This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Familiar territory

Yesterday morning after a bit of a blurry night, one that resembled the many blurry nights before it where the newest member of the family periodically yelled orders and shot butterscotch poo four feet up and out the back of her diaper — wait, have I mentioned yet that Marlo doesn’t cry? I’m serious. She doesn’t string together a chorus of wailing like many other babies her age, but, and this is a HUGE but, a Kardashian-sized but that makes everyone in the room stop and stare and wonder HOW IN THE WORLD that thing fits through a door, the kid can yell. And I mean, YELL. Like, the referee has just called the runner out at home base and the coach runs out, throws his ball cap on the dirt and starts rattling off a string of obscenities that I wouldn’t even repeat on this website, I KNOW CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT, that kind of yelling. Pot-bellied, weathered by years of tragedy and illness and unemployment kind of yelling. Drunk on scotch and just got home from the coal mine yelling.

Where was I? Right, yesterday morning. Somehow all the pieces came together and everything that normally has to get done on a Monday morning got done. Leta got dressed, the dogs got fed, Marlo burped and ate and yelled about the wet diaper that had leaked all over her onesie. And then, here’s the kicker, I took a shower, washed my hair and applied mascara. If you’ve never lived with a newborn you’re probably going, huh? What? There’s a point to this? YES. IN FACT THERE IS A POINT. AN EXCLAMATION POINT. A THUNDERING HERD OF THEM. Because then we got into the car and made it to Marlo’s two-week check-up on time. Without any crying or screaming or chucking heavy appliances across the room. I guess the only way to explain the significance of this to someone who hasn’t ever lived with a newborn is to imagine waking up in a bed of liquid chocolate next to a naked supermodel. And then suddenly you realize that while you’ve been sleeping someone came in and wallpapered your room with Twizzlers and one hundred dollar bills.

I felt so powerful, so victorious, like I could crush solid granite with my hands. I wanted to turn cartwheels across my front yard, except for that whole STITCHES IN THE LADY PARTS thing. Yes, I did just go there, my apologies to the 19-year-old boy who is reading this in his mom’s basement. Listen, you just go right ahead and think that all women wax themselves bald down there like the pictures you see in that stack of porn underneath your bed and pretend I didn’t just suggest that on occasion, when the MIRACLE OF LIFE is involved, that beautiful flower of a body part has to come face to face with a needle and thread.

Now, on to something I feel like I need to tell you right away. When I sat down to write this I realized that this is a bit out of order, that I should tell you about labor first, but then I felt like I shouldn’t wait because so many of you are wondering and have written to ask, how are you? How are you coping? Do you think the dark cloud is going to eat you alive again? Because what I experienced after Leta was born was so monumentally awful, bad enough that I eventually ended up in a hospital. What if it happens again? You know the odds are that it will happen again, right? Aren’t you scared out of your mind?

And so this is what’s going on…

The adrenaline rush I experienced after going through a natural birth was unlike anything I’ve ever lived through before. It was so powerful that I didn’t sleep for over 48 hours, and I was giddy, so happy and high and certain that I could move mountains. From the moment they laid Marlo on my chest I was in love, and she and I bonded instantly. For two days she was attached to my chest and I did nothing but marvel at her every feature. That fascination with her has not changed, and neither Jon nor I are experiencing any of the shock that we did when we brought Leta home. In fact, it feels like we are just continuing where we left off when Leta suddenly shifted from newborn to giggling baby. Breastfeeding is so much easier this time. In fact, it’s an absolute joy, and both Jon and I can change a diaper with one hand while multi-tasking with the other. There is none of the crazy stress that was there when our lives shifted from childless couple to Family of Three.

However, on day three something happened. At first I thought it was the sleep deprivation catching up with me, so I ignored it. But by day five and six I couldn’t pretend I was okay anymore. I started having panic attacks and such severe anxiety that my hands started to contort and clutch into twisted positions that I could not relieve. I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep, and my mind started spiraling into dangerous places. I was so angry, so frustrated because there was no reason to feel this way. Intellectually I knew everything was okay, and my god! I knew what I was doing! I loved the baby and knew how to meet her needs! WHY WAS I PANICKING?! There just wasn’t a good explanation for my crippling anxiety, but there it was. And it was robbing me of the experience I was determined to have.

So early last week we called the doctor who treated me in the hospital back in 2004. He does not normally see patients who are not in the hospital, but by some lucky twist of the universe he thought I was someone else, someone whom he owed a favor, and agreed to see me as an outpatient. And two days later I’m sitting there on a couch in his office facing him as he contorts his face in an effort to figure out just who the hell I am. And I’m sweating, and the anxiety is crawling up my body and paralyzing my neck, and he’s all, hmm… you’re not who I thought you were. But here you are, and dear God, woman. You look just awful.

So he pulled up my record from five years ago, glanced back at me, looked back at his computer, and that’s when I involuntarily blurted out, “I wrote a book about my experience in the hospital.” Maybe to let him know that I was serious? That here I was dumb enough to try and do this whole thing again? And he immediately whipped his head around and said, “You’re THAT woman?”

