Friday, August 26, 2016

Welcome SJ!

Baby #5 is here, and it's another girl! Since it's been so long since I last posted, let me give a brief run-down of my pregnancy (skip the bullet points if you just want to read the birth story):
  • I found out I was pregnant at the end of November. Decided I wanted to surprise B1 (if at all possible), so I didn't tell him.
  • Announced pregnancy at Christmas, when E opened a gift of a pink shirt saying that she was a big sister.
  • "Morning" Sickness arrived pretty quickly (around 5-6 weeks), and brought a friend this time too--Fatigue. These two stuck around until about 20 weeks. I spent most of this time not wanting to eat and/or too exhausted to eat. Thankfully Jr was old enough to help me feed the kids. They survived on healthy, home-cooked meals like cereal and boxed mac and cheese.
  • At 21-week ultrasound, I was barely feeling the baby move, which was very odd. I was terrified that something was wrong. Statistically, I felt we had been too lucky. I have never miscarried, or had any complications (pregnancy or delivery), and my babies have always been healthy and full-term. It felt like our time was due. So, I was scared to go to the ultrasound and hear what was wrong with our baby--why we hadn't felt him/her move, what genetic problems there were, etc. Happily, everything was fine. It turns out that the placenta had attached itself to the front of my uterus, so it was blocking most of the movements. The tech said that as the baby grew stronger, we would feel more movements. B1 and I decided to have another surprise baby, so we did not find out the baby's sex at the appointment.
Baby is a thumb sucker

  • Shortly after the ultrasound, leg and groin pain kicked in. It got progressively worse until it became extremely painful to get out of bed, walk up/down stairs, push a grocery cart, change E's diapers...you know, live the mom life. I read about various causes of these pains, and most said they got better around 24-26 weeks, so I waited...and waited. At 26 weeks I was still dying, so I called my OB's office and got a referral to a physical therapist, and called a scheduled an appointment--a month later. 4 more weeks of pain, and finally went to the physical therapist at 30 weeks along. Turns out my abductor muscles (groin muscles, but sounds better) were extremely tight, and that was causing my pain. Easy enough solution: heat, massage, and stretching. I walked out of there feeling better than I had in 2 months, and over the next 8-9 weeks it got progressively better.
  • At 33 weeks, we went to California for a week and a half. It was the only time that summer that we would be able to go, and the kids were dying to see their other grandparents. B1 was not able to drive down or back with us, but was able to fly down in the middle of the trip and spend a few days with us. Thanks to the long car drives, I had some wicked swelling in my legs. It started that first day we drove down, and my legs remained swollen throughout the rest of the pregnancy. My hands started swelling too, a few weeks later, so I wasn't able to wear my wedding ring. :(
  • Around 35-36 weeks, I was feeling the best I had all pregnancy. Leg/groin pain was mostly gone (swelling was still there, but I could handle that), fatigue and nausea were gone, and life was good. Braxton Hicks contractions started, and were pretty consistent and frequent. At my 36 week check-up, I was already dilated to 3 cm and baby was head down. Everyone kept trying to tell me I was going to have the baby early, but I was adamant that I was not. Sure enough, at 37 weeks, I was still 3 cm. We stripped my membranes, but nothing happened. It was around the 37 week mark that baby decided to give me regular headbutts to the cervix. Super uncomfortable (at times painful), but I figure that this at least had to be helping me dilate, right? No. At 38 weeks, I was still 3 cm (no membrane stripping this time, because B1 had a busy flight schedule that week and I didn't want to risk him being gone). At 39 weeks, I was still 3 cm, and we stripped membranes again--nothing.
  • Due date was August 5th. At this point, I had had 3 non-induced babies: B2 and E were born on their due dates, and A was born the day after. So, I was planning on a delivery on August 5th or 6th. By the time August 5th rolled around, I had already lost count of the number of comments I had had -- "Haven't you had that baby yet?" "Aren't you due sometime soon?" "Has baby arrived?" "Any time now, right?" August 5th came...and went. No worries, I told myself. It'll be tomorrow. August 6th came...and went. I think I cried a little that night. I seriously debated going to church on the 7th, but I did -- and only cried 2 or 3 times as people asked me about the baby and when he/she was coming. And then August 7th passed, and August 8th too.
Well, onto the birth story. On August 9th (B1's birthday), we had our 40 week/5 day appointment. I was not happy about still being pregnant, but still hoping for a natural, non-induced labor. I was happy to hear that I had actually dilated! I was now 4 cm. The doctor stripped my membranes around 4:00 p.m., and we all pretty much knew that this was it. Sure enough, within the hour contractions started. We did lots and lots of walking to encourage them, and they were coming every 3-5 minutes and increasing in intensity. B1 went home and packed overnight supplies for the kids (they were sleeping at Grandma White's house). Around 9:30 p.m., B1 offers a trial "drive" to see if the contractions stay consistent when I sit down. The drive destination? The hospital, of course. To his surprise, I say yes, and we take off. During the 30 minute drive, I have 3 contractions. Great. So, when we get there, we walk a few laps of the parking lot, and the contractions go back to 3-5 min apart. We go inside and get set up in the triage room, and I'm now 5.5 cm dilated, so I am admitted.

