Friday, April 17, 2009

Postpartum Adventures

What better time to begin a new topic than the first gloriously warm day after a week of dreary rainy days?! What a parallel to the subject of this post. As a new mom, I am learning so much every single day and desire to share with anyone my stories in case they may help in some small way! My son is now 6 months old and we have had a bit of a rocky start. Some issues we faced I had read about or had heard someone talk about. Some issues were a complete surprise and often went against what I had read. Here is one story.

It was a sunny early spring day. The air was crisp, the birds were singing. I was all ready to go out with my son for a morning of errands. Standing in the doorway, holding him in his carrier with the diaper bag over my arm, I hesitate. I am gripped with fear. The simple act of turning the doorknob and walking outside was a terrifying thought. What in the world is going on? (Internal monologue) A few deep breaths. Calm down. More deep breaths. This is crazy. The roads are great. We need milk. The car has been fixed and is driving as best as can be expected. The cell phone is charged. The auto club card is in the bag. Get it together and get to the car.

I suck in a deep breath and press forward. I am shaking as I start the car and head down the hill. Something is not right here. I'm not right. What is going on? Nerves begin to calm as we get up to speed on the highway. I catch myself scanning the road constantly, going over scenarios of what I would do if the car died to keep me and my son safe. I go over my shopping lists and think through the coupons I have and the deals I would get wanting to make sure I get it right.

That was the first day I admitted that I was having a problem. I thought I was finally out of the woods with my baby blues. I only had anxiety while breastfeeding, not constantly like right after birth. I had been explaining these creeping feelings away. My son was a preemie. He was healthy and had no need to go to the NICU. He had a few illnesses early - especially one at 3 weeks when he was only 5 pounds. I was just worried about him. We had a lot of struggles with breastfeeding and weight gain. My hormones were just out of whack. That trip to Kroger changed my thinking. This was more than just baby blues.

I hesitated calling the doctor. I thought I could just make myself feel normal. I could will myself well and pray myself well. I began to notice that this anxiety was much more deeply seated than I had imagined. Each time I nursed my son, a flood of fear washed over me. Even just snuggling with my little man brought on these feelings of terror, impending doom. I realized that I was due in 2 days for my next thyroid check and knew my doctor would need those results before anything else would be done. I was terrified that I would need to go on medication for postpartum depression/anxiety and I would need to stop breastfeeding after all the months of struggle and hard work. I felt lonely because not only had I not admitted this problem to myself until now, I hadn't let anyone else know what was going on. I don't know which was harder, admitting to myself or admitting to those who are closest that I had a problem and couldn't handle it all by myself.

I went for my routine blood work. Just a couple days later, my doctor called me. She was amazed at how crazy my numbers were. At 5 months postpartum I had already had blood work done twice. The first time was at 3 weeks and was a little off from normal so I was retested almost immediately to make sure the results were due to post pardum adjustment by my body. Those results came back and were perfect. The doctor wanted to watch me closely so she had me schedule for 6 weeks later - the test that came back crazy. The doctor explained that my thyroid levels were quite high and that she had already called in a lower dose of medicine (I have had thyroid issues since I was 10 - Graves disease, radiation, and now permanent hypothyroidism) that I needed to pick up immediately.

Fast forward to today. I have a little over a week until my next test. I know I am not completely on track yet, I am feeling so much more normal. Almost all of the anxiety and depression is gone. My milk supply is quite abundant now when before I was struggling to provide daily for my son. I drive my car without fear, well, it's a 13 year old car so there is always a LITTLE fear! I feel free again. I can see that God worked through this time to teach me that I cannot do everything in my own power. I need to seek Him for strength daily. I need to allow those He has put in my life to help me: friends, family, doctors, etc. The rain clouds have lifted and I am standing in the sunshine again!

I am just amazed at how the thyroid issues presented this time. My test results have been MUCH worse in the past and never did I have problems with anxiety. I had assumed that the thyroid and anxiety were not linked at all. I had assumed that the milk supply issues had nothing to do with my thyroid - all the articles I had read lead me to believe that.

I thank God for this experience, as hard as it was. I pray that anyone who is noticing anything out of the ordinary during the crazy hormonal postpartum period not hesitate to talk with the doctor. Self diagnosis is a dangerous thing! If I had just told the doctor how I was feeling rather than following through with lab tests, I would probably be on medications that might have ended breastfeeding and would still have thyroid issues that could damage my heart from being too high.


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