Monday, September 15, 2014

Post-baby Body

'Just four months after giving birth, take a look at her post-baby bod!' touts E! News anchor Guiliana Rancic as new mom Kerry Washington steps down the red carpet, her figure as petite as the statue she might win tonight.

'Whats your secret?' G asks once Kerry meets her on the aisle.

'A lot of working out,' the actress announces, as if she practiced in the mirror.

Me, curious about my own 'post-baby body'
Then Megan Fox, just two months post-partum, tells a tabloid her slim post-baby body comes from a strict paleo diet.

Now, if I, almost two months post-partum as well, can barely stand the pressure of regaining that pre-baby body... for these Hollywood actresses, the expectation looming over them must be suffocating.

Those three months after the baby aren't called the 'fourth trimester' for nothing. Dealing with the round-the-clock demands of a newborn, lacking sleep and energy, and experiencing extreme hormone changes calls for a hibernation of sorts - to cope and recover. And while 'working out' (light exercise like walking and yoga) is certainly prescribed by experts to help new moms stabilize, it is definitely NOT the first thing we are apt to do in between diaper changes, and our bodies aren't truly meant to do it heavily until at least 6 months. So, it's slightly bothersome that anyone is expected to 'bounce back' even within a year of giving birth.

I have been very grateful for compliments about my post-baby body, but irked that THAT's what new moms are applauded for. We just created life, and nearly died pushing it out! I'm still a little proud of this weirdly loose abdomen...don't make me scrutinize it yet! I haven't even fully processed birth, let alone thought about erasing all signs of pregnancy.

Sorry if this sounds rant-y; I just hope we can be a little gentler in our expectations of new moms and their ever-vulnerable 'post-baby bodies.'

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How Does a Yoga Teacher get Postpartum Depression?

I'm the only yoga teacher I know, who's depressed.

Tears came when, during my 6-week postpartum checkup, that little postpartum depression survey concludes that I am one of the 20% of mothers suffering from it. My midwife prescribes Zoloft against my will; assures me that it's worked miracles for moms, and that I'd likely only have to use it short-term.

Dude. I don't even take Tylenol. I had an unmedicated birth for a reason.

Hesitation and fear are written all over my face.

"You don't have to suffer," she almost pleads with me. "You don't have to do this alone."

Postpartum Depression affects 20% of mothers.
Photo ©Yoga Parties by Amanda, LLC
Two weeks ago, I was fine. Overwhelmed, but fine. But when William's four-week birthday came along, I found myself dreading, fearing, anticipating, well, EVERYTHING. It was fine when Chris was home, but when he went to work, I'd sit frozen in fear of putting Will in his carseat to go to the store. 

What if he's uncomfortable? What if he cries in the car? What if he doesn't like his carseat? are all thoughts I'd have. I think you can guess if I ever ended up going to the store.

Then it got even worse. Once I made it into the shower, I never wanted to get out. One day, I woke up and laid there like a corpse, and had the (now terrifying) thought that, I wish I was one. I noticed how often I was crying. I'd dream of drinking all day or anything else that would numb my emotions. I didn't know how to accept my now 100-percent-different life. I didn't think I could balance caring for both of us. I just had this overwhelming sense that everything would go wrong; that every day, I'd be this shower-less, starving wreck of a woman, bouncing a crying baby on my hip, sitting in the filth of a tornado-wrecked house.

Wait, what am I talking about "had?" I STILL FEEL THIS WAY!

I know these thoughts are irrational. And I do a decent job of putting on a brave face, being nice to my husband, making googly eyes at the baby, interacting with friends when they come over, dragging myself out of the house to grab something from the store. But it's hard. Not just to have PPD, but that I was so sure I'd never get it. I mean, I eat all organic. I do yoga. I freakin' meditate, for crying out loud! Depressed people don't do any of that!

I know I need help, but I cannot bring myself to take the anti-depressants.

What I'm about to say only pertains to postpartum depression, not depression. Plus, I am not a doctor, so don't take what I say as medical advice. AND I'm not judging anyone for taking medication or telling them it's wrong - in fact, many people say it is what cured them. But let me proceed with my opinion.

Some doctors tell you postpartum depression is caused by an imbalance in your "brain chemistry" or "serotonin levels." That is a theory, and, according to a new study, may not have anything to do with serotonin at all. Other doctors tell you that PPD is caused by environmental/social/emotional factors such as unrealistic expectations, lack of support, and more. Well, if anti-depressants are only addressing the brain chemistry theory (by increasing your serotonin levels), what if my PPD is caused by the other factors? I'd be messing with something that ain't broke! Plus, the sertraline in most anti-depressants carry a risk of serotonin syndrome, and have not been around long enough to know what long-term risks may exist.

