Tag Archives: postnatal depression

EAT Baby EAT (or Postpartum Depression SUCKS)

Ophelia arrived and we thought she was an easy baby. Easier than Declan, for sure! Then her two month appointment came around and we found out that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. In the two months since then, we’ve been back at the doctor’s at least every two weeks (and sometimes more) for weight checks. We’ve tried different formulas, different bottles, different nipples, and different positions. We’ve given her two different reflux medicines and probiotic drops. We’re working with an Occupational Therapist and talking about whether we need to see a GI specialist. We’ve tried fortifying the formula. We started solids early. The doctors are flummoxed and I am frustrated. The girl just does not want to eat. Every time we seem to be doing better and I start to feel hopeful, she plummets again. A slight fever or shots or congestion or a new person can send her spiraling downward and my mood right alongside. I was so excited to get through those first few weeks of baby blues without signs of the depression that I experienced with Declan, but it seems it was just waiting in the wings. Ugh.

Since I have not been able to persuade my sister (who has a 1-year-old and another one on the way) to travel 4,500 miles on 3 planes to come and save me from myself like she did the last time, I have started seeing a counselor for the first time ever. In our first visit it was just good to talk to someone who is being paid to listen. She gave me some tools and tips to try the next time I felt the darkness descending. While I am struggling to actually apply these while I am feeling sad, I think we’re off to a good start:

  • My biggest problem is dwelling on the negative. When Ophelia has a bad feed I immediately imagine all the worst possible scenarios. I focus on the unfairness of the situation and find myself dealing in absolutes – she’s never going to eat well again, we’re never going to get past this, I’m never going to be able to feed her in public or leave her with a babysitter (or even my husband, since she won’t eat for him!). One action to counter this is to focus on every positive thing that happens, no matter how small. I’ve been writing them down as they happen so that during a sad moment I can look back and hopefully recognize that things aren’t all bad. These can be directly about the issue at hand (Ophelia is hitting all of her developmental milestones and is a pretty happy baby; she loves solids so far and is really good at eating them for how young she is; she’s staying hydrated; she gained some weight), or can be about anything good at all (Declan pooped in the potty; we had a lovely Christmas as a family; I have super supportive colleagues).
  • I need to notice when I am placing expectations on Ophelia that result in disappointment when she fails to meet them. Instead of being upset and frustrated because she should have eaten 3oz but only ate 1, I need to change my language to “it would have been nice if she ate 3oz, but it’s okay that she didn’t.” This is a particularly hard one. Rational me knows that it’s absolutely fine if she has one bad feed, but irrational PPD me is angry that she isn’t eating as much as I want her to.
  • Related to that, I also need to stop making assumptions when I don’t have all the facts. One bad feed does not necessarily mean that the entire day will be bad. One bad day does not mean that she’ll never eat again. (Repeat and repeat again until I believe it.)
  • With all of these, I have found that it helps to have an external voice reinforce all of it since sad me does not listen to rational me. My husband struggles to deal with me on bad days and doesn’t know what to do, so recruiting him to be my voice of reassurance helps us both! He just repeats the same points – we’re focusing on wet diapers, she’s developing normally, she loves solids, etc., etc., – but it really helps to hear it spoken out loud by someone else.
  • The counselor also gave me some exercises to try when I feel overwhelmed – all designed to help me focus on physical sensations as a distraction from my emotions. These help if I can persuade myself to actually do them when needed!

Postpartum depression sucks. Or any kind of depression for that matter. If you haven’t suffered it then it is impossible to understand what someone is going through when they are in the midst of an attack. It’s not just about feeling sad. It’s about feeling so overwhelmed by sadness or anxiety or even anger that nothing else matters. It’s about knowing deep inside yourself that you are being completely irrational but being unable to stop. It’s imagining every possible worst case scenario and being absolutely convinced that they will all come true. It’s seeing yourself be horrible to those around you and being unable to stop. It’s not being able to see an end to the sadness and lacking the motivation to do anything that might help. It’s feeling overwhelmed, out of control, lost, alone.

