It doesn't matter how much assistance you may have, if your babies sleep through the night at 12 weeks or 12 months, all I know is that first year, YOU are in SURVIVAL mode 100% of the time. There is no amount of preparation, reading, personal advice you receive, that will prepare you for the emotionally charged roller coaster and life altering change you will be enduring from day one. Those sleepless, helpless at times, nights, left me wringing with a type of rage and despair I never knew I was capable of feeling. This is not a black and white scenario that you can be ready to check off each accomplishment. It’s messy, confusing and draining to even the strongest people I’ve encountered. Every person will adapt differently and may never experience an ounce of postpartum depression/anxiety/anger. Mama, I just want you to know, that it is OK to not feel yourself post birth, but it is NOT OK for those feelings to linger longer than that first month without seeking a professional's opinion.
We celebrated the twins 3rd birthday this past April, which always spurs on the emotional rollercoaster of events that transpired two years ago to date and my anniversary of embracing the fact that it was time to evaluate ME. Why at times during my first year of motherhood had I felt more like I was constantly failing and overwhelmed?! I felt I had lost all intuition as a mother after strenuous months with breastfeeding issues, sleep issues and a failing marriage. I acknowledged that this was NOT going to be my new normal.
Two years ago, I was tearing down pastel colored streamers from the twin’s 1st birthday party, which my Type A personality had been planning tirelessly for months prior. All the while, preparing emotionally for my husband to be working abroad for the longest stint since the kids had been born. We had been in a constant sleep battle with one of our kiddos and I don’t think I had even slept more than a handful of three hour stretches at a time in that first year and felt numb to the constant fussy cries in those first four months. Naps were a disaster the day after their first sugar rush and I had slammed the back door to run out into the middle of the backyard screaming louder then I knew possible and was left staring at my shaking palms. Panting trying to catch my breath between the sun drenched tears that were streaming down my face and the complete and utter helplessness I felt while coated in this dark anger.
There was a constant battle of differing opinions being thrown at me, criticism for following through on advice from others, managing a velcro baby that needed me 24/7 and having so much guilt that I felt almost zero connection to Baby B. I felt like I was suffocating in my own life and I wanted to slap myself ten times over to just get “with it.” I kept telling myself, I was 12 months into this parenting gig, shouldn’t I have my sh*t together by now. I kept wavering in and out of what life was like pre kids to what felt like a constant uphill battle in my current state. I turned my head to face the big picture kitchen window and saw those chubby cheeked cherubs waving their hands at me. In that moment, I texted my OBGYN and whittled out a quick and semi-coherent message telling her that I needed help; serious help.
My OBGYN immediately had me connect with a twin mama, through PVMOM that had a counseling background and girls that were one year older than mine. This season was still semi-fresh for her, so she was able to grant me encouragement. I had my therapist on speed dial and my PVMOM mama on text message to get me through the next 24 hours of next steps.
Everyone’s postpartum is going to look a little different and mine wasn’t the typical baby blues depression, much like what you hear about. My therapist was quick to acknowledge that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for a reason! Through months of mindfulness training, hours of talk therapy, sleep scheduling for myself, emdr therapy to eliminate some of my triggers and LOTS of self care time, I was able to lift myself out of the fog right when I joined PVMOM in August 2015. I’ll never forget the instant relief I felt while speaking to a few mamas (now my best friends) that had littles the same age about their current struggles. I immediately felt relief and strength that I could make it through this journey of motherhood. You are never alone!
There is a wealth of information regarding postpartum online, but limited in person resources in the valley. We’ve compiled a few tips to read through as well as the best professionals in the valley that are aiding in the recovery of postpartum depression/anxiety/ptsd.Therapist Heidi, Sonntag who has worked with postpartum mothers for over 30's years has some great advice for new mothers below.
Postpartum How To’s
1. How do you detect ppd/ppa/ptsd:
Postpartum Depression: Women may have feelings of anger or irritability, lack of interest in the baby, appetite and sleep disturbance, crying and sadness, difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness, loss of interest, joy, or pleasure in things you used to enjoy, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself in extreme cases.
