Obedience is Overrated 

Mae doesn’t always follow along at story time. She often wants to sit in my lap and read her own book, and then chime in with the group when it interests her. 

 

ready to dance!

 
Mae’s favorite part of story time at our local library is when they sing this song “Hot Potato” and do hand gestures with it. When the librarian hits play and the music begins, Mae makes a sprint from my lap to the middle of the floor. She’s like a hippy at Merlefest. She does some of the suggested hand gestures but she spends most of the song spinning herself silly.

The other kids are not doing this.

Maybe some parents think I should stop her.

Unless she is in danger of hitting somebody, I’m letting her rip.

I can’t help but admire her spirit. She doesn’t care that she’s dancing differently or that all eyes are on her. She’s just doing what makes her happy. 

I try not to ever reprimand her because I might care for a moment what others think. 

Now if she stands in front of everyone and blocks their view during the story portion, then I’ll tell her to sit down, please. But if she’s really not into what we’re doing, we also should probably just leave.

I hear friends oh and ah over how “well-behaved” children are, and my mind goes to my college students. I have some students who don’t question anything, who want me to give them the “right” answer, and who have no idea why they are in college beyond it is what their parents told them they should do. They want to make A’s. They “have to.” I never hear them express what they “want to” learn or do. 

Having and keeping a spirited-child means sitting through epic meltdowns and long sessions of dress up while also searching for moss in the backyard. It means letting her mix play dough colors (so hard for me). I’m okay with that if it means my daughter will keep her creative, confident spirit. 

Mae painting on herself and wearing her favorite tutu inside out and as a tube top.

My goal isn’t to have an A student. My goal is to have a happy, curious human being. 

The Embodiment of Strength: Speaking Up as a Minority Woman

Natasha is a self-described woman of “strong faith.” She believes in God and prayer. She is also an African-American woman, a leader in her community, and an advocate for women. For all of these reasons, Natasha’s interview was an educational experience for me.

I met Natasha on a sweltering summer day as we both walked several miles for Postpartum Progress, a national non-profit that provides support to women experiencing postpartum mood disorders. Natasha had helped organize our local Postpartum Progress fundraiser, Climb Out of the Darkness. Although I’d been raising money for the event for months, I hadn’t met Natasha until the day of the walk, and I immediately wanted to talk to her. Natasha has an energy, a strength, an exuberance, that pulls others to her.

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Our recent phone interview only lasted an hour, but we could have gone on and on all day.  Natasha, like me, has used her postpartum experience as a catalyst to help other women.

The week before I spoke with her, Natasha had “come out” on Facebook about her postpartum struggle with depression. And she had specifically spoken about PPDA not being solely a white woman’s disease. Natasha was hesitant about taking this step and prayed about making this public declaration because she “didn’t want to offend anyone, but white women are speaking up while African-American women are still too ashamed.”

Natasha has a hypothesis on why this is, why so many minority women are suffering in silence: “Our ideas about mental illness begin long before we encounter PPD. In our community, we are raised to have strong faith. You don’t complain. You suck it up. You pray about it and believe things will be okay.” But after a postpartum experience that Natasha repeatedly described as “darkness,” she knows that PPDA needs more than prayer. What Natasha believes women need is education, and she has begun to do this in her community by sharing her story, but she wasn’t always as open with her struggle. She was so good at “faking it” that her friends didn’t know she was suffering. She would say “I’m having a really hard time” to friends or family members, but what she meant was “I’m dying on the inside. Help.” And the main responses she heard back were: “Trust in God” and “Have faith.” Looking back, Natasha realizes how dangerous it was to simply pray and not get professional help: “The car was almost in the ocean. I just hit the brake.” Thankfully, her husband pushed her to seek professional help and stood by her through the healing process.

 Now Natasha also privately hears from other women of color who say “Me too, but I can’t talk about it publically.” We know that a lack of social support is a risk factor for PPDA. Thus the overwhelming stigma and silence within Natasha’s community could increase the number of women who develop postpartum mood disorders.

Unlike many women, though, Natasha did find help from her pediatrician office and OBGYN. They talked with her via the phone on weekends and would follow up to make sure she was surviving. But she didn’t use medication until around seven months postpartum because she was still of the mindset: “I am a strong black woman. I’m the strength of my family. I can’t be crazy. Not in my family.” Natasha has since gone down a long road of accepting her illness for just that: an illness. However, she is not alone is resisting help. While the statistics show that white women and minority women experience postpartum mood disorders at about the same percentage, 15-20%, up to 9% of white women seek treatment and only 4% of black women get professional treatment. However, minority women are underrepresented in research studies, so we also don’t have as many current studies to refer to on this topic.

