Postpartum Depression

I have debated on whether or not I publicly wanted to declare that I am suffering with postpartum depression, and have since decided that it would be more therapeutic and healing for me to write about it, then to put effort into concealing it.

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I have been on a long and exhausting journey, and I wish I could say I have reached my destination but the reality is, I am still on the road to recovery. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable writing about my experience from start to finish, but today I wanted to reveal my very first encounter with a psychiatrist when I first started treatment. This doctor was horrible, and I’m not just saying that because I am “ill” or because she told me things I didn’t want to hear; I’m saying that because she had no clue about postpartum depression and was less than qualified to do her job. To any woman who has attempted to get care and been treated this way, I am sorry. I am sorry that our system failed  you. I am sorry that you may have even given up seeking treatment because of a bad experience. I am sorry that mental health care professionals carry stigmas against their own patients. I know; I experienced it.

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I remember walking into her office, alone, afraid, and completely vulnerable. Her space was the epitome of a psyche ward: cold pale tile floors, white walls with various dents and scratches, and bright fluorescent lights that occasionally flickered.  As I explained my symptoms she interrupted me and in a very brash tone assumed “This is your first baby, huh?” I remember being taken aback that I would A) be interrupted just as I am bearing my soul and B) to have an assumption made about me by some one who had only known me for a total of 3 grand minutes. “No,” I replied, “This is my second child, which is why I didn’t expect–” Interrupting again, she just couldn’t hold back her surprise at being so painfully wrong. “Second child? That is very unusual. Are you sure you weren’t depressed with your first? It isn’t common to have depression with your second child and not your first.” And that’s when it hit me, I wasn’t going to receive a fair assessment and this doctor was going to do every thing possible, even imagine a history of depression in me, in order to make my illness fit her perception of what Postpartum Depression looks like.

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When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she ended our appointment by asking me, “Do you want to have any more children?” I told her, “Yes, my husband and I would like to have a large family some day.” With a cold, domineering expression she said, “You may want to reconsider. I would probably stop having children in your situation.”

In a society where it is a CARDINAL SIN to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body, an incompetent doctor who had assessed me for only 20 minutes decided I should never procreate ever again. This was my first experience receiving psychiatric care for my postpartum depression. Perhaps to some it sounds dramatic, but I am completely serious when I say that the care I received was criminal. It amplified my symptoms of feeling like a failure, feeling guilty, feeling crazy

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I have since found a therapist who specializes in Postpartum Depression, who cried when I told her of this account. She is the one who made me feel human again. She is the one who gave me hope that I could get better and go on to be an amazing, wonderful, loving mother [to even MORE children, if I wish!]

If you are struggling with this horrible, awful illness I want you to know 3 things: You are not alone, it is NOT your fault, and with the appropriate care you can get better. For great resources and tools to help you find a specialist, visit http://www.postpartum.net/

Winding Down Summer

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Like a true Californian, I want all the perks of fall time without the weather becoming too much colder. We have some exiting things coming up like : a double date with our friends, an Ohio State football game, and apple picking. I’m looking forward to these events, though still wishing that the warm weather won’t be leaving us.

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Even though I have grown quite fond of the Buckeye state, it is hard for me to reconcile with the impending doom of winter. Earlier in the week, my mom sent me a picture of a shirt that said: “I bake because punching people is frowned upon.” I, of course, laughed… but then I thought a little deeper about it and my love for baking. When the weather changes, I really do go into baking mode, and you can find me in the kitchen almost every day working on a new treat. I always thought that it was because I liked to be by the warm oven while it is cooling off outside. Here is my new theory though, the kitchen is where my expertise in baking collides with irreconcilable mourning of summer.

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I don’t know how or when I will stop longing for sunshine. Of course, I am the one who made the decision to stay out here in Ohio, so there must have been a good reason for leaving California. But like most decisions, we forget why we make the changes we do. We choose to see the past through the most flattering of lenses. Even though I know this, the weather still tugs on my heart strings and makes me question where I live and why I can’t go back to the golden state. So, I bake. I measure, I read recipes, I focus… it is where what I don’t know collides with what I do know.

