Post-Partum Depression

A mother’s story in three parts.
By Lauri Jean Crowe

Lauri Jean Crowe writes about the depression associated with human reproduction and the terrible consequences of allowing Prozac to be part of the treatment.

* Part One:
My Struggle with Post-Partum Depression.
* Part Two:
Post-Partum Depression: Where Am I Now?
* Part Three:
Losing Vision: The Struggle of the Eye and the Soul.

Originally three separate articles, they are presented here together in sequence.

Part One:
My Struggle with Post-Partum Depression.

In 1997, shortly after my marriage I became pregnant for the first time. It was a pregnancy fraught with trouble from the start. Hypertension and low thyroid function quickly caused me to be pre-eclamptic and at just 12 weeks I was put on total bed rest. Quite a shocker after going to the doctor for what I though to be intestinal flu, after being told several years earlier I could never have children. Still, my son was born in July 1998, healthy even though born pre-term.

Just two months later I was rushed to the emergency room for gallbladder surgery. They removed the organ and over two-hundred stones. In December, after a routine pap smear I found that I had pre-cancerous cells on my cervix and surgery must be done to remove them. Still, I was a happy mom. I had my miracle baby, and these other things seemed inconsequential compared to that. However, at times my mood would dip because I was still very ill despite the pregnancy having gone to term. I never quite had the time to recover between birth and the surgeries.

So, six weeks after the surgery on my cervix, my husband and I happily went to bed, not to sleep. It was the first time we’d really had any couple time since the birth of our son, as I was either too ill or having surgery. We didn’t expect that on Valentine’s day I’d have another bout of the “flu” and be pregnant again. Still not recovered from the first pregnancy, I was thrilled that we were going to have yet another little miracle, but the instant bed rest was awful with one baby already.

Eventually this got to me. I began having crying spells that would sometimes last for hours, and the littlest thing like my husband not taking out the garbage the moment I asked him to would send me into fits of anger. This behavior wasn’t like me, but I wasn’t willing to admit anything was wrong besides the stress of two difficult back to back pregnancies until I found myself weeping on the kitchen floor unable to even get up. I was suffering from severe post-partum depression.

Fortunately, once I asked for help my OBGYN and primary care physician both recognized the signs and recommended Prozac. It’s one of the few drugs considered safe for the treatment of depression in pregnancy. I’d heard all the horror stories about Prozac and was quite against trying it, but it was at the point where I either had to try the drug or face the reality of committing myself for in-patient care and leaving my husband and child. I made it until my seventh month before I had to have medication, and at the time that seemed like a tremendous accomplishment on my part. In reality, it was a huge strain on my marriage and family.

I was started at 20 mg daily, and that was upped to 40 mg shortly after my second son was born, also pre-term, but healthy in October. I also had weekly therapy sessions with a social worker to discuss my feelings and bewilderment at the prospect of being a mother of two children when I thought I couldn’t get pregnant in the first place. It was a lot to deal with, and the biggest thing to deal with for me was the depression itself because it made me feel like a failure.

I’ve reached the point where the fog has lifted and I feel good again. The Prozac helped me get there. So did the regular therapy sessions and keeping track of my dreams. I found that by writing down my dream experiences, and then analyzing them for somatic causes verses mental ones I could see more clearly the tensions in my waking hours, and begin to slowly deal with them. Now, I am in the process of weaning off the Prozac, but I still keep my dream journal and have moved to monthly visits to my therapist. The doctors feel I’m over the post-partum depression and I feel like I have control of my life again.

Depression is an illness I never thought I would personally deal with. And it’s still shocking to me after being on Prozac for six months post-partum. In researching the illness I’ve found that it’s considered transient, and also that many woman don’t get help because like me, they feel like they’ve somehow failed as a mother to need help. I’m hoping that sharing the success of my story and battle with post-partum depression will aid those who need help in seeking it. Each person must deal with their depression as they see fit, but sometimes you must get medication or an outside perspective from a qualified professional in order to see through the fog.

Part Two:
Post-Partum Depression: Where Am I Now?

I wrote, My Struggle With Post-Partum Depression in April 2000. Things were just beginning to look up and my depression had cleared when I found out that my husband had decided to quit taking his lithium for his bipolarism, and to stop seeing his psychiatrist. It was about two weeks after that when I found out he had not been taking his medication for some time and hadn’t been taking it correctly since February. Although I could have easily gotten back on Prozac as a crutch (and I thought about it) or dipped headlong into another depression, I didn’t. To me this was a sure sign that I was on the right path to heal myself. Rather than wallow in all the bad that was happening and dwell on my husband’s role in my post-partum depression (he had been very verbally abusive during my last pregnancy and thereafter due to his bipolar episodes), I focused on what I could personally do to make the situation better.

So, I began researching more online writing venues, and building my career again. I had stopped working when I became pregnant with my first son due to bed rest and hadn’t really gone back to work except for an article here and there since my pregnancies. I’d been living either for my kids, or for my husband and I began to recognize that a lot of my post-partum depression was because I had lost a lot of self-time and wasn’t nurturing myself at all. So, I did what I needed to do for my family, tried to improve my relationship with my husband, but devoted at least 3 hours a day to myself, either writing, taking a bath or reading. Sometimes I just went for a drive. This time for my self kept me out of a depressive slump.