So, meds are out for me. I'd love love LOVE to start feeling better, like my midwife and several friends have told me I will if I take the meds, but I just can't. It's been one week since my diagnosis, and this is what, I'm learning, helps me.

1. The knowledge that PPD is, by all accounts, temporary
2. Therapy. I'm going to my first support group next week, and continue one-on-ones with the amazing Kim Smart.
3. Kava Kava, Passion Flower, and Valerian root (all natural "calming" herbs - you can buy at Whole Foods) - The Kava and Valerian have a more tangible effect, I've noticed. Here's a list of other natural supplements that could help. Some people even swear by small amounts of marijuana (too much can make PPD worse).
4. Yoga. Even though it gives me anxiety to set the baby up in his swing (thinking he might cry and interrupt my yoga at any moment), I fight through it and feel massive relief once I start moving. If you don't know yoga, you can find a ton of free videos on YouTube and free subscription sites like Yoga has been scholastically proven to help treat depression.
5. Hot showers with drops of essential oils on the shower floor. The warmth relaxes muscles, and oils provide aromatherapy. Some of my favorite scents are (uplifting) lemon, orange and grapefruit, and (calming) lavendar and clary sage. Since this is a must-do-daily sort of thing, the other day, I took a shower with the baby in his bouncy seat right outside the curtain. You do what you've gotta do.
6. Walks/Being Outdoors. Getting outside and knowing there is a world outside my dark little head. The sun feels so good, too! Doctors often recommend light therapy for depression.
7. Friends! I feel so withdrawn that it takes everything in my being to accept a visit, but once I do, I am so happy I did! Friends commiserate, allow you to vent without judgement, get you to LAUGH! Laughter SAVES me.
8. On that note, have a BUDDY. A buddy to call you and nudge you to go on a walk, to the store, even to get out of bed. My buddy is my husband, but I have to be really careful about using him as a crutch, and even a punching bag. But his encouraging words in the morning really help to get me putting my pants on one leg at a time.
9. Eat fresh foods, and drink tons of water and tea. I've noticed heavy foods don't do anything for me, same with caffeine (the come-down is more noticeable with PPD, I think). When you eat foods that are "alive," I think that transfers a little extra good energy into that bod.
10. Cuddle and laugh with that baby! Your baby doesn't have depression, so be inspired by their radiant light! I will read to him, or try to make him giggle. And, of course, kiss, kiss, kiss those chubby cheeks! Even writing about it cheers me up!

Postpartum depression is real, and it sucks (man, women really get the shit end of the stick with all this motherhood stuff). But this hopeless feeling is temporary, and there is relief. We can do this. We're women, after all. ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Birth Story

My eyes are rolling back in my head. The pain - thundering through my entire being. I am completely at its mercy. I'm in a bathtub, I know that much, and a crowd of faces surround me. Except I really can't establish whose faces; I am more seeing auras. And if I think I'm about to die NOW - in hour 8 - just WAIT till we get to hour 9, 10 and 11.

Hard to imagine less than 12 hours ago, Chris and I are making pancakes together, giddy with excitement at each small contraction. It's finally here. 6 days past due date. Chris and I had been doing EVERYTHING we possibly could all weekend to get labor started (not to mention a false alarm at the hospital the night before). But now, 4 a.m. Monday morning, it's the real deal.

I've got my yoga background; my deep breathing DOWN, I think to myself. This is going to be EASY. I've chosen a non-medicated birth for this reason - my confidence - as well as wanting to be aware of when my body tells me to do something, and possibly even prevent complications.

Chris and I run some errands before casually checking in at St. Mark's around noon. "Are you in pain?" asks the check-in nurse.

No, I thought, but I'm having contractions, and I don't want you to send me home, so I say yes.

"Good, we'll get you all settled into your room."

We get settled into our room. I lay out all my comforts that I think I'm going to use during labor. Music. "The Lego Movie." My stuffed animal. Essential oils.

Midwife comes in and breaks my water. Chris and I then go for a walk to get him coffee at the hospital cafe. I start doubling over with contractions on our return trip. Back in the room, my midwife gives me Clary Sage oil to rub all over my tummy. I do that. 10 seconds later, I'm in the bathroom and my body COMPLETELY cleans itself out, if you know what I mean. It's amazing how the body works. It doesn't want you to worry about going to the bathroom during labor or delivery.