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My mind is clear when I am in the kitchen. I carefully read instructions, take care when using specific tools, and improve my technique when I can. Baking is some thing that, when you follow the instructions and do the best you can, you will always get a perfect result. In life, [or at least in my own life] the reaction is almost always opposite. You can try your best, do every thing “right” and things may still not work out. I can control the speed on my mixer, but what I can’t control is every element affecting my everyday life. And so, I bake…

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Last week was a blur of trying to get caught up with housework. We all have weeks like that. The one good thing was that I was able to get together with some local moms, and have them over in our new house for some coffee and donuts.
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I had been having a tough week with Cora, the house was a wreck, and I had a friend hurt my feelings. I was a hormonal, emotional wreck. The local community of moms had no idea how I was feeling and yet just their presence, lighthearted conversation and fellowship completely cheered me up. As much as I struggle living outside of the Golden State, those are the moments that remind me why I decided to settle here in the first place.

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In other news, Cora is basically crawling. She can army crawl like a banshee, and can crawl short distances on her knees. Physically, she is so far ahead of where Sophie was at this age. She impresses us every day! Who knows what God has in store for a girl with her determination…

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One of the cons of such determination is that it makes her a fighter against every thing. We have had to resort to “crying it out” with her at nap and bed time. Sophie was easily soothed by my voice or my touch; Cora screams whether she is being held or left in a crib. Crying it out allows her to work through her tantrum and gives me the permission to separate myself from her fits. It helps me to calm down and not take her screaming rage personally. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the CIO method has made me more patient and loving toward her. We let her cry in 10 minute increments before going in to pat her on the back for a few minutes.  We repeat the cycle until she falls asleep. The longest she has cried is 50 minutes, but it has gotten to be less and less time the more we have practiced letting her cry it out.
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When she is awake she is such a happy, charismatic kid! There are many families in our little community who have kids around her and Sophie’s age, so I can’t wait to strengthen some of my own relationships with other moms, which will hopefully lead to solid friendships for my kids.

How do you expand your network of local parents?

Out of Whack

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Last week my family was visiting from California [hence the lack of posting], and while it was a totally awesome visit, the girls are both completely off schedule. Sophie adapts pretty well to almost any situation, but the fallout with Cora has been excruciating. I’ve had lots of help though, and that has eased the transition back to our regular schedule.

I’m sure most moms are going through a variation of this experience as they transition their kids back to a school schedule. It makes me sad that summer is ending, but I have to be honest: I am looking forward to cooler weather, apple picking, Halloween planning, and getting to wear multiple layers which hid my baby weight!

I’m trying to take this week 1 day at a time. Getting caught up on laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming… it can be so overwhelming when I look at everything I want to accomplish in 1 week. If I just look at what I can accomplish today though, the work seems much more manageable. So far I have been running on coffee and donut fuel, so an other goal of mine is to get back to the clean eating. Sorry the posts have been skimpy this week. Be prepared for a full blown return to blogging next week. Enjoy the holiday weekend, y’all!

6 Month Cora Update!

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This adorable little girl is 6 months old, already! Her first year is half over! I can hardly believe it… Some improvements to this model: she only wakes once throughout the night, she is responding well to sleep training, she can pretty much crawl, she LOVES sweet potato and has actually picked up on how to eat solid food rather quick. Cora Grace has no teeth yet, and she is still a fighter when it comes to naps. She likes to work herself up and become really fussy right before passing out. She still loves her penguin pacifier, but is more focused on the teething toys. Just because she doesn’t have teeth yet, doesn’t mean they’re not coming!

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Overall, she is a happy kid. She is quick and curious and strong… and she is beginning to stress Sophie out as she didn’t realize her baby sister was going to be competition for toys so soon. Cora wants to do every thing her big sissy is doing! And so the rivalry begins…

Cora has some serious core strength too. She rocks tummy time, can crawl a few steps at a time, and can officially sit up for long periods of time.

