pretty much nonstop crying and terrified at the same time. I became disassociated and felt like I was in a dream, like my life wasn’t mine. Who the fuck am I, what am I doing here and why did I have this baby? Tracy this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. You aren’t meant to be a mom. Other moms have it together and make it look so easy, why can’t you do that? It’s really not that hard. Rob isn’t having a hard time being a dad at all so what’s your problem? You don’t deserve your husband and son. You’re a FAILURE.

These are just a few of the random strings of thought that go cascading through my brain out of nowhere at any given time. They snowball on top of each other, one after another, until I’m a complete sobbing useless mess and can’t even look at my son without crying. My husband was so tired for a couple of weeks because not only was he doing the night feedings but he also had to deal with my illness on top of it. I just wanted to be better, to feel normal, to not have this hulking beast attached to my back weighing me down. Would it ever get better? Yes. It does and it has, but it’s three steps forward, one step back. My confidence is getting better and then something will happen like Brock not sleeping well and I’ll obsess for hours and Google all sorts of stupid shit because I get convinced that something is wrong and it won’t get better and here we go again and… you get the picture.

Everyone expects you to be SO happy and blissful after the birth of your child.  Everyone.  If you’re not then there clearly must be something wrong with you because don’t you see all the ads on motherhood and baby products, and all the celebrities walking around toting their little ones like prized possessions to show off?  Well, sorry.  I was fucking miserable.  I love my son but dear God I had never felt so uprooted in my entire life, let alone with all the other changes going on.  If my new job wasn’t just an internal transfer/promotion I probably wouldn’t have taken it.  My psychiatrist and therapist both said I have some kind of adjustment disorder, which has happened to me in the past with major life changes (getting married, buying a house, graduating law school, etc.) but never on this kind of scale.  I didn’t know who I was anymore, like I was just floating around with nothing to ground myself on.  I have an awesome husband, a great job, a beautiful baby, my own house… and yet I feel like this?  That started making me feel like an ungrateful bitch, but my therapist said that as long as I am not doing or thinking anything to purposely harm someone else, it’s nothing to feel guilty over.  That has gotten me through many irrational thoughts and I just repeat, repeat, repeat.  I don’t hide from anyone and pretty much everyone who knows me is aware to some extent that I’ve had some postpartum issues.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of and if anyone is going to judge me for it then that’s their problem, not mine.

Right after all this started happening I was convinced I would never have another child.  I never wanted to go through this teething, waking up every hour, cracked and bleeding nipples, why the fuck won’t he sleep crap EVER again.  I’ve changed my tune since then because I’ve always wanted two children and the worst of it seems to be behind me, for now.  I kept hearing from people that it gets better and it truly does.  I still take medication and all that, but my number one sanctity is to take a time out, take some deep breaths, and talk to someone I trust.  These days that’s pretty limited to my husband, my doula and my mom.  All of them understand and I just need someone to tell me that I’m doing an okay job, that this is all normal, and it’s going to be okay.  I don’t strive to be a perfect mom because there’s no such thing.  The best mother is the one that’s good enough, and that’s all I can do.  I feel like there is a wall up sometimes between me and my son.  I don’t know what he’s thinking or what he’s going through, I can’t really communicate with him in any adult way, and it’s up to me to make him feel better.  That’s a lot of pressure but at the same time I have to relax and just go with the flow.  Every day is different and that’s how it will be for the rest of my life.  Doesn’t mean I have to like it and I still probably won’t ever get used to that, but that’s the way it is.

The Beginning… of what I thought was the end of my sanity

“Wow, you have a new baby? He’s adorable, don’t you just LOVE being a mom?”

These types of questions make me grimace inside, but instead I smile and nod, usually say thanks. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re afraid of what will come out of your mouth if you don’t, right?

I decided to start blogging about my experiences with postpartum anxiety in order to have an outlet for myself and perhaps even help other women with similar struggles. I am now almost 20 weeks postpartum and things are much better than they were, but I still struggle on almost a daily basis.

My postpartum anxiety problems started long before I had my baby. I considered myself a crunchy mom and wanted to use cloth diapers, have an all-natural birth (no drugs), exclusively breastfeed, the list goes on. I felt that these were all things I could and more importantly SHOULD do and any deviation was unacceptable. I knew that I had to be flexible and things wouldn’t work out to be 100% what I wanted, but knowing that and experiencing it are two vastly different things. I hired a doula who I became very close with and she helped me through the pregnancy and is still helping me with some issues I have related to baby development questions, etc.

I had a high risk pregnancy because I have lupus, hypothyroidism and other ailments that posed potential threats to my health and the health of my unborn child (in addition to all of the lovely risks of pregnancy to begin with). I graduated law school in May 2011, passed the Nevada Bar exam in July 2011, got a new job and then found out I was pregnant on June 12, 2012. It didn’t come as any surprise as I hadn’t been on any birth control since the beginning of the year and we were technically “trying”, it just happened on our first attempt. I really wanted a boy and that’s what we got! Brock Stanley Crofford was born on February 12, 2013. I was 39 weeks along and had to be induced, but was still able to experience a vaginal birth which I very much desired.

