Saturday, December 29, 2007

People I Turned to For PPD Support... and their Reactions

Here are all of the people that I called upon for help… and their reactions to my plea. I rank these according to the level of their helpfulness.


Friends and Family:

- The first person I went to was my husband, Ben, because I needed to hear whether I was making the right diagnosis, and I needed/wanted his feedback. I remember asking him, “Do you think I might have PPD?” He didn’t hesitate for even a split second before responding a firm and loud, “Yes, I do.” He said he was going to bring it up, but he didn’t know if it would offend me or make it worse. He said he didn’t want to talk about it anymore until he’d had a chance to do some research and come back with a “plan.” Two nights later, he came home and handed me a print out which contained a list of “signs that you have PPD” and “recovery methods” that he’d found online. He went through them all, and told me which symptoms he thought I had, and which recovery methods he thought would work. But he didn’t want to talk about the details. I tried to get him to talk about what it was like for me, but he wanted to stick to the list. He simply wanted me to pick a solution and fix myself. Since that initial interaction, there have been many times I’ve asked him to talk about it. Sometimes, if it’s late at night, he says he wants to wait until morning (but then he never brings it up). Sometimes, if I’m up and can’t sleep in the middle of the night, he’ll get up and I know he knows I’m not asleep, but he doesn’t come get me. Other times, he’ll listen, but he won’t ask me questions and he won’t go there… I think it’s too painful for him. He can’t fix it, and that drives him nuts. So he just ignores it and hopes that someone else will fix me, or I’ll just let it go. Not really helpful.

- In fall 2006, I asked a friend and fellow business owner if she would help me brainstorm my options. I could see all my option swirling around in my head, but I couldn’t make sense of them or figure out which to do first. I basically asked her to help me prioritize and create a project plan, which was too hard for me to do on my own. Helpful.

- I emailed and called a few other friends, telling them what was going on and asking for support. Some were very helpful (i.e. took me kayaking, and watched Evan while I went to counseling sessions). Others said they would check back in with me, but never did. Mostly helpful.

- I asked my friend and fellow holistic health counselor to call and check in on me every single day for a while. She did, and this was very helpful, because she simply listened. And asked questions. And didn’t judge me. And told me that this was very, very hard, and that she was very, very sorry. She never tired of listening to me, and she told me she cared. Over and over and over again. This was exactly what I needed. Very helpful!

- I told my mother-in-law that I had PPD, and that I would really need some extra help watching my son. I told her because she lives 10 minutes away, and I thought she could be a lot of help. She never brought it up with me again, or asked me how I was doing. Helpful – she babysat for Evan. Not helpful – she never spoke with me about how I was doing.

- I told my parents that I was having trouble getting over the C-section, and my dad said that he was sorry, but he never asked about it again. My mom said things that didn’t make me feel better (like, “I wish you hadn’t gotten so sensitive over the past few years because then the C-section wouldn’t have bothered you” and “I wish that you’d just enjoy Evan now.” I never brought the PPD subject up with her, because I didn’t think she would support me the way I needed/wanted to be supported, so I never said anything. I now know that this wasn’t fair – I didn’t give her the chance. She knew something was wrong, but I wouldn’t tell her… and the longer it went on, the more difficult it was to say anything. Also, my parents had other people who needed their support, and I didn’t want to be another burden, or get too much attention from them. Plus, they live in CA, so besides phone calls and emails, there’s not much they could have done. I didn’t want them flying out to help… that would have made me feel worse, like more of a loser. Not helpful (mainly my fault).

- I gradually found another mom who I identified with… she’d had a C-section and resulting PPD, too, and she wasn’t happy with motherhood, either. Being able to be honest around her was so wonderful. She let me speak my truth, no matter how I was feeling, and I felt I could be honest with her. And seeing that there was another other loving, vibrant, charismatic, passionate, and ambitious woman who wasn’t crazy about motherhood was so helpful for me. It helped me let go of my own self-judgment and blame. Because she was an amazing woman, and yet she hated her birth and she didn’t love motherhood… so didn’t that mean that it was OK that I felt the same way? Very helpful!

The Medical Community:

- I called my OB-GYN who did my C-section, because all the websites said that your OB-Gyn is your first line of defense. My OB gave me what I assume was the PPD test at my 2-week check-up, but didn’t give it to me at my 6-week check-up. I don’t remember her asking me how I was doing emotionally at the 6-week check-up, she only covered physical things. Even if she had asked, I wouldn’t have told her what was going on. I was still in shock, and I hated her because she did my C-section, I wouldn’t want her to know how messed up I was because of it. I just wanted to be done with her. She did know that I was having an extremely difficult time breastfeeding, and trouble with my scar.. I finally called her to tell her I had PPD, and didn’t know where to turn, since I’d moved to a new city and didn’t have care providers up here. I asked her to call me back with the name of a doctor who I could go to (someone with a holistic slant, if possible) to get bloodwork done and rule out physical problems… but her office manager only left the name of an acupuncturist on my voice mail. There was no additional follow-up from them, ever. Not helpful.

