Today at The Baby Cubby we are honored to feature Cheryl Savage - author of the blog Happy Meets Crazy where (in her words) she "...attempt to blog way out of stress and chaos by sharing the joy as well as the sorrow." I have had the opportunity to know Cheryl personally as she was a youth leader for my local church group. She is a wonderful mother of seven (yes, you read that right - SEVEN) absolutely darling children. Cheryl also deals with some tremendously difficult things in her life - which she was willing to share with us on the blog today! She is truly a star and has not allowed her difficulties to hold her back from enjoying her amazing family!
I always hated it when women would complain that they were getting fat when they were pregnant. It bothered me because it seemed just so obvious –“of course you’re getting bigger! You’re growing a human being inside of your body!” – but it never occurred to me that the changes inside the mind of a pregnant woman were more important and more crucial to long-term health. I’m not sure why it isn’t the first thing we talk about because it just makes sense. The pregnant body changes so much! Why wouldn’t the internal chemistry as well? Science has proven this to be true, and my experiences concur. This is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that after childbirth, a woman may end up with post-partum depression (PPD). Not every mother will get PPD, but the majority will at least experience what was labeled, “the baby blues” many years ago. Changes are inevitable!
I have seven children. Looking back on their births and the subsequent years of nursing them, I have learned to see, with my ever-so-brilliant (isn’t it always?) hindsight, how obvious it was that my body chemistry really shifted after birth. I had four children before I realized what was going on: I was getting post-partum depression.
And PPD is hard.
You’ve just given birth (amazing miracle!) to the most beautiful child (amazing miracle!) and yet you feel a myriad of dark, gross things and you can’t understand why. The strange part is that I didn’t always feel exactly the same with each PPD episode, either. Sometimes I just felt anxiety all the time and I constantly worried about everything. Sometimes I felt so alone and weepy. Other times I would feel just tired, confused, and unmotivated. But each experience was still PPD.
When I first realized I had PPD, I decided I was going to heal myself as naturally as possible without a doctor’s intervention. I was afraid of medication and I felt it was a cop-out of some kind, so I didn’t even mention it to a healthcare professional. I’m still not sure why. But I was actually pretty successful at conquering PPD with diet, exercise, vitamins, minerals, and spending a lot of time outdoors! However, it was a brutal schedule, one that I couldn’t sustain long term. After my last three births, I decided I wasn’t going to rely on myself, alone. So I sought out professional help and I can’t believe I waited so long to ask for help! It made such a difference.
For the past 6 years, I’ve been on and off medications, depending on the advice of health care professionals, and I’ve seen (am seeing) some great therapists. I have done natural things (placenta encapsulation, herbs) along with medication, and I still try to take care of myself. But leaving my PPD unchecked for as long as I did shifted something even more inside of my brain, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. And I only mention it to reassure new mothers that getting help quickly is really in their best interest –brain chemistry isn’t something you want to neglect! Not everyone is going to end up like me. Most mothers who have PPD end up getting through it completely with no long-term damage. In fact, I think most mothers are able to eradicate it within a year or so and never have problems outside of their child-bearing years.
So, what can you do to overcome or avoid PPD? Well, first, you need to know that PPD is pretty normal. I know dozens and dozens of mothers who have had it –not always after every birth, but usually after at least one. You also need to understand that asking for help is not a cop-out. It doesn’t make you a bad mother --in fact, asking for help makes you a good mother! Children deserve healthy and happy mothers; mothers deserve to be healthy and happy, too. But you can’t fix your pain, sadness, worry, fear, frustration, weird rage-issues, etc. with just wishful thinking or more yoga. Sometimes, you really need some outside help (to go with the yoga!)
I want you to remember the following:
- PPD is real. Scientifically real.
- PPD is normal. The majority of new mothers get some form of it.
- PPD can be fixed. Not always perfectly, but you will get through it and it can end.
- PPD can’t be fixed if you don’t ask for help from someone who understands or is in a position to truly help you. Ask for help! Don’t be afraid. Start with your spouse/partner. Start with your OBGYN. Start with a friend. Start somewhere.