It was the summer of 2002 when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, a boy. I was over the moon. It took my husband and I quite a while to conceive. I had fertility issues and underwent tons of testing. But there I was- finally pregnant!
Then the preparations began: infant care books to read, breastfeeding class, Lamaze, shopping, nursery painted, supplies were bought. I was ready. Bring on baby boy!!
I had pre-eclampsia and was induced at 40+ weeks due to my high blood pressure. It was a rough labor and then an emergency cesarean. The immediate postpartum was a disaster as well. I had a terrible reaction to the pain medication; my son wouldn’t latch on properly; when he did finally latch on, he would fall asleep; he lost weight; I hurt and we both cried…a lot.
“This is not what I had planned for.”
During my early pregnancy my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he had to start chemo and radiation. That meant that my parents would not be able to come into town to help, as we had originally hoped. I had no family in the area to help and my friends had their families to attend to. To top it off, my husband started a new job the very same day baby and I were released from the hospital. My son and I were alone. This was not what I had planned for.
We did make it through the early months. At times it was very isolating, and I struggled. Looking back, I recognize that I likely suffered through a mild episode of postpartum depression. Fortunately, our family eventually found our rhythm together, and began to thrive.
Fast forward to 2006, when my daughter was born. Another cesarean birth. Another tough recovery. (I guess that happens when you are allergic to pretty much every pain medication under the sun!) Fortunately, within a few days, I was able to get the pain under control. This time, baby girl latched on and nursed beautifully. She gained weight and thrived. I, however, did not. My “baby blues” didn’t disappear. They just got worse. I saw my OB at my 6 week visit and was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
I am grateful to my family and friends that supported me through those tough times, but I needed professional help. With support and treatment I was able to recover from my postpartum depression.
“That’s just the thing…postpartum depression isn’t a lack of self-care.”
Why am I sharing this? After all, I am a postpartum doula; I should know exactly how to take care of myself postpartum…right? That’s just the thing…postpartum depression isn’t a lack of self-care. Postpartum depression doesn’t care if you are taking care of yourself or others are caring for you. It doesn’t care if it’s your first or 6th child, if you have a supportive spouse or family. Postpartum depression doesn’t care if you have a degree or certification. No one is immune.
“But over the years, I have taken my postpartum experience as fuel.”
I used to dread answering the question, “How was your postpartum period?” I felt like it should have been better. But over the years, I have taken my postpartum experience as fuel. Fuel to keep me moving forward, studying, and learning all I can to help my postpartum clients. While I may not be able to take away their depression, or care them out of it. I can help them identify the early signs. I can encourage them to seek professional help and to take time for self-care, therapy and rest. I can support them through this period with first hand experience.
I no longer dread the question, “How was your postpartum period?”. I proudly tell my experience and how I made it to the other side. I use my experience to educate, support and encourage.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of postpartum depression:
-Loss of appetite
-Loss of interest in sex
-Lack of joy
-Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
-Severe mood swings
-Difficulty bonding w/baby
-Withdrawal from family/friends
-Thoughts of harming self/baby,
Please speak with your physician for help.
Lisa is apostpartum doula, breastfeeding educator,infant massage instructor,Bengkung Belly Binderand owner of Nurtured Foundation, LLC. She serves the Greater Cleveland Area.
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