Helen: Ö something similar to yourself and you donít have to be worried about being stigmatized or judged but you can actually feel free to say whatever you want to say and know that people here will understand it. Iím very happy that we have such a variety. Shawna is relatively new, six months, and you are a very new mother, five weeks, and Amy has three children, and Lisa has two, and Kim has two, and when Tamela comes, she has two boys.
I was just getting ... want to have public you can certainly say that at a later time because they can filter things out and filter things in. So I donít know, would someone like to be brave enough to be the first person to tell a little bit about their story, just briefly?
Tamela: Whoís the most stressed out?
Shawna: Unless someone else wants to go first. I just want to get it over with.
Helen: Just pretend thereís nobody else here.
Shawna: My name is Shawna and I joined the group three months ago. I had a 3-1/2-year-old son and a 6-month-old son and after my second son was born I didnít have any help at home and he was colic and he didnít sleep. So I think my, I donít think I was depressed per se but I ended up getting a lot of anxiety, panic attacks I started having three months into it. I wasnít sleeping, I didnít have help and it just felt like I was just going to throw in the towel and leave at some point and I, you know ...
Helen: Just get in your car and take off.
Shawna: I got to the point where I called Jean Jemelli, who is the director of the child services here, and she told me about this group. So I came and I met Helen and then Sheila was here and I was, I needed a box of tissues just for myself, a whole box. I was crying, I couldnít stop crying and that went on for the first three meetings, like a month and a half. Then I went on the Zoloft. It took a long time, itís only been maybe three or four weeks that Iím actually feeling better.
Helen: And itís so great to see you feeling better.
Shawna: And itís great to feel better. Iím still sleep deprived but I donít really know if the medication helped me. Iím trying to get off of it now because Iím like this (holds out shaky hand). Even though I feel better, I think itís because Iím getting more sleep now. You know, my 3-1/2-year-old is beginning to like his little brother so that helps too. When you have a 3-1/2-year-old, he doesnít understand that you canít take him back. Heíd wake up and say, is the baby still here? And Iíd say, do you want him to be here? Yeah, and then a couple of times he said bring him back to the hospital and the doctors will take care of him. You know, youíre just Ö so when I came here and met Helen and Sheila, who isnít here, I felt, I just felt better because when youíre in it, as Helen says, you donít think itís going to get better. And she was very, and Tamela was very Ė itís gonna get better. I was, you know Ö why bother going to sleep? And I donít think itís gonna get better.
Helen: You do, you feel like youíre in a tunnel, I think, and thereís no light at the end of the tunnel. And even though I can tell you that, I think hearing Tamela or Lisa or someone else tell you that, it really is more powerful. So youíre gonna get better and itís not your fault. I think those are two really important things to bring out.
Shawna: And I think the other thing is is that, it wasnít until I was stuck in bed for two weeks, I couldnít get out of bed, I couldnít smile at my son, I couldnít pick him up. And my husband really got the picture of, I heard him, I overheard him telling someone, I wish I knew how hard it was and I would have stepped in to help sooner. But now itís too late and he had his hands full. For two weeks, I was in bed and my neighbor came over to help and then my mother-in-law. Everyone just started pitching in so much more, and I said, why couldnít you have done this before it got to this point? You know? And the sad part is that now that they see Iím feeling better, the help is tapering off.
Kim: Then they start to back off.
Shawna: Yeah, so itís with my son not sleeping I would say now to my husband, I would say, you know what? Maybe we can take turns each night and you get up with the baby one time and he would just look at me like I was crazy. Three days later, Iím crying. I wake up crying and my son says to my husband, Mommyís sad. And he said, why are you sad? I said, Iím tired, Iím sleeping from 3 oíclock to 7 oíclock every day for two weeks. Iím tired, itís not, Iím not sad but Iím exhausted. So then he goes, why donít we take turns and switch and Iíll get up one night and you get up one night? Well, I said that a week ago and you looked at me like I was crazy. So I think itís important for me to be on his case to step up and handle more of the responsibility so I donít go back to the way I was.
Kim: And also call people and I would call people and, you know, my in-laws, my friends, look, can I Ö I mean, my mother, I would be with my mother a lot. Can I come over from 2 to 4 this afternoon? Or could you come and help me? Or just not be shy about it.
Shawna: Now even just having company helps, just to have my friends over, even with their friends. Iíll call them and say, Iím home all the time. Iím a stay-at-home mom. Come over whenever you want because Iím alone with two kids.
Lisa: Youíre trying to figure out why youíre feeling this way and you donít want to feel alone.
Kim: Itís very isolating.
Shawna: It is, it is. The babyís crying, all right, what do I do now? Not stopping, but now I can be like, oh, heís crying. Mommy the baby is crying! What do you want me to do about it? You know, heíll fall asleep eventually. You know, that's how I feel now, which is much better, whereas before I was like, what do I do with you? You know.
Helen: That anxiety, I think is so overwhelming.
Shawna: Yeah, and then when you start having panic attacks.
Lisa: Did you feel like that for your first pregnancy?
Lisa: See thatís whatís such a surprise where if you had a first child and you felt well and everything went smoothly and you had this a second time, I mean, wow, what happened? Itís so different.
Shawna: Yeah, and my son was a very sick child. He was born, in the NICU for 10 days, he has asthma and allergies and, you know, all of that, and I still was not the way I am with this one, so Ö
Lisa: So hormonally something was different.
Shawna: Yeah, they just went crazy. And I even stopped nursing to help with the exhaustion and the hormones. And then it started getting worse when I stopped nursing, I was crazy. I felt like crazy, just feel like youíre crawling out of your skin and youíre losing your mind.
Helen: I think thatís one thing that is kind of misunderstood that if you are nursing and youíre gonna stop nursing that you do it very gradually.
