Well I suppose the title gave it all away.... so maybe I should back up a bit! I love kids. I wanted kids my entire life! I babysat as much as I could, I taught summer school programs at my local church, I even studied education so I could be around kids as a career. When I look back on old school worksheets, I said I wanted to be a mom when I grew up. So when I got pregnant, I expected few surprises after the baby came. Except that it was nothing how I imagined.
I remember watching a TED talk during my pregnancy that talked about some parenting myths. I distinctly remember the speaker saying something to the tune of, "I was told I would be hit with this Mack truck of love. And that just didn't happen for me. I had great affection for the baby, but it was nothing compared to the love I feel for her now, several years later." It was a good thing I heard that speech. Because I wasn't hit with a Mack truck of love, either. I certainly cared for my daughter, and I wanted her to be safe and well-taken care of.... but as the days wore on, I wasn't so sure I wanted to be the one taking care of her.
I got very little sleep in the hospital and our second day home I developed mastitis, a nasty breast infection. I didn't realize I had an infection, though. I just assumed everyone felt as terrible as I did after having a baby and not sleeping for several days. I was having terrible pain every time I fed my daughter, so a couple days later, I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant.
That lactation consultant could probably have a side-job as a therapist with all the crying I did in her office that day, but I left with the mastitis diagnosed and tips to get my daughter latching correctly. I guess you could say that I left hopeful.
The revolving door of visitors started right about then. We lived out of state from the majority of our family and we were as excited to show off our new baby as they were to meet her. Company meant there was an extra hand to help out... but it also meant little privacy in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment. I knew the visitors were temporary, so I put on a brave face. The last day of visitors was also the day my husband flew out of town. It meant a few days alone with this tiny little creature that I still hadn't figured out. I was terrified!
Although I can't remember the specifics of that weekend, I do remember a lot of tears! I remember feeling so exhausted and I remember my brother coming over to hold the baby so I could take a shower (where I lingered, sobbing). I remember relief that my husband was coming home, only to have the next few days fade into one another until his next trip a couple weeks later.
When I got mastitis again while he was on a work trip, I just completely broke. I held my sleeping daughter looking at her as if she didn't belong to me. I didn't want to hurt her, I just want to take care of her. I wanted to drive really far away, back to our simple little lives we shared before baby. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to shower, and I wanted to be alone. I called my doctor right away and she suggested I speak to a therapist, who officially diagnosed me with postpartum depression at 7 weeks postpartum.
I started a low dose of zoloft and it was just the kick in the pants I needed. As my husband described it, "it was like the light switch turned on." I felt more confident caring for my daughter. Simple disruptions didn't send me into a crying heap, and I slowly started to appreciate nursing (more on that another time). I was finally able to begin the bonding process with my daughter and every month was better than the last. When she was around 7 months old, I stopped taking the medication with no problem. I even started thinking about another baby!
The Other Side
Shortly after my daughter's first birthday, I was pregnant again. We now lived in a different state, closer to a bevvy of relatives clamoring to help and my husband had no travel plans.... but I was still terrified. After my first born, my postpartum depression only seemed to affect me and my marriage. This time around, I had a toddler to take care of. I couldn't spend my days zoned out to Ellen hoping for a laugh or crying in the shower. I started researching natural ways to combat postpartum depression and I continued to come across placenta encapsulation.
Ew! That was all I could respond. Ew! I would never be able to stomach that. But the more I read, the more convinced I became that this could be the inexpensive, natural alternative to depression medication I was searching for. So what is it? Placenta encapsulation is when you have your placenta made into pills that you take orally after your baby is born. It can be prepared two ways, but I opted for the traditional Chinese method in which the placenta is boiled with Chinese herbs, dried, and ground before being added to capsules.
I read that it helped balance your postpartum hormones, increased energy level, and helped with milk production. If you have the proper tools (and aren't too faint of heart), you could prepare the capsule yourself, or you can hire a doula to prepare the pills for you. The doula I hired was actually able to pick the placenta up at the hospital which was a huge convenience for us! She dropped the pills of the day after I came home from the hospital and I crossed my fingers that it would work.
And it did! The placenta pills really did everything they claimed they could do and MORE... because I was able to bond with my son quickly instead of being in a fog, because my marriage wasn't strained like after my first born, because I felt present for my responsibilities, because even though I was on little sleep, I had energy to devote to my toddler. A couple weeks postpartum, I got mastitis (really unlucky in the mastitis department!) which meant I couldn't take the pills (they have a natural warming effect on your body which doesn't help when you already have a fever). I was straight back to a crying heap on the couch! It reminded me of how I felt after my daughter was born and I was so grateful to have a natural alternative.