Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Blues and More--A Repost

It's that time of the week again! Time to link up with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. We finished the alphabet last week, and I was going to take a break from this meme. I can't quite do it just yet though! Today, we can repost any of our old ones or come up with any letter we want to write to.

I want to do a repost one that I did over the summer. I published this post on August 25th, 2010. We were taking a break from the alphabet and writing about different colors. This was my blue post.

Baby Blues and More

I waited so long to have a baby! First, it took me forever to fall in love with the right guy and get married. Because of this, I didn't have my daughter until I was 38 years old. Considering that I had never changed a diaper before having my daughter, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I found myself to be incredibly depressed after the birth. I did have some problems at the end of my pregnancy and had to have my baby over 4 weeks early to prevent her from being stillborn (we got incredibly lucky on that one). Because of this, my daughter had to spend two weeks in the NICU. It was so hard leaving the hospital without her! In addition to all this, my mom was having health problems and had a series of surgeries scheduled, so she wasn't able to come out to help me with the baby.

After having the baby, I found myself crying all the time. My husband encouraged my OB to prescribe me anti-depressants, which I initially didn't think were necessary. I didn't have a firm grasp on knowing how much of my depression was due to a case of the baby blues and how much of it was due to my mother's health problems. We did some research on the medication, and it didn't seem like the right thing to do. Because my daughter was born a little early, she had a hard time staying awake for feedings, which is a big reason why she had to be in the NICU. A lot of her feedings had to be delivered via a feeding tube. A side effect of the anti-depressants was drowsiness for the newborn. This was something I didn't want to increase.

I couldn't understand why I wasn't happy. It was a miracle that my daughter wasn't stillborn. Having a baby was something I wanted for so many years! Yet, I felt like the world's most inept mother. Nothing seemed to come easily! When breast-feeding finally seemed to be working, my daughter became extremely bloated and started projectile vomiting. It turned out that she was unable to digest the proteins in my breast milk, so I had to follow an elimination diet. I wasn't allowed to eat anything containing dairy, soy, nuts, peanuts, eggs, fish, and shellfish. When my daughter was about 8 weeks old, my mother passed away. I was a mess!

What helped me a lot was a phone call. A woman I hardly knew called me to make sure the baby blues weren't getting the better of me. She was a wife of a coworker of my husband, and she was a family therapist. Initially, I had assumed my husband asked her to call me since I had gotten so crazy. She assured me he didn't. She called me because the same thing had happened to her, and she wanted to help me. In fact, she was so moved by her own experiences that she pursued her Master's degree in counseling because of it. She did her thesis on older woman becoming moms. Out of her universe of over 30 women who were over 30 years of age, every single one of them felt exactly as we had: inept and the world's worse mother. Women who have excelled in the workplace and had so much independence have a harder time adjusting to motherhood. We're not use to being so out of control of our environment. Add in the lack of sleep and the hormones and look out!

After having this phone conversation, I felt the great weight of depression leaving me! All I needed to hear was that I was normal--I was not alone in feeling the way I did. I honestly was on the verge of going on medication! All I needed to hear were those simple words--"You are not alone!"

Not long after that, Brooke Shields came out with her book on postpartum depression, "Down Came the Rain." I didn't read the book, but I remember being so thankful that this topic was out in the public domain! I'm sure it helped many women understand that they weren't alone either! Maybe this helped some women to avoid medication, like me! Maybe it encouraged other women to get medication who truly needed it! I think it was great that Brooke Shields took a subject that was taboo and got people talking about it! Fantastic!

This summer, unfortunately, has seen a few cases of mothers murdering their children with autism. It has raised the ire of mothers on the parenting boards screaming for justice for the poor murdered children. I'm sure there will be justice. But to me, the real story is what drove these women to commit these horrible acts of violence. I really think there are a lot of parallels with postpartum depression. True, there are no fluctuating hormones, but there's also no end in sight for these mothers and other mothers raising children with severe autism. I used to attend a support group for mothers of children with special needs. I heard stories of how they had to change diapers and shower their 13 year-old boys. How they had to deal with their children hitting and biting them. How they had to deal with their children never being able to talk--never being able to say, "I love you." How their children had endless tantrums because the world was just too light or too noisy for them. How they had to deal with decreasing state budgets that meant less respite support. I honestly don't know how these women managed. It was heart-breaking to me.