Shawna: And I did. I was pumping even after I stopped every once and a while I would just pump to get the engorgement down.
Helen: And the engorgement is like a reminder also.
Lisa: Along with the breastfeeding, you want to give your child the best milk possible, the motherís milk, and then if you have postpartum depression and they need you on medicine, you donít want to give your child that medication. You feel like youíre letting your child down and then you start letting down nursing and itís such a difficult, emotional experience.
Shawna: I told my husband, I said, Iíve never felt more inept then I do right now. I canít be a mom to my Ö hi Sheila ... I canít be a mom to my children. It wasnít that at all. Iím a very good mom and more than capable, itís just a bump in the road and Ö
Helen: And you need someone to remind you that you are a good mother, even though you feel like youíre not doing the right things, you are.
Shawna: Yeah, I had a friend, I called a friend crying. Weíve been friends for a long time and she watched my older son when I first went back to work. And Iím crying and I said, I donít know whatís wrong with me. She said, you know what Shawna? I should have said this a long time ago. She said, you went through so much. My first child was a stillborn and my second son had asthma and allergies and I went back to work full time and just dealing with all of that and still, you know, providing for my family and running the home and going to work and taking him to his physical therapy and the allergist and having the EpiPen ready and all this stuff. And she said, I really envy you and I still do and I think youíre just a great mom. And Iím sitting there going, can you say that again so I can record it? Because I really need to hear that. Yeah, you should have said that a long time ago. I keep that with me in my head.
Kim: Well, I think a lot of times too after youíve had your first and itís your second, people arenít checking on you as much. They kind of think, oh youíve got it under control. Because I had problems with my second and not my first and it was kind of like, the second, OK, youíre on your own. You must know what youíre doing.
Shawna: I think it is so much harder going from one to two than just having one.
Kim: Well because you feel like you have to split yourself in half.
Shawna: Yeah, it was hard having one.
Tamela: In a way, for those of us who started with the first one being a problem, it was a benefit because I knew what to maybe expect. And I had waited six months before I figured out what was wrong. I just thought I was the only mom in the world doing a bad job. And when I talked to you (Helen) and I went on Zoloft, Iím just thinking that when I had the second one it was almost like a security blanket, like if Iím about to go into this the second time, there is Zoloft there and I was gonna try and wait as long as I could, see if I didnít need it, but just knowing it was there. Because I canít imagine the shock of a second one and Ö
Kim: Well, I think you knew when itís your second you knew a lot earlier that there was something wrong. I mean, I was to see Helen before my son was even 3 weeks old just because within 10 days I knew that it was just completely different than it was with my first child. And so maybe thereís that benefit of it.
Tamela: OK, Iíll be jealous of that part.
Shawna: - I didnít know.
Kim: You didnít feel that way?
Shawna: No, not at all.
Kim: I felt it really clearly there was something wrong. It was just that for me the typical medicines didnít really work for me. They kind of exacerbated the anxiety of it.
Tamela: You had to go from one to the other?
Kim: Yeah, like several trials and different medications which I think Iím definitely not the norm in that case. Zoloft or different things like that usually help most people.
Lisa: With my first child, I didnít have any problems during my pregnancy until right after I delivered thatís when I met Helen and we had the plan like Tamela said. I felt comfortable with that but like you said I knew early on in the pregnancy that something wasnít right. I had to conceive through IVF and a lot of fertility treatments and a lot of hormones so there were a lot of things that just went kind of wrong as far as my hormone balance. So youíre not alone.
Kim: So you had to do, try a lot of things?
Lisa: I tried different things. I ended up admitting myself into the hospital to get help.
Kim: Yeah. Well, I mean I eventually ended up getting ECT, actually.
Lisa: Did you?
Shawna: What is that?
Kim: Itís the electro, convulsive Ö
Kim: Therapy. Yeah.
Shawna: Really? I didnít even know they did that.
Helen: Well, if you canít take any other kind of medication and it was like, it really worked so quickly and so well.
Kim: Yeah, I mean, I mean, like I know that your son is 6 months old, I mean, I wouldnít say that I really felt better with my, fully better with my son until he was about a year and a half. But I mean, I did feel, I did feel definitely a lot better even within a week of doing ECT. It just Ö
Helen: It is such a dramatic improvement and I thank you for sharing that Kim.
Tamela: How old was the baby?
Kim: He was 3 months old Ö
Tamela: OK, when you did that? And was that pretty quick?
Kim: It was. I mean to stop the free-for-all, kind of, it wasnít like I was completely better.
Lisa: During your pregnancy you felt well, though?
Kim: I donít know. I think I was kind of, I had had a miscarriage not too long before I had gotten pregnant with him and needed to go on hormone replacement. And I guess I kind of felt numb throughout that whole pregnancy, not sure if it was, if this was going to work Ö
Kim: Yeah, and then I think I just, I guess Ö
Lisa: You were scared.
Kim: Yeah, I donít think I realized it at the time but my father pointed that out. He said I think that youíve been depressed, not anxiety but just depressed Ö
Lisa: You donít see a lot of things and other people pick up on them.
Helen: Chrissy I wanted to give you an opportunity if you wanted to say something that someone had said or relate your story or respond. Can you relate to anything?
Chrissy: I can. I had my daughter five weeks ago. In the hospital, I was fine. We brought her home and I was like, this is great. Within three days of being home, I just didnít want anything to do with her. It was really hard. I would get up, you know newborn, she was getting up every two hours. And my husband is phenomenal. Heís like my best friend. You know, he would get up with me. We were both getting up at the same time. Either that or he would just let me sleep right through it. And he would get up and feed her. You know I tried the breastfeeding thing. Because she was early, she wouldnít latch on. We tried and tried and tried. So I started pumping and doing that and giving her my breast milk that way. And she was, she was so fussy on my breast milk, she was horrible. And I thought to myself, she doesnít like me. She doesnít like me because who wouldnít want their motherís breast milk? So I think that was part of it because I would give it to her and she would make these faces like, what are you giving me? But I think what had happened was when I first had her, I had no, she got the colostrum but I didnít have enough so they supplemented formula in the hospital here. And I think thatís what she got used to, was the formula.