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If this is how quickly she has grown in the first 6 months, I can’t wait to see what she does with the next 6! One thing that hasn’t changed though, is that she is still extremely social, loves face time, and being apart of whatever the family is doing. She hates feeling like she is missing out on the fun and will fuss incessantly if you try to keep her from conversation or family activity. In any case, we love our little extrovert. Happy 6 months, Cora Grace!

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Breastfeeding Awareness Week

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I think I may have just missed the window for Breastfeeding Awareness week [blame the mommy brain] but I want to share this post with you anyway. As many of you know, I breastfed Sophie for 18 months, until I got pregnant with Cora. For some reason, nursing wasn’t that beautiful, bonding experience for me, but I knew it was what was best for my child’s health and so I stuck with it. Then comes Cora… Just when I thought I couldn’t dislike nursing more than I already did, I have a baby who doesn’t like it. Seconds after giving birth, I was able to nurse her and she latched on right away. All the nurses were so proud of us for the next few days, cheering me on in my nursing ability with my baby, cheering on Cora for having a good latch. Once we got home though, Cora would thrash her head, begin to fuss if the milk didn’t let down immediately, and overall made breastfeeding a very unpleasant experience for everyone. Fast forward to her being 3 months old and I become sick and have to be in the hospital for several days. Due to circumstances beyond my control, they don’t let me see or feed Cora for the first few days, and then once I finally do get to feed her, our nursing relationship is completely obliterated by nipple confusion and a low supply of milk.

It was so hard for me to surrender my nursing relationship with Cora. My readers may remember me posting often about how we had a hard time bonding in the beginning, and it felt like this obstacle further separated us. The truth is, she was happier to have the ease of a bottle, and I was happy not to have to wrestle her at feedings any more. What I am thankful for is this: we tried. We desperately tried to breastfeed for almost 4 months. I run into people in my town with 1-4 day old babies who are bottle fed, and these mothers freely admit that they just didn’t want to be inconvenienced by breastfeeding. I get it, I totally do. After being hospitalized, I didn’t want to be inconvenience by a lactation consultant working for weeks to correct my daughter’s nipple confusion. I didn’t want to take supplements and be a slave to my pump just trying to boost my supply. But I do think it is worth it for all women to try. [Disclaimer: I get that some times there are outside factors some women cannot control, that prevent them from breastfeed. This is not a message for you, mamas.]

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It seems unfair that we have to suffer 9 months of pregnancy, suffer through labor, and then suffer indefinitely until we learn how to nurse our babies [hello, cracked nipples!] and that is why I LOVE this image of Mary. It is called “Our Lady of Le Leche” and she is a beautiful reminder of what a gift it is to breastfeed. God endowed only women with the ability to nourish their children like this. Jesus Christ himself depended on Mary to feed and care for him with her body. I wish it was some thing I had learned about sooner, but now that I have discovered this beautiful image I wanted to share it with you all for Breastfeeding Awareness week. If you just google this title of Mary, you will find lots of prayers and meditations on Jesus’ and Mary’s relationship, motherhood, and more specifically how to nurse! I highly recommend it for any Christian mommy.

To all the mommy’s like myself, who couldn’t keep up with breastfeeding, don’t beat yourself up! You gave your child a beautiful gift for as long as you possibly could manage. And to all the nursing mamas out there, we salute you! It is so typical of our society to surrender what is best for a child in the name of convenience. I get that nursing isn’t easy, but you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby and we applaud you for it.

 

Happy Breastfeeding, mamas!

Close Enough to Kiss

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Miss Cora has been teething a lot lately. At times she is inconsolable, but the one thing that has seemed to help is wearing her. Luckily for the both of us, I just got a brand new ring sling!

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`The fabric rests on one shoulder and is threaded through a set of rings. It gives you the feel of a wrap, without all the hassle of wrapping if you need to keep putting baby down and up again. Since Cora has been so finicky, the ring sling has been great for holding her, then setting her in the swing, then holding her again, and putting her back in her exersaucer. The poor girl doesn’t know what she wants, except to have her gums stop hurting.

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My in-laws took both girls for us this weekend though, so J and I could bond and catch up on some sleep. It was a restful weekend [for once] and I am so thankful we have so many people in our lives willing to help us.

