You Are Not Alone

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Road to Wellness

About a week ago, I started taking St. John’s Wort. I had been considering taking St. John’s Wort for quite sometime before that, but when you’re a breastfeeding Mom, you have to think about everything you put in your body. Since I wasn’t sure that I could take St. John’s Wort without passing it onto Colin, and causing adverse affects in my child’s body, I hesitated. Then, about a week ago, I did an internet search and read that St. John’s Wort would have little to no adverse affect on a breastfeeding infant.

Why would I take St. John’s Wort, you ask? Well, since Colin’s birth I found that I was having a difficult time with some of my emotions. At first, I thought that the feelings I was having were normal for a woman who had just given birth. A woman’s body undergoes massive changes during pregnancy, child birth and post partum. Hormones are released in higher quantities in order to support the growing child and prepare both Mother and Baby for their life together. Once that baby leaves a Mother’s body, those hormones shift, quantities lessen and an adjustment period follows. Aside from the shifts in hormonal balance, a new Mother faces a myriad of changes physically, mentally, emotionally and from outside influences such as her personal and familial relationships. A new Mother does not only give birth to a new, separate human life, she undergoes a rebirth of herself. It is no small wonder that many new Mother’s have some difficulty adjusting and adapting to life as a Mother.

My problems didn’t come from my Son, or taking care of him. I felt confident and competent when it came to newborn care. I had more issues with the way my world and relationships changed. Seven months after giving birth, I was still having problems, and it has been a great challenge to cope with some of those feelings.

A couple of months ago, I started having what felt like heart palpitations. I would feel tingly and numb, my heart would race and I would have to breathe evenly and deeply for a couple of minutes to calm my self. I had no idea what was going on. It scared me for awhile, but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I didn’t want to be told there was nothing wrong with me, or even more feared, that I needed to be on medications that would require me to stop breastfeeding my Son.

I know that my rationale and reasoning regarding going to the doctor is dubious at best, but I have been to the doctor in the past, for mysterious ailments, only to feel foolish at the end of my consultation for being told that nothing wrong could be found in or with me, and there was nothing to be done other than the old standby of diet, exercise and cessation of unhealthy habits. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how disheartening and hopeless it can feel. It leaves me to find solutions to my problems on my own, before seeking a physician’s advice. This is why I started taking St. John’s Wort.

After reading up on some of the things I was feeling, watching a program on Discovery Health titled, “Post Partum Nightmares” and carefully considering the quality of my life, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Since I have not been to the doctor, I cannot say that I have Post Partum depression with any formality, but I feel that I have been suffering from a mild form of PPD. My feelings in regards to “heart palpitations”, numbness and tingling are most likely a result of the nearly crippling anxiety I have felt on occasion. Coupled with mild depression and the fact that I’m pretty much housebound with an infant, it’s no small wonder I’ve been feeling the way I have, which has not been pleasant.

What troubles me the most is how long it has taken me to come to this conclusion. Mark and I discussed the possibility that I could develop PPD, long before I gave birth. Having PPD was one of my chief concerns about being a Mother. I have a history of feeling depressed, and medical research and study cite that women who have previous issues with depression are more likely to develop PPD. I asked my Husband to watch my carefully for any signs, but I think that after Colin was born, we were both so caught up in the multitude of changes, neither one of us noticed how I was feeling and acting in regards to PPD until a couple of months ago when we both started sharing concern over the state of our finances.

One evening, I had been acting particularly difficult, and at the end of the evening, after Mark and I talked, I admitted that I had been feeling depressed and he responded by saying that he had only just realized that was what was wrong with me himself.

Over the next couple of weeks, I started looking into the reasons why I was feeling depressed, beyond finances. I had recorded the Discovery Channel episode of, “Post Partum Nightmares” and watched with anxiety. As these brave women recounted their own Post Partum experiences, I watched with a mixture of fear and relief, as I realized that I was most likely suffering from PPD, but not nearly as badly as those women had. A couple of days later, I anxiously admitted to Mark that I thought I had PPD. I shared some thoughts and feelings that I had, worried that he would think I was a danger to our baby, but he reassured me that he trusts me and believes that I am a good Mother and would never harm our baby. After our conversation, I searched for ways to manage my feelings and thoughts, which eventually led me to considering adding St. John’s Wort to my vitamin regimen.

