It Wasn’t All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

*disclaimer: this post may contain a trigger warning due to child loss.

 

When I think of a strong mama, I think of a fearless, determined, selfless, and brave women that has been through hell and back…but has the persistence to keep moving forward. I interviewed Megan– a mama I’ve come to know through the military community. Megan’s story is painfully heartbreaking– she has made it through the darkest of days and has fought like hell to find her sunshine.

I talked to Megan about her experience with postpartum anxiety– Megan’s first son, Nathan, passed away at three days old from MAS (Meconium Aspiration Syndrome) and Megan developed PPA after she gave birth to their daughter.

Megan was an open book with me. I love how she is so comfortable talking about her loss and her PPA. I wanted to know how Megan’s life was affected by her PPA after losing her first child and I am so very grateful for her wanting to share her story with me.

 

This is Megan’s story.

 

 

 

L: Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety pre-birth? If yes, briefly describe your methods of treatment and how you coped.

M: The only anxiety I faced pre-birth was after losing Nathan when I was pregnant with Adelyn. I coped by journaling, being open about Nathan and sharing his story, talking about my feelings being pregnant after loss. I also did a lot of walking. Being able to get outside in nature helped me feel closer to Nathan as well as sorting through whatever feelings I had at the time.

 

L: In a previous conversation, you shared with me that you struggled with PPA after your second baby, Adelyn, was born. Did you know it was postpartum anxiety?

M: I just knew that something wasn’t right.

 

L: Do you believe that Nathan’s loss was the sole root of developing PPA after Adelyn was born?

M: Yes, definitely. I was anxious while I was pregnant with her and worried that history would repeat itself (even though my OB said it was next to impossible). The anxiety I had shifted once she was born though. When I was pregnant, I thought once she was born the anxiety would go away because she was here safe. However, it got worse. I started to worry about everything. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. It’s not the natural order of things. It can happen to anyone. It happened to us, so when my anxiety was high I had it in my head that I had already been through the worst once, it was totally possible that it could happen again. When I was thinking clearly, I could tell myself that chances were slim, but when I was anxious, the voice in the back of my head said chances were slim with Nathan too but that didn’t matter.

 

L: Please describe some of your symptoms of PPA.

M: At first, I just felt “off”. I remember filling out questionnaires to screen for PPD and my answers never raised any red flags. On paper, I seemed “fine”. Whenever I would talk to people about it, they chalked up any sort of feelings I was having to losing Nathan…but it wasn’t my grief. I also remember talking to one of my good friends who is also a loss mom and I kept telling her that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew it wasn’t PPD and there wasn’t a clear answer. Something wasn’t right. Then I read something related to PPA and it started making sense. Restlessness: I had a hard time sleeping at night. Having a constant fear that something was going to go wrong. Constantly checking things: Things like the straps on her car seat, door locks, etc. Always imagining the worst case scenarios (not just with Adelyn but with all of my loved ones), obsessing about everything that could possibly go wrong. 

 

L: On an average day, how did your PPA affect your home-life– your relationship with John, Adelyn and others?

M: During the day when Adelyn was awake, I was mostly able to function normally, especially if Johnathan was around. The worry would start when he would leave for work…”what if he gets in a car accident on his way to work?”. The anxiety was worst once it got dark outside. It was almost like clockwork. Every night it almost got hard to breathe. I dreaded putting her down for the night. I dreaded going to sleep. Almost every night when I would put on her pajamas I would think, “is this what you’re going to be wearing when I find your lifeless body?”. When I would turn off the lights I would take one last look at her and think “What if this is it?” We have the Owlet and we did use it with her and it was reassuring to be able to see she was doing ok. I think my anxiety would have been much worse without it. Almost every night I would lay in bed and be restless. Johnathan would try to calm me down every time I would tell him that I didn’t feel right. On the nights when my anxiety was really bad, I would lay awake and think of almost every bad scenario that could happen. “What if our house caught on fire?”, “What if we get in a car accident tomorrow?”, “What if something happens to my parents overnight?”, “What if Adelyn gets sick?”. I think nights made it worse because Nathan passed away in the middle of the night. We were blindsided by a phone call at 4 AM. Anytime, I ever got any unexpected phone calls, my heart would sink and I automatically would assume the worst. 