Yes. Indeed. THAT woman. The woman who writes about poop and hemorrhoids and stitches in her vagina YES DEAR GOD THAT’S ME. Listen, my Republican, Mormon, gun-owning father read my book and he still loves me! That counts for something, right? I guess his wife had heard about my book, and when she was describing it to him he knew immediately that I had to have been someone he treated because of the speed with which I healed. He treats postpartum depression very differently than most doctors, and his patients usually see results instantly. And that is exactly what happened with me in the hospital five years ago, I took a cocktail of meds and within two hours I felt like a different person.

So we did a lot of talking, and since he’s been treating women for this very condition for over 30 years I did a lot of listening and learning. The odds were completely stacked against me, and he said that if I had been gearing up and treating the possibility of this in my third trimester I might have been able to avoid it. But since I didn’t it was time to attack it now. So he made a minor tweak to my meds and asked me to come back and see him in two weeks, and I am not even kidding, I felt better that night. In fact, better does not do what I was feeling justice. I felt free.

So what about breastfeeding? That’s what you’re all wondering, I know, and this is what I’m going to say: he thinks that what I’m taking is perfectly safe to take while breastfeeding. He’s prescribed it before to women who are breastfeeding and everything has been perfectly fine. No, I’m not going to talk about what I’m taking because one, it’s no one’s business, and two, I don’t care that you think I’m poisoning my baby. I also think that anyone going through this needs to consult their own doctor and make an informed, personal decision about their individual situation. And then go on and live a better, happier life.

I’ve been on the new meds for over five days, and I haven’t had a panic attack once. I feel like a regular person who has an infant and can handle it, and during my pregnancy that was exactly what I was aiming for. Turns out I needed a little help, a tiny adjustment, but here I am and I am loving it. I love what it has done to my relationship with Leta, what it has helped me see and appreciate in Jon, and I love that I can barely stand to be away from that baby for a minute. Jon has been watching Marlo so that I could write this, and a little bit ago he came rushing downstairs with this kicking, yelling, hungry bundle in his arms, and it was like I hadn’t seen her in years. And that yelling… that raucous, staccato, one-too-many-beers yelling… it didn’t make me cringe, it made me laugh.

  • Elizabeth

    Wonderful….

  • Anonymous

    I’m so glad you’re taking care of yourself and having such a wonderful time with the bewitching Marlo. I have nothing but respect for you. Congratulations!

  • k_darling

    You are amazingly hilarious and awesome. That’s all.

  • Kaylee

    I literally JUST finished your book. Your writing is so sincere and entertaining that I ran to your website in search of more. I was SO happy to see a new post and it fit right along with the book I JUST FINISHED 2 SECONDS AGO!! 🙂 Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    SO SO HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU! Glad all is well! ENJOY!

  • You sound like you are exactly where you need to be that and your family is doing great. Marlo is lucky to have you.

  • Jeni Reno

    Yeah, that makes me so happy, for all of you.

  • Carrie

    Psst…teenage boys don’t have stacks of porn hidden somewhere anymore – it’s all on their hard drives. And they don’t even pay for it! Crazy, right?

  • Jenice

    I am so glad that you are taking care of yourself. And thank you for being real and quite funny at the same time. It’s refreshing.

  • Jamie

    I’m so glad to hear you and your family are doing so well!!

  • Judy

    We need a video so we can HEAR it! Congratulations.

  • I’m glad you feel better. 🙂
    I’m only on the fringe of the mental health field. I’m a psychologist-in-training, but a different kind of psychologist: one that helps people in the workplace, not with mental health. Needless to say, I know a lot of mental health practitioners that are probably cheering you on right now for getting the message out that the pursuit of mental health is not something to be ashamed of. Go you. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I had crippling postpartum depression after my first child. When I felt it coming on again after my second child, I also did whatever it took to make it stop. I didn’t take meds the second time around, but I was not afraid to step right up to everyone I saw, let them know my issues and make them help me out. No more being secretive for me — that was my downfall the first time.

    Point is, it must be easier the second time around because we know exactly what we need and we WILL NOT STOP until someone gives it to us. No apologies, no asking nicely.

    Good for you for taking care of yourself.

  • It is awesome that you recognized the signs early on of the panic and went to see the doctor to have a minor “tweak” and feel so much better. Also glad that you haven’t had a panic attack in five days and that you’re taking it stride and able to laugh at the “raucous, staccato, one-too-many-beers yelling”. 🙂 You’re an inspiration for talking about this Heather and sharing with the world it’s not rainbows and kittens that people want you to believe when you adjust to having a baby (although I don’t have one I remember my brother’s HUGE adjustment and yours from reading your book).

    Props on the sharing Heather and glad that everything, while zombie haze of adjustment and minor tweaks and talking, is going marvelous. Go Armstrongs. 🙂

  • Carrie

    Heather – Congratulations and rejoice…For Marlo, for natural childbirth, for owning yourself and taking care of yourself, for not waiting.

    You are truly an inspriration.

    Keep feeling well!

  • really glad to hear you’re doing well, dooce.

  • Jill

    Congratulations and I’m so glad you found a quick resolution this time around! Both of your children are adorable.

