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/

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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?

New Baby Update

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I am so thrilled to announce that Miss Cora Grace has entered the world! I won’t post the entire birth story just yet — it has all been a bit of a whirlwind! Definitely be on the lookout for that post soon, though.

We are all home and adjusting to our new life as a family of 4. What I will say, is that Sophie has been adjusting quite well so far, to having a new sister. I’m going to credit the Daniel Tiger episodes involving baby Margaret, as well as all the merchandise my mother bought to go in tandem with those episodes. A couple hours after Cora was born, our parents brought Sophie to the hospital to visit us in recovery. Sophie actually leaned forward and gave Cora a kiss without any prompting from us. That was such a sweet moment, I’ll probably never forget.

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Things have been going rather smoothly (minus like, 6 hours of my usual sleep time every day…) but I know I’m probably in for some tough times when my mom leaves and J goes back to work. Luckily, I have about a week and a half before I’m doing this gig solo during the day. Hopefully that gives my body the time it needs to heal in order to function as a mom of 2 by then.

I just want to take a moment to thank anyone who has followed along this journey with me, whether it be via facebook or through this blog. Thank you for your constant thoughts, prayers, and advice. One thing I love about blogging and social media, is that it can connect you to many honest, caring people!

Continue to pray for  our little family as we go through this adjustment. I truly believe that it is prayers from all of you that have injected my life with so much grace, and made this adjustment smoother! DSC_3451

Our Last Date

The week Sophie was born, I have a very distinct memory of Justin and I going to see whatever X Men movie was out at the time. Despite my love of Hugh Jackman, I wasn’t eager to go being a few days over my due date, but my mom convinced me saying that the time of “just the two of us” was limited, and I should take advantage of the “extra” time I was given, being past due. Its a find memory that J and I recalled frequently during tough times during our first year with Sophie.

At 38 weeks, J lured me up to Pittsburgh to go to The Cheesecake Factory, with coupons for 2 free slices of cheesecake. There was no blizzard like we’ve had the past week, the sun was shining, and it felt so nice to get out of the house.

Now, I recommend a small date or even full on “babymoon” vacations to other women I know who are pregnant. The third trimester is tough, and little outings like this help the end to be a little more bearable! My mom comes in this weekend and I can’t wait to see her. It will be nice to have the extra help and maybe get to sneak in another date before baby arrives.

Hubby’s Birthday

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J turned 28 yesterday and we had the most fun celebrating him this past weekend. So, let me take a minute to brag about my husband… pretty much every morning, for the past 10 weeks, J has gotten Sophie out of bed, allowing me to sleep in, he feeds her breakfast, gets her dressed, brushes her teeth, and then tucks her into bed with me [and some times my cell phone on “kids mode”] before he leaves for work. This allows me to sleep in even longer, as long as Sophie is content to be in bed with me. That is just ONE of many things he does to try and make my life easier.

Since we plan on moving in the near future, he’s only showed me more how great of a father he truly is. He works hard to provide for us [and clip coupons for us], making sure we have enough food for the week [thank you coupons], that I can have the heat on as long as I want during these frigid Ohio winters, enough clothes [thanks again to coupons], and finally a home. Becoming a home owner is a big deal, and as the sole provider of this family, I’d think the process would stress him out or be a burden on him, and all I’ve heard are remarks of anticipation from him, and how he can’t wait to build a home with me and our 2 baby girls.

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He is silly, makes me laugh, is kind and tender to this overly-emotional, some times seasonally depressed California girl. I feel so blessed to have him in my life, and I couldn’t have concocted a more perfect spouse for myself if I tried. Now, I’m not saying he’s perfect, that’s definitely not the case… but I see where his weaknesses collide with my strengths, and vice-versa. Furthermore, I see how our chemistry together will help us to raise beautiful, God-loving girls.

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So happy birthday to the best dada and hubs I know! You bring so much joy to my life!

