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.

My Post Baby Body Journey- 3 Months Postpartum

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3 months postpartum

Mind: Mentally, I am doing a lot better. I feel like myself again and thankfully, my hormones have settled out. I have returned to my regular anxieties like, when will I ever have time to get my house together? When will my 4 year old be done with this “butt, butt, fart, fart, fart” phase? When will I be able to go to a movie again? How am I going to say bye to my happy little baby boy when it is time to go back to work? Do I have any clean underwear? You know, the regular mom stuff. My entire family is home for the summer for the first time ever, all day every day so I am still experiencing more stress than usual and I have my good days and my bad. The difference now is that when I have a low day I am able to bounce back the next.

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I  lost my edges!

Body: My body hasn’t changed much from when I was one month postpartum. I think this is the size I am going to be for a while and I’m ok with that. Physically, I feel myself. I am not one hundred percent ready to be as active as I am use to but I have been dancing more with my boys and did hit the gym once. Yes, just once, lol. As always, breastfeeding has become a large part of my life. It really is a job in itself. This time around however, I discovered a lump in my boob that had to be checked out. According to my doctor, due to postpartum hormones, lumps have to be monitored more closely because cancer can spread more quickly. It turns out that my lump was just a milk cyst which was relieving. What is crazy is that I remember that I was in a lot of pain just a few months ago but I can’t remember what that pain felt like. The human body is such an amazing thing! Oh, and I lost my edges. My hairline is not quite what it use to be but I have experienced this before so I am hoping my hair grows back in a timely fashion. 

Soul: My little one is so cute and cuddly and amazing and just the full embodiment of love that he makes me feel like I am floating sometimes. My middle son however, is really struggling emotionally not having as much attention as he did before which makes things challenging to say the least. I just want to do right by all of my kids and I don’t feel like I am doing the best job right now so that is really wearing on my soul.  

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3 months postpartum

Thank you for following my postpartum journey. While I am sure there will be more that I would like to share with you all, this will be the last post of this series. I think I am getting back to a place where I can return to doing my My Post Baby Body Mama photo shoots so stay tuned!

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.