My daughter is extremely high-functioning. We have no doubt that she'll be placed in gifted classes and will attend college someday. She's capable of having friendships with her typical peers. We even have hopes that over time, she'll be so high-functioning that she won't be considered to be on the spectrum anymore. Nevertheless, I had to deal with my own depression at times. This was mostly an issue before we had her diagnosed and had interventions like behavior therapy that helped her so much. It was hard dealing with her tantrums. She'd cry if I made a left turn while driving, but she wanted me to make a right turn. She had endless tantrums over weird, mundane things. It was really hard to cope.

What do mothers do when their children show no sign of progress? What supports are in place to help them? Apparently, more needs to be done. Oh yes, we can describe the mothers who kill as evil and horrible, but does this prevent other cases from happening? I think we need to come up with ways to help women before problems begin.

In my case, I've been impressed that every single interventionist that has been through my door has pulled me aside at some point and asked me how I'm handling the stress of the situation. They've all stated the importance of "me time." Because my daughter has done so well, I've found the stress and depression quickly went away as well. I'm lucky! Regarding the mothers who've committed murder, I can't help but wonder if anyone had taken the time to ask them how they were doing and provided them the help they needed before they murdered their children. Something tells me they didn't have any kind of support--any kind of safety net to help them out. That's terrible, and of course, the ultimate victims were their children.

This shouldn't happen in our society.


  1. This whole post hits home for me. I had such depression after Katie, but, unfortunately, I was totally isolated and no one really noticed. I was too ashamed to admit defeat to tell the OB myself, too. I remember being in our prenatal class and them telling the guys to watch out for signs of ppd in their wives/girlfriends, and to call the ob themselves if something was wrong. I was hoping Kai would call for me...he didn't. I just don't think he really got it. No one wants to be the sad mom...I felt like a failure. Even after Ben I waited a while to get help. I know I can't be the only one like that, and it breaks my heart so many woman go through it.

    As far as the autism support groups...I shy away. I feel like Katie is too HF for me to go, and that the other parents will be angry I am even there. I have issues, right? I often wonder what did we do to be so lucky that Katie is as HF as she is? What is that biological difference that made her not profoundly affected. It's tough being caught between 2 worlds...she isn't typical enough to fit in there, but not severe enough to fit in so much with the classically autistic world, either. Seriously, the mom guilt never ends.

    I hope that Katie will be independent in the future and go to college and all that. There are things that could hold her back from that, behavior-wise, that scare me. I feel like typical life is thisclose sometimes, but we just can't quite make it.

  2. Excellent choice for a re-post!

  3. Stopping by through Alphabe-Thursday... You definitely have a heart and experiences that will be able to reach out and help someone going through your similar past and present. Like in other does help to have someone who has gone through or are going through whatever it may be... When our son was diagnosed and going through chemo, it was such a blessing to have another family whose chld had a similar diagnosis share their experiences. And in turn, we have and do talk with those since. Our son loves to spend time with the kids going through chemo, just to hang out and encourage them...Seeing him strong and healthy lifts their hearts up...just like those that reached out to us.

    Blessings & Aloha!

  4. You speak so eloquently of your struggles. So happy it seems to have come full circle and you are writing about it from the other side.

  5. An excellent post that speaks from the heart. You are quite right too - it should not happen to those poor women.

  6. An important post, both then and now.

    Thanks for reposting it.


  7. Such an insightful look at an all too common problem...

    When I had my first son, 35 years ago, no one even really talked about postpartum depression and so, when I felt so so sad, I had no one to talk to about it.

    We are in such a better place today to help young and older mothers to deal with this issue...

  8. My third son, born with hypothyroidism when I was 38, came a month early because I had pre-eclampsia, and my blood pressure was in the stroke zone. I suffered from ppd so badly that I didn't think I was going to make it! I had anxiety attacks on a daily basis, and even had to leave a full cart of groceries in the store on more than one occasion. Between those horrible attacks and traveling to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago once a week, I really wasn't worth shooting!!

    My sweet, loving boy is now almost 32, with an i.q. of 120, and a wonderful work ethic, and a drive to please everyone. I am really blessed.

  9. Great post Cheryl. And thank you for being so candid in sharing your experience. The more we do that the less stigmatizing these things become. Yes, it is so hard. Alex will be doing well for weeks and I'll honestly believe it is over, not Autism, just the most debilitating aspects. Then he'll plummet and I will too. Then it hit me - this is, after all, Autism. It has viccisitudes. Whenever he falls apart now my mantra is, "This is, after all, Autism". I'm trying not to get attached to either the progress or the regressions.

  10. You write so candidly about your feels like this post will be a blessing to so many. I like your title...The Baby Blues. I think I'm getting the Baby Blues thinking about your youngest Grand starting kindergarten. But I know that's not really the same thing!

    Thanks for sharing this. It was incredibly touching.