Weekly Update

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Like I mentioned on Friday, my brother is leaving today which has left me feeling a little empty. In addition, I’ve had this crippling anxiety about becoming a mom of 2, as well as stress about this house hunting business. It’s hardly like we’re packing up boxes and beginning the process of moving, but I’m still overwhelmed by the work that goes into being a first time home buyer.

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Sophie is still working off the tail end of a cold she’s had for 3 weeks now. That by itself is enough to be exhausting, but taking into account the increase of contractions I’ve been having lately, I’m dealing with physical stress on top of the emotional stress. I’m not meaning to make this post a total whine-fest, but I have to be honest… this is an update, afterall.

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Mostly I’ve been feeling guilt. When I was pregnant with Sophie, there was so much excitement surrounding her birth. Everyone wanted to touch my belly for a chance to feel her kicking, and besides comments about my size, this bump has all but gone unnoticed. I had months to carefully craft a gorgeous nursery for Sophie, while this baby got a cradle set up next to my bed, and that’s it. I believe every new life is unique and precious, which is why I have much guilt about the lack of reverence I’ve given my second child. Some of it has to do with circumstance in that, we don’t want to set up a beautiful nursery in our current home that we will be having to move out of… but talking with other moms of multiples, we all feel the guilt of our other children feeling like afterthoughts.

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So pray for me, dear readers, as I wrestle with these thoughts over the next few weeks.

Movin’ on Up

Some of you may have heard, J and I are house hunting! I now have an excuse for binge watching anything HGTV related! In all seriousness, we live in a more depressed area, and while the town itself is working on revitalization, the homeowners in the area haven’t been. Many of the homes, while beautifully built in the early 1900’s haven’t been updated since the 70’s [if you’re lucky] and have other damage, whether it be water, electrical, foundation, etc.

90% of the options in our price range are “fixer uppers” which has sent me straight to Pinterest. As much as I’d love to go totally modern in our new house, I have to try to be realistic with the furniture and things we already own. If we have to shell out money on re-wiring a house, then I can’t blow money on trendy furniture. Right now we have furniture in neutral colors such as brown and cream, but we also have darker jewel tones like emerald and sapphire blue chairs. Eventually, we can exchange those items, but for our first few years in a new house, we’ll have to work with them. Here are my current inspirations for our potential new home:

 

For the kitchen, I’m drawn to crisp white cabinets. As much as J had been trying to talk me out of it on account of our children and their filthy hands, we recently looked at a house with a newly renovated kitchen white white cabinetry and he couldn’t deny how nice it looked. One house we had our eye on also had granite counter tops [which is pretty rare for this area, but the previous owner was said to have been a doctor]. The granite is dark, which is another reason I’d lighten that kitchen up with white cabinets. If we were doing a remodel, I’d like to have lighter colored quartz counter tops with grey cabinets, but that would be a huge expense.

The bathrooms have to be the first thing we remodel. They have not been updated or had anything replaced since the 1950’s. Yes, that’s right, THE FIFTIES. Imagine pink and mint tile. Even in the other homes we’ve seen, the bathrooms usually have fixtures from the 70’s and 80’s. For a half bath, I’d do some thing clean and simple. like the picture above with the gorgeous mirrors and chocolate vanity. If we’re lucky enough to get a house with a master bathroom, I’d like it to have a little more personality, like a dip-dyed shower curtain.

The bedrooms I’d like to keep fairly plain and simple, only because I imagine us rearranging our future children in and out of various rooms. Maybe we need a nursery for 5 years, but then can it be a play room? A formal guest room? An office? We have girls right now, but can I transform the place for a boy with minimal effort? The color grey is surprisingly versatile.

For some reason I’m really drawn to having a navy blue dining room. I feel like it sets a more formal tone while still tying into the scheme of the rest of the house.