Helen: And that can happen.
Chrissy: Yeah, so thatís what. And she doesn't like the powder formula, it has to be the premixed. We tried the powder formula and she was up all night long so we finally just buy the premixed stuff and she likes it. But I was fortunate because I work in health care already that when I started having these feelings, like I didnít want to pick her up, I didnít want to have anything to do with her. I almost jumped in my truck and drove a thousand miles away Ö
Tamela: Yeah, me too.
Chrissy: I thought to myself, if I just leave my husband and leave her and just give him the house and everything, then I can just leave.
Lisa: Isnít that what Marie Osmond did?
Chrissy: Is that what she did?
Lisa: I think she just took off.
Tamela: I just used your story today with somebody. Sheís like, if you had a lot of money, a girlfriend of mine, sheís 42. She said sheís considering adoption. So I was talking to her about, I said, itís a job when you have this newborn. And then we started talking about, you know, Marie Osmond, sheís got money and she could just pick up and take off, she can have a nanny, she could get a night nurse. She could do whatever Ö
Chrissy: I thought the same thing. If I was only Ö
Tamela: If you could just Ö
Chrissy: Yeah, if I could just have somebody overnight here then I would be fine. But then I started having feelings of, itís horrible to say, but you get these feelings like, if she would just pull the blankets over her head, she wouldnít be here anymore and my life would be completely normal.
Helen: And is it hard for you to believe you felt that way now?
Chrissy: Yeah, and then I thought to myself, why would I think that? Itís horrible to think something like that. And then I kept on having these visions of her just dying and I was like, Oh, OK, Iím better now.
Helen: Very scary.
Chrissy: And I did nothing but cry.
Helen: And youíre probably afraid to say that to anyone, what you were thinking.
Chrissy: Yeah, because thatís a horrible thing to think. I would never have thought about that about anybody in my life. But I finally realized that something was wrong and I said to my husband, weíre going to the emergency room. So my mother-in-law came over and, thank God for my mother in-law. She used to be a pediatric nurse here so she came over and I was hysterical crying and she took the baby and I went right to the emergency room. And I walked in and I just looked at them and I said, I need help.
Tamela: Thatís great.
Chrissy: And thatís what I did. And I go to therapy once a week and I just met Helen last week. There was nobody here but me.
Tamela: Thatís pretty typical.
Shawna: How it has changed, right?
Chrissy: So a friend of mine told me to come to this group and Ö
Shawna: Oh, Amanda, and Avery, youíre Amandaís friend? Me and Sheila were here when Amanda was here with Avery and she was telling us about you.
Chrissy: Amanda lives right down the road from me and sheís known my husband for a long time. And she just had Avery six weeks before I had Arianna. And she didnít go through it and so I would text message her, like are you going through the crying? And sheís like, no, why? Whatís wrong? And I just told her, thereís something wrong. And I would go outside, I was telling you guys, I would go outside at two oíclock in the morning and I would sit out there until five oíclock in the morning, zero, thereís 24 inches of snow on the ground and Iím just sitting outside. I didnít want to go back inside because I knew she was in there. And it was almost like I was trying to keep myself away from her because I knew something was wrong. And itís Ö
Helen: Sometimes it takes people, you were very perceptive to pick up on that because I think sometimes people just keep pushing and pushing it and thinking, I guess this is just sleep deprivation and they delay getting help. I really respect you.
Chrissy: I knew something was wrong. I know myself well enough to say that I have these thoughts that I would never have Ö
Kim: And they keep intruding Ö
Chrissy: Yeah, it was everything, I was, yeah Ö
Kim: Youíre like bombarded Ö
Helen: And you canít stop them. You donít want them.
Chrissy: And itís only been five weeks since she has been born and I still have, you know, postpartum, like sometimes I just hand her to my husband and I, OK, Iím going to go outside for a few minutes and take a walk. And he goes back to work next week, heís been off for six weeks, so Ö
Tamela: Itís great that youíre so aware and you step out, you take yourself out.
Chrissy: I do, I have to.
Tamela: Thatís wonderful.
Kim: Thatís the thing, I think when you get to that point and you feel that way, you really just have to because when you can come back and you feel better you'll be able to take better care of your child then.
Chrissy: And my mother-in-law, and I thought I would never say this, my mother-in-law has been the best person. She actually took her overnight on Saturday night, we had a wedding to go to. We werenít going to go, and my husband was like, come on, letís just go. My mom will take the baby overnight. And Iím like, sheís only 5 weeks old. So as she was pulling away with my daughter in the car, I am crying and I walked into the house and I saw the empty crib and Iím crying. So that night my husband and I were like, oh, weíre going to sleep for 10 hours.
Tamela: Oh, yeah right.
Chrissy: We were up every two hours, tossing, turning, you know because she was gone. She wasnít there.
Lisa: My parents did the same thing too. Theyíd pack up the bassinet and put it in the back of the truck and they would take her to their house and she would sleep there. And theyíd be like, she sleeps fine, all night long.
Shawna: Whatís the matter with you? Thereís nothing wrong with your baby.
Lisa: And I thought, she doesnít like me. You know, is it me? Could she sense that Iím upset?
Chrissy: And thatís how I feel too because yesterday she was crying and I handed her to my mother-in-law and she stopped crying and I was like, see, she doesnít like me.
Shawna: Well, if you want, I can give you my number before we leave and when your husband goes back to work, call me.