Now begins the waiting game. We watch a little bit of the Olympic coverage, and then an interesting show about how the grandiose nature of the Olympics can be traced back to Hitler, and I even get some sleep. The downside is that this means my contractions are slow and weak, and 2 hours later I hadn't even dilated a smidge--still 5.5 cm. We're now in the wee hours of August 10th, and the nurse (under doctor's orders) suggests either breaking my waters or starting a pitocin drip. I had wanted a.) a natural, un-medicated, non-medical-intervention birth with b.) no IV in my hand/arm (if you remember, I was all ready to throw a fit about not getting the IV with E's birth, but I was Group B positive so I had to have it for the antibiotics; I was Group B negative this time, so I was looking forward to no IV. However, at one of my later appointments, Dr. Melendez explained that one reason they encourage the IV, even if it's locked off, is because the risk of hemorrhage increases with each pregnancy, and if there's an emergency and the mother is hemorrhaging, it can be difficult to insert an IV). However, I was also SO done being pregnant, and had scheduled our induction for the following day (August 11th). I opted for the pitocin, since it was something I could turn off if my contractions picked up speed or I changed my mind, but I couldn't go back on breaking the waters. Also, it just seems like it's so much easier to push out the baby when the waters are still in tact. So, they hooked me up with pitocin, and after a few adjustments, my contractions picked up. It wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered with D, which was nice.

At 6:00 a.m. the nurse informs me that they changed doctors early, and Dr Ollerton was now on. I knew that August 10th was his day, and also knew that Dr Lamoreaux was the back-up doctor. Over the course of the pregnancy, I had 3 or 4 separate conversations with different doctors at Valley OB, and they all had confirmed that if I didn't like the on-call doctor, I could call in the back-up doctor. So, I explained this to the nurse, and asked her to call Dr. Lamoreaux. She tried to convince me to use Dr. Ollerton, and seemed hesitant, but I insisted that she call Dr. Lamoreaux. She did, and came to let me know that Dr. Lamoreaux would be the delivering doctor. He came in at 7:00 a.m. to check on me. I was now 9 cm dilated, and he offered (he did not "recommend" or "insist" -- just offered; this is one of many reasons why I love this doctor so much) to break my water. At this point, I would have done just about anything to birth this baby, so I agreed. 38 minutes later, our baby was born, waving (she came out with one hand up by her head, making birthing her shoulders the most painful thing I've ever felt). The nurse lifted my head so I could see that we had another daughter. This was the first time the baby's sex had not been announced to me, but where I had seen for myself. They put her on my stomach while they cleaned her up a bit and cut the cord. I was so relieved to finally have this awful pregnancy behind me and to start feeling better.

B1 and I named our baby girl SJ. And yes, those are both her first names (no middle name), and we plan to call her SJ, not S or J (though I think the nickname my brother gave her of SayJay is pretty cute). She was 7 lbs, 12 oz, and 19.5 inches long, and absolutely perfect.

As they took SJ to weigh her and all, Dr. Lamoreaux kept working on me. The placenta was being stubborn and not wanting to come out. Usually it doesn't take long for me to deliver the placenta, but this one wasn't coming. Dr. Lamoreaux was being very patient, careful not to yank it out prematurely. When it finally was delivered, he said that it was looking ragged, though whole, so he had the nurses bring in an ultrasound machine to double-check that no pieces were left behind. After a few minutes with the ultrasound, he said everything looked good, congratulated us, and headed off for his appointments in the office.

