Thursday, October 31, 2013

Those Happy Pills

I take Zoloft for postpartum anxiety (PPA).  Zoloft is an antidepressant, but it has anti-anxiety qualities as well, and it's approved for use while breastfeeding.

Also, it makes me less crazy.  Or it did.  I am less crazy now that I'm not a hormonal nightmare.

I had never heard of postpartum anxiety before giving birth.  I heard of postpartum depression, because yeah, obviously.  But anxiety?  Nope.

Now, I've dealt with anxiety in the past.  Back in 2007 and 2008, it sort of made my life hell.  I got it under control through exercise and therapy, and I've been pretty awesome since then.

Then comes baby.  And the subsequent hormones.

Having an anxiety attack in the middle of the night in a hospital just after having a baby cut out of you sucks.  Having three anxiety attacks?  Sucks even more.

So they gave me the meds.  They sent me home.  My blood pressure was all catywampus, which made it hard to concentrate on The Kid instead of my own health.  I was a good patient, though - I took my blood pressure meds, my antidepressant, my Percocet, my super-strong ibuprofen, my iron pill, my prenatal, and three other meds that I can't remember at this time.  9 pills to start me off.  Yeah.  It was like that. 

I had it under control, I thought, until I started having really creepy thoughts. 


"What if I accidentally drop The Kid?  What if I drop him on his head?  What if I accidentally drown him?  What if I blind him?  What if I'm getting dinner ready and I accidentally cut him with a knife?"

And then the really scary thoughts happened:

"What if I cut him with knife... on purpose?  What if his crying just gets too much and I put the blanket over his head?"

These thoughts scared the shit out of me.  I loved my baby, right?  If I loved him, how could I think these thoughts, even for a moment?  How could I PICTURE them?  Why couldn't I stop thinking of hurting this tiny little person that I loved more than my own life?

There was a day that I thought I was going crazy.  I couldn't hold The Kid in the same room as a knife.... just in case.  What if I snapped?  What if I was one of those crazy moms who kills her kid and when they ask what happened, she just sort of shrugs and says, "he was crying."  That evening, I was cuddling The Kid and the knife scenario played in my head over and over and over.  Finally, I handed The Kid to The Hubs and went into my bedroom and just cried.

I found out that these thoughts happen to a LOT of moms.  I wasn't going crazy.  These terrible visions are called "intrusive thoughts," and while they aren't normal, they are COMMON.  Often, they revolve around a baby being hurt either on accident or on purpose, although they can also manifest as sexual thoughts toward the baby.  I took the time to read about intrusive thoughts, and found that many moms experience the same shame, guilt, and fear that I was experiencing.  I bought a few books about PPA, and read up about it online.  I found out that there is also something called Postpartum OCD, and I had a few of those symptoms as well.  

I eventually stopped having regular intrusive thoughts.  Once I was on a stable level of Zoloft (for me, it was 100mg a day), the thoughts faded away.  While I think the happy pills helped, I also think confronting my fears helped as well.  Reading about PPA and PP OCD, as well as reading about the thoughts themselves, taught me that ignoring scary thoughts or suppressing them makes them even worse.  Instead, it's best to think, "well, that was a strange thought," and then let it disappear.  Know that it's not at all about you - your brain is trying to process a crazy influx of hormones, as well as trying to deal with these new protective instincts.  You're imagining every worse case scenario because you love your baby so much that you're on high alert.  It sucks, but you're not going crazy.  The crazy people are the ones who have these thoughts and AREN'T bothered by them.

I am now taking 25mg of Zoloft a day.  I recently tried to go off it completely, but found that it made me an uber-bitch.  I hope to be off Zoloft entirely by The Kid's first birthday, but we'll see how it goes.  Being on 100mg of Zoloft made me feel a bit fuzzy around the edges, and I felt like I couldn't appreciate the really, really good things in life, because I cared less about the really, really bad things.  It also made it almost impossible to have an orgasm, which sort of sucks after 6 weeks of "pelvic rest."  Going down to 75mg helped a lot with the sexual side effects, and I felt as if the emotional side effects sort of went away on their own eventually, although decreasing my dosage did help.

