Friday, August 29, 2014
Nothing in Particular
I handled my first baby well (I think, I actually have 4 months of amnesia where I have absolutely NO recollection of what went on). I don't recall any major trauma, my birth was not what I had dreamed it would be, but at the same time, I felt confident that what went down needed to go down that way (planned home birth turning into a hospital transfer and eventual c-section after a long labor due to poorly positioned baby). I always felt at peace with my experience.
After my second child was born (my dream birth, unmedicated VBAC), I dealt with some postpartum depression although my predominant negative emotion was anxiety. I didn't feel sad, but numb with panic attacks sprinkled in, so it took me a while to identify that this was indeed postpartum depression. I remember going to my OB/GYN for my pap smear when my baby was 6 months old, being sooo high strung that I couldn't even relax enough for my milk to let down to feed my baby. A breast exam is pretty much impossible when your breasts are engorged with milk!! I told her, I couldn't sleep, I was having panic attacks, and I needed help!! She looked at me and said "You are going to be okay, we can tell when people aren't and you are going to be okay". I did NOT feel okay, and she humored me by sending me home with prescriptions for ambien, xanax, and zoloft.
I never took the zoloft, but carried it around in my wallet for months and months (probably expired) just in case. The ambien helped me sleep a couple of times, but one night I stayed awake all night after taking it and I never took it again. A person suffering from anxiety can NOT handle staying awake after having just taken a sleeping pill!! What helped the most was 1 xanax before bed. I only had to take it a few times and never finished the bottle, but it would chill me out enough to allow me to fall asleep. On paper, it doesn't look like it was that bad, but let me tell you, I have never felt so terrible in my life. I couldn't laugh, I couldn't cry, I didn't even know what joy was, I would obsess about scary things happening, and there were so many nights when I would stay awake all night wracked with panic attacks.
As time went on, I started to learn what my triggers were and how to manage it. At the same time, I did A LOT of spiritual work and A LOT of research about anxiety. I lived and breathed Echkart Tolle's books The Power of Now and A New Earth which explained a lot about the psychology of what was happening and introduced me to my ego and my pain body. In addition, I read numerous books on anxiety especially in women and books on Buddhism and meditation- I wanted to understand what this was because after all, I was VERY sane and this shouldn't have happened to me. These books were my life line and helped me learn how to handle the panic attacks when they happened and eventually, notice when I was being triggered before I would actually have a panic attack so I was able to prevent some of them.
In a nutshell, what I learned was we all have our neurons lined up a certain way. Any big stressor or major life change can amplify these patterns and give your brain a fast track to your fight or flight response. Before, what may have taken a pretty big event like a bear chasing you, can now can be triggered by nothing in particular.
The more I learned about what was happening, the easier it became. I truly do believe medication can be life saving and necessary people. I wouldn't have hesitated to take something had these patterns re-emerged after I had Anna. But they didn't... I am not sure if I did such a good job doing "the work" that I was able to bypass it, or if postpartum depression is random, or if maybe when I hit menopause and my hormones go crazy it will all come back. What I do know is that what I have learned changed my life and I LOVE talking about it. If we learn the skills to cope during these hard times we can even amplify the beauty in the easier times. I feel like I live a more enriched life now because of the skills I learned during that time.
I think that is why I am drawn to new moms and all moms. I want them to know I never thought I would be one of those women who had postpartum depression, but I did and it was the hardest time I have experienced in my life thus far. It is hard to reconcile that during a time when you "should" just feel grateful and joyous for being blessed with this sweet baby, instead you are screaming inside. I just want any mom out there who is feeling similar to know that you are not alone and I am always happy to listen.