Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Medication- a light in a dark room.

     When I was originally diagnosed with PPD and PTSD, the option of medication was introduced.  I had never considered taking any kind of psychiatric medication, and the thought of it was not attractive to me.  I had found my therapist and trusted her implicitly.  I knew that if I was going to get through this, part of the control was going to have to be handed over to someone else.  I was not going to be able to find my way out of this on my own.
     My biggest concern was not for myself- I was worried about how medication would affect my baby.  I was nursing and planned to continue to do so.  Although my doctors assured me that medication was perfectly safe while breastfeeding, I had begun to question medicine completely after the experience I had when Hayden was born.
     I went to therapy for about 2 or 3 months, without medication.  I did make some progress, but I was having a great deal of trouble following through with a lot of my homework.  The therapy was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- also known as CBT- a type of therapy that involves doing things that might be uncomfortable in order to change thought patterns.  In my case, this involved things like going out in public with my baby- I was terrified of him getting sick so for the most part, we stayed at home.  I was also supposed to be doing some sort of exercise- exercise has been proven to be just as effective as an antidepressant in mild cases of depression- but I could not find the motivation.  I was supposed to be sticking to some kind of routine during the day, but had trouble following through.  I felt tired all the time, but I wasn't sleeping.  I had physical pain that did not have any medical origin.  I had nightmares and constant anxiety.  It became painfully clear to me that I may have to try the medication in order to function.
     After doing a great deal of research on websites like and, and reading Dr. Hale's book, Medication and Mother's Milk, I decided to give the medication a try.  In my case, the medication was Zoloft, a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, or ssri.  After two weeks or so, I was convinced that the medication was not working.  I didn't really feel any different.  Then one day, I realized that Hayden had started smiling at me a lot.  I thought, "well, isn't this interesting- he must be going through some new stage in development where he smiles a lot."  And then it hit me- he was smiling BACK at me.  I noticed that things that had caused me so much anxiety all of a sudden did not seem like such a big deal.  I found myself thinking- now what was I so upset about?  I was sleeping, and the mysterious pains were gone.
     The best way I can describe the feeling of taking medication when you truly need it for depression is this.  Imagine you are in a dark room, a room in which you have never been before.  There is furniture, but you aren't familiar with the placement.  You don't even know where the door is in relation to where you stand.  You fumble around, trying to feel your way out of the room.  You trip over furniture, you stub your toe.  You sit down in the middle of the room in frustration, defeated.
     Taking medication is like turning on the light in that room.  All of a sudden, you can see things for what they are.  You have the ability to work your way toward the door.  It might still be difficult to get there due to the obstacles that are present, but you are able to get there because you have the right tool.  Medication is a great tool to have in your arsenal to help you find your way out of depression.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Helpful links a therapist in Northern Illinois, specializing in PPD and PTSD following childbirth. Illinois Postpartum Alliance, information on therapists, resources, and symptoms. a great general resource about PPD. for the dads affected by PPD. birth trauma website, information on PPD and PTSD following childbirth. information on all things mothering, nursing, and medication.  Includes a section on drugs and their safety during pregnancy/breastfeeding. a natural living online magazine, and a forum for mothers to discuss natural family living.  Includes a discussion forum on mental health and postpartum depression. information on natural treatment for depression and anxiety. period.html- information on anxiety disorders after pregnancy.  I found this one especially helpful.  - Link to a group of therapists and psychiatrists with locations in Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, and Crystal Lake, IL.  For those more interested in an alternative to medication and traditional therapy, Dr. Janeen Paul at this practice is certified in Life Force Yoga, which is a form of yoga that is useful in treating mild to moderate depression. - this is a blog article that I found.  I felt it was very useful and helpful in helping new moms facing the choice of whether or not to take medicine for their depression, and it answers back many of the critics of depression medication.

Who, me?

     My first child was born in 2005.  My husband and I had waited for so many years to get pregnant, and had lost two pregnancies already.  We wanted children so badly, and in fact had been researching adoption at the time I became pregnant.
     I was on bedrest for the last third of the pregnancy, due to preeclampsia, which is a condition in which a pregnant woman's blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels. On the day of my 38 week well visit, it was discovered that my blood pressure was 160/100.  My doctor announced that I was being induced that day.  Immediately.
     "I left the coffee machine on.  I am completely unprepared.  I have no bag packed.  I have no birth plan.  I have two more weeks!"  The thoughts were racing through my mind.
     I was admitted and induced.  My labor lasted for approximately 30 hours.  I was attached to a monitor that was broken (which we did not learn until later).  They did not see contractions on the monitor, and even though I was screaming in pain, the nurse insisted that I was not having contractions.  They kept turning up the dose of pitocin.  Even through the epidural, I could feel the pain.  It was excruciating.  I wanted to die.  I hoped for death.  I should have been more careful what I was wishing for.
     After pushing for 3 hours with no progress, I was taken in for a C section.  I was shaking so badly from all of the pitocin that the doctor could not see what she was doing.  She could not get the baby out because he was so stuck from 3 hours of hard pushing.  She was pulling him so hard that my hips were coming up off the table.  That is the last thing I remember.  They put me under general anesthesia in the middle of the surgery.
     I found out later that I nearly died.  I lost so much blood during the surgery that I needed a blood transfusion.  My son, who they brought to me as soon as I was conscious, could not nurse.  He threw up green bile every time I tried to feed him.  He cried and could not be consoled.  They took him away to the NICU and I didn't see him for a couple of days.  No one would tell me what was wrong with him.  They couldn't because they didn't know.  I found out later that on the third day of his life, he passed his meconium.  It was about 6 inches long and solid.  He had basically had an intestinal blockage for the first 3 days and could not nurse because it hurt.  I had a neonatologist from Children's Hospital in Chicago that could not figure out that this baby had not pooped and that is why he wasn't eating.  Any mother in the world could have told her all she needed to do was give him a suppository or take his temperature rectally.  Anyone with common sense could have figured that out.  But Dr. Wonderful had him on two different IV antibiotics, she was taking abdominal x rays, she gave him a feeding tube through which they were feeding him formula- the last thing on earth that I wanted.  She had no regard for my wishes as a mother and used my new baby as a science experiment.  I had no control.  Or so I thought at the time.
     It took me a couple of days to recover from my surgery and the blood loss that accompanied it.  Once my head was clear, I walked in to the NICU at that hospital and fired my son's doctor.  I took him home that day, and that, not the day I gave birth, was the day I became a mother.
     I realize now that mistakes were made.  I know now that a lot of what happened when my son was born was hospital error followed by hospital covering their collective rear ends.  A doctor I spoke to about the experience later called it "defensive medicine."  I know now that I had the power all along to refuse any treatment that they wanted to give him, that as his mother *I* make the decisions.
     A year passed, and what a wonderful year it was.  Except for the worry.  Except for not sleeping.  Except for the flashbacks to the birth and the nightmares about a nurse telling me my son was not going to make it.  It was not until my son was a year old that I found a therapist who could tell me what was wrong.  It was Postpartum Depression- PPD.  And Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD.  And so begins my journey.  So begins the rebirth from PPD.  I hope that my story and my research can be helpful to new moms and dads.