Finishing out my week on Postpartum Progress as part of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, I posted there today about how traumatic my c-section was and how triggered I was for quite some time after it, especially by that show A Baby Story! It’s become clear to me (and to my therapist) in retrospect that I suffered some PTSD from that experience. As it turns out, an unplanned c-section is a risk factor for PTSD in mothers.

I am in a better place now, whenever I think about it. But for that first year or so, I cried a lot about it. I felt so raw. I could not even look at my scar. Now, I can talk about the c-section in a different way–with less sadness, less anger, more appreciation for the medical advances that sometimes save moms’ and babies’ lives. However, I do still find myself reeling every time I hear about one of my friends being scheduled for or having a c-section. Maybe someday that will change, but for now I’m just giving myself grace to grieve along with them, if that is what they are doing.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join me at Postpartum Progress if you don’t find this topic too intense or triggering for you. If you do, just know the bottom line: It’s OK to run flailing from the things that trigger you.

Knowing What Triggers You and When to Change the Channel

P.S. I also want to give a shout out to a fantastic post that was also published on Postpartum Progress nearly 3 years ago. I found it after I had written my own post. As I read it, I just wanted to hug the momma who wrote it and also thank her for providing so much information about this topic!

Mom Recounts How Childbirth Trauma Led to Her Postpartum PTSD

P.S.S. Here is a post I wrote years ago about what I wish I’d known prior to my c-section:

Arm Yourself With Knowledge

 

07. January 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Depression · Tags: ,

Today on Postpartum Progress, I’m talking about how I didn’t know ENOUGH about postpartum depression. I thought I did, but as it turned out, I didn’t, and I was kind of surprised when it crept up on me. Or, actually, when it hit me upside the head (perhaps a more accurate description).

Please join me over there again today. Your support is much appreciated!

What I Didn’t Know About PPD

 

I did something that scares me today–and it’s barely 9 am! All these years after having, and then beating, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I still feel my heart race when I blog about it. Talking about it is no big deal, but putting things in writing?! Eeek! And on a site like Postpartum Progress, a site that helps more than a million people each year??! I’m sure you understand why my heart is racing!

It would mean a lot to me if you’d head over there and read my first post–I will be there all week–outlining my path from PPD/PPA back to “normal.”

Feeling “Normal” Again After PPD

Thank you!

Postpartum depression and anxiety, for me, meant a lot of sleepless nights. Even now, insomnia is still very much a struggle of mine. In fact, it is very difficult for me to fall asleep in my own bed. Usually, I lay wide awake until frustration causes me to find a new place to rest. My therapist suggested a makeover–for my room, not for me! The thinking is that perhaps a makeover would remove most of the negative associations in my room. I think there are many!

The first thing I would change is the orange walls. Orange isn’t exactly a soothing, calming color. It doesn’t lull one into sleep, that’s for sure. It is a beautiful color, and I love the way the orange works with the jewel tones of the curtains and other items in the room. The room has a warm Indian vibe. However, it has been said that orange is the color of adventure. While bedroom adventures sound fun (wink, wink), ain’t no adventure happening if I’m completely exhausted and sleep deprived!!

Then there’s the bed. I remember when my husband and I were at the beginning of our relationship and bought our bed. It was $900, which then felt like a helluva lot of money (ok, I admit, it still feels like a lot). We were so excited to have made our first major purchase together. All I wanted to do was lay in that bed. It was larger than the bed we’d previously shared.

But now it seems so small, although it takes up so much space in the room. There are 4 of us now, if you count the dog–and you should, since he shares the bed. He even sometimes sleeps like a human, his head on a pillow near ours and his body under the blankets. Most nights, I sleep with my son in his Twin bed. I do not like my own bed. It squeaks. It feels tiny. Every time my husband moves, it feels like someone is standing at the foot of the bed shaking it. Every single move wakes me up.