I would not recommend decreasing dosage on any meds without talking to your healthcare provider, however.  Most people who suffer from PPA or PPD need to be on antidepressants for at least a year, and some studies suggest 18 months to be the shortest time to consider before weening off antidepressants for postpartum issues.

I wish more people talked about their postpartum issues.  I wish more people talked about mental illness in general.  I spent far too long feeling weak about my anxiety, and it took a while for me to realize that having anxiety is a lot like having high blood pressure - it is a problem for some people, and people can deal with it in different ways.  Sometimes diet and exercise help, and sometimes pills help.  Sometimes therapy and prayer and mediation and speaking your truth help.  Right now, for me, happy pills help, and that's nothing to be ashamed about.  By helping myself, I'm helping my family.  That makes me a good mom.

What Does the Fox Say?

The fox says, "Gimme your candy and no one gets hurt." Also: "How friggin' cute am I??"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My son is to me

My son is to me
that moment right before you blow out your birthday candles
the perfect 55 degree camping weather
the feeling you get when you turn in a test first, and you know all the answers are correct.

He is
that song that brings you back to highschool nights with friends
a tight hug when you need it most
that infectious laughter that brings tears
the good kind.

Full of unlimited potential
he can be anything,
love anyone -
be loved and give love and be love.
He is a child,
like any child,
but he's mine and so he is a miracle,
a god-send
a supernova rainbow endless ocean of beauty.

Even when I'm so tired and frustrated that I just look at him and cry
or sigh and hold my head between my hands and wonder
am I cut out for this, did we make a huge mistake -

I look into grey-blue eyes, touch the softest skin,
remember the feel of him pushing against my body from the inside,
the first time I heard him cry out loud and clear,
and I know
even if I never write a real book,
even if I never become “successful” as the world defines it,
even if I die tomorrow,
I have everything.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Birth Story

Warning:  my birth story does include some complications, but nothing super serious.  If you're pregnant and about to be a first-time mom, be aware that this isn't all butterflies and unicorns.  It is, however, honest, incredibly long, and it's the story of how The Kid came into the world. 

I never babysat babies.  Kids younger than 3 sort of scared me for a long time, to be honest.  They seemed too fragile, too delicate, like an arm or a leg would just snap off if I didn't display the utmost care.

I got married young, at 22.  At the time, I knew it seemed a little crazy - 22 is a young age to make that sort of commitment, especially nowadays, and I'd only known my husband about a year.  Still, I was in love, I knew what I wanted, and I went for it.

It was the best gamble I've ever made.

We moved to California two weeks after getting married, and it was the first time I was really away from my family.  I attended a university just an hour and fifteen minutes away from home, and I'd only missed one summer with my family thus far.  Moving across the country was a scary adventure, and it had its ups and downs.

One of the biggest blessings about living in northern California was meeting Dan and Rachel.  Dan was the pastor at the church The Hubs and I ended up attending, and Rachel worked for a local hospital.  They were a few years older than us, and had been married young as well.  We had been living in CA for about a year, I think, when they got pregnant.

Rachel was the first pregnant woman I'd really had a chance to be around.  I asked her a million and one questions, and she was incredibly upfront about things.  I was elated to hold their sweet baby girl only 7 hours after she'd been born.

That was my first real long-term experience with pregnancy and babies.

Fast forward 4 years, and it was me this time.  Pregnancy was awesome and awful and SUPER weird.  The first time I felt The Kid move was wild, although I couldn't be sure it was really him and not just gas.  The first time The Hubs felt him move (at 18 weeks) was beautiful and life-affirming and so, so cool.

I didn't read any pregnancy books. Well, that's not true.  I read Jenny McCarthy's book, Belly Laughs, even though I am not her biggest fan.  It was a cute book, and I laughed quite a lot, and related to many of the fabulous things she mentioned.  Except the part about her feeling sad she couldn't wear g-strings anymore.

Because seriously?  Those things are just NOT that comfortable.

When I wanted to read about something pregnancy or birth-related, I Googled it.