Through this process of accepting, she has determined that having a second child is not possible for her. She fears the darkness of what she experienced with her first, and now last, postpartum experience. And this acceptance is difficult when those around her don’t fully understand her experience. But she tries to explain it like this: “What if the doctor said if I conceive again, it would put me at risk for losing my life? Then would your feelings be different about me having another baby.” She speaks her truth, even to her family, and even when it’s uncomfortable.

Here’s what I know from my brief interactions with Natasha: she is a strong woman. She is a role model for those in her community, as I saw the most minority women I ever have speaking up at our Climb Out of the Darkness event. While Natasha’s experience was “hell,” and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I am so thankful it has led her to this work. She truly believes “The more I talk about my journey, the more I heal, the more time that passes by, the more I realize my journey is less about me and more about the next woman that I can help.” And every time she speaks up, she embodies a courage that I cannot fully understand as a white woman, but I am so thankful for it.

 

 

More Than Baking: Rice Krispy Date Balls and Tradition

I love baking at Christmas time, but I don’t like baking just anything. Deliciousness is important, but tradition and sentimentality are right behind taste for me.  

Yep, nothing wrong with butter melting into sugar. Two sticks ’cause I make a double batch!
  
I just started making these date balls last year. I found them in a recipe book my mom wrote for me. Isn’t a handwritten recipe the best thing? Each recipe has a note to designate who passed down the recipe. These date balls were my maternal grandmother’s recipe. I didn’t get to know my grandmother that well as she was already in a nursing home when I was Mae’s age, but I know her recipes and funny sayings, which were passed down from my own mother, so there is something special about watching your child dance around the kitchen from the delight of these sweets, her great grandmother still able to orchestrate joy in her life.

Also, they are easy. No oven needed. It’s all on the stovetop. They are, however, messy!

Here’s what you do:

Melt a stick of butter on low heat in a pan. Add a cup of sugar as it is melting. Once the butter and sugar are melted together, add the finely chopped bag of 8 oz dates. Cook for 3 minutes. Then take the pan off the burner and add a cup of Rice Krispies and a cup of finely chopped pecans. Add one teaspoon of vanilla. Stir it all together, in the same pan. You don’t dirty many dishes!

Then, this is important, start making the balls once the mixture is warm. You can’t make them when it is too hot to touch, but if you wait until it cools, the balls won’t form.

I make balls about the diameter of a quarter. Then I roll them in powdered sugar. You could also do coconut flakes.

   
  
  
Merry Christmas! Hope it’s sweet.

Oh and if you meet an ornery person some time soon, odds are you will at some family gathering, then ask them what my grandmother would “Who licked the red off your lollipop?”

DIY Christmas Gift and Toddler Activity 

Stovetop potpourri turned into the perfect gift for our neighbors and was a Mae-friendly activity. It was also really inexpensive. I only spent $25 for 12. That’s just a little over $2 per jar.

We put a clementine, cinnamon stick, whole clove, cranberries, and rosemary in our mason jars. Everything came from Kroger except the rosemary, which Mae and I picked from our garden (made this even more fun for Mae because it was raining!)

Then I gave my toddler a candy cane to eat while I tied ribbons and candy canes on jars.

Neighbors will just add ingredients to simmering water and their houses will smell delicious. 

As Mae says, “Happy Kissmas!”

   
 

Three Times with PPD: The Having-it-All Facade

“I’ve never been a very emotional person. I grew up in a very Chinese-Indian culture, and you just don’t show emotions; they are a sign of weakness. I’m not the type of woman that cries at movies or at weddings.  I never did any of that,” said Sabrina, mother of three. So when she began to have intense emotions during her first pregnancy, this was strange for her and her husband. She described one time watching America’s Funniest Home Videos, and eating pineapple on the couch. Her uncontrollable laughter turned into uncontrollable sobbing, and her husband never let her eat pineapple again.

Of all the women I’ve spoken with, Sabrina is the most career-oriented. She’s a high-achiever and successful as a project manager. She applied that same outlook to motherhood, so with her first child, she just plowed through the difficulties, trying to demonstrate to all around her, that she could “have it all,” but it “was a huge front,” that she became a master of keeping up. She was so good at this facade that she didn’t even recognize her postpartum depression until the birth of her second daughter.