I don’t really have a point to this post except that writing and sharing helps.

Here’s Ophelia happily eating solids to cheer us all up. Thanks for listening!

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In Pursuit of a Happier Mum, Or Why I Said Goodbye to Breastfeeding

The cloud has finally lifted!

Declan is almost two months old and I have officially given up breastfeeding. I almost didn’t want to publish this post since I know many people are huge advocates for breastfeeding (justifiably so) and will judge me for giving up so “easily” (nothing about this has been easy), but hopefully, at the very least, sharing my reasons might serve to reassure another mum going through the same struggles. I know all the cons of formula (so please don’t tell me about them) and I do have some guilt but, in the end, finding a happier mum for Declan was more important to me than persisting with something that was making me (and him) so miserable.  

I have been battling postnatal depression since Declan was born. I have had happy moments and sometimes whole days of relative calm, but most days have been spent alternating between anger, frustration, and sadness. Horribly, I often found myself angry with Declan. Angry when he wanted to feed again. Angry when he cried. Angry when he wouldn’t sleep. I knew that it was completely irrational to be mad at a tiny baby, but I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I hated him. How awful is that? When I wasn’t angry I was crying, and when I wasn’t angry or crying I was feeling guilty about both. None of these states were good for Declan and they certainly weren’t good for me. Over the last few weeks his feeding increased in frequency to the point that I didn’t feel like I was doing anything but nurse. My milk supply seemed fine and the doctor didn’t see a problem with how often he was feeding (it’s normal for it to fluctuate, apparently, and sometimes growth spurts can last several weeks), but I was finding it more and more stressful and depressing each day. His naps would last 20 minutes at the most before he woke up and demanded more food. 

Some selfishness did factor into my decision, as much as I wish that weren’t the case. I hated that I was the only one who could feed Declan and I resented that I couldn’t easily go anywhere or do anything. If this had been my only problem I’m pretty sure I would have persevered with the boobs, but when added to the depression it just made everything worse. I was having panic attacks about how we were ever going to leave the house for more than two hours, or how we were going to deal with me going back to work. Just making the decision to stop instantly made me feel calmer about the future.
 

Things improved immediately. Declan only woke once the first night to feed, and he went immediately back to sleep (a very rare occurrence – it would sometimes take me two hours to get him back to sleep after breastfeeding). Christian has been able to take on more feedings when he’s home. He’s napping for longer during the day. I no longer feel constant stress and dread about the next feed, and I’m not worried about how much he’s getting. 

On the first day after we made the change I went to Walmart to buy cat litter and formula. Alone. Leaving Declan at home with Christian. It was HEAVEN. I have never been so excited. I put on makeup and real pants (unusual for Walmart, I know) and practically skipped around the store. It was possible to leave Declan with Christian while breastfeeding, of course, and I did a couple of times, but it always came with the added stress of having to pump and store breastmilk every 3ish hours. No longer the case! 

A few days later, the night feedings continue to be much easier and I’m feeling GREAT. I even caught myself having a thought that began “if we have another baby…” That’s the first time I’ve been able to contemplate doing this again since he arrived! His naps are still somewhat longer and we’re getting more happy awake time than we are crying/fussing awake time (from both of us!) It feels like a miracle!  I haven’t felt this calm or happy since before he was born. This is how it’s SUPPOSED to be!

I don’t wish we’d done this sooner, because I’m really happy I was able to give Declan 8 weeks of breastmilk, but I’m so glad we’ve done it now while I still have a few weeks of maternity leave left to actually enjoy the little man. What a rollercoaster.

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Edit: I may have spoken a wee bit too soon about the longer naps! They only lasted two days and were likely a side effect of his two month vaccines. Oh well! 

Edit 2: This doesn’t mean I don’t still get frustrated or cry, I do, but the emotions no longer completely engulf me.