Chrissy: OK, and my best friend, actually, next week when my husband goes back, my best friend took the whole entire week off.
Kim: Thatís nice.
Shawna: Youíre so blessed to have her. Wow.
Chrissy: She works at a day care. So she took that whole week off so that way sheís there, but then the following week Iím on my own. And itís funny because my husband is the one that actually, he works here, he doesnít want to come back to work heís like, Iím gonna miss her. But when I went through, when I was at my lowest point, he really stepped in. And he was feeding her and changing her and giving her baths and everything.
Helen: I think he should give classes.
Chrissy: He was great so I have a lot of support and I think thatís what kind of helped me.
Lisa: That pulls you out a lot quicker, with a lot of support.
Chrissy: And the medication, Zoloft. And I had never had an anxiety attack so I didnít know what they were. I didnít know what they were, I didnít know what was happening. My mind was just racing, racing, racing and I was like, I canít do this. Iím not fit for this. We tried for a year and a half to have a baby.
Tamela: Oh, the added guilt.
Chrissy: And it was funny because when we first got married we both did not want any kids. We were like, we donít want any kids. And after like three years, two years of being married, we were like, somethingís missing. Maybe weíll just have one, so thatís, that was our goal to have one and thatís what weíre sticking with, just one. Everybodyís like, you gotta have a second one! Iím like, no, because youíre always going to know who did it so Iíll stay with the first one.
Tamela: It took me a year and a half before I could even vaguely consider a second. My oldest was a year and a half old. I really, I thought I could never do this again, not to myself, not to somebody else. But I finally was healed enough emotionally to do it.
Chrissy: Thatís probably how I feel too because I could never go through that again and put myself through that again. And itís sad because I donít really remember the first three weeks of her life.
Shawna: You miss out on a lot.
Chrissy: I wonít get that back.
Helen: You do feel robbed. You do feel robbed.
Chrissy: Yeah, because now, she was five-nine when she was born and we took her to the doctors and sheís seven-14. And Iím like, where did that come from? All her newborn outfits donít fit her and I donít even remember putting her in her newborn outfits. So Iíll never get that back but thank God for pictures because I wonít remember when she was that little.
Shawna: Helen, I just want to say something with regard to, you mentioned that when youíre feeling this way, when youíre first feeling this way and you donít want to tell anyone because youíre afraid of being judged or itís a real stigma.
Chrissy: I was afraid they were going to take her away from me.
Shawna: And I think that itís important to tell people. I did not, I wasnít shy at all about it. I was calling people and just telling them, I donít know whatís going. Iím thinking of going on antidepressants. And lo and behold, I was on them for six months, I had postpartum depression with both my kids, and I went on Lexapro and I went on Paxil. And Iím going, what?
Chrissy: Why didnít somebody tell me this?
Shawna: And itís not until I reached out to people and started putting it out there that they came back and they Ö And I was shocked, maybe not shocked, but surprised. And I remember you telling me, when youíre on the playground, what did you say? That four out of the 10 moms you see there had postpartum depression or maybe even greater.
Helen: Statistically, thatís true.
Shawna: It is, it is true. It has to be. After I started telling people, but I didnít know until now.
Helen: Everybodyís afraid to talk about it.
Chrissy: My brotherís girlfriend was, she said she actually picked her son up and was about ready to shake him and she was like, what am I doing? But she went through it too. But youíre right, because a lot of people, you start telling your story and people are like oh I went through that. Or you get, oh itís just the baby blues and theyíll go away in a couple of days.
Shawna: Well, thatís a little Ö on some peopleís part.
Chrissy: And I got a lot of that too.
Lisa: And also, we donít go back to the doctor for six weeks. Is it six weeks after you have a baby? So much can happen in six weeks, so much can happen in one week with how you feel. And when youíre pregnant, they test you for gestational diabetes. They should have you come back sooner and test you, how are you feeling? Or just a phone call.
Chrissy: Actually, my doctor had me come back a week after, a week after, because I had a C-section.
Shawna: I did too. Yeah, I went a week after.
Chrissy: So it was a week after and when I walked into the room with him, I just started bawling. And he was like, OK, weíre going to start you on Zoloft, itís going to take awhile to work but try to bear with it. Well, there was no bearing with it because a week and a half later we called him and he said, if you feel that bad take yourself to the emergency room. I said, thatís exactly what Iím going to do.
Helen: Why do you think other that you would like other mothers to know about being able to tell other people? And is there anything that anyone said that really was helpful to you? Youíve just shared something that I think is important, that there are so many people out there that you donít realize are experiencing it, but itís like a secret and nobody wants to tell. And you look fine from the outside. If you had a broken leg and a cast on your leg, people would be bringing you meals and helping you but because you look perfectly fine on the outside, they donít realize it. So what do you think, what are some of the things that you feel were helpful that other people, particularly in this group, might have said to you?
Tamela: Well, the group was so small I think it was you and I in the beginning and somebody would come in and go. It was very nice to have you all to myself but I continued to feel really alone and that this was, if anybody had it, I didnít know about it because nobody talks about it.
Helen: Tamela was one of the first people to ever come to this group.
Tamela: But it just made me feel even more secluded, and even more like I was Ö you could tell me I was fine and everything was OK and I did try the Zoloft. But it had taken six months before I had my first panic attack. And I can remember the night, calling my mother and saying, having her talk me down. Iíd had one or two in my lifetime so at least I recognized what was going on.
Chrissy: Yeah, I didnít recognize it at all.
Tamela: But I hadnít been sleeping and I was actually logging this information. I donít want to give you a one-hour chat about what happened but I could. I logged it because I said you know, whatís wrong? Iím not sleeping, the babyís not sleeping. He was sleeping while he was nursing and I didnít realize it. So it was six months of 15 minutes to two hours sleep, total in a day. And Iím going to get emotional because itís a hard time of course. So it was six months of this not sleeping and what had happened that particular evening was my oldest son had started to sleep. He was sleeping past two hours and there I was awake, waiting to nurse. And it was awful. I had the opportunity to sleep, and like you had the opportunity to sleep (turns to Chrissy) and I couldnít.