Let me rephrase that:  when I want to know something (anything, everything), I Google the SHIT out of it.  Wanna know about narwhals?  Google it.  Whether identical twins have the same fingerprints?  Google it (they don't).  Google for LIFE, suckahs.

While Googling birth plans, I decided that Hypnobabies was the way to go.  See, back in California, most of my friends had unmedicated births.  BTW, I try not to use the term "natural," because it implies using any form of medication is unnatural.  I'm sorry, but if you squeeze a kid out of your vagina, you've had him naturally.  End of story.

So.  Hypnobabies.  I did the at-home program, which consists of reading a handbook (yeah, didn't do much of that) and listening to self-hypnosis cds.  The idea is to practice self-hypnosis daily for at least 6 weeks before birth so that you can labor in a relaxed state.  Those who have used the program successfully report less pain, as the body is relaxed and not fighting pressure waves (contractions) and less fear.  So I listened to the cds, I practiced my technique, and I pretty much fell asleep every single time (apparently this is okay, though).

Fast-forward to 38 weeks.  With only two weeks to go, I was READY.  I was so, so ready.  Really, really ready to have this baby.  I was uncomfortable, exhausted, in pain, and pissy.  I couldn't remember things.  Mostly words.  All of them.

I was at work, training the gal who would take over my position while I was on maternity leave, when I started feeling funky.  I was really warm, and I felt like my heart was racing.  Now, I'd had some higher blood pressure readings and I'd done the whole 24-hour-pee-in-a-bucket thing, which was fabulous.  I mentioned feeling strange to the gal I was training, and I said I was going to go in the back to take my vitals (I work at a doctor's office).  She followed me, and saw that my blood pressure was high (154/95).  I pretty much knew they'd be sending me to the hospital for observation, as this had happened two or three times before.  I saw the doctor on call at my ob office, and she promptly sent me to the hospital.

I was observed for a few hours once more, and my blood pressure stayed high.  I met with one of the other gals in my ob practice, who told me that I was heading towards preeclampsia, but that they wouldn't let me get there.  I didn't have protein in my urine, but the headaches and the blood pressure were clear indications that I would end up with preeclampsia if the baby didn't come sooner than later.  I was going on bedrest, and I would be induced on Thursday.

It was Monday.

Wednesday night came, and I was in tears.  I was excited to be a mom, but terrified at the same time.  I remember one of my biggest fears was that my relationship with husband would change.  The Hubs and I have been married for almost six years, and we have a really awesome marriage.  I didn't like the idea of a third-party complicating that, and I read the report saying that marital satisfaction goes down after children enter the picture.

The Hubs calmed me down, told me of course things were going to change, but that we'd be good.  I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night.

Right before we left for the hospital

On Thursday, March 21st at 5pm, we drove the 3 short blocks to the hospital.  I was given my first dose of Cervidil, a medication that is inserted right next to the cervix.  It is supposed to soften the cervix so that Pitocin can start labor.

The Cervidil caused light contractions, which were interesting.  It wasn't so much painful as uncomfortable.  The doctor who inserted the Cervidil was not one I had seen before, and although she was nice, she was a bit brusque about the whole thing.  She told me that she'd signed off on medication to help me sleep, and then she left.

I tried to avoid needing medication to sleep.  I listened to my Hypnobabies tracks.  But at 1:30 am, it wasn't working.  I knew that I would be getting another dose of Cervidil at 6am, so I wouldn't get much sleep either way.  I called the nurse, who informed me the only medications I'd been approved for were Morphine and Phenergan, neither of which I thought I needed.  My pain wasn't the issue - I couldn't sleep because I was anxious and my blood pressure was up.  I was told the morphine would knock me out, and the phenergan would help with any nausea caused by the morphine.  I have a history of being sensitive to medications (and I'm allergic to 4 different meds), and so I am not very excited when I have to take a new medication.  I asked the nurse if I could have some Benedryl, since that's what I take when I have insomnia.  She called the doctor and got the okay.  Even with the Benedryl, I only got about an hour and a half of sleep.  Not great.

The next morning my cervix was checked again and I was 70% effaced.  I was told that I was 50% when I came in.  However, my cervix was still very much closed.  They started me on Pitocin.