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The Day I Did Dishes in the Kiddie Pool

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Before you ask, Yes, I have been taking my meds… and this is a story of how I turned a bad mom moment into a good mom moment.

It all started while Sophie was playing with chalk — well, it actually started early that morning when I woke up already feeling irritable and overwhelmed. Flash forward to Sophie coloring with chalk, one of the messiest summer activities. Cora was crying, we had a sink [and several counters] covered in dishes from a dinner party, and I knew Sophie was going to get brightly colored chalk all over the house if I didn’t clean her soon.

 

I set Cora in her crib, She was a bit fussy, but I knew she was sleepy and prayed that she would just fall asleep while I tackled the other problems around the house. I wanted to bathe Sophie in the sink, which I already said was filled with dishes. How can I wash both at the same time? I brought the dishes out and put them in Sophie’s kiddie pool as it filled with water, then I grabbed some soap, Sophie, and a sponge.

It took me 15 minutes to scrub all the dishes, and when I went back into the house, Cora had fallen asleep. So I went back outside and let Sophie play in the dirty water for as long as she wanted.

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Once Sophie was finished and asking to go inside, we emptied the pool, then went in and loaded the dishwasher with our pool dishes. A beautiful butterfly kept us company the entire time. So, in a moment when I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and ready to shout… I did some thing that my toddler thought was awesome, while still managing to get the baby to sleep and the dishes done. And that is the story of when I did my dishes in the kiddie pool.

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Cora 5 Month Update

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I know I kind of already gave you all an update on both Sophie and Cora a couple weeks ago, but little Cora Grace OFFICIALLY passed the 5 month mark this weekend, and I wanted a chance to share these cute pictures with you all.

This little peanut is developing so fast! She is sitting up, grabbing toys, biting every thing, and laughing uncontrollably! She cannot keep her eyes off of Sophie. I can already tell Big Sister is going to have a little shadow very soon! She loves interacting with people and consequently hates being left out of conversation. She wants to sit on your lap, facing outwards, so she can participate in social activities like every one else. She laughs when her sister plays and is overall, a pretty happy baby. She gets extremely fussy right before she passes out to sleep. Cora is also a fitful sleeper. She sleeps in the Pack N Play most of the time, but in the middle of the night we let her sneak into bed with us. We almost always regret it when we feel her tiny toes pinching us, or her heels that forcefully embed themselves into our rib cage. Which brings me to Cora’s other strength: her strength. She is so strong and is already attempting to prop herself up on her hands and knees.

I honestly can’t wait to see what she will accomplish this month. She impresses me everyday with all the new things she is learning to do!

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25

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I remember joking a year ago that I was on schedule for my quarter life crisis, as I passed 24 and was heading for 25. It was just that: a joke. I have my “career” figured out for the time being, I have a wonderful husband, my fertility clock isn’t ticking as I already have 2 beautiful children, and to top it all off, we just purchased our first home. To any one else my age, it appears I have everything handled.

In a lot of ways I do, but just like your average human person, in a lot of ways I don’t. I had a pretty extensive self-knowledge when I got married. I knew who I was and what I needed to feel happy and fulfilled. I was active, working toward my degree, and I knew I would get married and start a family. At 25 my degree has long since been finished, the wedding is over, and I stopped being active during my first pregnancy. I still felt utterly fulfilled through the vocation of motherhood. Everyday had its frustrations, but I knew what to expect from Sophie, and I truly felt in control and in my element when it came to raising our daughter. Flash forward to Cora’s entrance, and any confidence I had in my ability to mother has completely gone to hell. I find myself in 24 years worth of ashes, wondering if I have the ability to rise and emerge into year 25.

It has been a difficult season in my life. I recently wrote that I am on a journey to find myself again, and I don’t care how cliche it sounds, because that is exactly what I am doing. I am on a journey of healing, rediscovery, and love. I am just thankful that I have my best friends [J and the girls] at my side, helping me navigate this new era in my life.

 

{image source: LaurenConrad.com}