 

L: Did your PPA stop you from enjoying life?

M: Not completely. I know it made certain things difficult but I was still able to enjoy life. Losing Nathan gave me a deep appreciation for life, even the tough moments. 

 

L: Do you believe that your PPA affected you as a mother?

M: I think it made me very aware of everything going on with Adelyn. I worried about everything: a runny nose, any sort of cough, constantly checking her temperature, calling the nurse advice line or taking her to the clinic to get checked out. I worried about hurting her on accident. However, I also think that it made me more present for her. I never take any time with her for granted. Back when I had PPA, I often thought that certain moments could be the last so I often lived in the moment. 

 

L: What are some of your methods of coping with stress and anxiety. (ie. working out, writing, etc.)

M: I write in a journal which helped me slow down my thought process. Once I started working out, the anxiety started to go away. 

 

L: How long do you believe that you had PPA after Adelyn was born?

M: Around 10 months.

 

L: Did you receive treatment for your PPA. (was it medication, talk therapy, etc.)

M: When I was 6 months postpartum, I actually tried to meet with a therapist on base about my anxiety. I had a great experience with our grief counselor after Nathan passed away and I wanted to meet with her. However, they set me up with another person at the clinic. I met with her but their sessions are very brief (15-20 minutes). I tried to explain my anxiety to her and by the time I had just started to get my feelings out, the session was over and I had to see my way out the door without really discussing anything…then had to wait a few weeks to be able to see her again. The type of session wasn’t beneficial to me at all. A couple of days later, my dad had a stroke and I thought I was going to lose him which intensified my anxiety. I never made it back to the therapist. Instead, I really focused on my journal and working out. 

 

L: Congratulations on your newest bundle of joy! Have you experienced PPA or even PPD with Nolan? Please describe.

M: I had the expectation that I would experience PPD or PPA with him. Six weeks postpartum and I haven’t experienced either yet. 

 

L: How do you think it’s been different since Nolan was born vs. after having Adelyn?

M: I think it’s different this time around, partially because my husband and I aren’t “new” to parenthood this time around. Nolan has been a much easier baby and I think part of it is because we have already had the experience of raising a newborn. We aren’t as nervous with him. When Adelyn was a newborn, I’m sure she picked up on our nervousness. Also, I feel like I am more “at peace” this time around. Maybe I’m just in a different stage of my grief than I was 2 years ago.

 

L: What would you say to a mother that has lost a child and is about to give birth to her next baby?

M: Take it one day at a time. Being pregnant after loss is tough…so is parenting after loss. Sometimes it’s hard to juggle grief and joy at the same time. There will be tears and that’s ok. You will have a lot of bittersweet moments where you will miss your child, and be happy for your rainbow baby at the same time. Just like your grief, allow yourself to deal with the emotions that life throws your way. It’s normal. Your rainbow baby is his or her own person. Celebrate them! While your heart will never be the same after your loss, they help heal your heart in so many ways. I think as loss parents, we have the expectation that we need to enjoy every single moment, of both pregnancy and parenting. We’ve been through the worst and often tell ourselves that we need to enjoy it all. It’s perfectly ok if you don’t. It’s ok if you want to complain about feeling miserable or if you are exhausted. You are human and those feelings are acceptable, even as a loss parent. If you go into things expecting to enjoy every single moment, you are going to feel like an awful person if you don’t. 

 

L: If you could tell a new mother anything, what would it be?

M: There will be good days and there will be challenging days. A “bad” day doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok if things on your to-do list don’t get checked off. Every child is different. Try not to compare them to other children, especially with milestones.

Megan shared some beautiful pictures with me. The one listed below is after Adelyn was born.

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

The emotion in this picture is so raw, so emotional– you can see little Nathan is always included in their family photos. <3

 

 

Below is after their third child, Nolan, was born.

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

A family of 5 now– Nathan, Adelyn, and baby brother Nolan. Megan’s face is brimming with love and content.

*photo credit goes to Hello Baby Birth Photography

L: you truly seem at peace now.

