Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.

  • Thank you for posting this. You’re honest and that’s why I visit every day. Thank you for helping other women out there.

  • Ann

    Whoo-hoo! So glad you got the help you needed. I was wondering how it was going. Marlo is adorable and in her first picture I could see the eyebrows that says she’s your daughter. Lovely family.

  • Awesome. Just, I’m so glad for you guys. I’m glad you can laugh.

  • Janet

    Good for you, Heather! I’m glad you got help right away.

  • ap

    Yea! Glad you’re feeling good and able to enjoy all of this. Any chance your doctor has written a book or something so that those of not living in Utah can access his fast-acting, effective approach? Please share as much as you can; I think a lot of people would benefit.

  • So glad to hear all is going well – and you already know this, but I’ll say it for those at the back – You do what YOU have to for YOUR family. Breastfeed or not (and I did, boy, I did…)loving that baby and feeling “right” with her and Leta is the more important thing in the long run.

    Having a new baby in the house is so much like Mexican food – when it’s bad, it’s really REALLY bad, but when it’s good, THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT.

    Jeni

  • Jo

    I know you said you didn’t want to share what you are taking but I’m wondering if you could possibly make a teensy weensy exception and email me what it is??? Please??? I’m breastfeeding too and struggling more than a little…

    http://minnesotajo.blogspot.com/2009/05/depression-sucks.html

    Jo

  • sara

    i remember the tightness i felt in my chest the last time you were going through all of this – and how i felt like i wanted to do something for you, anything. now i just want to give you a big hug. i’m so happy for all of you.

  • Meagan D

    I am glad to hear that all is well in the Armstrong household! It sucks that you started to get pulled back into that black hole but, at least this time you knew what to look for. Thank you for continuing to tell us of all your personal struggles, it makes it more comfortable to talk to with other people.

    You are truly an inspiration.

  • You just keep doing what you need to do for yourself and your family. And don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you that you’re wrong. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a bunch of faceless, (usually) nameless idiots from the internet criticizing your every move. You could write about washing your hair and 28 people would tell you that you’re using the wrong shampoo.

  • Erin

    Heather, you rock. Period.

  • Lucy

    I’m cheering you on 100%, Heather! With my three babies, on multiple occasions I was prescribed something that the prescribing doctor told me was not good for nursing. I would call the pediatrician’s office and they would look it up in the appropriate reference, and it would turn out to be totally fine for breastfeeding: Doctor #1 was just too lazy or paranoid to tell me it was acceptable. I’m so glad for you that you found a doctor who has been such a help to you. Marlo truly glows – I’m happy you can enjoy her.

  • Kate

    I’m glad that YOU are doing what is right for YOUR family according to YOUR doctor. Forget the naysayers, I’m glad that YOU are doing well, I wish you and your family all of the best!

  • Ann

    I am so, so happy for you! Awesome!

  • Aly

    I love how your doctor knew who you were. You sound amazing, and I am so happy for you!

  • I am so happy that you have it figured out! I hope others seek help when they need it, having a new baby can be so overwhelming.

  • Cat

    YAY! YAYAYAYAYAY! So happy to know it’s going well, I’m sure most of us were wondering and worrying. Can’t wait for the birth story!

  • caroline

    I am so happy for y’all! And good for you for not disclosing the details of the “cocktail” – no need to fuel the crazies fire.

    Enjoy your family of four.

    Oh, write about how Leta is doing with Marlo…

  • You’re fortunate to have found a doctor who has been able to hit the bullseye with his prescriptions for you. I’m glad your relief, your freedom, was almost immediate. Take care of yourself. You’re doing great! 🙂

  • Jessica

    There is nothing more wonderful than the feeling of impossible joy with where you are at right now. So happy for you and your whole family!

  • akteacher

    Thank you for this post, it is exactly what I needed to hear right now!

  • Susanne

    Isn’t it amazing how much better you come to know yourself and what you need as you get older? I have no doubt that your honesty about what you feel and how you deal with it has helped many other women out there who didn’t know what to do next. Congrats on doing the best you can…that’s really all we can do right?

  • Dogmom

    I had been wondering, so thank you for the update. I am so glad you’re feeling better. That baby is so precious, and I am delighted you — all of you — are there to enjoy her. All the best to all you Armstrongs.

  • Christine

    I’m that awful woman that asked you about sleep training in Mountain View CA of all places…Anyway, I can not tell you how happy I was to read that you are doing ok. And I applaud you for taking control!!

    Christine

  • I heart you.

    And also, your baby makes my ovaries explode.

    Lastly, I’m also on medication for being a generally crazy person.

    But really lastly, its so awesome to have someone out there talking about their experiences with depression/anxiety and family.

  • AnEmily

    Happy news! I’m so glad you wrote this. It’s very hard to explain the surreal post-birth experience, but you nailed it. Glad you found a good doctor that listened to you too!

