Postpartum Depression & The Pastor’s Wife

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor's Wife

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor’s Wife

When I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I took a Christian childbirth class.  I enjoyed the majority of the content.  I came out of the class after 12 weeks feeling completely confident in my ability to birth my daughter naturally.  At some point during the series of classes the instructor mentioned postpartum depression.  I don’t remember what she said.  I wasn’t listening.  I wasn’t going to have postpartum depression.  Plus I already knew about postpartum depression, it was something sad women without husbands get after traumatic births.  It was reserved for women who already had a history of depression, for those who didn’t have family to help them.  (Spoiler alert: I was wrong!!)  I definitely didn’t think it was for healthy Christian women with awesome husbands who happen to be pastors.

My daughter was born beautifully, naturally, just as we planned and prayed.  I left the hospital feeling like I could tackle anything the world could throw at me, after all, did you see how I just pushed out that kid without any drugs?!  Come at me, world!  I got this!  And then I started crying…

Now for some background into the complexity that is me.  I am not a hugely emotional person.  Give me a cute puppy, a Hallmark commercial, a sappy poem, and a sad movie all wrapped up into one and I’m the girl that says “Oh.  Yea that stuff is kinda sweet…”  I’m NOT the girl that cries about emotional things.  I reserve my tears for death and frustration.  That’s pretty much it.  It’s not intentional and I don’t believe its a sign of some pent up emtional baggage.  It’s just the way I am, I’m not a huge crier.  (Disclaimer:  I DO get teary at most births because…birth!)

I was fine for the first few days, but then the tears came.  This is normal, I thought.  I think it’s called “Baby Blues” or something – didn’t our teacher say something about the blues?  But it didn’t stop.  I would be holding my perfectly healthy baby girl with her delicious baby fuzz and just begin to weep.  Or I would put my baby down and go look at myself in the mirror.  No make-up, dirty hair, and my stomach.  Where was my nice flat stomach?!  The baby was out, why was I so squishy?!  Again, I would weep.  Not teary eyes, like actual crying.  My sweet mom would tell me I’m doing a great job and, you guessed it, I would burst into tears.  Sometimes, when my daughter was sleeping in my arms, I would begin to cry because I was so convinced that something was wrong with her.  Did you just hear that squeak she made?!  To her adoring father it was the most precious sound.  To me it was a sure sign that she was struggling to breathe.  Or maybe it was cancer.  Do you think we could find a nurse who will move in with us for a few months?  What if she is sick and I don’t even realize it?!  Anxiety, table for one??

I didn’t recognize myself.  For 27 years I had been stable, happy, easy-going.  Life had not thrown too many curveballs my way.  I had friends, I had family, I had the most amazing, godly husband.  I’ve always described my life as “vanilla.”  Just not much to report.  All of a sudden I was this bucket of tears and nerves.  I felt nothing like who I had always been.  I wasn’t sure I ever would feel normal again.  (I probably cried about that too).  This went on for weeks.  Four, maybe five weeks of feeling anxious and worrying about EV.ER.Y.THING.  Friends wanted to bring us meals.  I canceled them because…people!!  Mommy friends wanted to come over and poke my new baby’s rolls.  I declined because I knew they probably had polio or scabies and would give it to my daughter.  At no point, however, did I think this was postpartum depression.  It never crossed my mind.  I wasn’t depressed.  I wasn’t sad.  I had no feelings of emptiness.  I was just anxious.  I was just scared.  It’s called being a responsible parent and protecting your kid from EVERYTHING EVER POSSIBLE.

Postpartum Depression & The Pastor's WifeFast forward 4 years.  I’m currently pregnant with my second daughter.  We’re in the home stretch and so looking forward to welcoming another rolly, chunky, squish of deliciousness into our tiny family.  Around Christmas I began to think through my “fourth trimester” if you will.  In the years since my first daughter’s birth I’ve become a doula, a childbirth educator, and launched The Labor Ladies business with my dear friend Jamilla.  Needless to say, I know more now than I did 4 years ago, I’ve heard more stories, I’ve seen more things.  As I sat to process all that happened in the weeks after the birth I solemnly realized that I did, in fact, have a touch (…or a few touches) of postpartum depression.  See, I’ve learned that postpartum depression not only knows no prejudices, but exists on a broad spectrum.  Sometimes it’s about sadness, but sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes it’s about feeling empty, but sometimes it’s not.  I heard a story on the Today Show the other day where another celebrity was making a “shocking confession” that she too had postpartum depression.  An “expert” was listing signs and symptoms.  Overwhelming sadness, feelings of loss, feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.  It was all I could do to not scream at the TV…”THAT ISN’T TRUE!!!!!”  Mild postpartum depression can just look like anxiety.  Anxiety that interrupts your life, anxiety that takes you away from your normal routines.  Yes, I cried, but I wasn’t crying because I was sad.  I was crying out of worry.  I had no feelings of emptiness.  In fact my life, my heart had never felt so full of joy!  It was just those darn “what ifs.”  Turns out postpartum depression is NOT just for sad, unstable people.  Turns out a Jesus-loving, fully supported, pastor’s wives with a happy, vanilla life can jump over that line between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression just as quickly and easily.

