Postpartum Depression: There is a Treatment

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Cordelia Gaffar is an author, speaker and mother of 6. This is her postpartum depression story.

It all started 16 years ago when I went to my six week appointment after my son was born.  feelI complained to my OB/GYN that I was feeling out of sorts. She readily prepared a prescription for antidepressants. 

That was my wake up call. “Did I really need antidepressants to cope with life?” I knew that I had some remaining grief from losing my parents in consecutive years just four years previous. I had also back to back miscarriages. Maybe that is why I gained so much weight during my pregnancy. Then it gripped me…

“I am 30 years old and will be fat forever!!!”

Oh the dread that overcame me. Then all at once, I remembered that I am the “I Can Do It Kid!” I can get through this. I need to find a way. I started to research how to deal with depression naturally and  found studies about the importance of niacin when growing a male child to accommodate the excessive testosterone in the mother’s body. I found foods like cashews, avocado and others with natural good fats could combat depression and later discovered also help with weight loss. I did further research for stress reduction and found exercise. Now I grew up with a dad who was an avid walker so I was not a gym rat. My idea of a good workout was a 5 mile walk. In my search, I found Pilates which I loved and weight training. Both of these options, gave me short targeted workouts to accommodate my new mom schedule.

So between exercise and diet change to support my mood, the hormonal changes in my body of having a boy and nursing, I was able to release all 63 pounds and overcome depression before he was walking. My son was an early walker at about 9 or 10  months.

My biggest issue was not being able to connect with my son. I became very mindful in each moment so that I could slow down and breathe. Then, I would recite prayers to him over and over again as I nursed or walked him. I made the walking and rocking into a dance. It became a healing for me and calmed him down. He wasn’t a good sleeper and loved being held constantly. There was also much reframing my perspective with sweet talk. No matter what was waiting, laundry dishes, my older child, who was 2 or getting to work on time, I created a time warp just for us. Eventually I stopped working for a several months and created more routines to connect while nursing.

People were impressed with my results and asked my advice. Some took it, some laughed at it, some said it is too much write a book. In all cases, that was the beginning of my journey and I did not do any of those things until about nine years later when I was expecting my fifth child.

In 2010, I started a blog to help me cope and give me a real mental reset to prepare for having five children after having established a great system of self-nurturing having four. What I was developing at that point was a journal and record of a duplicatable path…and ultimately the beginnings of my first and second books.

Even then I did not realize that this could be a viable coaching business for me until I had my sixth child and achieved the same results. When she was almost one, I decided to start coaching other moms, complete writing and publish my first book. In 2016, I started promoting my book by creating workshops and seeking speaking opportunities and finally live streaming. I continued to coach women also and refine my one on one coaching, developed group coaching and online courses, beta tested them.

Who knew that the pain of my postpartum depression would give me so much inspiration and life?

My coping mechanism became Workout Around My Day. Now, I am a Holistic Life Coach helping women to heal by building a system of self-nurturing nourishing with wholesome food, energizing with movement and reframing her perspective with sweet talk ultimately eliminating the cause of her health conditions and detox her body. I am also a speaker and travel to conferences.

Don’t let your depression swallow you whole. Live in each moment and look for the light. One day you could inspire someone too.

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Thank you Cordelia, so much for sharing your inspiring story about hope and recovery.

This is Postpartum Depression

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Months after her second child was born Prish was diagnosed with postpartum depression. This is her courageous story.

The Pregnancy

For me, I feel like it really started with the pregnancy. We had an unexpected pregnancy and it was in the midst of what was becoming a chaotic work life, of me becoming an executive director (of a well established non-profit). I was a couple of months in when I found out I was pregnant and I was not ready for it but I charged forward and embraced it and had what I thought was a decent pregnancy. But with a lot of emotional roller coasters from the stress. And I did end up actually getting gestational diabetes, so it was a hard pregnancy so when he was born all those factors I think really stayed with me.

