Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Quiet Giant {Postpartum Depression}

There is something I would like to discuss.  
It's not pretty. 
It's not sweet.
It's not uncommon.

Postpartum Depression.

Over the past few months I've written
here and there on this post, but never
posted it.  I wasn't ready but now I am.

I am doing this to bring awareness.
And I'm using writing as a sort of therapy.
Those of you who really know me, know
that I LOVE to write.
I am NOT a writer.
I don't even know if my grammar is right
half the time.
It is therapy to me...
Well, one of the MANY therapeutic things I do anyway. ha!

This is the place where I can be honest about what
Postpartum Depression is to ME and how
it has affected my life...and maybe,
just maybe,
I can help give someone
a voice for their battle against "The Quiet Giant".

If you've read my post below titled "Livia James Reed", 
then you know I gave birth naturally. 
I finally got the birth I ALWAYS wanted.
It was followed by such a high of: unconditional love and pride.
Yes, I was very proud of myself.

Everything was wonderful for a few weeks, despite
a horrible cold I got the day I had Liv and a few
"baby blue" days of crying, from being sleep deprived.

On the other hand,
I was sick with worry that I would have to have surgery just a few
weeks after having Liv.  MAJOR surgery.  The kind of surgery
that I would not wish on my worst enemy.  
A Hemorrhoidectomy.
If you don't know what surgery this is, google it.
It will make your skin crawl.

I started to panic about how I was going
to breastfeed in recovery.  How was I going to recover AND
continue to breastfeed while on major painkillers.
Trust me.  After this kind of surgery, top of the line painkillers
will not take away the pain, from what I've heard.

I met with a General Surgeon and scheduled the surgery.
With Michael (aka Sparky) driving and Liv and I in the back, 
I called a good friend after scheduling
the surgery and talked with her about what to expect.
I then cried the ENTIRE way to Magee from Jackson.

I told Sparky, there was no way I was having that surgery.
I was scared to death.
I told him, I will go home and stay down the entire weekend
and if my problem goes away, I will cancel the surgery.

And miraculously, I healed over the weekend.
Not completely, but to the point of NOT needing 
to have surgery.

After that relief, I was able to really focus on Liv and breastfeeding.
Even though I was extremely sleep deprived, I thought things
were going great... 
until I had my first major meltdown after getting
my girls from school one day soon after.

I shouldn't have been driving in the first place
because of the problems I had as you read
up above.  It just made things so much worse
with me emotionally because I was MAD that
I 'felt' like I didn't have any help from my husband.
Which wasn't the truth, he was/is a tremendous help.
But, PPD can play mean tricks on you...

On our way home from school, one of my girls
said, "my belly hurts, I feel sick..."
and that did it.
I went into a snowball of a panic attack
worried SICK about,
"Oh my God, they have the flu or a stomach bug and
Liv will get it and have to go to the hospital
and she could die from that.  She's too little
to get over anything that major!"

I was crying hysterically  by the time we pulled
in the garage.  I remember being SO angry at my husband
and others for him having to be at work
and not at home helping me.  I remember getting the girls
out of the car, taking Liv out of the car and telling
the girls, "go eat a snack, I need to feed Liv.  Vada,
do you feel okay? Or is your belly still hurting?"
"No, I feel okay now", she said.

Sweet relief.
Then BAM!
Panic... more panic... and questions in my head... 
"WHY am I freaking out about something SO stupid?!
What is WRONG with me?!"

I didn't want them to see me crying.  I wanted to retreat
to my room (aka my safe haven) and completely
lose it there.

Here's the thing about PPD though... 
usually when you start crying,
it can be hours before you stop.

So, after my second panic attack 
and Liv falling asleep.  I came out to the kitchen.
My girls saw my face and knew... and when I saw 
their reaction, I lost it again.

What was happening to me?!
I have THREE beautiful, healthy girls!
I had the birth of my dreams.
We have a roof over our heads.
We have food on the table.

I. Did. Not. Have. To. Bury. Another. Child.
This is something that kept running through my
head.  When you lose a child, you often
become SO thankful for the good and bad
with your child/children... even if they're sick and
you're stressed to the max running around with
 vomit buckets and 104 fevers
and coughs and the flu, et cetera.
They're still here. 

So, WHY am I crying?  Why do I feel so alone?
Why do I feel hopeless? And angry?  And why am
I panicking?!

I went through panic attacks almost daily.
And crying spells, where I could sometimes NOT
catch my breath. 

