By Sharon Dodson
Memphis TN USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 2, March-April 2000, p. 41
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time
Postpartum depression eats away at the quality of your life at a time when people expect you to be joyful. Once diagnosed, a breastfeeding mother is faced with a hard decision. Should she forgo medication and possibly delay her recovery or take drugs and worry about their effects on her newborn? When I was confronted with this dilemma, I chose another route - alternative medicine.
My first child, Mollie, was born in 1980. I had a very long labor and eventually had a cesarean birth. Even though this wasn't what I had planned, the hospital staff was so helpful that the experience was a positive one.
After the birth of my first child I was ecstatic and, at the same time, a little apprehensive. I hoped the "baby blues" I was experiencing would pass and things would get back to normal soon. I didn't realize at the time that my life wasn't going to go back to the way it was before, that "normal" had changed for me. However, my low mood ended without an incredible effort on my part, and in 1983, my son, Zach, was born. I was ecstatic to deliver Zachary vaginally. Many people had told me that it wasn't possible. I think my elation over his delivery lasted for months.
Years later, after a divorce and remarriage, I gave birth to my second son, Jack, at home with my husband close by and surrounded by warm, supportive midwives. I felt as though I could do anything after Jack's birth. When he was nine days old, we were already out of the house attending our older children's ball games and school recitals.
Andrew was born 15 months after Jack. I could hardly wait for his birth. I knew that each of my births had been a better experience than the one before it. I planned another home birth. We decided when I became pregnant with Andrew that he would be our last child, so I had high hopes for a birth experience that I would always remember. My hopes were realized, but not in the way I intended.
After trying for quite some time to push Andrew out, it became obvious to all of us that I would have to be transported to the hospital. I had another cesarean birth followed by physical complications that continued to bother me well into the following year. The doctors who treated me were rude and condescending and the rest of the medical staff seemed to follow their lead.
I was anxious to get out of the hospital and into a more positive environment. Of course, at home the reality hit. I had four children, two of them 15 months apart. I was tandem nursing, diapering two children, and wanting to make sure my older children didn't feel left out. My husband, Scott, was (and still is) a huge help. But at that time, he had a boss who was very demanding, and he was under a lot of pressure at work. Add to the mix that I had just had major surgery and was housebound for some time. Slowly but surely, my baby blues took a turn for the worse.
I had a loving husband, four healthy, happy children, and a supportive group of friends. We had a roof over our head and food on our table. And still, I was depressed. The daily crying and the feeling of hopelessness intensified, and I finally realized I couldn't pull out of this alone.
I went to see a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and was told I was a classic case. While the sessions helped some, she suggested that I take medication as well. I knew it was possible to take some antidepressant medications and breastfeed but this wasn't the path I wanted to take. I've always been hesitant to even take a painkiller while breastfeeding, and the idea of taking antidepressants was even less appealing.
So there I was: I still needed help. I turned to my midwife who suggested I see a former partner of hers who was a lay homeopathy therapist. I knew that she had helped several friends of mine through various physical ailments. I had only dabbled in homeopathy. While I wasn't entirely skeptical, I was not sure that this would help. The main consideration was that I wanted an option that was safe while nursing.
At my first of several visits we talked at length about my emotions, my physical complaints and just about life in general. We spent quite a bit of time talking about my family, the one I was born into, and the one I gave birth to. She suggested a course of treatment that included homeopathy and flower essences, which I started that evening.
Within a few weeks, I was feeling much better and the deep despair was gone. I continued to see my therapist while I took the homeopathic and flower remedies. Slowly but surely, I returned to my old self. I tandem nursed during the course of the treatment with no problems and was thankful not to have to be concerned about the effects of the alternative medications on my sons.
Some mothers who are diagnosed with postpartum depression need prescription medication. Other mothers do just fine with therapy and no drugs. I'm happy I found another way to make it through that difficult period and learn to enjoy life to its fullest!