The shift from one to two children was too much for Sabrina and she was unable to push down her feelings this time. A combination of lack of sleep and trying to demonstrate to the world that “she could have it all,” soon caught up with her.  With the lack of “the kitchen-table conversation” (the infrastructure of close family or neighbors just to tell her “it’s going to be alright, I’ve been through this too,”) she found herself spiraling downward.   

Sabrina’s PPD manifested itself as an inability to connect with anyone. She’s describes it as “dissociative” and “I was like a robot. I wasn’t feeling or caring about anything. I remember people talking and I would smile and nod my head and I would have no idea what they were saying. I wanted to be in isolation.”

Eventually, Sabrina and her husband recognized this was an issue, but not until her second daughter was around a year old. She was advised to seek help in the form of medication and counselling, which was difficult for Sabrina, who didn’t even like having to take prenatal vitamins. Counselling provided her with a means to talk to someone who would listen to her, to fulfill the lack of a community she felt around her.

Sabrina was born in Guyana, South America to a Chinese mother and Indian father. Then she grew up in England and moved to California as a teen. She’s been exposed to many cultures. “In most asian cultures, for the first thirty days of your baby’s life, the mother does not leave the home. Nannies/nurses come into the house, they cook; they clean; they help out. It gives the mom that start that we don’t get in the western culture. There’s a different focus on the family. Sometimes your in laws move in with you and help take care of the baby while you go back to work. In the American culture, we are told to be the chauffeur, the cook, the mother, and the worker.” Sabrina talked a lot about all that the American system lacks in terms of supporting mothers, and she’s right. America is one of three nations in the world without paid maternity leave. While women make up over 50% of the workforce now, maternity leave and women’s health still aren’t given priority. With the birth of her third child, Sabrina personally experienced the lack of understanding or accommodations from America’s workplace.  

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Sabrina took twelve weeks of maternity leave with each child, and when she returned to the company that she’d work for for ten years after baby number three, they told her she wasn’t able to perform her job adequately and gave her 17 days to improve. “It was such a slap in the face. I chose to quit,” Sabrina explained. Sabrina and her husband worked for the same company, and it provided onsite daycare for all three of her children, so she didn’t want to sever ties with the company who had provided her family with so much regardless of the current situation.  However, between the thirty minute drive to the daycare, instead of walking over from her office, to try and breastfeed her son, the stress of unemployment, and a newborn, she was unable to breastfeed her son for as long as she wanted to.  This brutal combination of events caused her PPD to intensify.

This time, she decided to take a different approach as she had more skills to deal with the depression and opted instead to not take medication. She threw herself into fixing projects around the house, volunteering for the public schools in her town, anything that would keep her from feeling stuck, and eventually life became tolerable.

Sabrina wouldn’t refer to herself as recovered, even with her youngest in kindergarten now. She believes we all just learn and grow, strengthening our coping skills, but her depression never fully went away.

For me, a woman who has another child after experiencing PPDA is beyond brave. I would compare it to someone who almost drowned in the ocean, jumping back into the water on a rough day.

rough waters

Sabrina kept jumping into the ocean as she wanted a large family, so she just kept swimming; this is her personality–put your head down and meet your goals, and she’s glad she did it.

I really struggle with if I want to have another child or not, and this is mainly because of my experience with postpartum anxiety. I remember how I felt tortured.  I remember feeling like I was going to die, not being able to eat, sleep, or think of anything but panic. I don’t know if I can live through it again. I don’t know if it would be fair to my family or the new baby or my daughter. It feels like gambling after I’ve already lost way too much money. So Sabrina’s outlook on this was refreshing. Basically, she’d always wanted a large family and PPD wasn’t going to stop her; she learned to forgive herself and “not be perfect.”

For Sabrina, coping with PPD became part of life.  It was a struggle and still is on some days, but life is full of struggles.  Her new mantra of “Just go with it” has given her the ability to let the little things go and spend time focusing on what’s important to her.  

Beyond the First Year: Postpartum Depression and Motherhood

Did you know that there is a higher rate of depression in mothers of four year olds than in newborn mothers?

The latest numbers show doctors only screen 5% of women for postpartum mood disorders in the first six-weeks after having a baby, so many women slip through the cracks. Where do they go? Some of them power through the struggle by a miracle. Some of them find answers on their own. Some of them return to work and that helps. Some of them have a family member who gets them help. Some of them commit suicide. And some of them are still struggling and trying to “power through” after four years. Four years.