The alarm clock, with its angry red numbers, faces the bed, which seems so dumb. I spent so many sleepless nights staring at that thing. In my head, I begged for sleep until my anger got the better of me and I gave up and got up. Or until the baby cried and I had to get up anyway. I do that thing where I tell myself “If I fall asleep right now, I can get X hours of sleep.” I do it all night long, even though I know better.

Sometimes when I attempt to sleep in my room, I am hit with a wave of memories of the beginning of motherhood. A photograph that features my bed comes to mind when I think about my postpartum depression.

PPD

Taken at the end of my maternity leave, during the beginning of my PPD/PPA.

I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, holding my 4-month-old son. I had just returned to work from my maternity leave, or maybe I was about to. My smile is fake, and my eyes are wide and tired. I can see the anxiety behind the mask.

When I lay in that bed, I am anxious again. My therapist is right. I need to change the room. Insomnia was a HUGE part of my PPD. And my bedroom became associated with anxiety about sleep. During my PPD, I learned subconsciously to associate the bed, the walls, the everything-in-that-space with the darkest, scariest time of my life.

Googling “negative associations of the bedroom,” I found a website that said:

People who are conditioned against their own bedroom typically react with a heightened state of arousal when going to bed, rather than the kind of relaxed drowsiness that is more conducive to falling sleep.

Exactly.

I know what I need to do. First and foremost, I need to MAKE the time to spend reworking that room. The walls need to be a different, more soothing color. I’m keeping the curtains–they’re so pretty! I need to rearrange the furniture and maybe get rid of what isn’t necessary in order to open up some space. Clutter makes me angsty. I will remove the alarm clock altogether. I will replace the blinds with the room-darkening kind. I will use aromatherapy in the room. And a sound machine! I will treat myself to a new comforter, the softer the better! And since the floors are wood, perhaps an area rug would change the room even more. I bought my dog a fancy new bed, although I don’t think he will use it to sleep in.

What else do you think I should do to give my room–and maybe my sleep–a makeover?

 

My inner hippie chick was released as soon as my pregnancy was confirmed. I made the decision early on to try breastfeeding, although the idea admittedly freaked me out a little. However, when Jackson was born, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally for either of us. I remember the first time I tried to nurse him, three hours after he was born. I couldn’t get him to latch correctly, and we both ended up crying and frustrated. I had my first new mom doubts about the decision I’d made.

But I’m a bulldog momma. Once I make up my mind about what I feel is best for my child, I rarely change my mind. I’d had pregnant daydreams of rocking Jackson in the glider, and nursing him gently to sleep. So I let myself be guided by instinct and I buzzed a nurse to schedule a visit with the hospital’s certified lactation consultant.

This was, hands down, the best parenting decision I’ve made to date.

The first time he successfully latched on, as the lactation consultant guided us, tears of joy sprang to my eyes and I knew I’d made the right decision not to give up during those first few frustrating days.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Months later, I was making breastmilk smoothies and pumping at work like a pro! The early days of tribulation had become a fading memory, thanks in part to the support team I’d assembled: the lactation consultant I met in the hospital and called as needed, my local La Leche League, the hospital’s in-person breastfeeding support group, a Facebook group of local breastfeeding moms, and a few coworkers who were also pumping in the office. With advice and support from these women, Jackson breastfed for 33 months.

Milk drunk!

Milk drunk!

Breastfeeding him helped us both in so many ways, in addition to giving him the best nutrition possible. Jackson was a high-needs baby, and nursing soothed and comforted him when nothing else could. As a mother who suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, I, too, was comforted, as breastfeeding provided me with a few quiet and calm moments every few hours, when we would stop whatever we were doing and simply enjoy some skin-to-skin contact alone together. Further, once I got the hang of it, breastfeeding boosted my confidence—which, as a new mom, I desperately needed!

This post is part of BlogHer’s My ‘I’m a Mom Moment’ editorial series, made possible by Seventh Generation.