- I called several different PCPs in the Andover/Cambridge areas. In every case, I told them I had a bad case of PPD, and needed to get in for a physical and some blood tests to rule out anemia and thyroid problems. In every case, they told me it would be a 3+ month wait. I finally got in to see a nurse practitioner in January (I started calling around to find a doctor in September). Four months is a LIFETIME to wait when you’re depressed. Not helpful.

- To get support around painful postpartum sex, I emailed a physical therapist, but never heard back. I called another physical therapist and was told there was a 4-month waiting list, and to check back with her later. I asked if she could refer me to someone else who did the same kind of work in the area, but she said she was the only one who had this particular level of expertise. She made me feel like I was bothering her by calling. Again, this could have been my level of sensitivity at this point… but when dealing with a mom with PPD, you have to tread oh-so-lightly if you’re a practitioner. You have to overwhelm us with love, because we feel terrible about ourselves. Not helpful.

- I emailed a ND (naturopath) who I’d seen a few months after Evan was born… who was very supportive at that appointment. I told her that I had PPD, and I needed to get some medical support. She never responded to my email. Helpful – the initial visit. Follow-up during PPD time - not helpful.

- At my son’s 5 day check-up, my pediatrician asked me how breastfeeding was going, and when I burst into tears, she sent us directly to a lactation consultant. She never asked me how I was doing in subsequent visits, and in fact patronized me when I asked questions about Evan… telling me that I should be able to find those answers in books. BOOKS? That’s assuming I had time to read… or that I would remember what I read. Neither or which was happening. Then we moved and found a new pediatrician, and he never broached the subject of how we were doing as parents, either. He was a homeopathic doctor, and probably could have really helped to smooth my moods out, but he never asked about PPD. Not helpful.

- I went to see a psychologist for a few sessions, mainly because she was close to me, and because she took my insurance. However, although I went to her to talk about PPD and PTSD from my C-section, she never asked me about my birth. She talked with me about motherhood, and my parents, but she never addressed the issue that was most intense for me at that time… my son’s birth. I had to take Evan to these appointments, so that was frustrating. I spent lots of time trying to keep him happy and quiet… and so I couldn’t really concentrate. Not helpful.

- When Evan was 22 months old, I went to see a holistic MD, who’s also a homeopathic doctor. He listened to my whole story, asked lots of questions, and gave me one homeopathic remedy… and told me, “Let that work on you.” The next month, I went back, told him how I was doing (I hadn’t had a depressive episode that month… which was a first for me)… and instead of feeling sad and overwhelmed, I was mainly irritable and angry. He said, “Good, sounds like the remedy is working… we’ll just let it continue to work.” He also spoke with me about adding more animal fat into my diet… for more Vitamin A and D… and the importance of a high quality cod liver oil. I was already taking cod liver oil, but he gave me a different brand which had a lot more Vitamin A and D… and that has helped. He says that he thinks that changing my diet would have helped ease the depression. The sessions with this doctor really helped – not just the remedies and food changes – but because he really helped me talk through the changes that happens when you become a mom. He helped create an opening where I could slow down and listen to my inner voice. It told me that I had to take a sabbatical from my business… and let go of some of my old passions and commitments, so that I could create space for motherhood. That has made a HUGE difference just in the past few weeks. VERY HELPFUL.

The Healing Community:

- In summer 2006, I emailed my doula, who suggested I get counseling. Neutral.

- In summer 2006, I bartered with a personal trainer to get myself exercising again, and try and figure out exercises that I could do with Evan around. This was very helpful, and helped me regain my physical strength. If she hadn’t come to my house though, I wouldn’t have been able to make it happen. Her house visits saved me. Very helpful.

- In summer 2006, told various holistic health counselors what was going on – some of them called periodically to check in on me. It was also very, very helpful to talk with other holistic health counselors, because they’re non-judgmental, they listen well, they ask great questions, and they helped me see that it was simply OK to feel the way I was feeling… and backed me up on my commitment to continue to try and feel better. Very helpful.

- In summer 2006, I purchased phone sessions from a practitioner in Canada who specializes in helping moms and dads identify with their babies. I wanted to help support my son through all of this emotional turmoil. The counselor ended up supporting me as well as my son. This was mostly very helpful, but our work often made me feel like it was my fault for my son’s fussiness, and that all of the solutions rested on my shoulders. It became too much pressure on me to fix things, and the expense was too great, so I stopped. She didn’t specialize in PPD. However, I loved that I could email her at 3:00 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep, and get all my ugly feelings out, and she would respond. Mostly helpful.