And I did it all quietly.
For months.
The only one who knew was my husband.
This is why I call my PPD 'The Quiet Giant'.
I suffered quietly with (what felt like) battling
a big, ugly, mean GIANT.

After that breakdown I had in front of my children,
I would take myself away if I felt another 'episode' coming
on.  I would always resort to my safe haven... my room.

It was very hard hiding it.  
Hiding it from family.
Hiding it from friends.
Hiding it from my children.  
Hiding it during holidays.

But, on the flip side, I was very good
at appearing like NOTHING was wrong.
I was able to put on a happy face in certain
situations and look as if,
"everything is going great, even though I'm
tired and adjusting, it's going GREAT!  I couldn't
be happier!"
Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.
Everyone is watching you.
If they see you cry, they will KNOW
something is wrong!
Smile. Laugh.
Don't cry.
Don't breakdown.

There were SO many days that it was just Liv and I at home.
My other girls were at school.
Let me add this also:  I NEVER, EVER,
EVER thought about hurting my child or
any of my other children.

You see, that is one of the many, many misconceptions
about PPD.  You can call it a 'stigma' if you want.
A woman finally gives her 'quiet giant' a voice-
"I think I have PPD and need help" and right away
 there is a panic from people (who don't really
understand PPD or have NEVER been
through it or know anyone that has
suffered from this awful disorder).
 Those people usually respond like this:
 "Oh my God, are you going to hurt
 your children?!  Are you going to hurt
yourself?!  We need to send you to
a psychiatric ward!"

I had/have Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Psychosis.

There is a HUGE difference.
Postpartum Psychosis is VERY rare...
but it does occur.  And thank you GOD,
it did not occur with me.
Andrea Yates, suffered from Postpartum
Psychosis.   And I am NOT giving an excuse
for what she did to her children.  That is unbearable
to think about.  I'm just stating the facts.

Back to my 'Quiet Giant'...
There were many days I would pick up the girls
from school and automatically there
was a sense of feeling completely
and utterly overwhelmed.

But honestly, it would start after Michael
went to work.  I was scared to be alone with Liv.
NOT because I wanted to hurt her, but
"'what if' I have a panic attack and
she starts crying?  'What if' I get sick
and can't take care of her?  'What if' when
I'm getting groceries I suddenly panic and
lose control in the grocery store in front of
everyone and they want to take my baby
away from me?!"

So, I was crazy with anxiety
just about ALL day, mostly everyday.
When I picked my girls up from school, it
would continue:
1. I have to help Lila with her homework.
2. I have to entertain Vada.
3.  I have to listen to Vada's violin lesson.
4.  I have to do some laundry.
5. I have to pick up the toys in the living room.
6.  I have to have dinner ready soon.
7. I have to get back to WORK!  How in the hell
can I even go back to work when I can't even keep
my house organized or brush my teeth?!
8.  I have to feed Liv.
"I have to, I have to, I have to!"

This was taking a horrible toll on me.
I couldn't do it anymore.

There were MANY, many, many days Michael
would come home from work and I would
be in the rocking chair, crying.
I was holding Liv and crying.
Or, I was lying on the bed crying
and sick to my stomach from panic attacks.

Michael.  My saving grace.
This man took care of me like no one else.
He loved me no matter how much I cried.
He loved me when my teeth weren't brushed.
He loved me when I was still in the SAME
pajamas from that morning.
He loved me when I would just resort to our room
and lock myself in there and not speak to him...
and just cry some more...

Michael was/is so kind to me.
And he was more patient with me
during those dark days than he ever
had been.

He loved me unconditionally.
And that's hard to find.
He would sometimes make dinner for us.
He would bath the girls NIGHTLY, no questions asked.
He would get them ready for bed.
He would do ALL of the dishes.
He would read to the girls.
Tell stories to them.
And give night-night hugs and
check for 'bed bugs'.

The list can go on and on...

And what mattered most to me is he
never, ever looked at me like I had three heads
growing out of my neck when I had a 'bad day'
or panic attack.  He would hug me and love
me, no matter what.

But, Michael was concerned.  We both were
and we both knew I needed help.

Finally, it was time for one of my therapy sessions.
I have seen a therapist for almost four years for
grief counseling after the loss of our daughter, Adelynn.
  In our first session (after having Liv), she
listened to me and then said,
"You have PPD".

I knew it.
I have already been there, done that.
I had horrible PPD with Lila, my first.
And was SO ashamed about getting help, BUT
when I finally DID go to a therapist, HE
(yes, a man... a man who did NOT look up ONE time
from his file folder to speak TO me or listen TO me)
said, "what you're feeling is totally normal, every
mom goes through what you're dealing with."