The lesson I’ve learned and the one I share with the couples in The Labor Ladies Guide to Childbirth Class is that it is okay!  Hear me say this!  IT IS OKAY to not be okay!   Oh, you love Jesus and are supposed to be happy all the time??  It’s still okay to not be okay.  You’re a pastor’s wife??  It’s still okay to not be okay.  You’ve never been depressed or known anyone to be depressed?  Depression of any form is only something that exists in your college psychology books?  Yup, it’s still okay to not be okay…for a little while.  I wish someone had told me, “Meredith, it’s okay!  Everything is going to be okay!  You don’t have to put on makeup and skinny jeans and be on the front row of church right away.  You don’t have to feel like entertaining visitors yet.  It’s okay!!!”  (So actually my husband and my mom did tell me this, but I didn’t believe them.  Next post: The Most Stubborn Doula).  Here is what is not ok: It’s NOT okay to stay that way.  Every once in a while, even after the most beautiful births, we find ourselves in a dark hole.  It’s a safe hole, but we know in our hearts we need to get out and into the daylight.  Alert your tribe.  Tell your people you need to be forced out.  My tribe all knows I struggled with anxiety the first time around and they know to be on high alert this time just in case.  I don’t know what will happen after this sweet new baby is born.  I do have more knowledge now, and I do have my people who are watching, and I do know that postpartum depression is a possibility for ANYone.  Also, I have an almost 4 year old who will force me to get off of the couch and get on with life.  I can already hear the conversation:

Me: “but sweetheart, mommy is feeling kind of weepy and anxious today…”

Her: “mmm hmm, but the science center…”

Right.  Off we go.

Note: If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression please talk to someone who can get you the resources you need. Talk to a doula, a midwife, a nurse, a doctor or a counselor so that they can help you in whatever ways you need help. 

0622d6_0de5370a3d26426d8e6dcb5406307ca5This article was written by Meredith Tanner. She is a DONA certified birth doula, a teacher, a researcher of all things, mom to a wonderful little girl and another little one on the way, and the wife of a youth pastor. To learn more about Meredith and the birth services she provides please click HERE.

What We DO as DOulas

What Doulas Actually Do

When I first became a doula, I was certain I’d be spending the majority of my “work” hours (it’s hard to consider your passion as work, but for lack of a better word…) in hospitals, assisting a laboring momma and helping her have the birth she so desired. I pictured me waiting eagerly by my phone for THE call that it was time. I pictured myself praying over the labor and birth the entire way there, and upon arrival, soothing her in the waiting room. I pictured myself helping her through the sometimes rough transition of triage/admittance. Then, getting her from there to the delivery room. I pictured walking the halls with her, and helping her find a good position when she had to stop for a contraction. I pictured myself coaching her, reassuring her, encouraging her, massaging her, getting her into different positions in the room…etc. I figured I would be reminding her husband of what to do, getting him to do all of those things for her as well, and reassuring him if/when things got intense. I pictured myself being a beacon of knowledge, someone to answer all of their questions when nobody else was in the room, or when they were simply confused. I pictured myself as a gopher-when Dad had things under control, running to get more ice, water, snacks…etc, anything mom or dad wanted or needed. I pictured myself setting up a waterbirth tub and tearing it down after a beautiful waterbirth. I pictured myself getting mom through her transition, and reminding her to focus, breathe, relax, and be STRONG! I pictured myself doing counter pressure, using a rebozo, doing a double hip squeeze, and so forth. I pictured helping her figure out how to push if she could not feel the pressure due to medications. I saw myself taking pictures of those first precious moments when their baby arrives. And as sad as this is, I pictured myself reassuring moms should their birth plans not pan out the way we all wanted it to…holding her hand up until they wheeled her off to the OR, and then waiting patiently for the procedure to be over so I could assist with anything she needed. I pictured myself helping mothers and babies with their first latch just minutes after birth. I thought I would be answering the parent’s questions about newborn procedures and their postpartum plans as they stared into the eyes of their new little one, unable to remember or realize what was going on around them. I pictured staying with them as long as they needed me, and then letting them bond as a new family as I left the hospital on a birth high, praising God for His goodness, and heading to Cook Out for much needed post birth fuel.