It seems every time we have a baby, there's a new policy or procedure in place at the hospital. This time, as the nurse explains, it's common for the hospital to keep us in the delivery room for 1-2 hours after birth before moving us to our room on the floor below. While we're waiting, I ordered and ate a big breakfast (I was starving after the long night), I tried feeding SJ (I never know if babies actually get anything from those early feedings), and we just enjoyed our time with our brand new baby. And, of course, the nurse bustles around, cleaning up the messes, checking my bleeding, etc. As she does, she keeps pushing back our relocation time, saying that she is noticing that I'm still bleeding more than I should. Every 15 minutes or so, she "massages" (reads: applies extreme force to) my uterus to help it contract; with each "massage" my body gets a little more sore, meaning that each "massage" is a little more painful. In addition to the pain of having my uterus pounded on, I was also having pains in my upper abdomen, right under my sternum and into my rib cage. After several hours of this, I'm also getting more and more tired from the pain. This is usually my "I feel great" time, where I'm going to the bathroom on my own and getting frustrated with the nurses' concern because I feel perfectly fine, but instead I'm still in lots of pain and getting weaker, not stronger. During this time, the nurse is giving me two different types of medicine to help my uterus contract. According to her, there are two main reasons why someone continues to bleed heavily after giving birth: placenta being left in the uterus, or a "lazy uterus" that doesn't contract back down to size. Since the ultrasound didn't show any placenta left in my uterus, they give me medication (one is a shot in the thigh, and the other is some type of pill that goes up my...er...backside) to help the uterus contract. And, at some point during the day, a doctor comes in (I don't even remember who) and says that my upper abdomen pain was stomach spasms.

Around 11:00, I'm starting to feel pretty miserable, and the bleeding is just as bad as right after I delivered. I asked B1 to call his dad to come in and give me a blessing. He came down, and by this point I was so tired that I was just lying still, trying to control the pain. They gave me a blessing, and I felt much better--not so much physically, but emotionally. I had faith that I would be okay. I also asked B1 to let the families know what was going on so we could have some extra prayers being said on my behalf. I've always heard people say that they could feel the power of others' prayers, but I had never experienced that until this day. I really did feel the power of their faith.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur. For me, it was a never-ending pattern of uterus "massage" followed by trying to sleep (aside from small naps around midnight, I hadn't really slept in over 24 hours) but being unsuccessful due to the close timings of the "massages." Just as I was starting to recover from the pain of the last "massage," the nurse would come back in and dig into my stomach. While I didn't always see what was coming out with each massage, I could feel it, and I knew that I was still passing large clots and large volumes of blood. She was also weighing the blood and keeping a running total. At some point they also had someone take blood to start matching, just in case I needed a transfusion. I remember wondering why they were taking it out of my elbow when I had two separate IVs (one in my left forearm and one in my right wrist). This would not be the last time that poor elbow was used for blood draws.

Sometime in the early afternoon, the nurse commented that she wanted to change my linens. I felt super gross, and asked if I could take a bath while she did that and try to clean off some of the blood that was on me. She agreed, though hesitantly, and B1 helped me to the tub. I wasn't in there too long. She asked how I was feeling, and I said a little sick to my stomach, to which she immediately and firmly told B1 that I needed to get out of the tub NOW. I was slightly reclined, and as I sat up to get out, I started to black out and my body went limp. I don't think I completely lost consciousness, as I remember being dragged out of the tub (it was odd, because I wanted to help get myself out, but for some reason my body wasn't working) and across the floor of the room. The nurse and B1 were desperately trying to get me back in bed, but as B1 later described it, I was like a "greased up pig" -- slippery from the water from the tub and the blood that was still coming out. As I was lying next to the bed while they were trying to get a good hold on me (I was still unable to move my limbs), I started throwing up. And then I threw up some more. And some more. That big, delicious breakfast all came up, and even though I was now lying in a pool of water, blood, and barf, at least my stomach felt better. I don't recall getting back onto the bed, but somehow the nurse and B1 got me there, and more nurses came in and helped clean up the mess that was just made. My nurse also kindly cleaned me up, sponge-bath style. From that point on, I couldn't handle anything in my stomach. The nurse gave me Percocet to handle the pain -- I threw it up. I was so thirsty, so B1 got me juice, Sprite, and water -- I threw that up. I ate an ice chip--I threw it up. Throughout the morning, I was getting fluids through my IV, but I was so incredibly thirsty, and so very, very tired. The stomach spasms calmed down as long as my stomach remained empty.