It was about 2pm when my mom came to the hospital - she lives in Chicago, and our friends had picked her up from the airport and delivered her to me.  I was SO thankful, because I really needed my mom right then.  I was on the Pitocin, experiencing light contractions for about 9-10 hours total.  That evening another doctor (my favorite one!  Yay!) came to check me and let me know that I was really only 50% effaced and I was still only dilated 1 cm.  She told me that she was going to let me rest for a couple hours, eat some food, and that she'd be administering Cytotec before she left for the night.

Cytotec is another medication used for induction when Cervidil and Pitocin haven't done their jobs.  I trusted my doctor, so I said okay.  She told me that I would be given 2 or 3 doses, and that I'd most likely be in hard labor at about 3 am.  I was also told that it would definitely be hard labor, as Cytotec causes stronger contractions than Pitocin.

After the Cytotec was administered, I tried to get comfy and go to sleep (it was about 10pm).  I then made the mistake of Googling Cytotec.  BAD. IDEA.  I trusted my doctor, but finding out the medication wasn't FDA approved for induction, and that the documented risks included uterine rupture, maternal death, fetal death, uterine perforation, and hemorrhage, among other things, wasn't the best way to attempt to fall asleep.  I asked for an Ambien.

Ambien was AWESOME.  At one point, I felt really warm and flushed, so I got out of bed and walked to the nurses station in my gown.  I had the wherewithal to put on a robe, thankfully.  I told them that I was high as a kite, and that I felt hot and flushed, and was that alright?  They told me yes, I giggled, and I went back to my room.

Some time during the night, two nurses were in my room checking on me and fixing my bed.  Flowers erupted from their heads, and every light in the room spiraled into a flower kaleidoscope as well.  It was really beautiful.

Seriously.  Ambien was AWESOME.  I was tripping balls.

The next morning (Saturday), my doctor came to check on me at about 9:30.  She thought she was being called in to deliver the baby, but I had never gone into active labor.  She checked my cervix, and let me know that I was still exactly the same as when I'd come in on Thursday night.

Dammit.  All that work, all that stress and pain and anxiety over my blood pressure, and nothing.  I was beyond frustrated.  I was crying-because-I'm-angry frustrated.

The doc told me that my body was simply not going into labor.  I was contracting, but the contractions weren't doing anything.  She said I had three options:  I could have a C-section that morning, after I'd had a full night's rest; I could have another full day of Pitocin and then most likely get a C-section that night, since my body didn't seem to respond to meds; or I could go home for two days, take medication to keep my blood pressure normal, and then come in for a C-section.

It was a difficult decision.  I didn't WANT a C-section.  I was going to have an unmedicated birth using Hypnobabies.  Except that I wasn't.

I asked for a bit of time to talk to The Hubs and my mom, and to pray about the decision.  After praying and talking, we all reported feeling best about getting the C-section that morning.  I'd had a lot of sleep, I wanted to see my baby, and there was no way I was going to go home and deal with the anxiety of wondering if my body was going to hurt my baby.

The Hubs and I after deciding to have the C-section.

I thought we'd have a few hours of downtime, but immediately after this picture, a nurse came in with a razor and gave me the worst bikini cut ever.  I went into the OR to get prepped and have my spinal injection.  For someone that was terrified of an epidural and wanted an unmedicated birth so she didn't have to have something injected into her dural sac... Let's just say I was scared.  But I had an awesome nurse who kept rubbing my shoulders and saying sweet things to me, and that really, really helped.

Once I had the spinal, I was moved to the operating table.  It is SUPER weird to not be able to feel anything below your boobs.  Really, really weird.  My arms were strapped down and I was given oxygen.  This also freaked me out, but Awesome Nurse held my hand the whole time.  They had made the first incision when The Hubs came in.  He stood up by my head and kept me calm, and had me focus on my breathing.

Yeah, because it's so easy to keep calm right now.

I felt a lot of pressure, but the weirdest thing was the pressure I felt in my chest.  Apparently that's a side effect of the meds they inject.  It felt like someone was sitting on my ribs.  As The Hubs tried to keep me calm, he asked if he needed to sing me "Soft Kitty."  For those that don't want the Big Bang Theory (also: WHY?  It's AWESOME):

Then something SERIOUSLY awesome happened - our doctor and a nurse joined in!  It was amazing!!