Doctors, midwives, and psychologists label postpartum depression/anxiety as a mental illness due to childbirth that occurs in the first twelve months of a baby’s life. But what happens when the majority of the 15-20% of women who experience this illness aren’t treated or given resources?  

The more women I talk with, the more research I do, I’m beginning to realize that postpartum depression and anxiety can and does go well beyond the first year for many, many women. And Irene’s essay is proof of this as well.

When I arrived at Irene’s house, she was teaching a little girl how to play Uno, but I assumed the toddler was just learning her colors from the cards. “No,” Irene said, “we’ve just continued to try again and again and now I no longer have to prompt her about picking a number or color. She’s got it. It’s amazing what we can learn if we don’t underestimate ourselves.” That’s a sentiment that Irene lives by now—not underestimating herself, but she didn’t always feel this way, not even close.

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In the months before Irene’s first son’s birth, in 2006, she was consumed with taking care of her husband who had suffered a severe infection of the digestive tract. While caring for her husband and planning maternity-leave lessons for her sixth grade classroom, Irene surprisingly went into labor in late September, six weeks early.

“I don’t even remember how I really felt in my pregnancy other than taking care of my husband and feeling tired,” Irene said. Irene is a woman who puts her all into everything, and is a bit of a perfectionist, so she was very focused on her students’ and husband’s well-being. When Connor made his early entry into this world, Irene didn’t feel ready to let go of her duties to others.

By the time Irene accepted she was actually in labor and her husband got her to the hospital, she was ten centimeters. No time for the epidural she’d planned for. She arrived at the hospital by 6:10 and Connor was born at 6:24. “And then our birthing class at the hospital started at 7 PM,” so Irene’s husband popped in to tell the other participants labor wasn’t “so bad” and the baby was already here! They wouldn’t be needing birthing class anymore.

“It makes for a fun labor story, but when he was born, my first thought was I don’t have lesson plans, so the stress began immediately,” Irene said.  “I even requested to stay one extra night in the hospital because I was just so overwhelmed, and I remember walking out of the hospital, pushing the stroller and just crying. I got really overwhelmed.”

Here's Irene just minutes before leaving the hospital. Her smile doesn't show the absolute overwhelm and uncertainty she was feeling.

Here’s Irene just minutes before leaving the hospital. Her smile doesn’t show the absolute overwhelm and uncertainty she was feeling.

So there was immediate surprise and stress. Then nursing was a “nightmare” and Irene was at the pediatrician’s office “every other day” to try and get help for the constant crying and the difficult nursing and lack of sleep. And I think Irene’s journey as a sleep coach really begins in the depths of this despair. All she wanted was for a doctor or professional to problem solve with her. Instead, she was sent home with little to no guidance or support. And this mimics her cycle of depression and anxiety postpartum: worry about the issue, then ask for help, no helps comes, and sink into depression.  “I wasn’t given any resources,” Irene affirmed. In hindsight, Irene can see “all the red flags” for postpartum depression and anxiety, but no one around her was saying anything. Irene remembers feeling “like I didn’t want to do anything but I had to. It took a lot of energy. I remember thinking it shouldn’t be this hard to make a lunch for myself or to pump another bottle.”

Eventually, Irene’s husband encouraged her to speak with her doctor, and while her doctor took a lot of time and spoke with her openly, she left his office without any resources or a plan for her care. This is not an uncommon experience. Many doctors and midwives recognize postpartum mood issues in their patients, and they talk with them about these issues, but the doctors either don’t know specialized therapist, can’t get their patients in with these specialist due to a waitlist, or they don’t put much stock in alternative forms of help, like a postpartum doula, a sleep coach, a moms support group. Women are left in an in between place, not know where to go next for help.

Irene was sleep-deprived and without resources already, and then at a month old, Connor was in the hospital for a week with a staph infection. Then in December, her husband had another surgery. “I can’t even remember those first six months,” Irene said with sadness. “It was as nightmare for me.” Irene can’t remember any developmental milestones or moments from Connor’s first year. Her memory is etched with these traumas instead: the hospital visits, the pediatrician, the screaming baby at her breast. Irene had also been influenced by the message that so many moms are given in our society: “I’m a mom now and I should know what to do. Get it together.” This pull-yourself-up-by-the-boot-straps mentality is one that many women feel and are also told by family members and doctors. This message is maybe the least helpful when someone is fighting postpartum anxiety and depression. Believe me, every day a woman gets out of bed and cares for her child during this time, she is committing a courageous act. So Irene slogged through and eventually had another son, Bailey.

