Jana’s Postpartum Depression Journey

Today I have a very special treat for you. On this day, bloggers from around northeast Ohio are guest posting on one another’s blogs as a way to help get to know one another in our blogging community. This is all part of the Ohio Blogging Association’s Cleveland November Blog Swap! I’ve been paired with Jana Christian, a Cleveland area mother of two who became a full-time stay-at-home mom in January of 2011. Her passion for holistic health and nutrition helped her resolve her own personal health and adjust her family’s diet to accommodate multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities. You can read her blog at Write on Jana!

Take it away Jana!

I am honored to be participating in this Blog Hop and excited to be paired with Healthy Heddleston! As Katie joyously chronicles her progression into motherhood, I thought it might be helpful to provide her (and you readers) with some information about recognizing and overcoming postpartum depression.

My husband and I had been married for more than four years when we finally decided to take the leap into parenthood. And despite a long list of medical issues from childhood, I got pregnant quickly and carried to term without any complications. Cognizant of my medical history of depression, I made sure to assess my risk of postpartum depression. I consulted Mayo Clinic, The Center for Postpartum Adjustment, WebMD and even Wikipedia and felt reassured because I did not fit any of the following criteria:

  • Weak support system – I was in a loving, supportive relationship with my husband and extended family and had many close friends with whom to share my excitement (and discuss my fears).     
  • Unplanned pregnancy – We had planned for this pregnancy financially and emotionally (as much as possible).
  • Poor body image – I eagerly anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed the way that pregnancy changed my body despite the history of an eating disorder (gaining weight was not an issue while concentrating on my health and the growth of my baby).

Yet, less than 24 hours after the delivery, I wanted to hurt myself. I told my obstetrician immediately. However, I faced numerous obstacles to getting proper help despite having the highest score possible on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the most well recognized assessment for postpartum depressive symptoms.

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For over a year, I consulted various psychologists and psychiatrists and took cocktails of powerful psychotropic medications without success. Two hospitalizations and experimental therapies (that wiped out my short term memory) still did nothing to improve my anxiety, which progressed into deep despair and eventually became a numbing trance. Eventually, I got tired of the trial and error with my body chemistry, and I made a personal decision to fight back (with the support of my husband and family and against my doctor’s orders).

Although highly simplified, these were the critical steps to my healing:

  • I initiated a ton of research on nutrition and hormones. As a result, I added significantly more Omega-3 rich fish, coconut oil, whole milk, avocados, nuts and seeds to my diet. I highly recommend Amanda Rose’s book Rebuild From Depression for more on this topic.
  • I confronted my unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Initially, I did not consciously realize how much I expected myself to be perfect. I’m still working on this step, but I found the book I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood amazingly helpful (and remarkably cathartic) in the process.
  • I accepted help. Sounds easy since my family stood by me through everything, but it was difficult to acknowledge that my son was better off in the care of others while I healed.
  • I learned to forgive myself for a situation that was out of my control. I, like many mothers suffering from PPD, blamed myself for being “weak.”

When my second child arrived five years later, I was significantly more prepared. Following the guidelines from Baby Center and AskMoxie, I:

  • Began meditating (and napping) during my pregnancy,  
  • Warned my extended family, doctors and friends of the possible need for additional assistance following the birth (and educated those closest to me about the warning signs),
  • Ate nutrient dense foods during and after the pregnancy (specifically those high in healthy fats and calcium) and
  • Exercised up to the day of delivery (careful not to overexert myself, but also mindful of the emotional and physical benefits of regular movement).

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 After the (completely natural this time) birth of my second child I:

  • Immediately began gentle exercise (walking, light weights and basic abdominal/core conditioning)
  • Went outside in the sun for at least ten minutes every day (thankfully, mother nature cooperated with this one),
  • Drank tons of water and ate healthfully,
  • Took some time off work (with my first child, I was answering work-related questions in recovery) and napped during the day,
  • Nursed exclusively and on demand,
  • Spent every possible moment holding my baby (and her big brother, but he pushed me away) and, most importantly,
  • Cut myself some slack.

Being proactive really paid off. I experienced only very mild irritability, occasional anxiety and some crying (essentially the most common “baby blues”) in the first few weeks (and again when the sleep deprivation kicked in). Being fully present during the days and weeks following my daughter’s birth was truly a blessing, but I mourned the bonding time I missed with my son. I regret not being there for him in a way I have for my daughter and I worry (often) about what long-term consequences he will have as a result. But, I am grateful for the opportunity to fully appreciate my children now that I am healthy.

I challenge all of Katie’s readers to surround her with loving support during the critical postpartum days (weeks, months…) and encourage you to share other suggestions for avoiding depression in those blessed days following the birth of a baby.