- In fall 2006, I went to five counseling sessions with a birth trauma/postpartum depression specialist in the Boston area. These sessions were extremely helpful, because I could be totally honest, and I felt like she was one of few people who were asking the right questions and creating a safe space for me in a formal therapy environment. I ended up having to stop these sessions because of the cost, the fact that I had to drive almost as hour to get to the sessions, and because I didn’t have anyone to watch my son while I was in the sessions. Very helpful.

- In fall 2006, I was referred to a nutritionist for a quick, complimentary phone consult. He prescribed minerals, vitamins, and some supplement powders… for someone who could barely remember to drink water during the day, it was an incredibly overwhelming routine. Not helpful.

- In winter and spring of 2007, I saw my spiritual counselor in NH once, and spoke with her by phone a few times. The sessions were extremely helpful, but again, the cost was prohibitive. Very helpful.

- In the summer of 2007, I hired a holistic health counselor to help me get my health back on track. In our first call, she recognized that my birth trauma and PPD still wasn’t over and done with, so we started working on that as well. She referred me to someone who does Seemorg-Matrix work, but I’m tired from working with so many people and spending so much money. Helpful.

- A few times, I saw the shiatsu practitioner who’d supported me during pregnancy. I also got several massages. Getting bodywork helped me get over the hatred of my body and my C-section scar. Helpful.

Support Organizations:

- I went online and found a lot of websites. However, these websites were pretty generic, and I wouldn’t dream of calling an 800 number to talk with a stranger. I also felt very overwhelmed, because there were so many options, yet there weren’t any personal connections that I felt comfortable making. The sites didn’t really express the true level of intensity of emotion that I was feeling, they all made PPD sound so ‘benign.’ The writing was very clinical and impersonal. Like C-section writing, most websites don’t do PPD justice. Not helpful.

- I got so desperate at one point that I called Catholic Church and asked them if they knew of any babysitters in the area so I could get help with my son while I got help for myself… I also asked them if they had any women’s groups that I could join for support. They did try to help me find a babysitter, but in the end, no one had any solutions to offer. Not helpful.

- I emailed a local mothers’ group community and told them that I was suffering from the baby blues, and didn’t know anyone in the community. I didn’t get a big response back. Later, they started a Depression group, but I didn’t join because I thought it was behind me… and I didn’t want to go to a group where I didn’t know anyone.

- When my son was about 4 weeks old, I called Jewish Family Services to ask to be assigned a Visiting Mom. The program coordinator came over and interviewed me. It was the one day I was able to get dressed and clean the house. Of course, my son slept the whole time she was there. She found out that my sister-in-law came one afternoon a week, and my mother-in-law came another afternoon a week… and I was denied my Visiting Mom. They said they only reserve Visiting Moms for new moms who have no support. This really made me feel like I didn’t deserve to ask for help, that I was in a good situation and shouldn’t need any other support. Not helpful.

- However, I persisted. And when my son was 6 weeks old, I went to a postpartum group called “This is Not What I Expected.” The group was hosted by the Jewish Family Services, and it was close to my house. It was really helpful in that 1. it was cheap – only $40 for the 8 week sessions 2. I could say whatever I wanted without fearing judgment 3. it was great to be around other moms who hated motherhood, too – I didn’t feel like such a loser. However, it was frustrating for me because 1. there were moms who’d been there for months, and I didn’t want to think that I’d still be depressed months later 2. they didn’t facilitate the group at all, we basically just sat there and talked when we felt like it, with no facilitation 3. they didn’t help us talk about what we could do differently when we left the space. I didn’t just want to vent, I wanted to identify one action step I could take to change my reality. Semi-helpful.

- I called Jewish Family Services again when my son was 7 months old and I realized I had full force PPD. Peggy Kauffman was one of the only people who truly GOT it and understood what I was going through. She called me back promptly, she made calls to psychologists for me (recognizing that I would want someone close by, and might not have the motivation to call to see who would accept my insurance). She even called back once to check on me, which left such an amazing impression on me. I did meet with her to talk about scheduling some sessions, but the $150 per session fee was simply too steep at that point. Could have been helpful.

- I joined ICAN – the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and became a part of their yahoo email group. I was able to read stories from other moms who felt like I did… and post about my honest feelings of depression, anger, grief, etc. about my C-section and motherhood. This was EXTREMELY helpful – this group of women are compassionate, caring, and honest. This has been a godsend, and I don’t know where I’d be without it. The list also helps me see how much I’ve grown, because I get to help other moms… and through posting and writing my experiences, I get a cathartic release. Very, very helpful!

- I asked everywhere for babysitters, so I could get some alone time and time away from my mother duties… it took me eight months to find a babysitter in my area for my son. Helpful once I found someone.

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