Thursday, July 24, 2014

Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder coverage on the Diane Rehm Show (NPR)

I want to share some important take-aways from the recent coverage of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. If you want to listen to the show, click here, or you can read the main points below:

1) According to leading experts, baby blues last about 10 days. If your symptoms persist or become more severe, you are likely experiencing a PMAD. I wish I had known. I kept wishing away my symptoms and convincing myself they would pass.

2) Insomnia is a very common symptom of PMADs and is not normal for new mothers to experience. Chronic insomnia exacerbates anxious and depressive symptoms. My worst symptom of all.

3) Suicide is a leading cause of maternal death. Women are dying.

4) PMADs are the leading cause of childbirth - more common than postpartum hemorrhages yet doctors are not looking for risk factors or screening for PMADs after childbirth. My OB asked if I had experienced anxiety or depression in the past (a large risk factor) and when I answered yes, she said nothing...

5) Researchers are currently looking at a form of genetic testing to determine which women will be at risk for developing a PMAD. Specifically, researchers are looking at the role estrogen plays in at-risk women.

6) If a woman considers her birth experience to be traumatic (subjectively), she is at a higher risk for developing a PMAD. While by medical standards, I didn't have a traumatic birth, in my mind and still today, I believe I did. My epidural was mildly helpful for only half of the final stage of labor. I pushed for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Labor and delivery nurses told me the rule of thumb was to resort to c-section at 3 hours of pushing, simply because a woman no longer has the stamina to push any longer. They let me continue to push because my progress was "substantial." When I held my daughter for the first time all I remember is feeling angry and betrayed. I was in shock of what I had just endured and I couldn't shake the shock for a few days.

7) Placenta encapsulation - placentas are rich in nutrients but the verdict is still out on whether they can protect against PMADs.

Let's keep supporting and educating. This is every one's business.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I swore I'd never get a mom chop

I did it. I cut my hair short - quite short for Becky standards in fact. I always swore I wouldn't run to the salon after having a baby like so many other moms do to get the infamous MOM CHOP. When moms would tell me they just HAD to cut their hair because of the baby pulling on it or because of the lack of time for washing, blow drying, and styling, I would think to myself, I'll never do that - I will keep the long locks I love and deal with it. Well, like so many other things I told myself I wouldn't do when I had kids, I did it. The fact is, my baby takes chunks of my hair and pulls as hard as she can while being held, when breastfeeding, you name it. I also am absolutely incapable of styling my hair everyday, but when I do, I need to do it in record time - no standing in front of the mirror admiring myself like I did pre-baby. Life has changed. And now I want to go back to that person I was before I had my daughter and tell her to shut up, to not judge, to understand that every parent does what they need to do to stay afloat. Having a child is hard so be nice to those mamas who may seem to do weird things to keep their sanity. If you have no children, then how can you possibly judge anyway. If you do have children, well then you know you'll do just about anything to make life just a little bit easier.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My worst symptom of all

My bedroom scares me. When I walk into the dark room at night and slowly pull back the covers on my bed, I feel the anxious ball of energy beginning to form in my stomach. I hear the thoughts telling me my insomnia could come back - that there's no guarantee I'll get the sleep I need tonight. I struggled with severe insomnia for the first few months of my daughter's life. It was the beginning of my Postpartum Anxiety and by far the worst symptom I struggled with. I have waited to write about it because I still fear its unwelcomed return. When I talk out loud about it I'm afraid I might awaken that part of my brain again - the part that kept me up all night knowing I had a high needs baby to take care of the next day and everyday thereafter.

I think I could fill a book with my experience of insomnia and how it will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. It's so difficult to explain to someone who's never had it. People think that when they've stayed up all night out of choice or endured a sleepless night only to make up for the lost sleep the next day, that they understand. Oh no, there is a reason that criminals are made to stay awake for hours on end during interrogation. That reason is because insomnia is a form of pure torture. It's like having a monster screaming in your face all night, "I will not let you sleep." You hear the screams as your body simultaneously is trying to shut down - to get rest. Your brain won't let it though because your anxiety is in control now and you might as well give up.

I tried giving up here and there. I would leave my bed to read a book. Once I even tiptoed into my daughter's room while she slept and organized the clothes in her closet. I might as well be doing something right? Experts suggest you leave your bed after about 30 minutes of sleeplessness and return after you've distracted your brain for a bit. In short, nothing the so-called experts suggested worked for me. I felt doomed. And when I started to believe I would never be able to sleep well again, I lost hope in my ability to be me - to function as Becky, mother, wife, colleague, sister, daughter, etc. In sets a deep depression and relentless anxiety. The depression and anxiety gained more and more power which diminished the chances of me sleeping ever more. The cycle had started and it's ferociousness was no match for this scared new mama.