For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.



Comments

  1. 1

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey with PPD. Most women don’t want to talk about it because they feel ashamed. I’m so happy the second time around was much better for you!

  2. 2

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story so openly. As someone coming out of a depressive episode, I found a lot of your tips familiar or benificial. I’m interested to check out the “Rebuild from Depression” website.

    Thank you for participating in the OBA Blog Swap!

  3. 3

    Thank you both for your encouragement! I have realized over time (and through much trial and error) that sharing my difficult experiences has the potential to help. If my story can help even one other new mom who is struggling, I am more than happy to share! However, it makes it much easier when I have such a supportive community in which to bare my soul. I appreciate the kind words.

  4. 4

    Jana,
    What an amazing story. I have five children and have always been interested in nutrition for myself and my family. i always tell my kids–you are what you eat! Good for you for being so smart and being kind enough to share your great tips! Moms can learn a lot from each other.
    I am holding a baby as i type this post one handed. My daughter had triplets and i am her support. we are so sleep deprived. lol Many blessings to your beautiful family.
    Love Janie

  5. 5

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jana. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for a few years and am finally making the connection between eating right, fitness, and a healthy mind. I’ll be checking out the Rebuild From Depression site as well.

    • 6

      Good for you, Marie! My doc had NO idea what Omega-3s were which was very frustrating… so I had to go about it all alone (and with very little support from others who thought meds were the only option). A traditional diet is hard to wrap your mind around at first (because the mainstream media has made “fat” such a horrible substance), but it is well worth the effort! Although I’m not sure how much validity there is to the claim, many “experts” are now looking at the connection between gluten sensitivity and depression/anxiety as well (http://writeonjana.com/2011/07/05/making-an-educated-decision-is-gluten-free-living-for-me/). It is a topic worth exploring!

  6. 7

    Janie – How awesome that you have provided that firm foundation for your family! And that you can be that support person for your own daughter as she struggles with the horrors of sleep deprivation (for which I STILL have absolutely NO tolerance). I agree that moms can learn a lot from each other which is why I am so passionate about eliminating the Mommy Wars and building community (http://writeonjana.com/2011/11/09/i-surrender-refusing-to-fight-dr-laura-in-the-mommy-wars/). It really does take a village!

  7. 8

    Jana,
    My daughter Katie and I are running on 2-3 hrs
    Sleep a night. Yikes. But a miracle happened.

    My Mom’s funeral was July 2nd and Katie
    Had an emergency c -section July 3rd. I
    Hopped in a plane for St. Paul and was able to stay for
    10 days with Katie and the babies in the
    NICU. (three months premature at 1.10 lbs,
    2.4 lbs, and 2.8 lbs)

    Babies came home Oct1st. So all this time has passed and I took
    Another plane ride to be here for 10 weeks.
    This is the miracle part.

    Just as Katie and I Are at our ropes end– and trying to scrape
    Money together to hire a doula for one night
    A week — Out of the blue I get a check from my Mom’s
    Estate. Katie and I cried.

    My Mom was so worried about the
    Babies. You see 62 years ago , I was a
    Preemie at 2 1/2 lbs. My twin sister did not
    survive.

    My Mom was amazed with all the
    Technology that helped her great grands and
    It hurt her heart all these years not to see her
    Other Baby girl.

    So my sweet Mom is taking care
    Of us and the babies by giving us the means
    To hire a doula. I know she is smiling and
    Looking down-Watching over us.

  8. 9

    WOW! I have goosebumps! That is truly an amazing story… What a gift. So despite the pain of losing your mom, I’m sure you will be celebrating and honoring your many blessings this Thanksgiving. How incredible!

  9. 10

    So I need all of your help! I would like to
    Leave Katie a freezer full of meals. I need
    Suggestions of recipes that are healthy and
    Taste good after defrosted. How about
    Snacks to grab on the go too! Thanks
    Everyone! Love Janie

    • 11

      Hey Janie!
      Lasagna, quiches, and soups all freeze and defrost great! You can certainly pack all three of those options with plenty of veggies too. For snacks to grab on the go, fill up that fridge and counter with fresh fruits and cut of raw veggies (paired with a little dip — yum yum). I love making breakfast bars as an anytime snack as well as healthy trail mix. Small portions of dried fruits are a nice option too. Hope this is a good start!
      Katie :)

    • 12

      One of my favorite “baby” gifts was a crate of fresh citrus fruit (my children were born in the fall). It was so nice to have an instant snack since formal meals were non-existent once the little one arrived!
      My sis (who is now pregnant with her 8th child) also made me some nursing mommmy cookies which were essentially low-sugar oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with nut butter. They were fabulously satisfying (and freeze well)!

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