Postpartum Challenges

On top of everything I didn’t have the luxury to actually step away from my role as an executive director during my leave. I did have some time off but I was always available. And then I had to immediately rush back to work. I did the 12 weeks but I would be lying to you if I wasn’t on email. I don’t know, I think part of me really wanted to honor that role and everything that comes with being a woman of color and having this opportunity that I couldn’t fuck up. There was a lot of pressure that I had put on myself. The board of directors had really given me the vote of confidence and the previous ED had really advocated for me to have the position so I had moved up. It hadn’t been my plan to become an executive director as much as it is dope but then I got pregnant and time and energy was limited on top of having Mina who at that time was 2 years old.

I think from our families and culturally there are always these expectations of “be mother first” and I’m not hella domestic. Motherhood and mothering doesn’t come as naturally as we think that it is suppose to and I was really embracing this idea of how to become this organizational leader and it really threw me for a loop. I think it was really hard to translate what it meant to have all these responsibilities at home and pregnancy. You know you give birth and I don’t think my partner knew how to be helpful or how to be emotionally available. The second pregnancy was so different with our relationship than the first. He was so attentive with Mina.

Living with Postpartum Depression and Psychosis  

The second one was like oh, I’m still doing the same amount of chores while you watch Mina and also he would be like, “why are you working so late?” Well it’s not because I want to but because I have to. I felt really lonely throughout the second pregnancy. I was like,  “no, these reports are due.” There is a deadline. So that pressure wasn’t good and I held it in and that wasn’t good. This is what I learned because of the depression-that I need a support system and I didn’t have one. I think I manifested my mental health issues by working more. There was this period after I returned back to work where I was drinking three cups of coffee a day. I was staying up all these crazy hours. I was still breastfeeding. Still doing everything else and so it got to a point where not only did I have postpartum depression but I had postpartum psychosis. I dissociated with reality. It got to this point where I was just going and sleep became disposable. That all intersected and one day I woke up and I had no sense of reality and it was really scary. I had no outlet.

I was thinking irrationally. We lost funding and I had to do all of these layoffs. It was a lot of pressure and I started just creating all of these story lines around what may or may not have happened. I think people really cued into that and at one point I thought someone was out to get my partner or out to hurt our family and that’s when it was like you need to go in. You need to sit down and take care of yourself and that was when I was not in reality. They (the doctors) were like have you slept? And I was like maybe a few hours in the last three days.

It forced me to slow down. I had to take a medical leave. I had to really consider and sit with it -I had a really hard time, just feeling really shitty like motherhood is not my identity. Like it feels so hard to mother, to be present and to take care of everybody and feed everybody. I had my lapse when Pacal was eight months. So after eight months I hit a wall. I was just like go, go, go, do, do, do and there was no self care, no nothing. Then I was like oh shit I have all of these feelings.

I had a very overachieving idea of who I was. I was on medical leave for two months and during that time I had to reevaluate my priorities. As for being executive director, the idea of being a thought leader, a leader and moving on issues that I think are really important is really important to me but the kids really needed me and I can be of service to the world in a different way. So during those two months I made the decision to quit my work and create a plan around that but it was hard.

Recovery

I kept getting all kinds of weird diagnosis so they tried different medications. You know what I really learned? I just learned the concept of getting grounded. The medication really helped but I had never taken the time to take baths, I went on a yoga retreat, I forced myself to do a lot of self care mind body spirit practices that I had never allowed myself to enjoy or participate in and it helped me understand my mind and my body. I was like I’ll try anything. Teas, I was drinking hella teas all kinds. My friend suggested reiki massages. It was about what do I know about my body and what is my body telling me? And what do I hold in and what do I release? There are certain emotions that I don’t express much and I learned through that process that I needed to, including grief.

I went to an orthomolecular doctor that my parents had found. I think they felt really helpless. I needed that to understand that it’s not just my mind and I am not just losing it emotionally, there are chemicals. Part of me was just really resistant too, like I can’t have a mental illness. I can’t fucking have anxiety and depression issues. I feel like going through all these things helped me understand myself and also like how there is the medical world but there are also other practices, vitamin B was a godsend for me. I started taking magnesium supplements and that helped. Walking barefoot in the park or on the beach. I didn’t know how helpful that could be. There are a lot of practices that I knew you have to do to be a healthy and balanced human but it wasn’t until I hit crisis mode that I actually did them.