Right after that, I am IN IT. I come out of the bathroom, and I am moaning. I kind of stop remembering at this point, because it's the same type of thing for the next few hours to come. I know I'm on the bed on all fours, and when I have a contraction, I moan as midwife, chris, my mom and the nurse rub my back and press on my hips. I have zillions of these, so it's amazing how dilligent they were at making me comfortable for, gee, 11 hours? I am so impressed. Eventually, I go the bathtub, which hurts to sit on the hard floor so I yell, and Chris holds my back, which is on fire. This could have been going on for hours. It's bad pain. I want to die. I think I can't handle it. I look at Chris and he has tears in his eyes, seeing me like this. I yell. LOUD. For hours. the nurse tells me to "drop my octave," and grunt gutterally, which actually helps me push later (brings the energy down through your body. I'm back out of the bathtub. Midwife says I'm dilated to 9.5 but my cervix is still in the way. She has me sit so the pressure is ON the cervix. This is DEATH. After two hours of this, I start crying "Help me!" and whimpering and balling and saying I can't do it.

Did I mention I would puke throughout? The pain of the contractions were irritating me like a buzzsaw and then all of a sudden, the panicky need to puke? And heaving during a contractions? That was the worst.

I'm in this state of utter pain and chaos for three and a half hours. My mom says during this time, "transition," my contractions chart showed they were full blast, and right on top of each other (no breaks in between). Right now, I'm naked, and push the midwife away when she tries to cover me up. I snap at Chris for whispering, "you're doing great, baby."

"Don't whisper!" I yell, feeling his words grating on my nerves.

This feeling that I had to go "no. 2" had been irritating me for an hour or so, and finally, it comes to the point where I think it's just gonna happen right there on the table (the thought of moving to the bathroom during a contraction was too much to comprehend).

"Turn away!" I yell at Chris, thinking I was about to have the most embarrassing moment of my life.

"What's wrong?" asks the midwife.

"I've gotta go to the bathroom!" I yell desperately. "Look away!"

"Oh, then you can start pushing! That's the baby coming!"

The idea alone that I had "progressed" to a new stage is enough to give me hope. I had been yelling for an epidural moments before this, thinking the pain was literally going to kill me if it lasted any longer. But pushing? This is new. I can do this.

With the contractions, still full-blast, i flip over on my back and instinctually prop my feet into the nurses hands. On the contraction, I push, and feel relief. I breathe, calming down, knowing that this would not be as hard as what I just went through. I know I can take my time here. So I breathe, and push. Chris, who formerly did not want to watch the baby come out, is right there in the action zone, coaching me to keep pushing. He sounds excited. It makes me feel encouraged. I push hard. I know that pushing this hard is doing something bad to my genitals, but I don't really care. I feel sharp pain as something that isn't supposed to rip, does. But I push on the contraction, because it feels better than sitting through the contraction. Chris is cheering me on. I know I'm not going to have a bowel movement on the table. So I feel safe, and know that I am going to see my baby soon.

Chris, my mom, the nurse, the midwife all emit some sort of sound that just sounds like pure joy to my ears, and I don't necessarily feel it physeically, but I know that his head is out. I am in shock. My legs are shaking HARD. I know that a few more pushes will get William into this world. I push even harder, the pain a distant feeling as I experience what feels like a bowl of limbs tumble from me. He's out in 13 minutes.

There's crying, and I see a grey form being handed to me, but I don't so much look at him, as I  FEEL him. I will never forget how he felt. Slimy, just this bundle of limbs, warm. Vibrating from his cry. Whenever he cries now, and I'm about to get frustrated, I remember that moment and how he felt, and soften up at how as a team, we got him here.

I pull him to my chest and am hyperventilating. I hold him for just a moment before handing him to a tear-dampened Chris who just cut the cord and is now taking William off to get a bath or shots or something. I am still in shock. Everything has an aura. I cannot believe I am alive.

The next hours pass slowly, and surreally, as I am patched up and put in bed. As William is handed to be to nurse, and as Chris and I drift to sleep for the first time as new parents.

During labor, I thought I would use all sorts of yoga breath, moves, different positions, my I used nothing but the sheer will not to kill myself. And I couldn't have done it without Chris. He was 100% present with me, at the expense of his own comfort (who doesn't eat or can press on my back for 11 hours?). Endurance is the only trait that comes in handy during a non-medicated labor. And I almost ran out. But if I am capable of surviving that, I can survive anything. And that thought has come up many times during recovery, emotional dips, and overall, just this whirlwind of new parenthood.