  • jooj

    thank you for your frankness. oh oh oh so refreshing.

  • I was so afraid to ask if you were going through this again. Ugh! But I’m so happy you’re OK now. I’ve had two kids and can’t imagine what that type of depression does to a woman. My regular, standard depression does me bad enough! Take care.

  • You’ve given us all a new found respect for people who battle depression and it’s so great to hear that you’re doing so well.
    I hope PPD becomes something that women feel more comfortable talking about in the future. … and boobs and poop. I don’t want them to feel left out.

  • Crystal

    I’m really glad that you are feeling so good now and are able to enjoy your family the way you should!

  • Another benefit of having more than one child – knowing what to do and taking charge. Liberating, empowering and very ‘free’.

  • Another benefit of having more than one child – knowing what to do and taking charge. Liberating, empowering and very ‘free’.

  • Good for you. I’m glad things are going well (for the most part) and that you’re so straightforwardly (don’t judge) honest about what’s not. If someone with an MD thinks you’re good to go…then do it. And know that we’re all thinking of you (and your very cute family).

  • cb

    bravo. now that i’m out of the fog and my little one is almost 16 months…yes it took that long….i realized that i went through some bad spouts of postpartum. how and why was i denying it all those terribly lonely and hard months? i was co close to divorcing my soul mate. phew! so glad i got through it. now i’m looking to have another and so afraid of what it will do. thank you for all your honesty and bravery. and bravo for the natural childbirth.

  • Sara

    Awesome. I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  • Nelly

    Good for you going for a little “tweaking” and getting help so quickly. You’re right! It is no one’s business but your own. Having recently been diagnosed with anxiety I’ve heard judgment from others about meds and I tune it out, because you know what, I feel like me and I can carry on without crippling anxiety.

    The love for your family is pouring out of your screen right now. All the best & thanks so much for sharing with such good humour!

  • Marissa

    Congratulations on handling everything so well and making the decisions that are right for you! Marlo’s pictures are helping remind me of the joys of having a newborn and shifting my focus off the anxiety of having my second at the end of August – 8 years after my son.

    Oh yeah, stitches in my lady parts – can’t wait for that again!

  • Sarah

    I’m so happy to know this friend.

  • kidsmom

    This made me cry.

    I’m on medication,too, but the crying is okay.

    Enjoy your life.

  • Marisa

    I think it’s empowering for other women out there to read your story and hear about your treatment’s success. As a woman who has not given birth, your explanations of all things baby make me think that it’s possible to be a mother and not completely lose my sanity in the process (and I mean that sincerely).

  • Anonymous

    your book sucked. and than I cried.

  • Scargosun

    Whoo hoo! Way to go! Way to have the courage to ask for help when you need it and way to go that you know your body as well as you do. I am very happy for you!

  • Hayofray

    Congratulations, for not just the baby, but all of it.

  • hippittee

    rock on armstrongs!!

  • Margie

    You go girl!!! I am so happy for you and your family and that little one is just as pretty as her older sister.

  • emeraldwednesday

    Glad to hear it’s going ok. Congrats!!

  • Please provide video of the yelling….please.

  • I hope everything goes well for you. Your doc sounds like a good guy.

  • Please provide video of the yelling….please.

  • Anonymous

    So happy everything is going well for you and for Marlo. Can’t wait to read the HEAR ME ROAR Natural Labor story.

  • Dee

    I can’t begin to describe how happy I am for you.
    For all four of you!

    Happy enjoying, and all the love in the world.

  • Sarah

    I am so proud of you for coping so well and on behalf of all the Crazies out there thank you so much for letting the world know that it’s ok to feel that way, it’s ok to ask for help and it’s perfectly acceptable to medicate and live a normal life.

  • Rebecca

    You make me smile. Thanks for sharing!

    Much love from Texas!

  • Mari

    I’m glad you recognized the symptoms right away and that you’re feeling better.

    For other women who may be suffering from PPD, here is a useful website:

    http://www.pamf.org/health/toyourhealth/postpartum.html

    And this is the story of a woman I’ll never forget:

    http://www.melaniesbattle.org/story.html

  • Michele

    Even in the midst of the sleep deprived haze that is the first weeks with a newborn you are hilarious! After the birth of my son I did not possess a funny bone for quite sometime! Glad to hear everything is working out! Who cares what anyone else thinks…if you are healthy and happy, along with Jon, Leta, Marlo, Chuck and Coco…who gives a rats a*s!

  • Anonymous

    i’ve been following your story for awhile now… so happy for you and the family! 🙂

  • Megan

    That is so awesome. I too have dealt with post pardom depression and have anxiety thinking about another baby. I’m so happy for you and hope that one day the “yelling” or crying will make me laugh instead of cringe

  • Lisa

    I am so happy you went almost the exact instant you realized the dark cloud was coming back. And I am happy Dr.Awesome fixed you up so quickly and you are able to be the mother you want to be.

  • thanks for premeditating our questions and answering them in the way that only you can answer them.

    congrats on rushing out the door to get the help you need. not a lot of new mom’s do this and it’s great that you’re sharing your story.