 

Well, I was right. That’s exactly what I do as a doula when I’m at the hospital during a birth. However, I was wrong when I thought that would be the majority of my “work”.

 

I have discovered (in the best way!) that being a doula involves so much more than coaching and supporting a family through their labor/birth while it’s actually happening. It’s all of the stuff that comes beforehand, and all of the stuff that comes afterward that truly make up the majority of my “work.”

 

What Doulas actually doIt’s the first time they contact you and you have that lovely phone conversation or answer that exciting email. It’s the initial interview with the family, the first time you meet them and the first time they meet you. It’s getting to know one another and making sure you are a good match for each other for the special day. It’s meeting with them multiple times before any labor signs ever occur, coming up with a birth plan, talking about strategies and preparation, answering questions they didn’t know they had, and teaching them things they never knew before (I LOVE teaching during pre-natals, it’s seriously my favorite!). It’s working as a team to come up with the best scenario for their little one to enter the world in. It’s showing them things we’ll be doing during the birth to help them visualize the process. It’s practicing different birthing positions with them ahead of time so they’ll be more comfortable come labor night. It’s going to a waterbirth class with them to answer any additional questions they might have. It’s suggesting and offering up different resources for them to see and use leading up to the birth of their child, as well as for after their baby is born. It’s going to doctor’s appointments with them to keep them company during an NST, or reassure them during an ultrasound. It’s being available 24/7 to answer any questions they might have about ANYTHING, regardless of whether or not it relates to childbirth. It’s talking to them after a long day of people making comments like “you’re still pregnant?” and “you look like you’re about to pop!” and letting them know that they are beautiful and that their child will come out when it’s ready! It’s listening to their phone calls after appointments when their doctors say it will still be awhile, and encouraging them that this baby will come out one day. It’s keeping them up beat and positive in late pregnancy when their care provider utters the dreaded “I” word…induction. It’s reminding them to stay focused on their sweet baby and preparing them for the amazing birth they are about to go through. It’s reminding them to eat well and drink lots of water, taking whatever supplements they should be taking to make sure they and baby stay healthy through the very end when it’s so easy to slack off and give up. It’s having your phone on you at all times, and with the ringer turned up, even in the wee hours of the night, just in case you’re needed. It’s being ready to go the 5 times they think they’re in labor before they actually are, and consoling them when they realize that they are not. It’s visiting them the next day after the baby is born to help them remember their labor and answer any additional questions they have, as well as offering them assistance with nursing and good advice on transitioning home with their little one. It’s keeping in contact with them via phone in the days following their birth and making sure everything is going as smoothly as possible. It’s visiting them in their homes once they have settled back in and start to adjust to their new life. It’s continuing to be available to them as questions pop up that they didn’t realize they would have, and giving them referrals to other professionals when they need help outside of your scope of practice. It’s being there for them, no matter what, whether or not they are currently in labor.

 

No, I don’t have to do every single one of these things for every single client I have, for they are all different, and have different needs. However, juggling multiple clients at once, this is what the life of a doula looks like over the course of a few weeks. And I love every part of it! I’m so glad my job goes beyond the hospital walls! I treasure the relationships I have with my clients and I couldn’t be happier that God led me to this career!


0622d6_f7ca6db4ccc04cf5a1d1c93647df3e8aToday’s Post was lovingly written by Kayla Heeter. Kayla is an internationally certified birth doula through ICEA, a true lover of Jesus, a wife and a mother. To learn more about Kayla and the services she offers read her full bio HERE

Why You Don’t Get to Be “Done” Being Pregnant

How attitude at the end of pregnancy impacts your birth experience

“Attitude is everything”- we’ve all heard that expression before. Usually its an expression that is thrown in our face during a time where our attitude isn’t exactly at its best. Given that, it might be easy to just roll your eyes at this phrase and brush it off, but the reality is that it is true. Our attitudes really do shape our reality to some extent, and this fact continues to be true in those final weeks of pregnancy. (Cue major eye rolls)

Yes, I know that you can’t sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time because that little bundle of joy thinks your bladder is a trampoline. Yes, I know that your ankles are swollen and your back hurts. Yes, I know that you are sweating like its 110 degrees regardless of the fact that it is January. Yes, I know that you can’t eat more than 4 bites of food at a time. Everyone around you would be wise to give you a free pass on your attitude and let you moan and groan as much as you please, whenever you please because you have spent the last nine (ten?) months growing a human that is imminently about to join the world in a less than pleasurable manner… am I right? Well, just hold on one second.

