It's Maternal Mental Health week so I thought I would touch on something that I experienced first hand in that department.
Everyone is familiar with Post Partum Depression, but what I experienced was situational, not hormonal. Same same. but its different. Equally as scary at the time for me, being someone who since getting off the evil of birth control, has a pretty stable emotional state.
6 days after having my second baby I started having pain in my left leg. It was the day after I had been at a wedding all night so I just figured I did a little to much and was sore. In the days following the pain got worse. I thought I pulled my groin muscles, then it spread to my quad.
Day 11 we had newborn photos booked. Ryan was meeting me there with our oldest, so I had the baby, in the bucket seat. Our photographers studio was up two flights of stairs and there was no elevator. I sat in the car knowing it was going to be a struggle. I will never forget having to take those stairs one....by one and questioning the entire time 'what the FUCK is wrong with my body right now'. I was embarrassed and discouraged.
Day 12: My cousin Katie is on her way over for a visit. I get Shae up and put my feet up on the coffee table to settle in to feed her and am SHOCKED when I look down. My left leg is 3x the size of my right, and purple. No exaggeration. Its bad. Now, being a health care provider I know its not good, but I never even think that its a blood clot. That doesn't happen to fit, active, healthy people!
I call my friend Joel who says 'go to the hospital, yesterday'. He is always my voice of reason and would never tell me to go to the hospital unless it was very serious. I listened. Got someone to take my oldest daughter for the day, and Katie got dragged to the hospital with Shae and I.
I couldn't walk at this point without moving very slowly. It was like I was dragging a bag of sand. How I didn't put it together, I don't know, but when the doctor came in after the ultrasound and said 'You have a blood clot in your left leg. It is 80% blocked from your ankle to your groin' I laughed in disbelief. 'Are you serious?' I said to the doctor. 'Very' she replied 'we would like to transfer you to the other hospital for surgery immediately, and we need to do that by ambulance because we don't want you walking anymore'
I thought blood clots were small... like a little scab! What do you mean my whole leg? And you want to send me in an ambulance to another hospital for surgery?! I have a 12 day old baby.
Panic. I call my husband and tell him to meet us at the other hospital while I am in the ambulance. Its all surreal. Katie has to drive with Shae across the city to meet me. I need to keep her with me for as long as possible because I am her food source! I post on Facebook asking for donated breast milk so if I can't feed her anymore she will have something!
My midwife, and my mom come to meet us at the hospital as well. My midwife works on researching if you can breastfeed while on bloodthinners, while my mom looks at me like i'm dying! I will never forget her face while I was laying in triage. She was terrified for me. I was still in shock.
The doctors decide to put me on blood thinners and talk about whether they can do surgery. They haven't seen such a recent birth patient with a blood clot before. They tell me I can't store the milk with blood thinners but my midwife does better research and gives me the ok. I get my mom to bring my breast pump and my nurse has to bring it to me every 2 hours, and clean it for me. Talk about high maintenance.
My dad and sister in law come to visit me and as soon as my Dad walks in it hits me. I burst into tears. I fucking loose it. How does this happen. I had a home birth to avoid this place! Now here I am in a hospital, with IV's, not being allowed to eat, and they won't let my baby stay because I am not allowed on the maternity floor anymore.
Ryan has to take Shae home and him, his aunt and his sister care for her while I am in the hospital bring pumped full of blood thinners to stop the clotting. I was only there 36 hours. They decide after me not eating for 24 hours that there won't be a surgery. Wow. Thanks guys. I'm starving. Just trying to make food for another human. No biggie (insert eye roll)
I came home in a fog. Still struggling to walk. This is where my mental health (in retrospect) went to shit. I prepared my mind that I wouldn't be around forever. I laid awake at night worrying about dying. I couldn't bond with Shae. I haven't shared this with very many people but I barely remember her first 4 months. I had to drive to the lab every other day to have my levels checked. To do that I had to bring a new born and a 2 year old with me. Its all a blur.
I remember just lying on the couch one day crying and thinking 'will I ever work again?' 'will I see my kids grow up?' 'what if this blood clot breaks off and I have a stroke?'. It was paralyzing. I felt lost, depressed, and hopeless.
My mom, and my Oma were integral in helping me pull through it. I was laying there one day and my Oma was folding laundry. She said 'if I am going to be folding your laundry, you are going to be working on walking! Get walking up and down the hall.' She's amazing.
My mom made me get outside for a walk one day with the stroller. I had to use it as a walker. I walked half a block and back and that was all I could do. I hated this.
When I think about this it sounds like i'm talking about someone else. Like I have dissociated from it now. That's how I feel about the first few months of my post partum period with Shae. Like it didn't happen. I checked out because it was easier to do than to admit I was struggling.
But I am BLESSED. I have an amazing husband who did everything he could to help, a fantastic family who were available for whatever I needed, and my friends were incredible. They helped out by getting us a Supper Works gift card to help with meals.
Going through this situation myself helped me become a better post partum doula. You have to plan. You need to know who your people are, and how to ask them for help before it becomes a problem.
Identify them, and speak to them and say 'after I have the baby, if I ever text you and say I need you, please take me seriously. Here is a list of things that will help in that situation'. Provide a list of chores or tasks you are comfortable with someone else tackling. Maybe its laundry, maybe its bringing over a meal, maybe its just sitting with you while you cry and watch a sappy TV show. Whatever it is for you is ok, just put yourself in the best position you can to ask for that helping hand if you can. If you can't PLEASE reach out to a professional. There are trained experts in these areas and they can be immensely helpful.
On the other hand: if you have a friend or family member who you think is struggling and isn't asking for help, try asking these questions.
Instead of asking, “How are you?” try saying “You look tired. Is there something I can help you with? Are you hungry? Can I bring you food?” If someone admits to being stressed, say, “Would it be helpful for me to a, b, c, d for you?” "Can I run an errand for you?" Can I watch the baby for an hour so you can have some YOU time?"
Its not always easy to ask for help, but what I have learned is people WANT to give it, so let them.
http://www.southwesthealthline.ca is a great resource if you are looking for help.
Also if you google Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale and take the test there that can help you determine if you should be reaching out for help from a professional.
Interesting side note: I get asked often 'why do you think you had a blood clot'. This is where it gets interesting. I had my placenta encapsulated and I am convinced that is what caused it. I started taking the pills at day 5... it started right after that.
My hormones are usually steady and predictable so I think I am someone who doesn't benefit from the added estrogen of placenta pills. I functioned terribly on birth control my entire teenage life, so I am not shocked that a hormonal boost from my placenta fucked me over.
Am I against placenta encapsulation? No, not against.
I believe it needs more research. I believe it should come with a warning label of possible side effects. I was lucky. My healthy body took care of my blood clot within 6 months it was 80% gone.
I believe there are many more possible risks of placenta consumption. Its like anything! You are introducing something into your body. Some people will have adverse reactions, and need to be aware they are a possibility.