I was relieved to find that I could safely take St. John’s, and purchased a bottle the day after my findings. I am happy to report that it has made a difference for me. While I still have feelings of anxiousness and depression, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were before. I feel better able to manage those feelings, to think them through and find the rationale and reality behind them. My level of optimism has increased and I feel that I can take my own mental health even further by paying attention to my diet, exercising and better management of my daily life. I’m still a work in progress, but it IS progress.

It was surprisingly frightening to come to the realization that I could be suffering from PPD. It was difficult to admit it to myself, and to admit it to my Husband and select friends. I was worried that I would be viewed crazy, incompetent, a danger to myself and my baby. I didn’t want to be committed to a mental health institution, undergo therapy, or sacrifice the joy of breastfeeding for medications that would endanger my child. I feel as if my PPD can be managed without medical intervention, but that is not the case for every woman who suffers from PPD. Some women do need medical intervention, and if I cannot manage my PPD with my current prescription of St. John’s Wort, diet and exercise, then I certainly will go to the doctor and seek medical assistance. Because, in the end, my mental health is tied into the quality of life for my family and I do not want to be the cause of an unbalanced home, or harm to my child.

If you think you are suffering from PPD, please, please do not feel alone and isolated. There are so many women who have felt the very same way you do. There are also a multitude of anonymous resources that you can draw upon to obtain information, communities of women on the internet that have formed circles of support, and non-judgmental assistance when you feel ready to accept it. Of the resources I’ve found, the following were the most helpful for me:

Postpartum Depression Quiz on Discovery Health:

For Breastfeeding Moms:

For ALL Moms:

This site has a WEEKLY phone chat, hosted by medical professionals, where you can ask questions live.

Clip from Discovery Health’s Post Partum Nightmares:

Having a baby brings so many changes, some that we expect, but mostly a whole lot that we don’t. It can seem that nobody cares about you when you have a baby because everyone is so excited to welcome your little one into the world, and it’s hard to feel that way. You’re excited over your baby too, and you’re so happy to have people welcome and love your baby, but sometimes you can feel like you don’t matter anymore now that your baby is here. That’s not true, but it’s hard to believe that sometimes when no one calls you anymore, when people you thought cared about you say that they want to come see the baby, but say nothing about visiting with you or asking how you’re feeling. I think that sometimes those who care about us forget that we still exist as an individual and only see us as an attachment to our babies, someone who is merely Mother, caretaker. They forget that we have these feelings that are new, exciting and sometimes frustrating and sad, all tied up in our new lives, because they’re focusing on our babies. How you address those relationships is up to you, but there are online communities and forums that are for Mothers who feel the same way, and while you may feel like no one else in your life understands how you’re feeling, those women do. I do. I know that you just want to be happy, to enjoy your baby and your new role as Mom, and that those other feelings are troubling, frustrating and sad, but YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Just remember that, you are not alone.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it takes a lot of courage to seek help and to tell the truth about what's happening. I struggled with ppd too and have recovered and am loving mommyhood now. I know you will too. I wanted to let you know I featured your post in my "weekly round-up" where I list blogs dealing with ppd and other perinatal mood disorders. I'm hoping to build up a little blogging community through which those of us who have struggled with ppd, etc., can give one another some support. Here's the post:

    Again, thanks so much for sharing your story.

  2. (((((Big Hugs))))

    I really really really do suggest that you seek help from a medical professional...even if you think you may have it "mild". There are many treatment options for PPD out there besides taking medication (by the way there are safe medications to take while breastfeeding). But you really need to be looked at and monitored by a medical professional.
    I know that PPD is scary and it is hard to seek out help, but please, talk to your doctor about it. They won't force you into anything that you don't want to do...they can help direct you to support groups, therapist, etc.

    You are not alone in this ok? If you need to talk, I am here...
    Big Hugs,

  3. Thank you both! I really appreciate the support and kindness!