  • I didn’t go through anything nearly like what you did with Leta, but motherhood has completely kicked my ass so far (my son’s 17 months). We have plans to have another kid in a couple years. You give me hope that the second time around will be ok.

  • Bitts

    Re: postpartum medications — at my #2’s 1-month appt, when I was agonizing about how to treat my suddenly-worsening migraines, my OB quipped, “The placenta WISHES it was HALF the filter the breasts are!” Aaaand the migraines are back under control. BY ALL MEANS, you take whatever medications you need to in order to be the mother you want to be.

  • I am soooo glad that everything is going so well!! 🙂

  • Good for you.

  • My good friend and I have been wondering aloud to each other every few days how you’re doing.

    I’m so glad you got the help you needed to get, lovely. A couple of months ago I went back and read the posts you wrote about the depression you went through after you had Leta, and it made me feel strong enough to go see my doctor and treat my own depression. So thank you.

  • El

    Thanks for sharing, Dooce.
    Like Marlo’s dimple, you are extremely, utterly cool.

  • I’m so happy for you, and your family. Thank you for writing this wonderful web page. You inspire me.

  • I’m so happy you’re doing well!

    I also just finished your book not long ago. (Absolutely in love with it, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud so hard as I did at the section where you and Jon were determining what to call Leta’s “parts.” And I’m a David Sedaris fan, so that’s telling you something.)

    Anyway, I feel so immensely happy for you that things are going smoother this time around. You sound so happy.

  • Val

    YES! SO thrilled for you, Dooce. You go, girl! =) And please kiss her for me, like you need any more excuses to kiss her. Hehe!

  • Mel

    You are a wonderful amazing woman.

    Thank you for sharing everything that is going on with you and letting other women know they are not alone.

  • Anonymous

    I think I just cried a little…

  • tine

    you almost gave me a scare but glad to hear you’re doing well. it made me tear for a bit. enjoy this time and you seem as though you were reborn again into this new women. i’m totally diggin’ it 🙂

  • Good for you! You acknowldeged the problem and said “f*ck it, I don’t care what people think because really, are they here doing what I’m doing?” Acknowledging the problem is always the first step in treating it, no matter what it is. Mental health issues have always been so taboo. I’m so happy that there are people out there like you that not only acknowledge it, but get treatment and then find a way to share their experience so that others will know they aren’t abnormal or some freak of a woman! I lift my hat to you!

    And that feeling of wanting to do cartwheels because everything was done that needed to be done and you made it to the doctor….on time? I totally get that!

  • Sarah V

    I’m so happy for you and your family! I also suffered from crippling postpartum depression and have been worried about having another baby. It’s great to hear you and the baby doing so well. Gives me hope for the future! Congrats!

  • There is something so empowering about knowing what do. Knowing what to do about anxiety and depression… knowing what to do with a newborn. My best wishes to you and your family.

  • Good for you Heather. You absolutely did the right thing. You knew you were slipping and you aborted a steep descent. I know that you are aware that it has nothing to do with who you are. Hormones and neurotransmitters. That’s it. I applaud your bravery and openness. Leta and baby Marlo are adorable. I wish you all the very best.

    Sue.

  • That is amazing! I am so happy to hear that you have handled it, gotten yourself back together almost immediately, and you are able to enjoy yourself and your family. I am sooooo happy for you, I can’t even express it 🙂 And thank you for taking time out of your Marlo adoration to update us! We miss you!

  • Deanna

    Rock it, woman! From the mother of one potbellied enraged sports fan yelling infant to another, I say well done you. Congrats to the family.

    Also, the captcha is net douched. Did you douche the internet in between all the talk about vaginas?

  • shylo

    I’m nine weeks postpartum. I’m so happy for you, but I’m so jealous and angry and disappointed in my own situation that I can barely see to type through the tears. I hope things keep going well for you.

  • Kristi

    Yay!

    Please show us a video of the yelling.

  • acm

    yay for the turnaround, and yay for the overwhelming love, and yes with the demands for posting of yelling!

    🙂

  • Megan

    Awwwwww This just made me cry (I’m pregnant – give me a break!). I’m so happy for you and your family. I’m so happy you are doing well. Thank you for sharing with us – your joys and struggles.

  • I’m so very happy for you. You are doing it and CRUSHING it.

    Your girls are lucky to have you as their momma.

  • HappyGrrrl

    After living through a depression that nearly killed me when I was 30, I was determined to never go to that dark place again. A few years later, with the agreement of my psychologist, OB-GYN, and pediatrician, I remained on my meds throughout my pregnancy and (AND!) breastfeeding. My son is almost 4 and my daughter 18 months, and they are both happy, healthy and well-adjusted…and so am I.

    So glad you are living and loving fully. Enjoy your family, you deserve it. 🙂