Chrissy: Yup, you canít sleep. Sheíd be sound asleep and Iíd be like, Iím going to sleep and there I laid Ö
Tamela: And there you laid.
Chrissy: Ö and the mind racing and eyes wide open.
Chrissy: And then all of a sudden, Iíd start to fall asleep and then it would be three hours later and sheíd wake up.
Tamela: Yeah. And thatís when I said, well whatís the point? Why bother trying to fall asleep? Because heíll be up any minute. And thatís when I had the panic attack, called my mother, had her talk me down. And the next day went to seek therapy and was recommended to you, thank God. But it was just us and the occasional person would pop in and it just made me feel more alone.
Helen: Thatís a good point. Thatís a good point.
Tamela: Well, how do you? Itís hard to advertise. Anybody else feeling blue? Feeling desperate?
Lisa: Iíd be hinting Ė did you have any problems?
Tamela: You could hint.
Lisa: But nobody ever really came out.
Tamela: Right. And as soon as that happens, back off and didnít talk about it. Iím glad youíre there (to Helen), Iím glad itís known that itís a problem and people need to come out.
Helen: Well, people are so afraid to.
Tamela: Yes, I am shocked at how, this is so many people to me. This is wonderful and Iím sure itís just the tip of the iceberg, whatís going on out there.
Helen: It is.
Tamela: And hopefully theyíll be more talked about and more known so that when you start feeling this way. Because I had like you (turns to Shawna), the anxiety. I wasnít crying. I was probably depressed but not to the point of crying, I donít know if that makes sense.
Helen: I think sometimes anxiety is the chief emotion that you feel, which makes it difficult because people think of postpartum as depression. They donít realize that the anxiety Ö
Tamela: And since I wasnít crying I didnít go for help.
Tamela: I just thought, OK, Iím just not getting any sleep. And Iím just going through my day as best I can and I was nursing, it was like 45 minutes to nurse and then I had, you know, a half hour in between and I wasnít even filling up enough for the next one. It was Ö
Chrissy: And then your days, you donít even remember the whole day. The next thing you know itís nine oíclock in the morning and youíre with the baby Ö
Tamela: Nine a.m., nine p.m., itís all the same.
Chrissy: And then all of a sudden itís nine oíclock at night and youíre like, what did I do today?
Tamela: You nursed. If you were lucky, you got a meal, not a lot of showers. I always shot for one a week. You can edit that part.
Chrissy: Iím lucky my husband was home with me because I could shower. Iíd be like, OK, Iím going to get in the shower.
Shawna: I didnít even want to shower. I didnít want to. Take a shower it will make you feel better Ö how do you know itís gonna make me feel better? What would make me feel better was if you helped with my child, our child. Youíre half responsible for this. A shower is not going to take any of this away.
Chrissy: Yeah, I got that too. Take a shower, youíll feel better. No, thatís not going to make me feel better.
Shawna: Or go for a walk.
Chrissy: Go for a walk. And I actually did go for walks because you know it got me out. And then I would go for a walk and Ö
Shawna: I went for one.
Lisa: Sheilaís my neighbor and also my good friend. And I saw her, I was on my way home, and I saw her walking up a hill on a cold, windy day. And she was alone and I remember doing that. And I passed by her and I was scared, scared for her. I knew something was wrong. And she came in to the salon where I work at and told me she had met Helen and I was so thankful because Helen is like a godsend. She saved my life.
Sheila: Oh yeah.
Lisa: I see such an improvement in Sheila in just like, only maybe two months.
Sheila: I have a good support group and come to meetings. And Shawnaís a good talker.
Shawna: I can talk sometimes.
Sheila: My first encounter with you was, oh yeah, Iíve been through that. I got the medication.
Shawna: I was so thankful you were there telling me this. I was like, you did? How many milligrams were you on? And when did it stop? And Ö
Sheila: And Helen was saying you need to be seen by somebody and there was help. And you know, postpartum people should be seen right away. And so I was thinking, OK, Iím not where Shawna is. Sheís really (laughs), she really needs help. But I was there and I didnít realize it and I was like, you know. I called her the next day probably, did you call for help yet?
Shawna: Are you going to a psychiatrist yet? And who are you seeing? And you know what, speaking of, I went to counseling at Hunterdon Behavioral Healthcare. They had no idea that this support group existed and I thought that was very sad. And I think that it needs to Ö
Chrissy: Yes, they did not. Because thatís where I go and she had no idea that this support group existed. Who told me was Amanda, my friend Amanda. Thatís who told me about this. Because I had asked her, is there any kind of postpartum depression group that you know of? And she said thereís a group called Baby Steps that you can go to.
Tamela: I used to go to that, just looking for something.
Chrissy: And I said, No, no. Amanda goes to that one. Thatís not what Iím looking for.
Helen: Yeah, itís hard to get the word out. It really is. And it is so important to know that youíre not alone. And thatís why I am so glad that you guys can connect with each other. And I know Kim has called people and Lisaís called people. Well, Iím not sure, maybe you even called Amy. Iím trying to remember who you spoke with.
Amy: I donít think I spoke with anybody. I donít remember.
Helen: OK, I was thinking maybe you spoke with Lisa. You just probably were so Ö well you have three children so that even makes it more difficult to get out?
