If Only I Had Known – Part II

Today, I decided to continue with the “If Only I Had Known” theme from my first post 5-1/2 years ago in which I had blogged about a prior abdominal procedure to remove a dermoid cyst as a likely cause of infertility due to scar tissue formation.  What prompted me to write another If Only I Had Known post is an article on my feed a couple of days ago.  I’m writing about the same darn dermoid cyst removal procedure and scar tissue formation, but this time as the likely cause of the placenta accreta that ended up setting the stage for the postpartum depression (PPD) that hit me from left field 6 weeks after my daughter was born.  Earlier on in my blogging days, I had shared my less-than-perfect childbirth experience– the “Childbirth Complications” part of the trifecta of conditions in the subtitle of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood”–that led to the PPD rearing its ugly head.  In that blog post, I shared what happened after the perfectly normal vaginal delivery.

The title of the NPR article that I stumbled across a couple days ago titled “If You Hemorrhage, Don’t Clean Up: Advice from Mothers Who Almost Died” is, needless to say, very attention-grabbing.  The article, written by Adriana Gallardo and Nina Martin of ProPublica and Renee Montagne of NPR, starts off with the life-threatening situation that occurred to Marie McCausland after she gave birth.  The article then shares the advice of other survivors of traumatic and life-threatening childbirth experiences in several categories: choosing a provider, preparing for an emergency, getting your provider to listen, paying attention to your symptoms, after the delivery, and grappling with the emotional fallout.  This is why I love the article so much.  Although it contains frightening scenarios of possible complications that can occur during childbirth, it was written not to scare folks already anxious about having babies but to provide advice.  After all, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.  Every mother should read it because if, God forbid, a complication does occur, she’ll be prepared.  As they say, hope for the best BUT EXPECT THE WORST.  This is not pessimism.  It’s reality.  In reality, complications can and do happen.  And we cannot and should not rely solely on our healthcare providers.  If you read the NPR article in its entirety, you’ll see how healthcare providers repeatedly fail their patients.

I absolutely love these types of KNOWLEDGE IS POWER articles!  Chapter 3 in my book is titled “Knowledge is Power” and is broken up into “What to know and do before the baby arrives” and “What to know and do if PPD hits.”  The sole purpose of my book was to raise awareness so others would not go down that dark, lonely, hopeless road I traveled after having a baby.  There is so much covered in my book, that I laughingly refer to my book as “an encyclopedia” purely due to the girth (i.e., 429 pgs)….yes, I had a lot to say!  In fact, that’s how I referred to it when I posted to my Facebook page a pic of my books on the Postpartum Support International table at their annual conference I attended a few weeks ago in Philadelphia.   Following is an outline of how I wanted my book to educate readers.

Chapter 1: The Statistics: A Wake-up Call

Chapter 2: Sharing My PPD Experience

  • Insomnia Sets In
  • Next Came the Panic Attacks
  • The Dark Abyss

Chapter 3: Knowledge Is Power

  • What to Know and Do Before the Baby Arrives
  • What to Know and Do if PPD Hits

Chapter 4: Environment vs. Heredity, Nature vs. Nurture

  • Role of Genetics/Nature
  • Role of Environment/Nurture
  • Role of Reproductive Events
  • My Story: Environmental and Genetic Factors Wreaking Havoc on My Life
  • What You Can Do to Make a Difference for the Next Generation

Chapter 5: Know Your Risk: Risk Factors

  • Biological Factors
  • Psychological Factors
  • Social Factors
  • Infertility
  • Coming Up With a Prevention Plan

Chapter 6:  My Postpartum Period – Exhausting, Anxious, Uncertain

  • Interrupted Sleep/Sleep Deprivation
  • Startle/Moro Reflex
  • Colic
  • Nasty Eczema and Cradle Cap
  • My Hair Loss
  • Returning to Work

Chapter 7: Ignorance and Stigma: Barriers to Progress

  • The Stigma of PPD
  • Silo Approach to Health Care and Ignorance among Medical Community

Chapter 8: Those Darned Myths

  • Myth #1: Pregnancy Is Always a Smooth, Easy and Blissful Experience
  • Myth #2: Baby Blues Is the Same Thing As PPD
  • Myth #3: PPD Is a Make-Believe Illness
  • Myth #4: Loving Your Baby Means Never Taking a Break
  • Myth #5: Motherhood Is Instinctive and Can Be Handled Solo: The Supermom Myth
  • Myth #6: All Mothers Fall Instantly in Love with and Bond with Their Babies
  • Myth #7: Breast-feeding Is Instinctive

