I’ve had people ask me how I’ve felt emotionally since having L. Compared to how I felt with G, I feel really great! But, I also decided to start Zoloft as soon as I could after giving birth (which was 2 days postpartum). Am I constantly crying and feeling resentful like I did in those first eight weeks after G was born? No. But I don’t always feel like I can cope when things get a little hard at home.
I promised myself, and Hubby, that this time would be different. I would be proactive with my mental health. November was a hard month with Hubby working a lot of overtime. I was having several meltdowns a day being pregnant and taking care of one child. How the hell would I be able to handle two alone all day, or night, I wondered.
During that hard time, I spoke to my midwife who saw no problem giving me something as soon as L was born. This left me feeling surprised and relieved. I assumed I would have to “wait and see” how I was emotionally before I could be given something. I was relieved that she didn’t see the point since I had postpartum depression before. Her reasoning, “Happy Mommy, Happy Baby” and by the time I got help and let the medication kick in I could have lost months of precious bonding time. Time I had lost with G. Time I didn’t want to lose with the next baby. It was the only thing about my pregnancy that she was willing not to use the “wait and see” approach for, and I’m grateful for that.
November also gave me the kick in the pants to start finding a therapist in the area who specialized in postpartum mood disorders. I wanted to see someone who knew who they were dealing with. I couldn’t go back to my last therapist; she tried making me feel guilty for being on Zoloft and nursing G, among other things that made me upset.
I spent several months trying to find a therapist that fit the very few requirements I had. Every time I thought I fond someone in the area, I’d find numerous bad reviews. I kept stumbling across Postpartum Support Virginia‘s website which has recommended therapists for the state. However, there are none close by to me. The closest ones were about 40-60 minutes away.
I stopped searching after L was born. It wasn’t until I was hysterically crying one night because I hadn’t slept and L didn’t want to sleep and Hubby wouldn’t help either of us that I realized I needed more than Zoloft. The meltdown gave me flashbacks of the first six weeks of G’s life and it scared me. I didn’t feel depressed but I didn’t feel right either. Also, I had been told by the OB and midwife I saw after G was born and the one I saw this time that I needed to wean off the Zoloft after three months. I was nearing that point and I didn’t want to wean without having “an expert” to talk to.
I tried one last time to find a postpartum therapist in town. I asked my midwife. She didn’t have any recommendations. Then I asked the pediatrician. She told me to ask my midwife. Not knowing who else I could ask without making it publicly known to people I didn’t want knowing what I was going through, I printed the list from Postpartum Virginia’s website and started researching the therapists in Northern Virginia. I figured that if I couldn’t find someone close by, I may as well find someone close to my family who could watch the boys while I tried talking about emotions and feelings with a stranger.
The thing I like about Postpartum Virginia’s list is that the therapists and counselors on it are ones that are recommended by others. It didn’t take me long to find a counselor I wanted to try out.
My biggest concern was cost. Hubby and I had already agreed that money couldn’t be a deciding factor in who I saw. I haven’t had much luck with the in-network therapists my insurance suggests. After speaking with the counselor on the phone (I’ll call her Ms. H) she offered to give me a discount on her services. I felt a little guilty about that, but reminded myself that I’d also be commuting a total of two hours for these visits — and that was if traffic wasn’t bad — with two little people in tow, one of which hates car rides.
I was nervous about my first visit. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to talk about my past, my relationship with my husband, what things were like for me growing up. I wanted to talk about what I was feeling now. I wanted to discuss weaning off the medication that might possibly be keeping me leveled out.
Ms. H decided to start with the here and now, which I really appreciated. She wanted to know about L’s birth, how I was feeling after, what prompted me to go on Zoloft, how long have I been on it, was a nursing, how often, how were the baby and I sleeping. Amazingly, and probably for the first time in three years, I wasn’t choking on the words I was saying out loud when I briefed Ms. H on my story of loss, grief, and postpartum depression.
During that first session, we made a list: pros and cons to staying on Zoloft. I realized that the one thing that finally made weaning off it successful was G sleeping through the night. With Ms. H’s help, I began realizing how important sleep was for me. How important it is for all parents with perinatal mood disorders. I started realizing it was probably best to stay medicated at this point.
I admitted I was hesitant to continue taking it because so many medical professionals told me it wasn’t something to stay on long-term. Ms. H said she hadn’t heard of that before; that most psychiatrists she knew recommended staying on it for about 9 months. The three-month rule didn’t make sense to her because it took almost that long for the full effect of the drug to work. Why would you wean off something that just started making you feel better?
It didn’t make sense to me either and I remembered that it was about 11 weeks before I felt awesome on Zoloft when I started it after G’s birth. I also reminded myself that after I attempted to wean off it the first time, I stayed on it for almost 5 months before making another (and successful) attempt.
The visit gave me something to think about. I thought about the list and decided it was best for myself and my family to continue taking the Zoloft.
I left that visit feeling confident I found someone who knows how to talk to postpartum parents and is going to know how to help me talk about my feelings and emotions and offer tips on how to get a handle on them when I feel like they’ve taken control. I’m really hoping it’s worth the commute to see her. Being stuck in the car with my kids gives me heart palpitations.
If you are struggling with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD), know you aren’t alone! To find a therapist or support group in your area, or to talk with someone over the phone who understands, visit Postpartum Support International.
To help raise awareness of PMADs, I have started a new series, Surviving the Darkness. If you’d like to read more stories of survival or are interested in participating, please read this post.
This post originally debuted on 5/12/14, but updated with resource links on 4/13/18.