Postpartum depression, or the "baby blues" hit me like an iceberg hits a boat. It initially rocked me awake to gnarly thoughts and visions of what could hurt my children. It also made aware of the anxiety, depression and anxiety people suffer from in every day life. Experiencing postpartum depression gave me the gift of empathy, and the habits of taking better care of myself, or else I would sink. Postpartum punctured holes in my boat hull in areas that I needed healed.
A Journey to Self-Healing
Experiencing postpartum depression the first round (after the birth of my firstborn) taught me what aspects of myself I needed to heal, namely my sense of self-worth. I suspect this is because as an achiever, when I failed day after day to soothe my fussy baby, it jarred me to my core. "This baby deserves a better mother" were my cutting words to myself. I also began to question, "Who am I, if I can't even soothe my own baby?" My self worth unraveled. Learning to live under the cloud opened my eyes to depression, despair and gave me the gift of empathy. I now was awake to mental health, having experienced postpartum depression. Under the dark cloud of post partum depression, showering felt like too much work, getting dressed felt pointless, I lacked energy and motivation to make a meal, and I was excruciatingly cruel to myself. But this taught me a lesson I needed to learn: My self worth was inherent. I came to believe my self worth was not tied to doing, but simply being.
Entry Level Mom: Navigating Transformation
This is mainly why I wrote the book Entry Level Mom- to orient myself when I was lost. My words became a guide to navigate the journey and transformation. The despair I felt when I couldn't soothe my infant was alleviated somewhat by writing, confiding in friends, and mainly by "placenta pills." My placenta was boiled, dried and put into pills, which my husband coined 'happy pills.'
The Impact of Placenta Pills
Before I took a placenta pills, it felt like I had a dark cloud over my head. This dark cloud that would only move away if I took those pills. This was important because once the dark cloud moved away, I could battle the negative self talk. Once my hormones normalized after some time, I felt the cloud less and less. The placenta pills truly helped, and I even rationed them to help them last. The cloud over my head also taught me to take excellent care of myself. Healthy babies need healthy moms, after all! This meant I needed to: drink enough water, get sunshine, sleep, exercise, no alcohol, limit sugar, and focus on nutrition. I aim to take excellent care of myself now, and ask for help when I'm at a "yellow" (run down) versus a "red" (totally depleted). If I don't take care of myself, for example if I eat poorly or don't exercise, the cloud comes back. I now look at myself like a farmer: if I'm not growing, I don't yell at the plant, (that's ridiculous) I water the soil! I'm thankful for this lesson.
Second Round: Anxiety's Arrival
The second round of postpartum depression, with the birth of my second born, brought along its pal, anxiety. The placenta pills helped once again, but this anxiety and responsibility of keeping two babies alive shook me. That's double the babies! A psychiatrist approved over the counter lavender pills, which really helped squash unhealthy anxious thoughts. I can now say the anxiety helped with vigilance. I was fearful of kidnapping, and envisioned the ways the world could hurt my babies. This taught me to plan my days ahead of time, and prepare for the worst. For example, I have an anti-choking unit in my home as well as an epi pen, and I have prepared if I were ever to lose a child. Vigilance helped me prepare.
Lessons in Vigilance
Just this year at the zoo, I lost my four year old, and thanks to a video I watched I immediately yelled "name, age, description!" And another mom told her where she was in 90 seconds flat. (To me it felt like 7 hours). Other moms started chanting "name, age, description" too which felt powerful & my daughter was found safe and sound happily playing.
WhiteFlag Project and Removing Stigma
I know this WhiteFlag app is beyond important for our culture. Personally, I want to remove the stigma around postpartum depression for mothers. Having postpartum depression didn't mean I don't love my kids, it didn't mean I don't want my kids, and for me it was hormonal (it resolved after some time). It taught me empathy and that I am worth taking care of. If you are reading this, you are too!
For more information on Bonnie's accomplishments, visit www.booksbybonnielippincott.com
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