It was around 3:00, I think, that I just wanted to hold my baby. I hadn't been able to hold her since the morning. She had been given a formula bottle sometime in the early afternoon, as I was just too weak to feed her. So, I asked B1 to let me hold her. He brought SJ over, and I was too weak to move my arms to hold her, so he placed her next to me and I turned my head to be as close to her as possible. I hoped that having her near me would give me the strength I needed to get better.

Sometime after that, an ultrasound machine was brought back up and another ultrasound done on my uterus. Almost immediately, the tech said he could see a piece of placenta still in there. The doctor was called, and this time it was Dr. Jones who came in. He saw the ultrasound pictures and agreed that there was still placenta in the uterus. He explained that ultrasounds done immediately after delivery, when the uterus is still large and full of blood, are harder to see clearly. But, now that the uterus had time to shrink back down, it was much easier to see the placenta piece that was left behind. He recommended an immediate D and C surgery to remove the remaining piece. When he told me that I would be put under anesthesia for the surgery, I was thrilled. For me, this meant that I would have a good amount of time in which I wouldn't be conscious of pain. Preparations were made, and I was wheeled out for surgery, leaving B1 alone with SJ.


I was wheeled downstairs, and I remember some brief conversation with the anesthesiologist about being put under. I don't even remember having a mask put on my face -- maybe they gave me something via IV first, I don't know. I just know I woke up later, and as I was coming to, that nurse was explaining to someone that I had lost another 400 ML of blood in surgery, so I was up to 2400 ML (or 2.4 liters) of blood lost, and that I had been given one unit of blood in surgery. I was then wheeled back upstairs, but finally taken to the 2nd floor instead of back to the labor/delivery room. Almost immediately, I was feeling better. I ate dinner that night and kept it all down, and was able to drink again. I was, however, SUPER swollen from all the fluids that had been put into my IVs during the day. I was so swollen that every time I blinked, a bit of water would leak out my eyes. It felt like I was squeezing water from my eyes by blinking the way one might squeeze water from a sponge. Every hour that passed had me feeling better and better, and each trip to the bathroom released what felt like 3 gallons of fluid from my face. I could sit up on my own. I was even able to feed SJ again. I went to bed fairly early that night, and slept well despite the nurses checking on me regularly. 
 
Sometime in the early hours on the 11th, blood was drawn to check my hematocrit levels. Other than a growing headache, I was feeling pretty well. However, a while later, the results came back and my hematocrit was way low. According to the nurse, normal levels are around 38 or 39. Transfusion levels (where a transfusion is needed) is around 21. My levels were 16. So, I was given 2 more units of blood. After the first bag was hooked up, I suddenly got really tired, and fell asleep (like, dead to the world, not even noticing that they changed the blood bag while I was sleeping) for several hours. When I woke up, I was surprisingly refreshed. The nurse commented on how much better I was looking. I felt great, and was even given the okay to take a shower. What a difference that made! I felt just like I normally do post-delivery -- I wasn't in any pain, the swelling was gone, my headache was gone, and I was ready to receive visitors. B1 went to pick up the kids from Grandma's house so they could come meet SJ, but unfortunately as he loaded them into the van E started coughing a croup-like cough. So, she was left behind and the 3 boys were able to come meet their new sister. The boys were very excited to hold her. A asked me if we were going to have another baby (as he put it, "put another baby in [my] tummy"). I told him no and he asked why not. I said, "Don't you remember how sick Mommy was when the baby was in my tummy? And how sick I got when the baby came out?" He responded, "But we can just say more prayers for you and you'll be okay." I'll admit, I had tears welling up at the wonderful, simple faith of my little boy. I don't doubt that much of my recovery was due to his prayers, and the prayers of my other children.

