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
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.
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.”
- 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).
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.