Chapter 9: Trend Away from Social Support

  • First Few Days at Home … Now What?
  • New Moms Need Nurturing Too
  • What Is Social Support?
  • Support of Husband
  • Other Sources of Support (in the U.S.)
  • Postpartum Practices in Other Cultures
  • Tips for Establishing a Support Network

 Chapter 10: Postpartum Depression 101

  • Defining Postpartum Depression
  • PPD Symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • The Spectrum of Perinatal Mood Disorders
  • Reproductive Hormones and Mood
  • The Brain, Neurotransmitters and Stress

Chapter 11: PPD Impacts the Whole Family

  • Effect of PPD on the Baby
  • Effect of PPD on the Dad/Husband

Chapter 12: Passing on Lessons Learned

  • Tips for the Dad/Husband
  • Tips for the Mom Regarding the Dad/Husband
  • Tips for Friends and Family

Chapter 13: Steps to Recovery and Wellness

  • Health-Care Practitioners
  • Treatment Options

Well, like I said, the goal of the book was to help others, but who wants to read an encyclopedia nowadays when you’ve got the Internet, lol…..guess you can say it’s the thought that counts.  Hopefully, folks are finding my posts because the intent of this blog post, as with all my other blog posts and my book, is to try to educate women and their loved ones (and even health professionals too) so they can know enough to advocate for themselves, much like the intent of the NPR article.   I am not doing this for me.  I’ve already survived PPD.  I’m doing it for those who do have access to the Internet, find my blog and read my posts to learn how to prevent/survive PPD.

Jumping back to the NPR article…..
It’s a link in the post that led me to a Wall Street Journal article titled “The Quest to Untangle Why Pregnancy Can Turn Deadly,” written by Daniela Hernandez about Kristin Terlezzi’s experience with placenta accreta.  This article contains the most info on the topic I’ve seen in all my years of blogging (since 2009). Kristin Terlezzi recently, along with Alisha Keller Berry and Jill Arnold (two other survivors of placenta accreta), established the National Accreta Foundation  in April 2017 to work towards reducing the incidences of placenta accreta by partnering with other federal, state and local organizations.

Another link in the article led to the ProPublica article “Do You Know Someone Who Died or Nearly Died in Childbirth? Help Us Investigate Maternal Health” published on February 10, 2017 by Adriana Gallardo and Nina Martin, which asks for those who know someone who died or nearly died in pregnancy, childbirth, or within a year after delivery to share their stories.  The hope is that this information can be used to help researchers come up with ways to reduce the occurrence of and deaths from placenta accreta.

The only problem with these articles on NPR and other similar media is that they are only accessible to those who read such articles in the first place.  As I’ve realized in these past few months since T took over as President and split the nation into two factions, there is a whole T-supporting, alternative facts supporting faction claiming everything but Breitbart, Fox News and now Trump TV as #fakenews.  So, how is this information going to reach everyone?  It’s not like these misogynistic media are going to share scientific articles dedicated to improving the experience of mothers, because all these media only care about is the fetus, the health/well-being of the mother be damned….but then again, I digress.  But I won’t apologize for raising this critical point.  It’s definitely food for thought as to how we can get this information to EVERYONE.

 

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This Loss Could Be Any Parent’s Loss

I just posted the next paragraph on my Facebook timeline, but I wanted the post to reach more people, as this loss could have been any other parent’s loss.  Although it has nothing to do with postpartum depression (PPD), remember that I do occasionally post about teenage matters, including teen angst, self confidence and depression arising from a combination of environmental and biological factors.  How good or bad a teen’s experiences are, how well they are able to communicate about/share what they are thinking/feeling (with anyone, not just with our parents), and how well they are educated PRIOR TO adolescence on what to expect concerning our physical AND emotional changes that come with adolescence….these are all KEY in helping teens get through any challenges they face.  Here is where I want to quote an excerpt from my book: “Knowledge is power. That is one of my most favorite sayings, simply because it makes so much sense. Knowledge, which has a tremendous normalizing effect, is key in keeping fear at bay, since fear typically rules in the presence of the unknown.”

A fellow alum’s 8th grader, Cayman Naib, from the Philly area had gone missing last Wed night. I do not know his mother, but I have been having a very hard time processing this young boy’s sudden taking of his own life.  [And so here I am, blogging to let my feelings out]. It is so important to be alert and sensitive to our kids’ emotions, especially as they grow older and enter their teens. We’re all adults, we’ve been there. But I believe today is much different than when any of us grew up. It seems there is more pressure than ever before academically, athletically, socially, etc. Being a teen is a time that is filled with much turmoil that we may or may not even realize what our kids are actually thinking, as they may not understand their feelings and feel unable to share them with us. Impulse and emotional roller coasters reign. Such difficulty in controlling emotional impulses (with depression possibly mixed in) can cause a young individual who doesn’t know any better to feel like it won’t get better and they just want to end their pain the quickest way possible. So, please, talk to your children and make sure they understand what emotional changes may accompany physical ones once adolescence comes.