Postpartum Anxiety: The symptoms include constant worry, rumination, and feeling that something bad is going to happen, racing thoughts, disturbances of sleep and appetite, inability to sit still, and physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
There are specific forms of anxiety in addition to generalized anxiety. IE:
Postpartum Panic Disorder- a form of anxiety in which the sufferer feels very
nervous and has recurring panic attacks. Another is Postpartum Obsessive
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum. Symptoms may include re-experiencing of a past traumatic event, flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places, and details or the event.
2. Risk Factors:
Personal or family history of depression, anxiety, or postpartum depression, a history of PMDD or PMS, inadequate support in caring for your baby, financial stress, marital stress, feelings of powerlessness, complications in pregnancy, unplanned C-section, complications during birth - prolapsed cord, forceps to deliver baby, birth or breastfeeding. A major recent life event within one year of childbirth including loss, house move, job loss, mothers of multiples ,infants in NICU, mothers who have gone through infertility treatments, thyroid imbalance, any form of diabetes.
3. Signs you may not know to look for:
Anger - I think we often equate depression with sadness, crying, and despair,
mothers are often most surprised by rage and irritability as symptoms of depression.
Yet, so many experience this. It may be that everything makes you angry at a level
that you have never felt before, but you can’t help it and you are worried about how
rough you are being with those you love the most.
Feeling Numb - Instead of feeling a lot of strong emotions, is may be surprising when
instead you feel nothing whatsoever. You may feel emptiness, or feel like you are
just going through the motions, doing what you are supposed to do but not really
feeling anything inside. If you are disconnected from things you used to care about
and it feels like you are hovering over your life looking down on it but no longer part
of it, it’s worth talking to someone about. This can be particularly difficult for
friends and family to identify.
Physical Symptoms - most women expect postpartum depression to impact their
mind only, and how they are feeling. But many new moms are suffering from
headaches, back aches, upset stomachs, and nausea, even panic attacks that make
them feel as though they are having a heart attack.
Scary Thoughts - Intrusive thoughts are scary thoughts that enter your mind that you
don’t want that are very upsetting but continue to plague you. Often they start with
the phrase “what if,” as in what if I did this terrible thing or what if that awful thing
happened? Intrusive thoughts are a sign of postpartum anxiety and OCD and NO,
they do not mean you are going to act on them. They do require you to speak with a
professional or someone who understands what they actually are and can assist
with your anxiety.
3. How and Who to ask for Help:
• Find a mental health professional that has experience with pregnancy and postpartum mental health.
• Antidepressant Medications - the class of medications prescribed for postpartum
depression is known as SSRI
• Postpartum Support Groups - talking with other women who have had similar
experiences can be helpful and normalize one’s feelings. Also, on-line forums and
national organizations such as Postpartum Support International.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy - this includes problem-solving skills, psychoeducation,
mindfulness training, and changing negative thought patterns. EMDR- eye
movement desensitization and reprocessing is an evidence-based cognitive therapy
that emphasizes the role of distressing memories in mental health disorders,
• Interpersonal Therapy - focuses on improving relationships, often couples are
challenged when one partner is feeling depressed or anxious and needs support.
Also, becoming a parent often involves a role transition, and identity change, which
all at once can be stressful.
Heidi Sonntag, MSW, LCSW
9977 N 90th Street, Suite 165, Scottsdale AZ 85258
Molly Dean, LCSW
4600 e. Shea Blvd. Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85028
Susan Baumann, MD
(602) 494-7110 for psychiatry
Marilyn Kieffer-Andrews, Psych NP, PhD, Nurse Mid-Wife
(602) 230-7113 for medication evaluations
Postpartum Doula MaryAnn with Newborn Beginnings
to help ease transition to motherhood/night help - (603) 553-0709
Honor Health postpartum free support groups
480-323-3878, Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, 10460 N. 92nd St., Scottsdale
Banner Thunderbird Medical Center
2nd/4th Thursday, Conference room 2C
Willow Room, 602-865-5908
Banner Gateway Medical Center (gilbert)
Every Thursday 10:00am, 480-543-3050
Mercy Gilbert Medical Center
Monday 12:30pm, Conference room 2, 480-728-3396
Dignity Health, Gilbert
Wednesday 1:00pm, 602-406-3319
Banner Desert Medical Center (mesa)
Every Tuesday 10:00am, 480-412-5292
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