During the day on the 11th, I got visits from both Dr. Lamoreaux and Dr. Jones. Poor Dr. Lamoreaux -- he looked like he was taking my hemorrhaging personally. I kept trying to reassure him that I held no hard feelings, and still trusted him. I still think he's the best doctor, and know he did everything he could have to make sure I was fine. He kept reassuring me that he was in continual contact with my nurse about my bleeding, and said how sad he was that he couldn't have performed the D&C personally. Dr. Jones also checked on me, and said that if Dr. Lamoreaux missed the placenta in that initial ultrasound, no one would have found it because he's the best in the business. I agree with Dr. Jones -- Dr. Lamoreaux is the best there is. Both doctors (as well as Dr. Aagard, who checked me out on Friday before releasing us from the hospital) mentioned that it was a good thing I had delivered in the hospital, because there was a very real possibility that I would have bleed to death had I not been treated in time. B1 was very smug about this -- while I hadn't ever pushed super hard about having a home birth, it's definitely something I had considered when pregnant with A and E, and had discussed such possibilities with B1. Had we lived closer to a hospital, I may have pushed harder. But this experience just solidified in B1's mind that he was right not to give in to a home birth.

That's pretty much the craziness that is SJ's birth. I'm now recovering at home. In most ways, it's a normal post-birth recovery: my bleeding is normal, I'm not in any pain (minus hemorrhoids and nursing pain), but I also get really tired easily, and sometimes get dizzy. Some basic errands or chores can just wipe me out for hours, so I have to keep my daily schedule pretty simple. B1 extended his FMLA leave an extra week to be able to help me out, and my mom will be here the week after he gets back. I'll end up having live-in help for 3.5 weeks, much longer than I initially thought I'd need (lets be honest: I didn't think I'd *need* any help), but for which I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Long time no post

I haven't been very good at updating this blog. At this point, I'm so far behind that I don't even know what to write about. So, this post may be disjointed as I just start writing whatever comes to me.

This summer was B2's first year playing baseball at the Mustang level. His team did well, taking 3rd overall in the city. We were invited to the "state" tournament (which really only included teams from Utah County and a few from Salt Lake County; teams were divided into four or five tournament locations, and winners were declared from each tournament, not one overall winner), at which we were absolutely creamed. Seeing the difference in teams makes me very interested in having him play baseball next year in Lehi. It's nearly twice as expensive, but if he wants to keep playing, I think it's a good middle ground option between our city league and playing competitive tournament ball.

This fall D played soccer again. After last year's disastrous season, in which D refused to play in most of the games and hated going to practice (largely due to his coach who was incredibly rude to D), he actually enjoyed playing! He liked his coach, he played hard during the games (only once or twice did he say he didn't want to go in, or ask to come off the field early), and seemed to have fun.

E is quickly coming up on her 2nd birthday, and for that I'm a little terrified. Ok, "terrified" isn't the right word. I'm just not ready for her to grow up. She's already indicating that potty training may be in her near future (she takes her diaper off, answers "yes" if you ask if she's poopy, loves to dress/undress herself, etc.), and she's answering questions, and her vocabulary is growing. It just all makes me sad in a way that my baby is growing up so fast. Pretty soon she'll be 2, and talking in full (coherent) sentences, and I'm just not ready.

I do feel blessed that we've largely avoided the terrible two's and three's with A. He's almost 3 and a half now, and while he does have occasional tantrums, it's not nearly as bad as it was with my first two kids. Knock on wood, right?

B1 and I still love our neighborhood. I think "house envy" is something I'm going to always battle with -- it's hard for me to not compare what I have with others and want more: nicer floors, different floor plan, larger home, more upgrades, bigger yard, etc. I wish it was easier for me to see what I have and realized how blessed I am, but that is something that I have to work to see (sometimes, not always). I wonder sometimes if there are people who find gratitude comes easily. I expect so. But I expect more often than not it's something we have to work for, and that can also be a blessing.

Let's see. Other news. In August, we lost my grandma. Grandma had been battling Alzheimer's for years, so while it wasn't a shock, it was still heartbreaking to bury the grandma we visited every year (sometimes more than once), the grandma who influenced my decisions to play sports in high school, the grandma who's approval I wanted so desperately when I was dating Brian (she loved him! It was one of the first indicators I had that this relationship could truly work out), and more. I miss everything about her -- from the bright pink lipstick marks she'd leave on faces. to her laugh (she had a great sense of humor), to the way she would hum hymns all day long as she worked. I miss the way she made us feel that we grandkids were her pride and joy. It's been almost 3 months since she passed away, and I still miss her.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PPD--follow-up

It's been seven and a half months since I started taking antidepressants for my postpartum depression. With the advice of my doctor, I am now completely off the meds, and have been for about two weeks (I went through a weaning off process that took 4 weeks). Thankfully, so far, I have not had a depressive episode. In fact, I was extremely blessed that the small dosage I was on completely stopped all symptoms of my depression. I didn't have to mess with dosages or experiment with brands, and I've been symptom free. I truly have been lucky in this battle.