Like so many that have been following this story, I was praying for a different outcome.  My heart breaks not just because this is a loss suffered by a fellow alum.  My heart breaks knowing that this is a tragedy that would easily have happened to any parent with a young teen.  My heart breaks remembering how many times I myself had contemplated running away from my problems as a teenager because I didn’t know how to cope with them, I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to that would understand what I was going through, and I felt like I just wanted to end it all (but thankfully never did).  Tragedies like this make me want to dedicate the rest of my life to preventing other kids from wanting to (and succeeding at) taking their own lives.

If you are a teenager and reading this, please know that:

YOU MATTER
YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS
YOUR LIFE IS FILLED WITH SO MUCH PROMISE
I DIDN’T FEEL THAT WAY AS A TEEN
BUT I’M TELLING YOU NOW THAT LIFE IS WORTH LIVING
PLEASE STAY STRONG

Motherhood and PPD: Changing Attitudes Takes Open Conversations and Being Supportive

I mentioned in a previous post how Gwyneth Paltrow had “come out of the closet” nearly two years ago regarding her postpartum depression (PPD) experience after the birth of her son Moses.  I am happy to see that she is continuing to talk about her experience, this time in the premiere episode of Lifetime’s The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet. Check out the Celebrity Baby Scoop article and US Weekly article that I stumbled across, thanks to a Facebook post yesterday from my friend Liz Friedman over at MotherWoman.

What caught my attention was the following quote from Gwyneth:

“We think that it makes us bad mothers or we didn’t do it right, but it’s like, we’re all in this together. I never understand why mothers judge other mothers, like, ‘What do you mean you didn’t breastfeed? What do you mean you didn’t do this?’ It’s like, ‘Can’t we all just be on each other’s side?’ It’s so hard anyway. Can’t we all help each other get through it? There’s a shame attached to it because if you say, ‘I had a baby and I couldn’t connect to the baby,’ it’s like, ‘What is wrong with you?'”

Yes, yes, yes….100% with you on that Gwyneth, as I’m sure many moms would agree as well.  Basically, this is the age-old let’s-judge-other-moms-rather-than-help-each-other thing.  Or let’s-keep-quiet-because-I’m-too-ashamed-to-let-others-know-I’m-not-the-perfect-mom-that-bonds-immediately-and-breastfeeds-instinctively thing.

If we’re so gung ho on breastfeeding, then the goal of breastfeeding advocates should be for every mother who needs help to get it whenever and wherever it’s needed.  Just like my past post on breastfeeding and a section in my book in the chapter on motherhood myths, don’t assume that every mom breastfeeds without any issues.  Don’t make a mom feel bad if she decides not to breastfeed for whatever her reason may be.  One should refrain from judgmental tactics. And don’t assume that every woman has smooth pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences.  Why do these myths, or attitudes, need to exist, anyway?  What purpose does it serve, other than to crush the self esteem of a new mother?  How about helping out a fellow mother instead of judging, criticizing, isolating, gossiping?    Let’s say we do away with these myths and attitudes?  Let’s come up with solutions in the form of peer-led new mom/postpartum groups, like MotherWoman and Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents (SBPEP), all across the country.  In cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

And Gwyneth also speaks for moms like me who suffered from PPD and understand that it’s awareness that will empower and make a difference for mothers.

“That’s why I talk about it, because even the awareness of it started to diminish it…..Because I didn’t feel like I’m dying or I’m crazy — period. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is a thing. This is a real thing and these are the symptoms and I have them all.'”

As I stated in the introduction to my book reading last Thursday, I wrote my book based on what I was so desperate to find when I was suffering from PPD myself—comfort, hope of recovery, and helpful tips and facts to help validate that PPD is a real illness with physical symptoms and needs treatment, just as any other illness like diabetes has physical symptoms and needs treatment.

Knowledge is power.

Knowledge–which in the case of PPD, is gained by talking to others and reading about it on blogs, in books, and in articles on the Internet and in magazines–has a tremendous normalizing effect.

Knowledge is key in keeping fear at bay, since fear typically rules in the presence of the unknown.

Knowledge about PPD–what it is, what the symptoms are, and whether you’re at risk–will make you less likely to panic over what is happening to you, less likely to feel helpless and hopeless, and more likely to know where and whom to seek help from immediately.