After trying every natural remedy known to man, I began the long process of trying out different medications to break the cycle. The journey to finding the perfect treatment for me was painstakingly long. I was sleeping an average of 3-4 hours every 3-4 days and if you were one of those people who suggested I nap during the day, I would have given you the death stare I'm sure. Napping was not an option for someone with Postpartum Anxiety like mine so I shuffled through the days on the very limited amount of sleep I was getting. Because of the support of some great professionals and my own built-in support system, I found a combination of treatments that worked for me.

Last night I slept from 9pm-5am, woke for a few minutes to check the time and my baby on the video monitor, and back to sleep I went until 6:20am when my baby woke. I'm looking for wood to knock on as I write this. I'm on my way to being me again and I can't tell you how sweet a feeling that is, but I can't help but wonder how long my bedroom will haunt me. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why I love Frozen

I'm going to play the new mom card again to justify why I am completely behind on the 2014 movie scene. I did, however, watch half of the Oscars before I passed out at my new mama bedtime of 9:00pm. So at the very least, I now know what movies "might" be worth spending my precious spare moments watching in the next few months.

I sat down to watch Frozen this past weekend with my two nieces 2 and 5, and my almost 6-month-old daughter. I had heard about this movie in passing - something about this song called, "Let It Go" and how kids all over the US just couldn't stop singing it! My sister said I must see the movie, so we all cuddled up for an afternoon of Frozen fun.

FrozenTwenty four hours later, this "busy" mama had magically made time to watch the movie 2.5 times, download "Let It Go" on iTunes, and listen to it too many times to count. My husband looked at me with judging eyes and my sister, who told me I HAD to see the movie, called me a "loser." Even my sweet daughter stared at me with confusion as I belted out, "love is an open door" with absolute gusto! Still, I'm not ashamed to say it, I LOVE Frozen! In fact, you might even catch me singing, "Do you want to build a snowman?" the next time I'm walking through the Frozen food section at the grocery store.

Besides the amazing music, impressive animation, and adorable writing, I'll tell you why I really love this movie. I'd warn this is a SPOILER ALERT, but I actually think I might be the last person in the country to see this movie. Seriously.

So you know how in many fairy tales, something goes awry and an act of true love is required to make things right? Like in Snow White, when the prince has to kiss Snow White in order for her to awaken from her death, or in Beauty and the Beast when Bell has to fall in love with the Beast in order for him to turn into a man again? Well in Frozen, a story of two sisters, the act of true love that has to occur to save one of the sisters is not fulfilled by a kiss, or a sweet romance, but instead by an act of love between two sisters. Now how refreshing is that? It makes sense, right? So many little girls (and boys) watching these movies don't care about kissing, or romantic love, but they can understand and appreciate the story of friendship and sibling love. Perhaps I love this movie so much because of the friendship and unconditional love I share with my two sisters. Sisterly love is truly special and this movie shows how deep and absolutely fulfilling that love can be.

I can't wait for my daughter to see this movie when she's a bit older, although I don't look forward to the sshhhhhinnngggg I'll receive when I try to sing along with every song. I can hear it now, "Mom, please, I'm trying to watch the movie!"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I had a friend come over

Since my daughter's birth most of my visitors have been family and close friends. So when one of these visitors come knocking I don't care much if I have dirty pots in the sink, if my mascara is under my eyes instead of on my eyelashes, or if I smell like old breast milk. I am a new mom (wondering now how long I can claim that title), and I know it's no good pretending I always have it together, because I don't.

This week I had to totally check myself when I decided to, drum roll please, have a NEW friend come over. A person who didn't know me and my awful lack of style when overtired and overwhelmed. Who didn't know that every morning I lay on my couch and spend about 10 minutes pondering whether a shower today is really necessary. Who also didn't know that putting on a real bra and a pair of jeans literally feels like getting dressed for a big interview. Oh my goodness, did I have some work to do.

Here's some of my thought process from yesterday morning to show you that 5 months in, I still struggle - oh how I struggle.

1) Baby wakes: "Yes, Becky, daughter needs to come immediately out of pajamas and into cutest outfit she has." Go to closet, sift through clothes. "Pajama, pajama, pajama, ugh I'm tired, okay here's a pink onesie - not the cutest, but better than pajamas."

2) Sit on couch for only 5 minutes: "Yes, Becky, you have to take a shower - you have greasy hair and you smell funky. But, can't I get away with some dry shampoo and new underwear? No, you SMELL. And, you used the dry shampoo yesterday...go to the shower, NOW!"

3) After shower: "To blow dry and straighten (oh get real), to blow dry, or not to blow dry?" Baby cries, go to baby, decision made...