Right around that 37/38 week mark of pregnancy most of my clients will tell me that they are just “done” being pregnant. They’re over it, they’re ready to get this baby out. Obviously this is understandable, and I am not about to tell them to quit whining, but this attitude can be potentially problematic for a lot of moms.

In the last four weeks of your pregnancy the baby’s brain, lungs and liver are continuing to develop and they are continuing to gain the weight and strength they need to thrive outside of the womb. Granted there are babies who come naturally at 35 and 36 weeks who are perfectly healthy, but that brings me to my next point. Your baby should get to decide when you’re done being pregnant, not you. Babies are born when they send a signal to your body that it is time for labor to begin, they literally tell you when they’re ready (how cool is that?) By allowing your baby to pick his or her birthday you are giving them the chance to tell you when and how they need to be born. (Obviously, if a mother has a health condition that prevents this, she should work with her care provider to determine how late in pregnancy she can safely wait before giving birth.)

So, back to the issue of attitude. Having a negative attitude about the final weeks of pregnancy can have some real implications on your labor and delivery. First, depending on your care provider, if you tell them that you are “done” being pregnant they may offer to induce you so that you can deliver sooner. This is a very tempting offer for many moms, but it is not supported by any evidenced based research, it is against the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) guidelines, and it increases your risk of having a C-section. It also increases your baby’s risk of having to be taken to the NICU after birth. Second, giving up on being pregnant leads many moms to stop actively managing their health and well being. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a conversation with a mom who was “done” because she was having tons of back pain and she was so sore and when I asked her if she had been to the chiropractor or taken an Epsom salt bath she says no. Deciding that you are “done” dealing with the increased doctor’s visits and the self care that pregnancy requires is only going to make you more miserable for longer so go to the chiropractor, take an Epsom salt bath, keep exercising and wear a support band. Finally, the attitude you have during the end of your pregnancy shapes the attitude you will have in the delivery room. These difficult last few weeks of pregnancy can help you build the mental endurance you will need in labor. You simply can’t expect to go from being defeatist and down on yourself for weeks on end to being a well-trained mama-warrior in the delivery room. You have to get your head in the game. These last few weeks of pregnancy should be spent affirming yourself, reading positive and empowering birth stories, talking with your baby about the excitement of birth, and developing the strong and empowered mindset you need to conquer labor.

I know it isn’t easy, but few important things in life are, and when you feel those defeated feelings creeping in, and you probably will, call your doula and she well help you move past them.

Attitude and Pregnancy Pinterest

Paleo Pregnancy Nutrition

Paleo Pregnancy Nutrition.jpg

As I discuss in my About The Doula page outside of my work as a birth doula I am also a health and nutrition writer, specifically I write about ancestral eating (real food, paleo diet) and autoimmune diseases and chronic illness. These topics are actually incredibly relevant to many pregnant women as women of childbearing age comprise the majority of autoimmune disease sufferers and obviously optimal nutrition is very important for all pregnant women.

I get questions quite often about pregnancy and the paleo diet from people asking if it is too restrictive to follow during pregnancy or if it would result in nutrient deficiencies. I always have to laugh at this. The paleo diet is designed around the concept of eating the foods we were designed to eat. This is the way we were created by God to nourish ourselves with meat, fruit and vegetables. How could this be anything but ideal for nourishing a growing baby?

Eliminating processed foods, sugar, grains and dairy also help with pregnancy in a variety of ways. Obviously eliminating processed foods eliminates a large amount of synthetic chemicals and environmental toxins decreasing the stress on your body, eliminating grains can decrease inflammation in the gut resulting in a healthier microflora which increases both your and your baby’s immunity and decreases inflammation in the body. Decreasing sugar  helps to keep your blood sugar and natural insulin resistance in check throughout pregnancy which decreases the risk of gestational diabetes or helps in the management of it, if it occurs.

With all of that being said, a while ago I was asked to be a part of a podcast discussing all of these topics that I would love to share with you all. It covers nutrition through each trimester, dealing with common pregnancy complaints and discusses common pregnancy testing. I hope you will find it informative.