Before I knew it, they were pressing on my abdomen to get The Kid to move to the bottom of my uterus - apparently he was NOWHERE near my cervix, which was part of the reason why I wouldn't go into labor.

A minute later, I heard The Kid cry.  It was... indescribably wondrous. And then I saw him, and he was perfect.  "He's so beautiful!" was all I could say, over and over.  The Kid was born March 23rd, 2013.  He was 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and 19 inches long.

The Hubs went to be with The Kid while he was toweled off and getting checked up.  He took lots of pictures, and some video, including a really cool shot of my uterus as it was being cleaned.  I know I should be grossed out by that, but it was really interesting.

Looking around to see what's up
Our first family picture
The Kid had a lot of fluid in his lungs, so he was taken immediately to the nursery and put on oxygen.  I was taken to the recovery room and closely monitored.  I think the weirdest part of the surgery aspect was feeling cold and shaky for about 20 minutes afterward.  I had multiple blankets on me, but I was still really cold.  Apparently it's the hormones and the shock, or something?

The Kid had to be on oxygen for the first 20 hours of his life, and his glucose levels were low, so he was given whatever I could pump as well as formula.  Since he needed to stay in the nursery, and I was recovering, I didn't get to touch him for the first 9 hours of his life.  I didn't hold him for the first 20 hours.  It still makes me sad.

The day after The Kid was born.

Since I had a c-section, I had to stay in the hospital until Monday.  However, my blood pressure never came down.  In fact, it was hovering around 175/100 a good part of the time, occasionally going higher or lower.  A normal blood pressure is 120/80, and anything above 140/90 is considered high.  Monday night was one of the worst nights of my life.  I started having a panic attack, and I couldn't stop it.  I have a history of anxiety, but I haven't had a panic attack in over three years.  That night I had three of them, one in my sleep.  I asked the nurse to take The Kid into the nursery and supplement him with formula, because I just couldn't deal.  During my second panic attack, another nurse came in to check on me.  I was shaky violently (that's the #1 thing that happens to me during panic attacks) and I couldn't relax.  I started crying and saying I was a bad mom, I couldn't take care of my son, I couldn't feed him.  The nurse gave me the biggest hug and told me that even if I stopped breastfeeding right then and there, I was still a good mom.  Good moms use formula.  Good moms care about their kids, period.  

I decided the next morning to continue breastfeeding, although the hormone rush it gave me made me almost pass out.  It was the sixth day I was in the hospital.  One of the stellar practitioners from my OB office came by to check on me.  She was.... ah.  I can't even describe it.  So fantastic.  She gave me hugs, and kept her hand on my leg, just rubbing my leg and telling me what a good job I'd done.  She officially diagnosed me with postpartum hypertension (high blood pressure) and postpartum anxiety.  I had only heard of postpartum depression before, but she clued me in on the anxiety.  I was going to go home, but I'd be put on blood pressure meds and Zoloft, which is an antidepressant that also works for anxiety.  Both would be okay while I breastfed. 

He's a cute little bug, isn't he?

The Hubs and I took our son home March 26th, 2013.  It hasn't all been easy since then.  Recovering from a c-section with an infant stinks.  The hypertension and anxiety sucked, especially at first.  I will write further posts about both of those, because I don't think people are transparent enough about the realities of either.  I think both of these problems, as well as the fact that I didn't hold The Kid until he was almost a day old, definitely affected our bonding at first.  But, I'm happy to say that I'm doing great as of now.  The Kid is three and a half months old, and he's the most adorable biological hazard ever.  I'm still on meds for the foreseeable future, but I am hoping to be off both of them within the year.  Being a mom isn't easy, at all, but it's rewarding in ways that are difficult to explain.  And my relationship with The Hubs?  It's different, but still beautiful.  Our little family has changed my life completely, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

She Works Hard (ish) for the Money (and Subsudized Daycare)


I officially went back to work today.