While I'm not entirely sure I'm in the clear yet, I am optimistic about it. My doctor believes that my odds are very good that the depression will completely go away and not return. I want to believe him, but only time will tell. Since my PPD had a gradual onset, with symptoms appearing slowly at first in intensity and frequency, I won't let my guard down just yet.

I have learned a lot from this trial, and I wanted to document some of my experience. First, and scariest, was learning how completely my depression altered my perception of reality. I couldn't just have a messy house, because I was convinced that anyone who saw it would think I was an absolute slob, and that I would be talked about as "that" person whose house is so nasty that no one wants to go inside or let their children play with my children. I couldn't be out in public with misbehaving kids, because I felt that everyone was watching and criticizing every little misbehavior. On top of that, any non-perfect response from me to their misbehavior would be interpreted as child abuse and I would be reported to the authorities. I couldn't just go to church, because all I could see was our imperfections--my less-than-stellar appearance, my children being too loud, my boys' shirts not perfectly white, and so on--and feel like we were not wanted there. None of these thoughts and feelings were justified--my neighbors and ward members are fantastic, and no one ever said a nasty thing to me at the grocery store or anywhere else. But this was how I saw life, and it was completely the result of my illness.

In addition, I began to see how suicide can actually, truly be seen as a solution to someone suffering from depression. Toward the end (before I finally started taking the meds), I honestly believed my children and husband would have been better off without me, and if I could have found a way to simply disappear from their lives, I would have. It scares me now to think how much I tried to find the perfect suicide--one where they wouldn't have to suffer by finding my lifeless body somewhere. This is what ultimately convinced me to take the medication. I was scaring myself with these thoughts, and I knew this was not at all like me. But, because of my experience, I feel like I have much more compassion for those with mental illness, including those who eventually commit suicide. I understand how these individuals may truly not have been responsible for their decisions, and am confident that a loving Heavenly Father will be able to extend grace to those individuals.

I've also learned the importance of not keeping these feelings to myself. As I began to confide in others, and after publishing my post about my diagnosis, I felt such an outpouring of love and concern from friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances. I got several messages and emails from people I thought I knew well that had also had PPD, and I had never known. I heard their stories, what their symptoms were, and about their recovery (or not). I wish I had known that I could have turned to these people beforehand, and that I could have had people helping me before my symptoms had gotten so out of control. I'm glad I published my post about PPD, and I've tried to continue talking about it. I don't want someone else to feel like they don't know anyone who's gone through PPD. If you are reading this and feel like you are the only one, please contact me. I'd love to listen and, if you want, talk about my experience. I'd love to offer you hope that there are people who love you and want to help you through this, no matter how long it lasts. I want you to know that you are not broken, or crazy, or permanently damaged. And, above all, there is no shame in seeking medical help. Please, get help before you do something you (or your family) will regret.

I've also learned that sometimes it's okay not to do everything. Sometimes it's okay not to volunteer in your kids' school, and be their coaches, and have an immaculate house, and play three instruments, and have perfect hair and wear make-up, and be on time to church with perfectly behaving kids. Some days, it was all I could handle to make it through church without breaking into tears and leaving early. Some days, I was lucky if I showered before picking up carpool. Some days, it was a success to get out of bed. And I learned to be grateful for what I could do, rather than focusing on the millions of things I didn't do. I've tried hard to encourage others to see this as well--to help us all stop focusing on our perceived imperfections and comparing ourselves to others, but to be grateful for what we can do and to reach for a goal that's reasonable for my situation at that time.

So, while this is a trial I hope to never go through again, and while I will never wish this on anyone else, I can see the blessings that have come to me through this, and for that I am grateful.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tender mercies

I started getting really stressed tonight about having people over for games (house not cleaned, desserts not made yet, etc.); since stress is one of my triggers for PPD episodes, I canceled game night and did a movie/popcorn night with my babies. After prayers, B2 said, "Mom, it's kinda funny. Earlier you were so mad at us, and now you're so nice." I'm glad I followed through on canceling game night so I could have this time with my kids.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Funny Things B2 Says

Regarding his fishing trip with Grandpa White this summer, B2 said:

"Fishing was a lot of fun. Too bad we only caught seaweed."