I did not go back.

I finally made myself go to another doctor,
this time it was a woman.
SHE told me, WORD for WORD,
"you just need to exercise."


She also prescribed me something, but
did NOT want to.
I made her.

And then I refused to take anything because
I was having anxiety about taking ANYTHING
foreign to me.

So, needless to say, I spent about 4 more
months putting my husband through hell
after the birth of Lila.  He was the only
one who knew exactly what I was going through.
Michael was the only one I wanted TO KNOW.

And then we lost Adelynn.
That is another hell in itself that you
can read about in other posts...but I'm
not going there today.

There was no PPD after her.
Just plain ole' ugly grief.

After I gave birth to Vada, I was so
consumed with focusing on EVERY minute
with her...because I didn't get that with

And I loved every single ounce of Vada.
Even her high pitched screams to tell me
she was hungry or had a dirty diaper was
music to my ears.  And trust me, sometimes
her high pitched screams/cry would make
people plug their ears and run.
It. was. so. loud.

So, I honestly believe, grief in a way,
helped me appreciate EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE.
of Vada.  And sometimes it was a bit much.
And sometimes I would have others tell me,
"you need to take a break from her..."

Vada was such a joy to our family
because of the tragedy we faced the
year before.  She would've been
a joy to us even IF Adelynn would've
survived.  We love each of our girls very much
and truly believe they ALL were/are meant
to be here.

Back to my recent PPD:

Okay, so I have now been diagnosed with 'The Quiet Giant'.
I am then ordered to go see my OB/GYN,
who delivered Liv.
I KNEW from past experiences that it
would be VERY hard to take anything (medicine wise)
because I was one of "those" mommas
who thought taking medication would either:
a) get in my milk supply and make Liv grow a horse head
b) not work, so why take something anyway?

I knew better though.  I researched
for days.  And knew that being a 'mentally and emotionally'
healthy mom far outweighed the risks
of medication.
I knew it would be very hard to swallow that first pill.

ESPECIALLY being that I was strictly breastfeeding.
I always gave formula along with breastfeeding,
but THIS time I didn't have to!  I was so
happy that I could give Liv breast milk only.
And it was VERY hard.  Breastfeeding
is one of the hardest but most rewarding things
I've EVER done in my life.
And I do not regret one "let-down" of it. Ha!

My doctor prescribed me medication.
God. Love. Him.
He also diagnosed me with PPD.
NOT Postpartum Psychosis.
He said, "Andrea, you have three children,
you have horrible anxiety and you cannot do it all!
This will help you so much."

We tried 'situational' medication, which would
help when I felt a panic attack coming on.
I didn't take it.  I was scared how I would feel on it.

So, back to the doctor I go.
He didn't want to give me something to take
on a daily basis because of breastfeeding BUT
said he would give me something to take daily IF
I refused to take the situational drug.

And in the meantime I was still having
horrible panic attacks and crying episodes
and there were times I thought,
"this is NEVER going to end!"

I was starting to become very angry at myself
and at my 'quiet giant' because I felt
like I was missing out on Liv and my
other children.

I was missing those first few months of
having a newborn.
Children grow up so fast... especially in the
beginning.  You only have a small window
to enjoy the sleepless nights {even though they
are NOT the most enjoyable of times}, the crazy
amount of diaper changes, the 'barely there' cries for
food or a snuggle.

I felt that I was missing out on ENJOYING
my last moments with my newborn because of
PPD.  How was it fair that a loving
mother was fighting this 'quiet giant' when
all she wanted to do was enjoy EVERY minute
of her new baby?  Her last baby.

This WAS our last baby and I knew that.
I knew I needed to breath in EVERY moment
with Liv and having a new baby in the house...
it wasn't going to happen again.

I would be SO angry at myself for not being able
to handle myself and be "Supermom".

You know, 'that mom'?
Her children have done ALL of their
homework and finished their nightly reading.

The children are playing puzzles on the floor
 so sweetly without any:  "She's copying what I SAY!
She slapped my arm!  Well, SHE won't play
the puzzle right!!!"

The laundry is folded AND put away
(and NOT piled a mile high on her couch).

She's also a work at home mom who not only
schedules photo sessions on the weekends her
husband was home, but she has ALL orders
right AND every email, phone call returned
AND she's marketing herself like crazy on the side
for business.