It wasn’t until it happened to me that I learned that I had a history (of postpartum depression) in my family that no one talked about. My  grandma had 14 kids but it wasn’t until I was hospitalized that we learned that my grandmother had had two postpartum situations that had to be hospitalized. And I was just like why doesn’t anybody talk about this? Why didn’t anyone know? Somebody randomly remembered. It was one of the great aunts that was like “oh, yea there was that one time.” I’m like, “her descendants need to know.” Nobody knew what it was, they just say that after she gave birth to one of my aunts or uncles she just stopped talking. That was her coping mechanism she just disassociated. I felt relieved it’s not just me. There is a reason and it would have been awesome to have known but now we know.   

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Thank you Prish for so courageously sharing your story. You are an amazing woman and your story is truly inspirational. 

My 8 Takeaways from Black-ish’s Postpartum Depression Episode

By now you are probably aware that the hit show Black-ish tackled the topic of Postpartum Depression (PPD) last week on their show. Here are my better-late-than-never takeaways from the show. For those of you who do not watch Black-ish it will probably be helpful to read this post anyway although, I strongly suggest watching the show, it’s just so good!

1- PPD doesn’t happen right away. Bow was her regular bubbly self in the season premiere of Black-ish shortly after Devonté was born but over time her emotions changed. This is consistent with how PPD operates, it can take months before a mama experiences symptoms of the mood disorder.

Black 72- Partners and close loved ones are key and identifying and supporting mamas who are experiencing PPD in getting help. Without the support and recognition from Dre (Bow’s partner), Bow may have never gotten the support that she needed in order to recover.

 

Black 23- There is a difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. Most women experience a drop in their energy, increased anxiety, and extreme mood swings after having a baby, this is known as the baby blues and eventually goes away after a few weeks. Postpartum Depression lasts longer and can have more extreme symptoms. In addition, PPD needs to be treated in most situations or can lead to harmful behavior. So when Ruby (Bow’s mother-in-law) was telling Bow, oh you just have the baby blues, under most circumstances with new moms that would be true but it is important to distinguish the two.

 

Black 64- Getting help can feel like more of an inconvenience than being ill. I know when I find myself sick or injured it can seem like a lot of  work to rest or go to the doctor when I have so many other things going on. I interpreted this as part of why Bow was so hesitant to go to the doctor. I can imagine her thinking but who is going to watch the kids? How much milk will I need to pump for that trip? Does that mean I have to shower? All these questions aside, we as mothers need to remind ourselves that we need to put the symbolic oxygen mask on ourselves first before we can help anyone.

 

black 15- The most healthy thing you can do to recover from PPD or the baby blues is to distance yourself from people who are critical about your child rearing. Grandmas, lolas, abuelas and most aunties alike will take offense to this but this is really important. I know I would have had a better experience with adjusting to motherhood with my first child if I had put in place the boundaries that I had established by the time I had my second. Bow’s confrontation with Ruby was so real and brought back so much for me. Mothers need to feel empowered to distance themselves from negativity (even if it is seemingly well meaning) while they are transitioning to raising a new child. In addition, partners need to be prepared to back up the mother’s of their children when trying to create that distance.  

 

6- Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Dre expressed concern that although Bow was on medication, he had not seen a change in her mood. Recovery takes time and mother’s and love ones need to be aware of that.

 

TRACEE ELLIS ROSS, YARA SHAHIDI, MARSAI MARTIN, JENIFER LEWIS, ANTHONY ANDERSON, MARCUS SCRIBNER, MILES BROWN, LAURENCE FISHBURNE7- PPD is hella confusing. It goes against everything that one is told about motherhood. Mother’s simply aren’t themselves and that is confusing for all parties involved. I think Bow and Dre did a good job of communicating with their children about what was going on. In addition, although I wouldn’t recommend “women’s magazines” for information, Dre did a good job of educating himself on the topic and taking the correct steps to get help for Bow.

 

8- Having PPD does NOT make a woman weak. I don’t often agree with Ruby but in the end when she apologizes to Bow for her actions she explains how Bow exhibited strength by getting the help she needed. Strength that  Ruby had not had when she needed help. It takes a strong mama to do whatever it takes to be well for our children and that includes attending to our mental health needs.