My husband refused marriage counseling, as well as to get back on the treatment protocol for his own depression. Our marriage hit the rocks and kept crumbling into pieces of flying dirt despite my best efforts. I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and autoimmune hepatitis as well as other liver problems in July and August 2000. In mid-August I had to spend a week in the hospital with heart trouble and my husband didn’t even bother to come see me. This led to a good cry, but not a depressive one. I knew something had irrevocably changed and that things were indeed over between us because he wouldn’t get help for his illness, and I was. On August 22, my husband in the midst of an argument asked me if I wanted him to leave. I said “Yes”. That one simple act is what kept me from becoming depressed again. I took charge of my life again, more than I had at any other time since my pregnancy. I filed restraining orders on my husband due to threats he had made, and on August 28, my birthday, I signed the divorce papers.

It’s been a real struggle but I have not gone back into a depressive slump. And the breakup of my marriage was just icing on a very sad cake. Exactly one month to the day my husband left, my 2 year old son was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a rare but potentially devastating kidney disease. My husband came to the hospital for our son and I had to spend 3 days sleeping in the same hospital room, where he insisted on going through all the bad in our marriage. I felt shattered again, I finally decided I needed to go see the psychiatrist who had first put me on Prozac. That was yesterday, October 3.

As I was speaking to him, I realized I didn’t need to be there. The stresses in my life were affecting me, as they should, but I was having normal reactions to them. I was taking the steps to get things accomplished. When I cried it was justified and traceable to a specific, rational reason. The psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to go back on anti-depressant medications. My reaction was “No”. Again, a simple little word, but it placed the power and responsibility in my hands instead of that of another or a pharmaceutical. I was pronounced, “not clinically depressed” and the psychiatrist suggested that if anything I might want to look into a divorce support group.

It will take a minimum of six months for my divorce to be finalized because I have minor children. My son is on an intensive 16 week protocol of steroids, antibiotics and blood pressure medications with a lot of home monitoring and clinic visits for his kidney condition. My own physical health problems are chronic and lasting. However, since my struggle with post-partum depression I have found new methods of coping that have made me a stronger individual who won’t give in to the demon of depression again. I have too much to live for, and I want to live it in the open, in the light, instead of the dark shadows of my mind.

Authors endnote:

Since writing this article, my husband and I have decided to work toward reconciliation with the caveat that he seek and maintain medical treatment for his illness. However, it will be another long hard struggle and I am not certain the outcome will be a happy one. I have not gone back into depression or on Prozac. Life has it’s trials. I’m ready to meet them.

Part Three:
Losing Vision: The Struggle of the Eye and the Soul.

I was in the eighth month of my second pregnancy when I began losing vision in my right eye. They thought it was pre-eclampsia again, or maybe a small stroke. The doctors put me on one baby aspirin a day, just in case it was a clotting problem. This did absolutely nothing.

After delivery, they told me the condition would most likely vanish. Nope. It only got worse. Have you ever changed a diaper and suddenly lost the view of the fecal matter you were trying to clean. Your head spins. It’s even worse if you’re driving down the road and suddenly have just one eye.

There’s a saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. Given that precept, does it mean that as I slowly lose my vision in my eye I am losing a part of my soul? Or just closing off the ability of others to look at it?

Do the ten minute sprees of blurriness mean that I am having a spiritual crises? And are the four hour ones more profound? Nope. I’m just going blind for some indefinable reason.

This has affected my art. You see things much more impressionistically through a blurred haze. Suddenly Monet seems to have made sense. You start to hate realists. And, well my writing has changed too. You look inward more even as your eye cannot look out.

It seems strange to me that this gelatinous blue orb should so profoundly affect me with its failures. But it has. It continues to. Sometimes I have fantasies of just popping it out, holding it in my hand and seeing if the soul is still inside.

Of course, I’d never do it. I love my vision, like being able to see my children’s eyes reflect back into mine. So, whether this is a spiritual crises or merely an anatomical one, I’ll keep my failing vision and my ever changing perspective.

Author’s endnote:

I am now a full year post-partum, and although my perspective is still ever changing it isn’t encumbered by a medical condition. Six months after I had my second son I went off of the Prozac which had been administered for my post-partum depression. It was strange to be both out of the mental fog that state of mind had placed me in, as well as to find out that it was the Prozac which was causing my vision to be faulty.

Medications have strange side effects. Orbs swell, blood vessels scream faster and faster. The skin breaks out in rashes and sometimes it’s hard to breath. That seems a lot like life to me. What I don’t understand are those who will continue with medication instead of life. Something common in cases of post-partum depression. Now there is a spiritual crisis.

Lauri Jean Crowe is a freelance writer known for such diverse topics as dreams, sexuality, gardening, health and parenting. She is a freelance writer, artist and designer living in Michigan, USA.

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