Supper is always sitting on the table nicely
with the potatoes still steaming.  And the new baby is just sitting
in her swing, not crying, but looking around so peacefully.

And 'this mom' is dressed.  In CLOTHES, not
pajamas.  AND she has her hair washed AND
styled.  Not greased back in a ponytail and hairband.
AND she has makeup on!

Yeah, she doesn't exist.

Being a mom of a new baby is hard.
Being a mom of two children AND a new baby is
even harder.  And if you want to try to
maintain a 'clean house, dinner cooked
every night AND looking presentable', you're
probably going to drive yourself insane.

I couldn't do it.
And I felt like a failure.
Don't ask me why... I just felt like
a bum.  A lazy bum who was at
home all day who could ONLY tend
to a new baby and no one else or nothing

Don't get me wrong, this is what I wanted - to
spend all of this beautiful time with my new daughter.
I was having panic attacks and anxiety
and crying spells and feeling so overwhelmed.
All because of PPD.

Hell, if my kids got to school
with their teeth brushed, hair pulled
back, ON TIME, it was a miracle.
And even THEN, I can't take credit for that.
It was mostly Michael's doing. !!!

All in all I swallowed that first pill.
After a few days on it, I had a horrible
reaction to it.  I do not want to go into it,
but I will tell you this.  My doctor said,
"stop taking it immediately."

We try again later, same medication,
different dose.

Same reaction.
I finally get the guts to take a medication
and I am having a bad reaction to it?!

So, we go to ANOTHER medication.
Didn't work for me.

Please remember, when you start taking
medications, you have to 'wean' yourself
OFF when you have to switch, et cetera.
You cannot just stop taking medication
like that.

We are looking at MONTHS of on and off
again medication.  In the meantime, I'm still
dealing with a heavy dose of PPD.
Not a good time.

I am happy to say that since we have
found the 'right' medication, I am doing 75% better.
I do not want to say 100% because there
are days that I still struggle.
It is a process and I am continuing my
therapy sessions to help this situation along.
Michael can tell a difference in me,
along with others that knew what
I was going through.

When the 'right' medication finally kicked in,
there was clarity!
And when you have clarity, you feel
that your voice is a little louder.
I've become very open about
what I went through and what I
continue to go through.  And surprisingly,
I have found other moms who have/are
going through the same thing.
Postpartum Depression.

I also found that the clearer I thought,
(thank you clarity)
the more decisions I could make.
During this entire 'process' (and it is
STILL a process) there have been
decisions that I needed to make, but avoided.

It became very clear to me that something
needed to change with the way I was working...
or trying to work with a newborn and
two other children at home.

Being a work at home mom has been wonderful
and I absolutely love the work I do.
I love the clients that have become family to me.
I love being able to make my own schedule and
be my own boss.   I also get to be creative on
so many levels.  I couldn't ask for a better calling.

But, there has been (for a long time) something
calling me in another direction.  I'm still not sure
what it is... but I feel a change coming...

Like I said above, the reason I am doing this
is so hopefully I can help someone else.
I am here.
I will listen.
 I will help as MUCH as I can.
If you are reading this and you are going
through PPD, I promise, you are NOT alone.
And you will get through it.
I know it has been hell... but there is
a light at the end of this cold, dark,
claustrophobic tunnel.

And yes, I am still breastfeeding.
But, that is my choice.  I will continue
to do so until Liv is ready to stop.

There is so much more to my PPD.
But, I think some things are better
left to just Michael and I.  I'm usually
a VERY open person about things, but
I don't have to talk about every single
experience we had when dealing with my PPD.
I will say this though.  I could not have
survived without Michael.  Nor could I
have survived without the very few friends/family
who knew about my PPD and continued to help
and talk and pick up my beautiful kiddos
from school, when I was having a 'bad day'.

Your love, compassion, open hearts and your
non-judging spirits have helped me fight my
 'quiet giant'.

love love love,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Fabulous Fountain Family {Sneak Peek} !!!

This family is oh, so CUTE!
I loved watching Jackson and Byrnes playing together while
their new little sister, Caroline, watched in amazement. 
These boys LOVE their little sister.
So, watch out future boyfriends,
you will definitely have your hands full
between big brothers and daddy! ha

This is the second time I've photographed this
beautiful family.  I am amazed at how big
Jackson and Byrnes have gotten since the last
time I saw them.

I absolutely love working with this family.
They are such a joy to work with... 
and I am truly honored that they
continue to choose me to capture their sweet

Enjoy the {Sneak Peek} Fountain Family!
Much love to you all,

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