Amy: Well, my story is very complex and I donít even know where to begin and I donít know, I definitely couldnít cover everything Iíve been through. I definitely had postpartum depression with each child but I have a history of depression. Iím actually bipolar so I when I first got sick after my first child I didnít know like everybody with your first child you donít know whatís going on, what was normal. I didnít have any support. My mom wasnít one of those moms to come over and do wash and all that stuff. I was totally on my own with a very supportive husband but the two of us were clueless, the blind leading the blind and all I would do was breastfeed my child and you know thereís a lot of pressure about that. And I had a lot of trouble and I didnít produce enough milk and my daughter was losing weight and she was urinating orange crystals in her diapers but we didnít know. We would look at the diaper and be like, I donít know, is it a wet diaper? It looks like itís tinted yellow. We had no idea. And I remember at night she would just be screaming and crying and I would be holding her and going up and down like why wonít you stop crying? And one time I remember feeling like, I just want to throw you and get the hell away from me. Itís awful to feel that way but I just, I didnít know what the problem was and the problem was that she was hungry and I couldnít feed her.
Tamela: Thatís heartbreaking.
Amy: Sheís 7 now and I donít know why itís still hard for me but Ö
Shawna: Itís traumatizing right? Like post-traumatic stress ...
Kim: Thereís a lot of pressure to breastfeed and if you canít Ö
Amy: And I canít Ö
Helen: And itís OK.
Kim: Is is, I know Ö
Amy: And I only found out recently, seven years later, through a blood test, that Iím low in prolactin so itís impossible for me to produce enough milk. I mean, I gave all three of mine colostrum and whatever breast milk I could because I wanted to.
Another woman: I couldnít breastfeed either.
Amy: And I had a pediatrician tell me, oh this baby is starving to death. And she told me to express milk and I tried to express milk and I didnít even know how to do that, you know, and nothing would come out and it was just awful. It was horrible. She apologized right away but itís still stuck in my head. Well my daughterís a healthy 60-pound, 7-year-old girl now, and sheís like my best friend. You know you talked about missing time but you know what itís OK because I enjoy her now so much more from age 4 to 7 and we have such Ö. Youíre not missing out, the best is yet to come. Honestly, really.
Tamela: Itís all, itís all wonderful.
Amy: And I even think sometimes, oh my gosh, look at her, if only she knew she was the guinea pig, you know. We didnít know what we were doing.
Tamela: I think the first ones always are, right?
Amy: And I went to support group meetings down in Princeton with Joyce (inaudible), who was running the Depression After Delivery group and I went down there with her. I knew I had history of depression. I had been depressed in college and my parents noticed that I wasnít right. And thatís what got me to find a psychologist to counsel with through my gynecologist and I found out about this group and I went and it was not easy. And everyone had different stories and it helped me, it did help me. Unfortunately, the group disintegrated.
So with my second child, I knew what I was getting into so I tried my best to prepare as much in advance. I got actually professional help, women called doulas that actually help out with laundry, cooking, feeding the baby, some do overnights. And my parents gave me the money to do it. They couldnít be there to help me but they wanted to help me so they gave me the money to afford this help. And I thought, all right, great. Iíve got professional women now, Iím going to rent a hospital-grade pump, Iím going to go on fenugreek. Iím going to do everything I can to produce breast milk because the second time around is going to be much better.
Well, it didnít work. I tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and Iíd get like half an ounce of breast milk and I felt like the biggest failure. And I felt like I wasnít giving my child the best, and he was colicky, my second child, and you know the sleep deprivation and the guilt of that, and you not being able to feed your child. Iím a woman. Iím supposed to be able to feed my child. And I got pregnant easily, I had great Ö, never was depressed when I was pregnant. I delivered fine. But thatís one thing I couldnít do and it destroyed me. I know that contributed greatly. Yes, I do have a mental illness history there so Iím prone to it. I probably should have just gone on medication right away and my gynecologist told me to, especially the second time around, but no, I wanted to try nursing. I wanted to try and see if I could make this work. And like I said, I only found out recently that I do have an issue and no one, an endocrinologist cannot explain why Iím low in prolactin but because of that I canít produce.
Helen: Itís just the way your bodyís wired.
Amy: And in a way it was good for me to hear because I know that it wasnít me not trying something, I didnít. There wasnít a step that I missed.
Helen: Right, itís not your fault. Itís not your fault.
Amy: It really is some type of condition that I have like everyoneís low in something or too high in something.
Tamela: Wouldnít that be a great test to give moms afterwards so that we would know that itís not us? Are we producing enough? I never knew.
Helen: Someday, someday.
Tamela: With the colic though I can remember thinking, OK am I producing enough? How do I know? Unless you skip the nursing and try to pump, which is not as effective, so you donít know. What a great test Ö
Amy: So I tried to prepare myself but I got sick anyway even with a professional woman coming in and helping and the most loving, supportive husband in the world. I probably should have just gone on antidepressants but I wanted to try to nurse and try everything I could do to make it work.
Tamela: But you canít fault yourself for wanting to try. Thatís courageous.
Amy: Well thank you.
Amy: I eventually went, had to give that up and my breasts didnít even hurt at all because there was nothing there! How awful is that? Itís so depressing. And no manís ever going to relate to that feeling of inadequacy. And I tried to explain to him, well what would it be like if you couldnít perform or something?
Helen: All those Cialis ads.
Amy: Youíd feel inadequate. You donít feel complete. And that was a huge battle for me to say, I am a woman.
Amy: You donít have to breastfeed in order to be a good mom.
Amy: That was a huge hurdle for me because all I was bombarded with was breast is best and motherís milk and, well, you know, thatís great, if you can do it.
Chrissy: Thatís what they said to me too, this is the best, donít give formula.
Amy: And my sister has no problem with creating breast milk but she doesnít want to breastfeed, didnít even want to try. And Iím like, oh my gosh. Well, so I got sick anyway with my second child, and a long struggle to get out of it. Got out of it and then we decided to move and it was probably too much stress too soon and I got sick again. And I get severe anxiety too, anxiety and depression they kind of go hand-in-hand with me where I didnít want my husband to leave and go to work. Iíd be crying, I didnít want to be alone.