My parents left to go out of the country for a month on April 14, 2013. Being without my mom SUCKED. Prior to this, my husband and I were experiencing the typical lack of sleep associated with having a new baby in the house. The birth was fairly smooth but my husband Rob got food poisoning that same day and went downstairs to the hospital ER. My brother in law who was staying at our house to take care of our pets let the cat out (our three-legged handicapped cat, at that) and he was still missing when we got home. Luckily Gimpy (aptly named) came back to us a day later. Rob subsequently came down with a cold which he shared me and then, as it were, I shared with Brock. Brock was hospitalized for a week at three weeks old for bronchiolitis, which is apparently somewhat common in babies. Trying to breastfeed while he was hooked up to oxygen, an IV, a heart rate monitor and some type of breathing apparatus was not working for me. I got maybe 10 hours of sleep in five days, which is something I have never experienced before. Not only that, but there was no bathroom in his hospital room so we had to keep running down the hall to use the facilities and I had to wash my hair in the sink. Meanwhile, Brock was still hungry every hour and would only sleep if I was holding him. I was high on so much adrenaline at the time I couldn’t even think straight, I just did what needed to be done and slept when I could.

Fast forward to the day my parents left and I had a massive panic attack/nervous breakdown. I reiterate, not having my mom here sucked. She’s an angel and had helped me for a couple weeks while I worked from home. Both of my parents support me throughout everything I do and they would be across the world for a month. I was experiencing the worst lupus flare of my life. My joint pain was so bad I could hardly walk across the living room, let alone up the stairs. I almost dropped the baby once when my hands froze up and gave out on me. I had developed vasculitis that spread from my calves to my thighs, and eventually ended up on my arms, neck and even my face and hands. I saw my rheumatologist and my bloodwork was the worst its ever been. Autoimmune diseases are very misunderstood — just because I don’t “look” sick doesn’t mean I don’t have serious health issues. Just like you can’t “see” sometimes that someone has cancer doesn’t mean anything. My immune system attacks my healthy tissue and as a result I have massive inflammation, joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, fever, nausea, rashes and kidney issues. Of course I had to go on medication for it which consequently had forced me to stop breastfeeding. Me, Ms. Anti-Formula, didn’t do well with that. Then I had the hormone drop from the weaning, the physical issues associated with my lupus, it was the perfect storm. Also, I was starting a new job on 4/16 (if it wasn’t such a big promotion I wouldn’t have even considered that).

I had panic attacks in the past but nothing like this. I was scared of the baby, didn’t want to be alone with him, couldn’t stop crying, had crazy guilty feelings about what I was putting my husband though, a racing heart, racing brain, felt like a piece of shit run over five thousand times… I just couldn’t get it together. I woke up at 2 AM and BEGGED my husband not to go to work because I didn’t want to be alone. He couldn’t call out but my mother in law came over. I tried to take a nap but I just remember this pit in my stomach, a feeling of absolute dread. I couldn’t get rid of it. I didn’t eat for three days. I think I saw three different doctors that week and got on Wellbutrin XL and Klonopin, after going to the Urgent Care that Sunday. When they shot me up with Ativan it barely brought me down to earth, when in the past such a dose of that drug would have knocked me on my ass. Luckily my sister met me at Urgent Care (after she dropped our parents off at the airport), mother in law stepped in to help and my aunt came over to stay with me while I worked from home to take care of the baby. I had somewhat of a support system lined up in place, but still felt extremely guilty for not wanting anything to do with my own son. My aunt is also a story to earmark for a different post.

Thanks to my husband, parents, family, friends, doula and many others who have supported me, I am doing much better now. I still have bad days and when my son is fussy it almost causes me to break down. I think I suffered a major adjustment period because I had so much going on at once and let’s face it, motherhood changes your life forever. Some of it is good and admittedly some of it is bad. Our society places so much pressure on moms to be and do everything and it just isn’t possible. It truly does take a village to raise a child and I am still learning that every day.

I obsess and freak out over everything. I was raised by a hypersensitive mother and can’t turn my brain off. Babies are so unpredictable and I know this, but I thrive off of routine. Any changes that occur throw me for a loop depending on how severe they are. Brock’s sleeping habits are probably the number one source of my anxiety along with me not wanting to be alone with him for long periods of time. My husband works swing shift and that has almost 90% to do with all of this because he’s not home with me at night and on weekends except two nights a week. However, he does do the night feeding(s) for me which helps drastically because I can sleep. Some women have husbands who are total assholes and don’t help at all.

I suppose I should wrap this post up but my next posts will probably talk about how I felt and how I overcame certain obstacles – in other words, what tools I use to continually try to beat down my anxiety before it beats me.