PPD

You know those times when you're scrolling through Facebook, and you see an image or a message or a video, and it's like someone might as well have tagged you and said they were posting it for you. Well, that happened to me the other day when I saw this.


Hi, my name is Sandy, and I have Postpartum Depression.

Phew. That was hard.

I first saw my doctor back in May, when E was only 2.5 months old. As I described what I had been feeling, and some experiences that frankly had scared me, she said it sure sounded like PPD, but I still clung on to the hope that I was "normal." I got a prescription for an antidepressant, but didn't fill it. Instead, I kept battling, thinking that if I just tried to do X, Y, or Z, that I'd be fine, and it would go away on its own and I'd be back to myself.

A month later, and I wasn't better. I was getting worse, and I was getting more desperate. I filled the prescription, but still didn't take it. Why? Oh, a million reasons. I was worried that the thoughts I was already having about hurting myself would turn into full-blown suicidal attempts (or completion), and that terrified me. I was afraid of the stigma (entirely, and falsely, perceived in my own mind, and not an actual stigma laid upon me by anyone else) of being "mentally ill." I was afraid to admit that I couldn't control my emotions, that I was so "weak" as to need a pill to make me happy. And so on. Yes, my reasons were stupid. As someone with a Masters degree in Psychology, I should know better. I should know that the only "stigma" associated with mental illness comes from ignorant people, not smart people. I should know that medication truly can help. I should know that having PPD is no different than having cancer, or the flu. But for some reason I was holding myself to a different standard, and I was miserable.

Finally, last week, I couldn't take it anymore. I was having depressive episodes several times a week, I was having a very hard time going to church, and on my "happy" days I felt like I couldn't catch up from how little I was able to do on my bad days. And, now, I can even see how much it was hurting my family. My kids were grumpy, my husband was stressed--it was just too much. I took the pill. I've been taking the antidepressant for a week now. Yes, it's probably a little early to know just how well it will work, and how many side effects I'll see, but it truly has made a difference. My husband isn't afraid to open the door, wondering which version of his wife he'll see--the normal, happy one, or the barely functioning one, crying in the bedroom while the kids run amok in the rest of the house. I had the first happy Sunday I've had in a long time. I can make it through my whole day, including dinners where the kids don't like what I've cooked and the bedtime routine (and associated hundreds of repetitions of "Go to bed!") with a smile still on my face. For the first time in months, I'm actually convinced I'll beat this, rather than dreading that I won't. I'm able to smile every day, and mean it.

I'm not trying to argue that antidepressants are for everyone. I'm not 100% sure that I'll continue to not have side effects, or that I'll never have another bad day. But, I do know this: I have PPD. As I've seen the outpouring of love from my neighbors and family, I've also realized that the "stigma" was entirely in my head. No one looks down on me for needing these meds--it's okay to get medical help for medical problems. As Elder Holland said, "If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation." [source] This talk was one that I felt did not apply to me at the time it was given, but was extremely comforting in the days before I finally agreed to take the medication.

So, there you have it. I'm talking about my PPD. I hope that this will help someone gain the courage to talk about her PPD, or get the help she needs.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Positive Thinking

I was challenged on Facebook by my mom to write 3 positives per day for 5 days. I completed it, and I wanted to record it here as well.

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September 1st
1.) I've been in bed all day with a super awesome cold, and B2 fed D and A both lunch and dinner, and kept an eye on E while I did as little as possible.
2.) My mommy is still here, cancer-free, nearly 9 years after her initial breast cancer diagnosis.
3.) It's September 1st, which means it's almost my birthday! Woo hoo!


September 2nd
1.) B1 came home tonight, and has the next two days off! After a 4-day trip last week, and a two-day this week (combined with me being sick), it'll be so nice to have him home!
2.) I got to go shopping today at Costco with only two children in tow. I didn't hear on every aisle, "Can we buy these chips? Can we buy these cookies? Do we need watermelon? Can I have some gum?" This was almost me: http://www.scarymommy.com/back-school-video/
3.) I'm still on track to earn my Young Women medallion this year. I got a little sidetracked by E being born, but I look forward to joining my beautiful Young Women at the medallion dinner in February.


September 3rd
1.) Had another testament to the fact that God answers our prayers, even the ones that may seem silly and minor.
2.) I can almost hold a pencil again after last night's journaling. Seriously, when did my hand become such a weakling? And how did I ever write stuff before I had computers?
3.) I have a computer that sits on my lap and allows to me avoid folding laundry by Facebooking instead. 


