Both my babies are asleep, and I've consumed the final episode of the Bachelorette, so with my priorities firmly aligned, I thought I'd put an update out there into the internets.
It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote about my struggle with PPD, and I have to say, it has been a crazy awesome ride.
First of all, the support I received from so many of you meant the world to me. It's one thing to have an amazing husband saying to me 'this isn't you, it's something outside of you, you're not crazy,' but it's something quite different to hear that echoed again and again from friends - both in the virtual world and the real world - and from strangers that, yes, this is something real that happens to women and no, you aren't the first and only and worst mother in the world to experience it.
Really, I can't tell you how much that meant.
Second, I know there are people out there who don't believe in mental illness, or who see any admission of such as a kind of scarlet letter, a stamp of failure that secures a false belief about oneself being somehow 'defective.'
Well, it is real, and I very much doubt that diabetics or migraine sufferers waste time wringing their hands over fear of people's perceptions or judgements of them. They seek treatment. And when they find a treatment that alleviates or corrects their condition, they rejoice ... and for the love of God, they make use of it.
I'm preaching to the mirror here as much as to anyone else, because I know how difficult it can be to explain an 'invisible' illness to someone who is ill informed or simply ignorant. I know how hard it can be to convince yourself that this isn't just 'the new you' or 'the person you've always been.'
So I would say, listen to your spouse. Listen to your friends, and to your family...to people you trust. If your personality has undergone some kind of dramatic overhaul and you're feeling miserable...that's not normal. And it doesn't have to be your 'new' normal.
Some of the best resources I've found are here, here and here.
The first is a fantastic website founded and curated by a woman who is herself a survivor of profound PPD. The second is a great resource for nursing moms who want to continue nursing while taking an anti-depressant. Obviously, it's a personal choice that each woman has to make for herself, but for me it was so important to continue building that bond with my new baby, especially since I felt like we'd been cheated of quality time in the first few dark months. I also feel really strongly about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding, if possible, and weighed my decision with advice from my doctors as far as which meds would transfer through my milk at the lowest rates.
Finally, (and getting even more personal, if that's even possible) Dave and I have started learning the Creighton method of Natural Family Planning (NFP), and I can tell you it is already making a world of difference in my heart as far as freeing me from a real 'fear of getting pregnant.'
Perhaps the most difficult part of this entire experience with PPD has been the absolute terror I felt over the prospect of having another baby in the immediate future (or some days, ever. ) Did I feel guilt over this? You bet. I'm a practicing Catholic, a firm believer in the beauty of the NFP lifestyle, and I would never consider introducing any kind of contraceptive into my sexual relationship with my husband. I love him too much, and I don't want to do anything that contradicts either his dignity, my dignity, or the integrity of the marital act. But still...legitimately terrified of getting pregnant.
The Church, in Her wisdom, has given us amazing tools to manage our shared fertility as married couples, and to responsibly and respectfully plan our families. That doesn't mean (contrary to popular belief) pop 'em out till you drop, but it also doesn't mean condoms. And certainly not the Pill, which can actually exacerbate some of the suffering of PPD, in addition to causing other health problems. Oh, and it is potentially abortifacient...minor detail, right?
So where does that leave us? Well, we learned the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP as taught by the Couple to Couple League during our engagement, but it was never really a perfect fit for us. Let's just say neither one of us are strong in math :) Plus, having now birthed two sleepless wonders of children, I was not about to have a set wake time involving temperature readings each morning. Just wasn't happening.
So off we trotted last weekend to our intro session to Creighton, and it has already lifted such a burden from my heart. In addition to the wonderful miracle of modern medicine working its magic in my bloodstream and brain cells, Creighton is working some magic in my soul, helping to dispel much of that fear and anxiety as I begin to grasp a more complete understanding of our fertility.
I'll leave this lengthy bulletin with a final charge to you, dear readers. If you or someone you know is suffering in this way (and I know there are a lot of ways to suffer, this is just one I've come face to face with), please don't hesitate to reach out. It doesn't have to be this way - it shouldn't be. And I hope some of what I've shared can help.
I also hope Emily marries Jef. Because reality tv is obviously very serious too.
P.s. Had to re-institute the dreaded comment moderation thanks to a trolling creeper who has once again found his way to my corner of the internets. So please forgive the inconvenience, and know that I do LOVE your sweet and helpful comments, so keep 'em coming. And pray for my troll - God knows he needs it.