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As far as the family room goes, we have a lot of mismatched furniture, but I want to try and make that work for us. We have a matching couch and love seat, as well as coffee and end tables that are all a dark brown. That should be a solid foundation for the room that I can mix and match other quirky pieces with. As for paint, we have brown walls in our current house and I am tired of the brown-on-brown darkness it creates. I’d like to lighten up a living room with a light blue that ties into the rest of the house while balancing the other dark furniture. If I can find a cute navy rug [like the one pictured above] as a nod to the navy dining room, even better!

Maybe it’s too much blue, maybe these smaller updates are still more than we can afford… but I have to have some thing to look forward to and imagine in my mind as we look through all these houses. I’m trying not to get discouraged, as this whole process is really overwhelming for a first-time buyer, but keeping inspiration like this in the back of my mind helps to keep me feeling positive about the whole experience.

 

[all photos were found via Pinterest]

“No.”

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[source:  Huffington Post]

When I was a child, in the stone-aged days of cable TV, if I wanted to watch a specific show, I had to wait until the time it came on at. Once the show was over, I’d have to wait 24 hours until it came on again the next morning, unless I was lucky enough to have had my parents buy said show on a VHS to be played repeatedly. Nowadays, most young families I know don’t even have cable. With video streaming like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, you have all of your kid’s favorite shows, on demand, and at your finger tips.

This may solve some problems, like the ones I described from my childhood, but it also creates a slew of problems I didn’t anticipate. Now that Sophie is older and more independent, she has specific likes and dislikes, as well. The show I used to turn on for her as an infant, she now points to and says “no, no, no.” She now demands the obscure, horribly dubbed, Argentinian show, “Plim Plim,” and even after 20 minutes of that, she begins to chant “Pooh, Pooh, Pooh!”

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Because I also lack self-control when it comes to binge watching Netflix, it didn’t occur to me until later that I have the power to tell my child “no.” After cycling through about 5 different shows on both Amazon and Netflix one day, I finally told her “NO. You asked for Blues Clues, so we’re going to watch Blue’s Clues.” Further more, I was reminded that the TV can simply be shut off. She has a pile of perfectly good toys to be played with, making TV almost irrelevant.

So why such a long journey to be able to say “no”? I guess it is because, like most parents, we want to give our children all we have to offer. When they are old enough to being making more specific requests, we are excited at the prospect of their ability to communicate, form independent opinions, and have their own thoughts about the world around them. We are eager to accommodate the circumstances that nurture those three things. In my case, I felt like I was beginning to accommodate Sophie to her detriment.

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Of course it will always be a temptation to sit my child in front of a piece of technology that I know will distract her and keep her quiet. I fear for this especially as I come closer to my due date with baby #2, as I know I will almost have tunnel vision for this new baby as I try to adjust to being a mother of 2 instead of only 1. But it is my prayer that I will put the overall well-being of my child over my “need” for alone time, convenience, or any other excuse I could use to stick her in front of that TV.   Will playing with the singing picnic basket wake up the baby? Possibly, but does it foster more hand-on learning and imagination then a catalog of television shows? I say, yes.

Surviving the Last Weeks of Pregnancy

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Here I am, typing this and sitting pretty at 34 weeks. Apparently my baby is as big as a butternut squash and I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve done this before, how come I don’t remember it being so hard?” Ok, so I didn’t totally forget how hard the 3rd trimester is because I’ve secretly been dreading it ever since day 1 …but there is a particular intensity about reliving some thing you were so happy to be done with the first time.