Helen: I think thatís very typical.
Amy: My biggest fear was I didnít want to be alone. And it wasnít because I thought I was going to kill myself and I wasnít going to kill the baby or anything like that. I just couldnít be alone because I didnít feel confident enough that I could handle things and take care of things. So that was like this huge fear that I had. So I got through that and then we decided to have a third. And again I tried to prepare myself. It just goes to show you that itís an illness and you can prepare as much as possible. So for those of you who have not prepared with professional help, donít feel that you didnít do something you should have because odds are, youíd get sick anyway. For me itís a chemical imbalance, I know that. I have a chemical imbalance and I think having a baby just makes it a hundred times worse for somebody like me who had a predisposition to it anyway. So with number three, I got sick again.
Helen: But not right away.
Tamela: Oh, thatís interesting.
Amy: No, not right away, not right away. I donít know if, it was the best nursing experience for me, which was weird. But I enjoyed that. And I did not go on medicine right away like I was supposed to. I didnít. And got sick and I basically, itís basically taken me a year to get well, this time. And this time, it almost killed me. This was probably, this was the worst out of all.
But I donít regret having my son. Iím finally able to feel happy. Iím only about four months out, in recovery. I had felt better last spring but then I had a relapse in the summer really bad. And we tried all different medications and nothing was helping me. And it was scary because it was like a rush for time. Either they find something thatís going to help me or Iím just gonna, this illness is going to win this time.
But I consulted several doctors, one great doctor that Helen works with. But then I became too much of a challenge for him and I had to move on to a specialist at Columbia University who has helped me with this drug combination that for whatever reason seems to have worked. Because I was headed for ECT because nothing was helping me. But this guy in Columbia has, heís on the cutting edge of a lot of research. Heís a very smart individual and he has me on a cranial stimulator now which sounds funny. Itís like a little handheld device, like a remote control for a TV, and it has little electrodes, and a, like a sweatband you put around your head and you dip the sponges in water and slip them under. You donít feel anything. You can exercise. You can change diapers as long as your child doesnít pull the wiring. So every morning I start my day with a cranial stimulator and what it does is it increases serotonin and Ö
Kim: So it helps to rebalance the chemicals?
Helen: Itís a less invasive way.
Amy: It also decreases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. So I start my day with that but I am on medication.
Tamela: Is that available under the counter yet?
Kim: Itís great that you were able to get in touch with somebody like that because with me it was like medicine after medicine after medicine didnít work. And it was like you know everybody was trying to help me but who do you go to at that point? So itís great that you were able to find Ö
Amy: It was my dad.
Helen: Amy struggled. I mean, you really persisted. And so did you Kim.
Lisa: Itís not any different than sitting in front of these seasonal affective disorder lights. Whatever works and whateverís going to make you feel better.
Amy: Nobody even knows that I do this so Ö I havenít even gone to a group in a long time so this whole fact that Iím even here is a miracle.
Helen: It is a miracle.
Amy: The fact that Iím even willing to talk about, one, that Iím bipolar because nobody wants to admit that they you have a mental illness you know. Itís just Ö
Helen: Thank you, thank you very much.
Amy: But part of my getting on with life is embracing my illness. It will never go away, itís always going to be in the shadows but I now know I have to accept it and learn from it and take the positive from it. Otherwise itíll just defeat you. You canít look at all of your experiences as this negative, horrible thing. You have to look at it that it happened for a reason and there always is something good to come out of it. Even though that might be really hard right now to figure out, eventually you will.
Lisa: Do you feel stronger?
Amy: Oh yeah, I mean each time I came out of it I felt stronger. I was probably you know I guess I was strong enough to be willing to go through it again, to have children. I really wanted to have my kids and I donít want this to beat me and succumb to it. A lot of people said I shouldnít have any more kids, donít even mess around with it, because like I said I have the predisposition to it with the chemical issue, which nobody understands anyway. Thatís very difficult to figure out what youíre deficient in, you canít get a blood test to determine which neurotransmitter Ö
Kim: I remember saying that to Helen. Sheís like, well youíre deficient in a neurotransmitting. Well, test me!
Amy: Thereís no way to know.
Kim: Figure out which one it is because Iím very you know boom, boom, boom. Well, this is what Iím going to do to fix it and well then test me. Find out which one it is thatís the problem and letís just figure it out.
Helen: Kimís kind of the mathemetician.
Amy: So thatís what you have to do, you have to find a reason that this happened. And I, weíre not having any more kids, three is more than enough. Iím sure, who knows? I might get sick again at some point in the future. I donít know, maybe I wonít. Maybe I can finally live the rest of my life healthy.
Lisa: Recognizing it and other people around you recognizing it is the most important. One of the things that I think that a lot of people donít like to talk about is Andrea Yates. When I was experiencing my postpartum, thatís when it had happened with Andrea Yates. I think itís just unfortunate as far as her support goes it doesnít seem like she had a lot of support. She had a lot of children very close together and itís very tragic what happened to her that if she had the right support and the right medication that may not have happened.
Helen: Whatís it like? This is the first time weíve had this, I think weíve had five actually at one point, but this is the most we have had. So whatís it like to finally have an opportunity to talk with other moms and have this support of the group? Iíve tried to get people to come back and Tamela comes back and Lisa and Sheila and Valerie also is a great person because I do think itís important to have people who are on the other side. And I hope for Chrissy this is helpful for you to hear people that have really felt like you did.
Chrissy: Oh it is, very helpful. Because you can get on the computer and read other peopleís stories but until you actually talk to somebody and meet them, then you know that youíre not alone. And the worst thing for me was, I kept saying to myself, Iím not going to get better. This is not going to go away. Iím not going to get better. Why am I here? If I just get rid of myself and my daughter and my husband will be fine without me, but I think people just have to realize that it is going to get better.
