Monday, May 12, 2008

Post-Partum Help

Seems like every blog I read these days has either just announced a birth (like Jess, and Kendra) or are in the throes of pregnancy (like MamaJ and KimC). I keep *almost* writing about this in various comments sections, but always erase it. I don't want to come across as trying to 'fix' anyone or offer unsolicited advice. However, having done the whole pregnancy-birth-post-partum thing three times (ahem, it should be noted that most of the above mamas have done so more than that) I have noticed something I *so* wish I'd have known earlier.

My first two pregnancies and related-experiences were quite similar. Nothing terrible, no real complaints. However, the post-partum time was a real challenge. For both 'five-day checkup' appointments, it only took undressing the baby for the weight check to dissolve myself in tears. Let's not even TALK about the PKU test where the idiot nurse tried to squeeze and squeeze blood from baby's heel that was elevated while my tiny newborn screamed and screamed. Even making that first drive with the baby, facing the world, was almost too much. A sense of overwhelm, like the world was big and complicated and harsh and scary and NOT the place I wanted to be. I felt very vulnerable, and not up to the task of protecting and caretaking my baby from it. The feeling wasn't alleviated by being at home, but was lessened considerably. Even so, family dynamics, dirty dishes, and just motherhood responsibilities brought on the tears and feelings of despair.

On the edge of their seat, my babies' pediatrician offered antidepressants, samples or prescriptions, I shouldn't feel badly for needing 'something' etc. Through my sobs I'd gesture and say, "No, no, I'm fine... really." I lean towards the uneducated opinion that everyone is depressed sometimes, and I'd deal with it. They'd press, and I'd maintain that things would be fine [after getting away from bright lights and sharp objects].

While this last time was different in so many ways, I feel confident that one thing in particular helped with the emotional roller-coaster ride. On the list of birthing supplies my midwife included St. John's Wort. When I asked about it, she said it was for the 'baby blues' and I thought, heck, yeah, sign me up. It wasn't the dollar-store capsule of herb, but Golden Lotus Botanicals brand, and comes in a liquid form, with a nice little dropper. The one-ounce bottle from my midwife was about $11, and well worth it. I was instructed to take about half-a-dropper full several times a day, unless my afterpains got bad, in which case I could take it as often as every 20 minutes. Let me tell you, for a day or two there every twenty minutes was NOT often enough. It's not exactly a painkiller.

When my pains weren't reminding me to take it, I would sometimes forget. After a blubbering meltdown of despair towards my husband, I would shuffle into the bathroom for another roll of toilet paper, and one quiet rational thought would enter my brain... I forgot to take my St. John's Wort all day. Wonder if that's what my problem is? Mind you, that didn't lessen the reality of how I felt or the way I saw things, but the thought was there. This happened often enough that even I couldn't deny that there was a definite link. And not one that I was 'looking for' by any means. It was usually only after falling apart that I thought to ask myself about the herb. And every time the answer was the same.

I kept one bottle in the diaper bag for overwhelming situations. :) My first trip to Costco with 3 in tow (and before getting every joint straightened out so I was still in a lot of bodily pain) had me searching and searching for something (probably chocolate chips?). It was not where it had been, and I finally asked someone, who's sharp response informed me that the item I sought was waaaaaay back down the way I had come. Now, her response was probably said hurriedly, not sharply, but it was one of those 'harsh world' events that were so hard to face. I gave myself a dose and tried hard not to let the tears fall. I don't remember whether or not I went back to get the item, but I remember being grateful for the St. John's Wort on hand.

I should say that it's not 'drug-like'. I don't 'feel' anything when I take it, or notice anything physically different when I don't. I still have emotions and days that are better and worse than others. My midwife assures me that I won't become a junkie (and since I've taken to ordering it in bulk from the above link, she's not making any money off my use of it). I still take it once or twice a day, but I don't carry it around with me. It stays at my bedside for morning (and sometimes evening) use.

Would it work this well for you? I don't know. I know it has been one element among many that has helped to change my mind and heart about this life God has given me, and I'm grateful for it. I have worried sometimes that it's unfair. That I'm using some thing (natural or not) to do some of the work that should be mine. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind... overcoming... taking every thought captive... But God is not limited by use of medicine or herbs, and so long as it is not a crutch, or idol, I am sure now that wise use is not spiritually cheating. :)


home handymum said...

Thank you for this post. I get the winter blues, and have found even just the St John's Wort tea to help me some winters.

God provides help to get us through all sorts of ailments - St John's Wort for the mind/emotions is no different than lavender for sleep and willow bark (aspirin) for pain relief.


Laura said...

Thanks for the info! Thankfully, I've never had to deal with even a hint of post-partum depression, but I have a few friends who really struggle with it. I wonder if it's a pregnancy-by-pregnancy thing, or a person-by-person thing. I've heard St. John's Wort pop up several times, so I know what to do if I get it! For now I'm just so incredibly thankful that God has spared me from it, as I know it has nothing to do with my abilities to avoid it.

MamaJ said...

Yes Ma'am! I love me some St. John's Wort. It got me through some rough times after Baby #2 passed away. Massive post-partum depression hit here! When the Dr's wanted me on Prozac/Lexapro for years and years, I weaned myself off it and started using St. John's Wort. Of course, I only bought the cheap stuff, I can't imagine how I would have felt using that fancy stuff! :-)