M: I am. Did I tell you the story about when we found out Nolan was a boy? I was so nervous leading up to that moment because I didn’t know what sex would be easier on my heart. I was scared that I wouldn’t get to raise a boy but at the same time I didn’t know if it was what was going to be better on me. Right before we went to the ultrasound, Somewhere Over the Rainbow started playing at this restaurant we were at. It didn’t fit the atmosphere at all. I felt like it was Nathan giving one of his signs saying not to worry…that we should be at peace with everything. And I pretty much have been since.

 

 

Resources and support.

 

Megan recommends:

 

The Compassionate Friends facebook group.

A Bed For My Heart and Still Standing on Facebook.

PPA:

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

 

My huge gratitude goes to Megan R. for answering my personal questions and sharing her most intimate thoughts and feelings on her loss of Nathan and PPA. I also would like to give credit to Hello Baby Birth Photography for the photos shared by Megan.

A List of Postpartum Resources that Every Mom Needs

After my first son was born, I was in the dark about postpartum depression and any other postpartum issues– I had to basically google and educate myself. I left the hospital, both times, with a million papers about breast-feeding and safe-sleeping for the baby, but nothing about taking care of me, the mother. That is why I wanted to write up a list of postpartum resources that every mom needs.

We really need to do better when it comes to mothers and postpartum health. We need to offer all of the resources that we can to every mother but more importantly, we need to support mothers, too.

If you’re about to be a new mama or someone close to you is pregnant, you will want to save this post because it will have SO much valuable information.

My youngest is over a year old now, but I vividly remember how overwhelming the first couple of weeks are with a newborn. It’s a tiring transition! In fact, as a mother, we focus all of our time and energy into our precious newborn baby that we lose sight of what’s just as important: us!

 

 

 

 

Phone numbers and support hot lines:

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotline:
1 (800) 273-8255

SASS Line:
(775) 221-7600

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1 (800) 273-8255

EMERGENCY:
CALL 9-1-1

Text:
“ANSWER” to 839863

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs
List of suicide crisis lines.

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

24/7/365 Crisis Hotline

Call: 1 (800) 273-8255
Text: “ANSWER” to 839863

 

  • The PSI HelpLine is a toll-free telephone number anyone can call to get basic information, support, and resources-  1-800-944-4773(4PPD)
  •   Text the warmline at:  503-894-9453

 

 

A list of support organizations and health providers:

 

  • A list of organizations that offer support for postpartum depression or postnatal illness support in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland, and South Africa:

 http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-support-organizations-in-the-us-canada-uk-south-africa-australia-new-zealand

 

  • A resource from postpartumprogress.com that assembles a specific list of more than 100 female black mental health providers around the U.S.

Black Mental Health Providers List

 

A list of postpartum resources for every mom
Postpartum practitioner directory

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs
Find a therapist directory

 

 

A list of resources for postpartum depression:

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

 

A list of resources for postpartum anxiety:

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

 

Other postpartum and mental health resources:

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs
Postpartum psychosis resources
A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs
Perinatal obsessive-compulsive symptoms

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

 

A List of Postpartum Resources That Every Mom Needs

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

 

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
Behavioral health treatment services locator

Facebook support groups:

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group

Support Group for Depression, Anxiety and Postpartum

PostPartum/ Depression/Anxiety Support Group

The Postpartum Stress Center

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression or Anxiety Support

Postpartum Progress

 

 

Articles helpful for postpartum issues:

 

This article talks about the difference between the baby blues or postpartum depression.

 

I talk about 20 reasons why moms don’t speak up about postpartum depression

 

A list of postpartum resoucres for every mom
Here you can read about postpartum anxiety and how to cope.

 

I talk about the 5 things I want moms with postpartum depression to know

 

I share my postpartum depression story that was featured in scary mommy.

 

A list of postpartum issues for every mom
Here you can find great articles on postpartum issues such as PPD, PPA, and more.
Via Postpartumprogress.com- 6 tools to help you feel supported and understood through PPD

 

Support for husbands/partners:

 

A list of postpartum resources for every mom.
I talk about 3 ways you can help your partner through postpartum depression.