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Irene knew what depression and anxiety felt like as she’d struggled with these symptoms for several years pre-pregnancy, but she never learned any tools to help her; she’d only been given medication as a tool. While many women want and need medication to recover from postpartum mood disorders, Irene wanted an alternative plan this time. She had accepted anxiety and depression as “a way of life” and a way of mothering, and it wasn’t until she began her own sleep coach training, at five years postpartum, that she recognized what she’d experienced and put a name to it. Irene was taking a workshop with Shoshana Bennett, a clinical psychologist and pioneer of advocating for women’s mental health, when she had her “ah-ha moment.” Bennett was discussing postpartum depression as it would pertain to Irene’s sleep coach experience, and Bennett’s words hit to directly to what Irene had experienced but could never fully verbalize. That was the beginning of Irene’s healing process. As Irene told me about the moment she realized what Bennett’s description of postpartum depression “was me,” she began to cry. It was a cry that held both sadness and relief. I compare this feeling to someone who has been suffering from chronic physical pain, and after searching and going from one doctor to another, the pain is finally diagnosed. It doesn’t take away the pain, but now the person has a direction to follow and resources to seek out.

New research from Australia points out “mothers are more likely to suffer depression when their child is four years old than when they are babies,” which means the medical field needs to change its approach to maternal mental health. A common statistic is one in seven women will experience postpartum depression in the first year, but this study found that “Almost one in three first-time mothers reported suffering depressive symptoms at least once between pregnancy and four years after birth.” This means we could be missing half of the women who experience depression or anxiety in the first few years of motherhood, because many women no longer have regular check-ups with their OBGYN after six-weeks postpartum. They found that “the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms at four years post birth were having previously reported depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth.” This statistic is directly linked to Irene’s story and so many woman’s stories based on the evidence. If we don’t diagnose women early on and we don’t give them resources, postpartum mood disorders will not just go away, but continue to affect mothers for years and years.

Irene Gouge Loving Lessons GetSleep 250x250

“We’re not stuck.” This was one of the main mantras I walked away with after speaking with Irene. She believes we have to face our shame when it comes to postpartum mood disorders, and then we can begin to move forward. But the shame leads to silence and denial, which is a recipe for sinking deeper into mental illness. “I was supposed to be supermom,” Irene said, “but you can’t be your best self when you’re just going through the motions. When I began equipping myself with strategies and not just medication, I began to feel unstuck.”

Irene’s journey continues as she helps guide parents through sleep coaching, using a very gentle method. The main service she provides is sitting down and problem-solving with parents; this is exactly what Irene wish she’d had during those first years with her sons: “My own depression and anxiety kicked off my passion and love for understanding family dynamics and problem solving with families. We’re not stuck.”

Irene is adamant that moms must know that resources, like Postpartum Education and Support, are available:  “I needed to know that there were others who were going through this. My other mommy friends didn’t talk about this. That’s why I felt like I really just needed to get it together that first year. Just get it together, make it happen, I would think to myself.” This type of thinking, which isn’t abnormal at all, caused Irene to suffer for five years. I think her experience speaks to the need for doctors, pediatricians, nurses, and friends to speak up and get educated. We know that postpartum mood disorders are the number one complication due to childbirth, and we need to start treating it that way, right from the start. We need follow-up care much sooner than a six-week visit with our OBGYN, and much longer than just one year, and we need pediatricians to treat mothers like they are just as important as babies.

If you’re reading this and going through a postpartum depression, whether it’s at four months or four years after your birth, remember you are not stuck. This is treatable. Reach out and ask for help.

More Than Anyone Could Handle

At 17, Stacey married. After being married for six years, and at the age of 23, Stacey and Charlie chose to have a child. During her freshman year of college, she carried a baby boy. They were excited and acknowledged that they were “idiots” about this parenting thing, and did what many of us do—“read every parenting book and took every available class.” They were as prepared as they could be.

After only four hours of labor, Jones was born, but a there was a drastic change in the mood of the room—from calm to chaotic—as Stacey got to the final stages of labor. A nurse kept yelling with each one of Stacey’s pushes “There’s no heart beat.” This panic was how Jones entered the world and how Stacey entered motherhood. The cord had been wrapped around his neck.But then suddenly, Jones was healthy and fine, and the new family felt like they’d “dodged a bullet.”