I work as an audiology assistant in an ENT/Audiology office.  This means that I work on hearing aids (cleaning, repairing, training on usage), and that I do a lot of miscellaneous office work.  I am working on getting my certificate in the field, although I don't know if I would find a job at another audiology office if we ever move.

God that sounded boring.

Point is, I work.  Now that I have The Kid, I will only be working three days a week, which is pretty awesome.  Today The Kid started daycare.

I've been dreading this day.

I have heard many opinions from people about my planning to be a working mom.  Some say, "hey, good for you, it's great that you like your job!"  Others say, "Will you be working full time?" and still others, "So, who is watching The Kid?"

I always want to say, "Oh, I just leave him at home with some kibble and a bowl of milk.  I put True Blood on in the background so he doesn't get bored or lonely."

For those people who ask the latter question, I pretty much know their view on the subject: I shouldn't work.  I don't have family in the area, so if I work, it means I need to use daycare.  There are a lot of people who have very strong feelings on the subject of daycare.  I've heard (not from anyone I consider a friend), "do you want a daycare raising your child?"  Well, no.  Does that mean that once a kid starts kindergarten, they're being raised by the public school system?  No?  Okay, didn't think so.

To me, daycare is sort of like school for The Kid.  We don't have any friends in the area with little kids, so it's not like he's going to have any baby friends anytime soon.  I'm hoping that he'll pick up some good habits at daycare (like learning how to share, playing with others, all that good stuff) along with the inevitable bad habits (I swear he learned those words at daycare, Mom.  Seriously, who parents these kids??).

So I brought The Kid to daycare this morning, along with a jumbo pack of diapers, an overstuffed diaper bag with multiple clothing changes just in case, four pacifiers (because... yeah, I dunno), and an anxious pressure in my chest.  I spoke with the gals there, reminded them that I work just down the hallway in case they need me, and left with a lump in my throat.

Several times during the day I thought, 'maybe I'll just walk past to see how he's doing....'  But I was able to hold off until his feeding time.  The great part of having daycare in the same building as my office is that I can feed him during the day, or I can pump, depending on how crazy our schedule is for the day.

My anxiety was wasted, however, because The Kid was TOTALLY chill.  After waking up five times last night (causing The Mom to mutter all sorts of bad words under her breath), he was apparently exhausted, because he napped and cuddled most of the day.  He seemed happy to see me each time I went in to see him, which felt good.

And you know what felt REALLY good?

Going home for lunch and eating BY MYSELF.  I live three blocks from the hospital, so I can easily run home and grab lunch.  The thing is, I haven't been able to be in our apartment by myself since The Kid was born.  Awake, that is... The Hubs has taken The Kid with him once or twice while I napped or slept in, but this was the first time I was conscious and alone.

And man... it felt awesome.  No rushing through lunch so I can calm my crying son down, no eating while breastfeeding him, just me, relaxing.

I felt good at work today, even though it was sort of an insane day, and I'd had very little sleep.  I'm good at my job, and I know what to expect.  I LOVE being a mom, but it was nice to have a few hours off to do something else, to have other responsibilities.  And when I picked up The Kid and took him home?  We cuddled and cuddled and cuddled, and I realized how much I had missed him.

I think this working mom thing is going to be okay.

Friday, June 7, 2013


The Kid was pretty needy today, wanting to be held and feeding a lot. I didn't get much done around the house. He had a blowout in KMart that was just epically gross - poop everywhere. His car seat, clothes, and towel went straight into the wash. It was a warm day, and it felt even warmer to me because my blood pressure meds make me flush. Holding a warm baby on top of that leads to immediate sweating.

But I met my friend Ricky for coffee, and we sat on the square in the sunshine and just talked. I laid down in the soft grass with my son for the first time ever.

So it was a really lovely day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Future Doctor

Since Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who after Christmas, I'd like to recommend The Kid to replace him as the Doctor. Sure, he's American, but he can't speak, so the accent shouldn't be a problem. I've been training him to look forlorn when someone says "the curse of the Time Lords," and he's been practicing his own catch phrase (since Geronimo was taken). So far it's just farting, but he's working on it.