Friday, August 23, 2013

Tools for Battling the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression

As anyone who's read my blog knows, after I had Maggie, I struggled for a long time with postpartum depression. After struggling with that for so long, I am nervous to be faced with that again. Hopefully, I know myself better this time and will be able to articulate my needs to other people better than I was able to the last time.

I have about seven weeks (give or take) until our next little one makes his/her debut. In thinking back on my postpartum days with Maggie and talking with another friend, I have come up with things that I am doing pre-newborn days (right now) as well as things that I can do to help myself after Bean is born. This post, I'll talk about the pre-newborn days things that I'm going to be doing. For the next post, I'll talk about the things I'll do to help myself after Bean is born.

Pre-Newborn Days:

1. Making freezer meals: I've been stocking my freezer for the weeks after Bean's birth. I remember with Maggie that the most stressful time of day was when I was scrambling to figure out and prepare something for dinner. That was usually Maggie's fussiest time of the day and thus, the most stressful time for me. Having meals that I can just pop in the oven (some in the microwave, even) will help me feel a little less stressed. It's just one less thing to worry about. Especially since I have to feed Maggie dinner too. When Maggie was a newborn, Matthew could fend for himself if he really needed to. That's not as easy when you have a hungry toddler who needs to eat dinner, too!

My plan is to make enough meals to have 3 meals a week for 6 weeks postpartum. We won't be using them up right away, as my mom will be staying with us for a little while after Bean is born and I'll have more hands to help me at that time of the day. That should give me a good enough jump on meals that I'll be able to have meals for the really stressful newborn period and then I'll be able to make simple Crock-Pot or very low prep meals. The recipes that I plan on using are:

- Marinated Chicken Breasts (to bake): This is just chicken breasts that I have frozen in a marinade and sitting in the freezer, ready to put in a baking dish and baking.
- Cheddar and Cracker Chicken (to bake): recipe can be found here
- Skillet Lasagna (to bake): recipe can be found here
- Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells (to bake): recipe can be found here
- Best Ever Beef Dip Sandwiches (Crock-Pot): recipe can be found here

Let me know if you have any good freezer meals! I like to have my freezer stocked with already prepared, homemade food anytime, but I imagine that this will be especially helpful with a newborn.

2. Have someone who knows about my past struggle with PPD who is available to help: My mom will be coming and Matthew will be taking a little more time off work this time than he did when Maggie was born. I realized with Maggie that the most difficult newborn weeks for me were weeks 4-6. After 6 weeks, life got MUCH easier. But my mom wasn't here for those weeks and Matthew was back at work then, too. This time, I'm hoping to have it worked out so that I'll have someone at home with me for those weeks. Around week 4 is the first big growth spurt, too, which makes it a little crazy when you're trying to nurse a baby with no rhyme or reason to their eating patterns and take care of a toddler (or so I hear and can imagine.)

3. Write some notes and verses to my future self right now, as my present self, who remembers my past self: I have begun to work on this. Mostly I plan on including a lot of "IT WILL GET BETTERs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" The newborn days are really rough and while I was in them, it seemed like the rest of my life would be this way. Alas, the rest of my life wasn't the same as when I had a tiny newborn. I went from feeding a baby every 2.5 hours around the clock to feeding a (year-old) baby 3 meals and a snack everyday. It happened a lot faster than I thought it would, too. I have a different perspective right now, too, because the behavior and discipline of a toddler is more difficult than having a newborn, sometimes.

4. Talk with Matthew and have him prepare himself to be emotionally stable in response to my fluctuating emotional stability: This is fairly self-explanatory, but something that didn't really happen the last time because I didn't know what to expect and wasn't great at identifying that my response wasn't emotionally stable at first. Eventually, I realized that it wasn't so great, but a lot of damage had already been done. I will be more confident this time, knowing that we are both prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.

5. Take turmeric capsules: This was amazing in helping boost my mood. I took one capsule daily as recommended by an Integrative Therapy Doctor. I noticed a BIG difference when I didn't take it daily. Life seemed more overwhelming and then I'd realize that it had been a few days since I had taken the turmeric.

6. Smash the idol of breast-feeding: Okay, this might offend some. For that, I'm sorry. I had an extremely difficult time breast-feeding Maggie. It was honestly one of the worst experiences of my life. There were a lot of factors that played into that that I had no control over. One of which was preeclampsia. Apparently, an unhealthy placenta affects milk production. Preeclampsia also caused me to have Maggie at 37 weeks and as a result, she didn't have a great sucking reflex. That also affects milk production. It is the most overwhelming thing in the world to have a baby that refuses to eat. Mass panic ensues and you feel like a failure as a mother. Other people (like the pediatrician when you take her to weight checks every other day) ask you skeptically, "so you're feeding her HOW often?" (Every 2 hours, thank you. And that is only because I wake her up and make her eat then.) I'm hoping to avoid those problems this time, but I'm not guaranteed to be able to avoid it.

I have decided (along with Matthew's whole-hearted support) that if this baby doesn't have a good grasp on breast-feeding after the first 2 weeks, I am not going to cry tears like I did over breast-feeding Maggie. I don't have the time to do what I did for Maggie (pumping around the clock when she wasn't eating, using an SNS, having a nurse-in, taking galactagogues, etc.) There are things I can do with very little effort (like nurse on demand for the first several weeks, take galactagogues as needed, and pump as needed) but if it is obviously not improving or working out, I am giving myself the freedom to choose to do something else. Breast-feeding does not define me. Who I am in Christ defines me. To entertain the thought that breast-feeding defined me was idolizing breast-feeding. Not what the Lord desires for me. Do I want a good breast-feeding experience? Unequivocally, yes! Do I know all the great health benefits for me and Bean from breast-feeding? Yep! But I cannot put my mental health at risk or the health of my family at risk just to prop up my idol. That is foolish.

I am praying that this baby knows what to do from the get-go. I have some tools in my arsenal to use this time, too, since I did have such a difficult time breast-feeding Maggie. I have the support of pretty much everyone in my "inner-circle." Hopefully the missing pieces of the puzzle (a healthy, full-term baby and maternal wisdom) will help this breast-feeding experience be better than my last. But if it isn't, I have the freedom to do something else. :)

Obviously, this is going to be an ongoing process and the list will probably have many things added to it and maybe even some things taken away from it. I'm not pretending like I have all the answers. I am also not opposed to anti-depressants. I would just prefer to try other things first to see if they work.

Have you ever dealt with postpartum depression? What are some ways that you've learned to deal with your postpartum self?

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