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So since I’m not a ‘we have 2 kids and now we’re done’ kind of person, how do I handle the 3rd trimester and make it bearable? As a first-time-mom, I was able to lie on the couch as often as I wanted, nest or not nest to my heart’s content, and eat whatever I want. Now That I’m on #2 I have a shadow that follows me everywhere, insisting I share all of my food, leaving a path of destruction everywhere we go, and definitely does not let me lie on the couch all day. So here is what I do to make things a little easier on myself during these last several weeks

  1. Nap time – Nap time is time to treat yourself to anything you can’t do while the little ones are awake. If you prioritize eating a chocolate bar over doing a load of newborn laundry, I won’t judge. It’s all about survival.
  2. Spouses – When you got pregnant, *you* as an individual didn’t just sign on to be a parent, you spouse consented to parenthood to. That doesn’t start when the baby is born, that starts the second you start barfing in your 1st trimester. If you need help getting some thing done, or just need an hour to yourself to rest, TELL YOUR SPOUSE. I don’t care if he has a 12 hour work day, because you have a never-ending work day that involves a human person occupying your body, and you need the help. Contrary to popular belief, this is some thing you do together, and asking for help is one of the ways your spouse participates in the pregnancy: by making it more bearable for you.
  3. Indulge. I’m not just talking about the chocolate bar… if your back is killing you, go get a massage. If you want pink or blue toes for when your girl or boy comes, go get a pedicure. The 3rd trimester is a time to start getting excited for baby instead of just “being done with being pregnant.” Ask your spouse for help or hire a sitter if you have other kiddos. Whatever the case may be, do some thing nice for yourself that’s kind of a splurge. You’re almost there!
  4. Rubs. foot rubs, back rubs, leg rubs, anywhere you want rubbed, solicit your spouse or kids to rub for you. Maybe this sounds dumb, but one of the more vivid memories I have about the days leading up to Soph being born, include either J or my mom rubbing my legs and feet. I was just so exhausted but this helped to ease some of my discomfort. Get a nice lotion for this ritual.
  5. Tums and lots of pillows. Ok, so not every woman gets crazy acid reflux int heir 3rd trimester, but if you do, stash tums everywhere. Also, get a ton of pillows, grab some from the guest room if you have to. Even when I’m lying on the couch, I still like to have a pillow between my knees nowadays. Our bed is full of pillows too… really, any thing that will make you more physically comfortable, make sure you have those items in every room.

How do you survive the final trimester?

St. Lucy

St. Lucy [or Lucia] is known as the patron saint of the blind and of light. Her feast day was yesterday, December 13th, and I told myself that this year we would hold off putting up our lights until her feast day. So, last night we had our very own little family light-up night.

Here’s the story of St. Lucy that I’ve heard: Some time around 300 AD, it was actually dangerous to be a Christian. When most people think of Christianity, they don’t think about persecution and martyrdom. Yes, many people are quick to remember the crusades, but slow to remember that Christians, particularly in Rome, were hunted. In fact many Catholic traditions come from this time of persecution, when people had to celebrate mass in secrecy underground. Besides celebrating mass in the catacombs, Christians wanted by the Romans actually hid underground as well. St. Lucy would bring food to these people, since they were wanted and were too scared to show their faces above ground even to get some thing to eat. The story goes that St. Lucy had so much food to bring to these Christians that she couldn’t carry both the food and the candle she’d need to see in the underground tunnels. So, she placed the candles in a wreath that she wore on her head, leaving both hands free to carry enough food for everyone in hiding. There are probably many variations on this story and the historical facts that go with it… but either way, it is still a good example of charity, love, and the importance of religious freedom.

At the risk of sounding political, I have to say this story touched me in a very particular way this year, as I’ve seen many Muslims being persecuted here due to tensions our country has with those in the middle east, as well as the world-wide persecution Christians are facing. It highlighted to me how lucky I am to have religious freedom in this country and encouraged me to pray for those who do not have this gift in theirs.

In any case, it was an honor to light up the night in honor of the patroness of light herself. Now our home looks particularly festive, and ready for an even BIGGER feast day on December 25th! As you’ll notice, our manger is still missing Baby Jesus, and we’re still rocking our Advent flag near the front door. The anticipation is growing for both Christmas Day and for our trip to California. This week, I’ll be spending most of my time doing last minute shopping and packing for the big trip. Hopefully I will still have time to relax and enjoy the season. Have a great week everyone!