4) The house: "It's pretty clean actually (baby can't move much yet), do I clean up the dirty dishes though or vacuum? No, I don't want it to look too clean - I can't have her thinking that I'm perfect, because I'm so NOT perfect."

5) Sit on couch again, it's 10am, and I'm totally exhausted. Friend arrives with baby. Both looking very put with friend: "She's so down to earth and totally gets how hard this is. She's a lot like me, actually."

6) Friend leaves: "Maybe next time I'll just do the dry shampoo.

new mom

Friday, March 21, 2014

Colic what?

There were so many challenging things about having a baby with colic. Too many to talk about in one blog post. One thing that stands out today and that has bothered me since I found out my daughter had colic is, why didn't any one warn me? Now I don't want to throw a big pity party for myself or for other parents of colicky babies that read this, but seriously, why is it that after nine months of pregnancy and weeks of having a newborn, I couldn't define for you what colic was? Shouldn't someone have told me?

I went to numerous birthing classes, met with my OB a gazillion times, spent three nights in a hospital surrounded by people that know babies better than any of us, and never, not once, did anyone mention, "You might have a baby that cries a lot, and here's what you should do." Even my pediatrician, who I love, maybe mentioned the word in one of our first visits, but never explained what it was, what to look for, or what to do if it happens. When we were in the hospital, the labor and delivery nurses had my husband and I watch the infamous, "Happiest Baby on the Block," video, and yes it helped us learn how to swaddle and shush in our baby's ear, but it didn't mention that word that I'm honestly so sick of saying, colic.

I read a few pregnancy books, and honestly, I skipped the pages about colic. When I was pregnant I never thought my baby would be difficult, I always imagined that I would have a baby that could be soothed when her mama held her, not scream in her face for hours on end. What first time mama has those thoughts when she's pregnant? I sure didn't.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have mattered. If I would have had the definition of colic memorized and knew the warning signs, knew when to call her doctor to schedule an appointment, knew what was a normal amount of crying vs. an abnormal amount. I had no clue. It's not like it would have cured anything anyway since colic still, to my amazement, is so elusive and untreatable to this very day. It doesn't help matters that different doctors have different theories and no one stands united on a single cause or potential cure.

It would have helped me to know sooner. When the pediatrician finally said the words, "It's colic," I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. It helped so much to hear her say that my husband and I were doing everything right and that we just had to be patient with this storm that would soon pass. New parents need all the encouragement they can get and I felt encouraged and hopeful when we left her office.

So for all of you reading this that don't know what colic is, but might have a baby that cries a lot, might be expecting, might have a family member or a friend that could benefit from this knowledge, here you have it: Colic is defined as, according to, "A healthy, well-fed infant who cries for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, for more than three weeks." It affects 1 in 4 babies (that's a lot) and there is no known cause. Some doctors think it's caused by gastrointestinal issues like gas or reflux, while others think it's hypersensitivity to the environment caused by the child's innate temperament. Whatever the cause, if you think your baby cries a lot, the course of action is to visit a pediatrician and rule out any more obvious medical conditions, like acid reflux or an allergy. The sooner the better. In my case, I waited too long and it caused me a lot of unnecessary anxiety.

So for baby #2, who will never cry, who will sleep well and eat well, now I'll know.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You are the best thing

There are a lot of new babies in my life currently and more on the way. It seriously feels like a baby frenzy around here. I've sometimes felt badly that when I talk with these new moms or moms to be, I haven't had many positive things to say about motherhood. A good friend who just announced her pregnancy, asked me to write a post for her...words for a new mom.

The truth is, even though my journey hasn't been easy so far, I didn't have to wrack my brain trying to think about what I love best about being a new mom. Amidst the pain and sorrow I've felt, I've also experienced a joy like no other kind I know.

During the toughest days, my husband would try and cheer me up by telling me how much my baby loved me. The gloom I felt clouded my perception of everything, but I could always see my baby. With my husband's gentle reminders I began each day looking for her love for me. It was so obvious...staring me right in the face every time I looked at her.

Her love for me is in the way she looks at me. The way she smiles and laughs at me. The way she is comforted by my touch. The way her eyes follow me when I move around the room. The way she makes little sounds in response to mine. The way I can soothe her like no one else can. The way she lights up when she sees me or hears my voice.

Although she's still small, she knows her mama, and to her, I am the best thing.

To my friend, you will soon experience a new kind of love that only a mother knows. You will be some one's mama, and your baby will think you are amazing. Even on the hardest days, when you've had no sleep, you've barely eaten, and you feel warm tears streaming down your face - your baby will look at you with so much love, and you'll know things will be okay. Now, I've heard this feeling doesn't last forever, that our children will defy us or say they hate us. But, I have to believe the bond will always be there, forever, and there is nothing more special than that.