Knowledge of what is causing you to feel the way you feel can help minimize these very negative feelings. Never hearing any other mothers say they’ve experienced any of these negative feelings, you may end up thinking, incorrectly, that you are completely alone in what you’re experiencing. Not knowing that PPD is causing these feelings, you won’t know what’s wrong with you and fear, needlessly, that you will never return to your old self again.  I didn’t know what was happening to me, so I feared needlessly that I would never return to my old self again.

Let’s keep the conversation about PPD going.  By keeping an open dialogue about PPD going–be it via written format on blogs, books or magazines or in day-to-day conversations we have with others or on TV and/or radio if you have access/connections to media outlets–we have a much greater chance at combating the stigma behind perinatal mood disorders and any other challenges a new mom faces.  Let’s come up with ways to support mothers and increase public awareness!

PPD? Nah, It Could Never Happen To Me….Or So I Thought

Do any of these statements sound like you? 

“PPD?  Nah, it could never happen to me.  I’d never let it.  Especially now that I have a baby I’ve always dreamed of having.”

“I’m a strong person.  I’ve overcome many challenges in my life, both on a personal and professional level.  I can handle taking care of a baby.  Plus, I’ve never been depressed before, so how would I get depressed all of a sudden now?”

“I’m busy enough as it is with preparing for the baby’s arrival.  I’ve read all there is to read on infant care, breastfeeding, etc.  I don’t have the time, or need, to read up on PPD.  If it were that big a deal, then why have I never heard anyone I know say they’ve experienced it?  Why don’t you ever see anything in the media about it?  Must not happen a whole lot, so what are the chances I will get it?”

If you look at the Postpartum Support International poster, you’ll see the eye-catching statement that surprised me when I first saw it, as I’m sure it would surprise most people:  “The #1 complication of childbirth is depression.”  Like me, many people have heard of “postpartum depression” but don’t know what it means, at least not until it affects you directly. 

Before I learned about 4-5 months after my daughter was born, 3-4 months after my first symptoms started, and 2-3 months after I learned I had PPD, I didn’t know anyone who has had it (and I’m not counting the likes of Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond either).  In reading up on pregnancy, labor and delivery, I skipped everything that was titled “postpartum depression,” whether it be a pamphlet from the hospital’s childcare class you enrolled in or a chapter in a pregnancy book.  I never thought it would be something that would happen to me.  I thought I had succumbed and overcome many obstacles in my life without ever having depression, I would never let something like PPD happen to me.  I thought it was all a matter of mind over matter. 

The words “Knowledge is Power” have a deeply significant meaning here, because had I known that as many as one out of eight new mothers develop PPD, I would’ve tried to become familiar with what it is, its risk factors, and its symptoms BEFORE having my baby, and I would’ve never traveled that long, lonely and dark road during those dreadful weeks I was sick with PPD.  It hit me suddenly and without warning, and since I didn’t know squat about PPD, my anxiety levels were through the roof.  Insomnia led quickly to panic attacks, quickly debilitating me to the point that I couldn’t sleep, let alone function, without being medicated. 

But I emerged smarter and stronger than I was before my PPD experience.  For that, I am ever so grateful.

Here’s to Public Awareness about PPD…More of This Kind of Accurate Reporting is Needed!

A real quickie from me today……Check out this recent piece on CNN.com.  It’s a great example of the kind of information that should be more frequently made available to the public about postpartum depression (PPD)….not like those misleading articles in magazines (the most recent one I can think of was in Vanity Fair) that add to the misconceptions about PPD.  It’s chockfull of very important and useful information about PPD, including the following:

  1. One mom’s experience with it, plus links to 2 other moms who talk about their experiences on Parenting.com (in my opinion, very well written);
  2. why many women are afraid to speak up about/seek treatment for it;
  3. the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act and how it, once passed, can help fund related research and education, provide training to medical professionals, and increase treatment options and support services;
  4. difference between the blues and PPD;
  5. the hormonal/neurochemical/psychological/social factors that can lead a woman at risk to get PPD (and for some the depression begins during pregnancy);
  6. how moms with PPD can–and should–get help (and how they should NOT wait or try to tough it out and suffer silently); and
  7. last but definitely not least….importance of the new mother taking care of herself and getting the help (emotional, practical) she needs.

Other newspapers, magazines, etc. should follow this wonderful example of accurate reporting that provides helpful links to PPD stories and other resources.  We need more of this kind of reporting to help banish misconceptions, or myths, about motherhood–PPD included!  The public needs to be aware how prevalent PPD really is, it shouldn’t be confused with the blues (which about 80% of new mothers get), and that it should be taken seriously. 

Happy mothers mean happy babies.  Mothers deserve and need rest and support!  

Knowlege is power, folks….and don’t you forget it!