September 4th
1.) Got to go with B2 on his field trip to the Utah State Fair. To quickly sum up the positives--he wanted me to ride on the bus and sit by him, we had a fun group and I only had to learn 2 new names, no lines, no pestering from the kids ("Can we ride that?" "Can I have a ridiculously-overpriced hot dog?"), and overall a really fun experience.
2.) Spent the afternoon building a volcano with Dallas--one-on-one, as B2 was at a friend's house, and A and E were napping.
3.) B1 finished insulating the basement--inspection tomorrow, and then we can start the drywall!

We'll overlook me dropping a rolling pin on my toe, running late for carpool this morning, and my wicked migraine tonight. It was still an awesome day.


September 5th
1.) Friends! While I don't think I have a hard time being friendly and cordial (most of the time), I have struggled with making true attachments with others. Moves are especially hard because I always wonder which people will care enough about me to make the effort to stay in touch and which will drop out of my life. I have been blessed with amazing friends--some from high school, some from college, and some more recent.
2.) I love those words and stories that bring fond memories of loved ones, like driving around in Jiggy randomly with Leslie, or why my car is named Elton, or remembering that the Wilk has great acoustics, and so on. I know I'm not super old or anything, but I have lived a great life so far.
3.) I love all the women that remind me that it's okay to be where and who I am--we can't all be perfect mothers with pristine counters and floors, with perfectly behaved genius children, with rich husbands, and "truly accomplished" in our hobbies. And you know what? That's okay. There's plenty to enjoy in life, even without all that perfection.


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Some days were easier than others to identify three positives. As I've been battling what I believe to be postpartum depression, I've found that sometimes there are some triggers to a depressive episode. The two worst triggers are allowing myself to lose my temper with my kids (that usually triggers a shame cycle, where I convince myself that I'm the worst mother ever, and then spend hours or sometimes longer battling the fear that they truly would be better off without me) and focusing on comparisons (Are my kids smarter than So-and-so's kids? Is my house cuter/bigger/fancier than So-and-so's house? Am I as fun/smart/pretty/hilarious/entertaining/friendly/etc as So-and-so?). But, as I was doing this challenge, I found it comforting to pull myself away from any negative thoughts, and any concerns over how I measure up, and simply focus on what was good in my life. I won't exaggerate and say that all my depression went out the window simply by stating 3 positive things on Facebook, but it did curtail it a bit, and this week has been better than some previous weeks have been. And so, let me record a few more positives.


September 6th
1.) The smile of a baby is the purest form of love. There are no judgments in my daughter's eyes--she doesn't grimace at the extra 15 pounds I'm carrying, or look down on me when I make a mistake. If she even sees the sadness that is sometimes behind my eyes, she just gives me a bigger grin than usual, to the point that I can feel the darkness recede and see the hope returning. There's just nothing like the unconditional and pure love that radiates from my daughter's face when she looks at me.
2.) There is something beautiful in everyone I have met. Some days it may be hard to see it, and some days I have to look past my own jealousy to be able to appreciate it, but I'm often amazed at the many beautiful acts I see. It may be something as simple as my neighbor behind me who is always cheerful and friendly--I doubt she's ever said an unkind thing about anyone. Then there are the friends I've made over the years, who remember my birthday, or make an effort to hang out with me, or who have served me in countless ways even when it was difficult for them. There are those I see who are struggling with all manner of physical illnesses and afflictions, yet they are optimistic they can either beat them or be happy in spite of them. I admire those who can ask for help, because I have a hard time admitting that I can't do it all on my own. I've watched neighbors plow sidewalks and driveways without being asked, watched those in my city pick up trash on the side of the road, and seen drivers in my neighborhood slow down and drive cautiously when children are out playing. These may seem like little things, but they show an unselfishness and consideration for others that I admire. So, while we are all flawed, and we all make mistakes, and sometimes we aren't the perfect examples of Christians that we know we ought to be, we are also good, wonderful people who are trying to be a little kinder, love a little more completely, and make our corner of the world a bit better, and that effort is worth recognizing and admiring.
3.) To end on a lighter note, I get to turn off my alarm tonight, and rise tomorrow morning to the sounds of my children rather than the obnoxious beeping of my alarm.