Helen: But you need someone to tell you that Ö
Helen: Ö when youíre feeling that way. You just need that over and over for people to tell you.
Chrissy: And that was my husband. He kept on saying, youíre gonna get better, youíre gonna get better, youíre gonna get better.
Shawna: Thatís what Helen kept saying when she called me. Itís temporary, youíre gonna get better. And then they gave me Tamelaís phone number. And I said, thank you so much because it was me and Sheila and we were both not on the other side. And you do need that.
Chrissy: And then I went to therapy and then I met Helen and last week I was the only one here and she kept saying to me, it is gonna get better. And I left here and I cried like halfway down the road thinking to myself, Iím going to get better. I actually believed it.
Tamela: Oh you believed her? Thatís nice.
Chrissy: I am going to get better.
Tamela: I donít think I believed you the first time.
Chrissy: And I think I kind of and thought to myself, Wow, I have a daughter and I am gonna get better and pretty soon, time flies. Already you know itís a month ago that I had her. Pretty soon sheís gonna be talking and Ö Thatís OK, go ahead.
Shawna: I just had a thought that you know I delivered here and then they have all these videos for you to watch, how to change a diaper, how to bathe your baby. And they should have something like this for people to watch so that when they go home they know that youíre here. They donít have someone going room to room when I was there saying, listen you may not have this but I run a support group and thereís a million people who have this feeling or anxiety, depression, these thoughts, those thoughts.
Chrissy: Because they have a video on postpartum but we skipped right over that because I was like oh Iím fine. Iím fine.
Shawna: I didnít even know they had a video so I was blindsided.
Tamela: I was so tired I donít remember the videos. Iím sure I watched them.
Chrissy: We utilized the nursery. I was here for a Thursday until Wednesday so I was here for a while. And every night, every night around 9 oíclock we would take our daughter to the nursery and we would sleep all night long because I knew that once we went home. And I donít know if anybody had made this mistake but I thought when we go home Iím going to let my husband sleep all night and Iíll take care of the baby. Because thatĎs my role, thatís what Iím supposed to do. So for the first two nights that I was home I was up with her every two hours and I let my husband sleep. And by the third day you know Iím sitting in the chair and Iíve got her in my arms and Iím like this, you know, and thatís when it all started.
Kim: Well, the other thing too. Because I know my husband would be reading on the Internet and heíd be asking me, well, tired, sleeplessness, things like that. And I donít know, I just felt like I was experiencing all of those things like a hundred times stronger than you read it. You read the list. OK, sleeplessness. Well, Iíve been up the entire night for days on end like youíre talking about walking like as soon as it would be light I would start to walk because I was like Iím just sitting in the bed anyway. So it just kind of seemed like the list of the symptoms just didnít adequately explain how intense, like sleeplessness, OK, but you know or irritability and anxiety. Well that just doesnít really do it any justice, like what it is.
Helen: Itís not real. To just read it, itís not real.
Kim: Itís just not explaining the intensity of what it is that youíre gonna feel. I mean, my sonís almost 6 years old so they didnít have a video, but maybe a video that you know does kind of say you can Ö
Chrissy: Or like I said, you just skip right over it.
Shawna: They should have some policy or mandatory thing or have someone go room to room after you deliver and just tell them this is what we have because like I said, even the counselors at the behavioral health center didnít know. She said, oh I guess thatís something I should know. You think?
Tamela: The thing that struck me. When you mention that we see the OB/GYN about six weeks later. I was seeing the regular pediatrician, you go back about two days later I think when you give birth? And then, because Alexander was colicky, because my firstborn son was colicky, fussy and I wonder how much I was producing. But every two days I would go to the pediatricianís office, desperate for like what is wrong? Why is he so sad? Why canít I? And in relationship Iím not sleeping. And you remember my lists, my timelines Ö
Helen: Oh, it was incredible.
Tamela: Because I was looking for an answer, a solution, so I mapped it out as best I could. And I would show the pediatrician three times a week. I would say, whatís wrong? Now I think the pediatrician is one of those first people that can say to the mom Ö
Kim: First line of defense.
Tamela: Ö Somethingís up. Because if you wait six weeks for your OB/GYN then, thatís six weeks. I could have been in at one week not at six months. Ay-yi-yi. And I didnít have, after that point in time, you were talking about, a couple people have mentioned throwing the baby out. I can remember standing at the top of the stairs at my house and my husband looking up, you know at 6 a.m. and heís going off to work and heís like, are you going to be OK? And I said, Iím not gonna hurt him, I said, but I feel like I could fall down, like I could just fall down this flight of stairs.
Helen: Itís an intrusive thought.
Tamela: Yes, and it was so scary.
Kim: Inadvertently do something Ö
Tamela: Right or just die. Iíll just be dead and whoís gonna take care of him for the next eight hours until you come home? And it was so scary.
Helen: And being alone was very scary.
Tamela: Yeah, it was. And I have family that actually lives close by but they canít understand. I donít want to say appreciate but they canít understand what youíre going through. They wanted to help. I can remember my mom came over a couple of times a week and she would help with laundry or cook a meal or something. That faded in a week or two if my recollection is even correct. But people try but I didnít feel they understood how much you needed help all the time. And it was, I donít mean all the time, 24 hours, but I mean at the drop of a hat to reach out and tell somebody whether itís a friend or family member. I didnít want anybody to know I didnít want my in-laws to know. Iím close with my mom so I could tell her but she didnít have any answers sheís not a doctor or a nurse or Ö
Chrissy: Thatís what was sad about mine. Iím very close with my mom.
Support Group Videos: Kim | Shawna | Christine | Amy