Click HERE to Listen Now

5 Tips For Creating a Comfortable Birth Environment

Creating a Comfortable Birth Environment

No one really enjoys being outside of their comfort zone, but this is especially true when you’re feeling vulnerable or physically uncomfortable. Think about it, when you are sick or unhappy what do you do? You put on your most comfortable, broken in clothes, you grab your favorite fluffy blanket, you stay home and you eat comfort food. These things have a way of soothing us. While they don’t necessarily take away our physical discomfort, they soothe our emotions, allow us to relax, and help us cope. On the other hand, imagine coming down with an uncomfortable illness and being forced to slip into some six inch stilettos, a pencil skirt, and an itchy blouse. Then imagine yourself  wearing that outfit to a nerve wracking social event where you felt self conscious and overwhelmed. How would that experience effect your physical symptoms and your recovery? Chances are, it would make it harder to cope and you would end up feeling much worse.

This same logic applies to your birth environment. There are no two ways about it, birth is uncomfortable. It is not unmanageable and it doesn’t have to be excruciating, but it certainly isn’t easy. It can also be a very vulnerable situation for a lot of women.  Giving birth is probably one of the most emotionally raw experiences a woman will ever experience and physically you can feel very exposed.

I can not tell you how many times I have been with a mom in early labor who is comfortably and easily working through contractions at home in the familiarity and comfort of her bedroom only to have her coping ability broken the minute we enter the hospital. It isn’t because she reached transition, it isn’t because she is suddenly exhausted, it is simply because she is emotionally and physically uncomfortable.

So, short of having a home birth (which is a great option, but not for everyone) what can you do to create a birth environment that is conducive to comfort and pain management?

  1. Wear Your Own Clothes: I have worked in many different hospitals and I have come across very few that don’t allow you to wear your own clothes during labor. It may seem like a small thing, but wearing your own clothes gives you a measure of control over your body, your environment, and your comfort. You don’t have to be sell conscious about people seeing your butt while you walk around, you don’t have to wear a gown that has been worn by countless people before you and you can don’t have to worry about getting undressed and redressed while coping with contractions. The trick here though is to wear something that you don’t mind throwing away and something that still allows easy access for doctors and nurses. This can be a comfy set of PJs you buy at Walmart, a sports bra and some cotton shorts, a sports bra and a maxi skirt, or even a labor gown that you purchase yourself. Whatever you feel is comfortable, and allows you to move around easily.

  2. Control the Scent:  If you have ever set foot in a hospital or doctor’s office you probably recognize that they have a very distinct smell. They smell like cleaning products and sterility. Our sense of smell is closely tied to our emotions, so it is quite likely that that hospital smell could elicit some uncomfortable feelings for a lot of people plus chances are your home does not smell like the hospital. Birth can also create some, less than pleasant smells, so why not remedy that situation? If you use essential oils, I highly recommend packing your diffuser and a few of your favorite smelling oils and bringing them to the hospital.  Diffusers are easy to plug in and set up and they last a long time so they are perfect for labor. If you have a scented lotion that you like, bring it so that your support person can use it while massaging you, if you have a lavender laundry spray you like, bring it to spray on your pillows or sheets. Just remember that you will not be able to bring traditional candles or incense.

  3. Control the Lighting: Dim lights are often associated with relaxation and that is exactly what we want you to achieve during labor. Bring some flameless candles, or a small lamp to set up in your room so that you can turn off the overhead florescent lights. If you have a bathroom attached to your room you could also leave the bathroom light on and turn off the rest of the lights.

  4. Bring Music: Hospitals also have a lot of sounds. It is very hard to relax and concentrate on working through a contraction when you can hear nurses and doctors talking outside of your door or even other women down the hall from you.  Really think about what kind of music relaxes you and then load up on it. I have had women who loved spa music and made sure they had a commercial free spa Pandora channel ready to play on their phone. I have had women who were comforted by religious music,  I even had a woman who loved Christmas music so we listened to white Christmas in the middle of her summer birth. If you love dance music bring it, if you love love songs bring it, if you and your hubby have a special song bring it. Not everyone is relaxed by the same music so just do what works for you. Another option is to use guided meditation recordings, especially ones like hypnobabies that are designed for women in labor.

  5. Visual Encouragement: Visual reminders of encouragement, support, love or even of your baby can be wonderful tools to have during labor. Some women have their friends give them beads at their baby showers and for each bead the friend offers a hope, prayer or word of encouragement for the mom then she strings them into a necklace to wear, hold or look at during labor, do you have a baby token that you love? Maybe a special blanket, or a little baby shoe maybe even an ultrasound photo? It may sound strange but when your are in the midst of labor it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that you are about to meet your baby! These visual reminders can keep you going and make you feel more comfortable.

These suggestions may seem small or simple, but trust me when I say that they make a big difference in your overall experience. Your family is centered around your home so why shouldn’t you bring a little piece of home with you as you welcome a new life into your family?