It hits me every time. Like a train. Even though I know it's coming. I hesitate to even write about it this time as this past year one of my closest friends walked through the worst postpartum depression I've ever witnessed. I've only read about cases that were that severe. And in no way am I passing judgment, I mention it because I never realized how utterly horrific it can be for some women.
But I do want to mention it for several reasons. So I can look back next time and maybe remember and get some perspective when I'm in the middle of it again, so I can remember and encourage my girls if they go through it one day, so other women can know they are not alone and hopefully be encouraged.
I couldn't decide if I wanted to approach it from a laid-back, "that's just life, no big deal now that I am (hopefully) coming out of it" perspective or from a little more serious perspective, but as I'm writing, I'm feeling the need to be a little more sober about it. Because it's really hard if you are someone that goes through it. And again, I cringe to even really make comparisons after my friend struggled horribly for months. Compared to what she went through, my experience is a walk in the park, but after asking numerous friends over the years, I've found that while it's nothing compared to severe ppd, it is quite a bit worse than any of my friends seem to experience, so I want to provide another place women can maybe find some help and encouragement.
I would like to say it's gotten some better with each baby, knowing now to watch for it. Having the perspective that it will pass does help some, but when you're in the middle of feeling depressed, even that knowledge is truthfully, not that comforting. So even though since the second baby I've known to watch for it, and been able to know it's coming and been able to identify it and even forewarn Glen, once it hits, it's really hard for me until it passes.
Women are always warned to watch for signs of ppd (postpartum depression) after a birth. Being overly emotional and weepy at first is normal. I've never actually had much of that. Maybe a little, but generally the first two months after giving birth are a really sweet, and usually easy time for me. But when my babies hit between three and four months my hormones shift, and with it often comes our babies' difficult stage. I don't know why it is, but generally the three month age is the hardest I have with my babies. I don't know if they sense something going on with me, if my milk changes due to such drastic hormone changes, or really what it is, but most of our babies have napping and tummy troubles during that month which only compounds my sense of being overwhelmed and stressed. (And just to have a record of it somewhere, this time around I have learned that my being overly stressed, preoccupied, and busy due to external circumstances (van shopping and several out of town trips) makes my babies highly agitated and unable to be easily comforted and settled. Meaning screaming most evenings and any time she was tired, virtually unable to be comforted. As soon as this was past and we were able to be home and just living "normal" life she immediately calmed down. And I also discovered, after much trial and error, that orange juice was giving her horrible, horrible tummy pains. Once I cut out the orange juice she has had virtually no tummy problems at all.)
So I did some research this time. Even though no one close to me has ever said they have a similar experience, I have heard from a few different places online that this happens to other women around the same time. What I learned has been so valuable this time around. I learned that when a woman is pregnant her progesterone production goes into maximum overdrive, producing up to 400mg of progesterone a day toward the end of pregnancy. Then, she gives birth, and since her ovaries are still dormant there is minimal to zero progesterone being produced. For awhile there are enough stores in her body to swing along for awhile, three to four months usually, and then, especially if she is nursing and her ovaries are still dormant, there is suddenly a huge progesterone deficiency and for some women this triggers depression. It's also what triggers postpartum hair loss. From my reading it sounds like quite a bit of even regular depression in women can be at least somewhat attributed to estrogen dominance and too little progesterone.
So what does that mean? I identified a very possible sounding cause and wanted to try and help myself this time. So I did some more research and found that a proper estrogen/progesterone balance can help women with a whole host of reproductive/women related issues; it can help women that have trouble sustaining a pregnancy due to an insufficient amount of progesterone, it can help with pms, it can help with postpartum depression, it can help with regular depression, and it can help peri- and post-menopausal women. Obviously I am not a doctor, but I would encourage any women that feels they may benefit from this knowledge to first research it for herself and then talk with your doctor.
So I went to Whole Foods and got some natural progesterone cream. (Make sure you get some that is not soy based as that can just compound any estrogen dominance. Do some research as well on what is good to get.) I got a pre-measured pump kind just so that I'd make sure to use the correct amount. It has been the difference in night and day. I had felt myself getting bad, and let it get really bad for a couple of weeks, so I know it's not just that my experience was different this time. It made a literal difference overnight. I at first hesitated to attribute it to the cream as I started it on a Thursday and Fridays just tend to be better since I know the weekend is coming. But almost three weeks have now passed and I can say it has been and continues to be a life saver. Although it does help within a day, it does seem that building up my levels was gradual. Every day was better, but this week I finally feel really normal. Possibly even extra better :o) I use it twice a day. Normally you would use it three weeks on, one week off, but since I am nursing and not needing to ovulate, I need to find out if I should also take a break for a week or not.
I anticipated it being rough this time. Ever since Caleb was born I've had someone, either my mother in law or my sister, that has kept my kids for me one day a week. For the past two years it's often been both. My mother in law would keep the little kids one day giving me a day with the big kids for cleaning, school, etc. and my sister has kept some or all and taken them out to do something fun. (Now you all know my secret :o) I freely admit it makes a huge difference knowing I have that break coming every week. For almost a year now, it's been sporadic with my mother in law as she's had her parents and then her mother in law living with them and having to provide pretty much round-the-clock care, but my sister was very consistent. Until she went to Romania to do a DTS. For six months. Right when Grace turned three months old. So right when I anticipated the depression hitting, I went from having a weekly break for eight years to having one of my closest friends leave for six months and having no regular all-day break from the kids whatsoever. (Well, other than Glen, who is a huge help. But you know what I mean.) Even their one day a week home school group was out for the summer. I had briefly entertained the idea of (gasp!) a mother's day out program in the fall, but I know for me, for our family, that is not what God wants me to do, so I'm not. I know it's all part of the process of Him continuing to work in me more of Himself and work out of me more of my self-centeredness. You know, that whole refining part of following Jesus that we like to conveniently try and get out of. So for me this is not an option.
But you know, God has been gracious, and even making this transition in the middle of dealing with ppd has been relatively easy. The depression has not been easy, but just being home daily with all the kids without a weekly "break" has been good. In all honesty, it's something I've known I need to do for a very long time. I know I've talked some on here about my process of learning to like to be at home. For me, especially in my early years of having children, always being on the go, always being busy, always having somewhere I could send my kids instead of having to deal with them, allowed me to not have to face a good bit of selfishness, laziness, and just plain junk in me that needed to be dealt with. And even though facing my stuff and my self-centeredness is not fun, nor is it easy, it is what we are called as Christ-followers to do. And I want to live a surrendered life, I want to become more like Him, so I'm pressing in. And I'm finding even in the difficulty, it is such a sweet place to be.