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After a brief sigh of relief, only a few weeks later Jones was losing weight due to projectile vomiting after each feeding. Stacey visited the pediatrician and talked with family members, and no one was able to figure out what was wrong with baby Jones. One family member even suggested Stacey was “probably making him sick by being too overprotective.” It’s amazing how one sentence can stick with us over a decade later. A new mother is in such a fragile, vulnerable state, and when you add a sick baby to that equation, she is totally exposed to her inability to control anything, and that is terrifying. I also had relatives ignite some of my anxieties or tell me to “buck up” during those darkest weeks. When you are trying to help a new mother, keep one word in mind—compassion—that is what she needs.

Due to all the vomiting, Jones became extremely dehydrated and was rushed to the ICU. He was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a rare condition that affects the opening between the stomach and small intestine, and had surgery the next morning. Stacey’s worries were not just a new mother’s anxieties. Something was wrong with Jones. And the truth is, if a mother thinks something is wrong, we should listen to her; she’s usually right. Again and again, I hear from women that no one listened to her concerns and no one helped her problem solve the issues during these newborn months. And even if a mother is worrying over a symptom that doesn’t result in a medical condition, that mother is still anxious and worried, and providers need to calm her fears, talk with her, and guide her to support.

Then the first year passed in a blur, as it usually does, but “something was always a little wrong” with Jones. He never hit a milestone on time, but no one was really concerned besides Stacey, so she felt anxious and paranoid. At twelve months, Jones had an hour-long seizure, and “the doctors told us that he would probably have severe brain damage and might not live at all.” Stacey lived in this limbo for a year and then at around two-years-old, Jones was diagnosed with autism and the doctors said “he would probably never speak, never walk, and never go to school.”

Stacey found out the same week that she was pregnant with her second child.

During this time, all of these traumatic events, Stacey never realized she was depressed: “I loved my child.  I loved my husband.  I simply felt ill.  I withdrew from the world around me and remember feeling terrible because I would place my son in front of the television for an hour so I could lie down.  I didn’t actually sleep, because I couldn’t sleep (severe anxiety plagued me when I tried to rest), but I lay there because I felt paralyzed, as though I couldn’t get up.  Slowly, I began to lose contact with friends and loved ones.  I changed my courses so I could go to school solely online.”

And so with each child, all three, Stacey felt like she “wanted to crawl out of her own skin…I woke up every day thinking that I just wanted to go back to sleep and wake up as someone else.” And also with each child, the feelings of dread began to “ebb after a year,” but Stacey experienced so much drastic change, from children’s illnesses to the loss of her first husband, that those feelings collided some with other situational stressors. Yet Stacey does “feel a physical difference between sadness/depression and postpartum depression.”

With Jones and Elliot, Stacey had a very supportive partner, who encouraged her to join the world again, taking her on walks and helping care for the children. While Stacey still did grapple with PPDA after her first two births, she was able to recover due to her partner’s support. With Marshall, her youngest child, Stacey was in a new marriage and without that same support. This third time, she was “isolated from friends and family and had nothing to do but stew over how bad I felt.” The lack of support from her partner and distance from family made Stacey’s third bout with postpartum depression the most difficult. Because Stacey has had multiple children amidst different scenarios and varying levels of stress, she’s a good example of the way in which outside stressors can affect postpartum mood disorders, but they don’t determine it. Lack of support and isolation are triggers for PPDA, and in Stacey’s case, lack of support wasn’t the sole cause of her PPDA (as evident in her first two pregnancies), but lack of support intensified her PPDA or made it more difficult for her to recover that third time. I’m always asking questions about triggers, and while I’m always learning new information about causes for PPDA, I’m also always reminded that PPDA doesn’t discriminate—black, white, rick, poor, married, single, healthy babies, sick babies, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding. So there are some triggers that may intensify PPDA, but it’s an illness that won’t be pinned down.

PPDA is a moving target.

At about three months postpartum with her third child, Stacey “hit rock bottom.” She was up early packing lunches for the two older children, Jones and Elliot, and Marshall, the baby, began to cry. Stacey also began to weep as she “didn’t feel she had it in her to walk upstairs and pick him up and comfort him.” Stacey made herself see a therapist twice a week, attend a Bible study, and begin working again. And then one day, all of this obligations became things she looked forward to. She woke up and wanted to “open the blinds and make her bed.” She felt a desire to “get going” again.

So now Stacey is a single mom and “things aren’t perfect,” but she no longer suffers from the “physical pain” of PPDA. She’s reaching out to others for support and help, so while she’s “doing it alone, she doesn’t feel alone anymore.” I think one of the main signals of recovery is what Stacey said last in our interview—“I enjoy my children again.”

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