 

  • Tips for Postpartum Dads and Partners-  http://www.postpartum.net/family/tips-for-postpartum-dads-and-partners/

 

  • Do you have a helpful postpartum resource that you would like listed here? Please let me know.
  • Do you have a postpartum issue that you want to share or just talk about? I am here for that. I am a trustful and supported source.

Why So Angry? The Deal on Postpartum Rage and it’s Link to PPD

It’s lunch-time and my boys are sitting in their high-chairs, munching on the remnants of cut-up PB&J and apple slices.

My youngest begins to slam his sippy-cup up and down on his tray-table, declaring that he wants more food.

I’m in the process of cutting up the rest of the apple when he keeps knocking his cup up and down, up and down. It’s getting louder and now he is screaming.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” I declare while cutting up the rest of the apple.

I can feel my blood begin to boil.

He is still screaming and now my oldest wants to join in.

I can feel my face getting hot, my heart is racing now.

“MAAAA-MAAAA!!!”

I try to remember to breathe

deep breaths…. 1…2…3.

 

That is an example of daily life in my household. I have two toddlers under three years of age, so of course there will be chaos and tantrums. And it’s difficult.

It wasn’t until after my second son was born when I began to experience the rage. It would feel like literally every-thing bothered me. Every-thing annoyed me. The things that used to have my patience and understanding would suddenly make me snap and growl. I felt like a chihuahua; always ready to snap and bite someone’s ankle.

I felt totally and completely awful for snapping and I would have immediate regret– yet, no matter how hard I tried to maintain my rage, it was very hard to control.

What was happening to me?! This was supposed to be the BEST time of my life….but why am I so angry??

I’ve never been such a ragey person before so this was totally not like me. I needed answers and I needed to know how to control it because I was acting (and felt) like a monster. A momster, if you will.

 

 

 

 

The deal on postpartum rage.

Maybe you are dealing with the very-same angry and rage like I have once experienced and you want to know why this is happening to you.

Postpartum rage is like postpartum depression’s close cousin. If you have postpartum depression, then you will most likely experience the rage that comes along with it.

 

 

5 thing i want moms with postpartum depression to know

I want you to know these five things if you are going through postpartum depression.

 

 

What does postpartum rage look like?

Postpartum rage can be found in many ways– here are three of my personal examples.

It can be the unexpected outburst. I’m walking the dog and she won’t stop pulling. “stop pulling! can you just stop it?!” The fact that the words did come out of your mouth take you back and you instantly regret it.

It can be the lack of patience. My four-month old won’t go back to sleep; he’s making soft whimpers and stirring. “can you please just go back to sleep?! please stop dropping your binkie!!”

It can be the anger. My husband does something minimal but to me, it’s much more than that. I say some choice words that I soon regret but the damage has already been done.

And then I’m left thinking, “what is wrong with me?”

That is just a glimpse at what my postpartum rage looked like. I felt like I had a ticking time bomb attached to me and at any second, I could explode.

 

A few ways I’ve managed the rage.

The moment I found out why I was always so angry was the moment I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders; learning that I had postpartum depression was the puzzle piece I had been searching for because remember: postpartum rage is postpartum depression’s close cousin.

Now that I knew why I was feeling this way, I had a better grip on understanding why I felt so angry.

 I want to share with you some of the ways I managed my postpartum rage.

  • identity what’s making you angry and learn how to prepare yourself for those moments.
  • talk to your doctor and express your concerns. you may also be dealing with postpartum depression and you don’t have to go through it alone!
  • take much needed breaks and remember that it’s okay to take care of you. I’ve put together a list of some great self-care ideas that you can begin to utilize in your every-day life.

 

 

excuse the mess self care guide ideas

grab your free self-care guide right now.

 

You are not alone!

I felt so much relief once I learned that, not only was my postpartum rage common, but that I wasn’t the only mom to experience it.

Phew.

If you’re currently beating yourself up about your postpartum rage, I want you to know that you are not alone in this.

I’m no-where near perfect and I still have my moments, but I feel like I have greatly progressed over the last year and with that being said, I want to tell you that the postpartum rage will not last forever.

You can get past this and fight like the badass mother that you are.

 

Have you experienced postpartum rage? I want to hear all about it! Shoot me a comment or be a guest writer. <3

 

Resources.

a description of postpartum rage can be found here.