An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • Jamie Elizabeth

    Thank you.

  • I’m so glad that you posted this.

    Firstly, because it sounds as though things are going well! Though I don’t know you personally, of course, reading this made me smile, and made me happy.

    Secondly, because I had horrible ppd/ppocd. I was in an awful situation, felt trapped, was being emotionally and verbally abused, but on top of that there was PPD. I saw, felt, heard, fully experienced doing horrible things (that I never really did do) to my infant son, things I never thought my brain could’ve come up with. I could not sleep – every eyelash flutter from my son woke me like bombs were exploding. I was lucky, and eventually saw a doctor who is considered to be one of the best in Canada for treating PPD.

    I am not in a situation right now where having another child is feasable (I left my son’s father, and am not in a position to be dating … yet), but the possibility of going through that again scares the pants off of me. Or maybe ON to me.

    It’s good to be reminded that the second time around, should there be one, I’ll know what it’s like. I’ll know how to get help, that I should get help, and that it’s okay to get help, and that there IS help. I’ll know to address it before it starts.

  • i love how you can make me laugh even when you’re writing about crying. so happy you’re feeling well again. day 3 is a killer, eh?

  • Karen

    I am so very happy for you, and for your family. I loved being a new mom better than I have ever loved anything in my life. It makes me happy all over again when I see you feeling that way too!

    Your courage and good sense to wrangle your way in to see that doctor shows a whole new level of maturity, even with all the poop talk!

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you are doing fantastic. I really do respect your privacy and your choice to not share what meds you are on. For sure, I give you kudos for not being ashamed to let the world know about your mental health issues. I am so struggling these days and would give an arm and a leg to live in your city and be able to go find your doctor and let him treat me with a proper RX. Our psych docs here don’t last long. It takes several months to get an appt. then they wont let you come in for another 3 months. Frustrating to say the least. By the time I get to my appt. in August, I will not be surprised if my doc has not moved on to another city. It is horrible to have panic attacks, isolate yourself and be crippled by depression, etc. Thank you so much for sharing how your doctor helped you with the right meds. That gives me hope that there is something out there that can help me, too!

    You are so blessed with your beautiful family. Congratulations on feeling so good and being able to just enjoy motherhood. (and I feel for you on those stitches. Been there and done that 4 times. Ugh. Heal fast!)

  • you go, girl! i am so happy for you and your family. this is a time to breath in fully, and you’re so right about not letting anything take that experience away from you

  • Melissa

    so glad to hear you are all doing well. thank you for sharing your struggle with and management of PPD and anxiety – it really helps so many people. you and your adorable family rock!

  • It’s so great to read a new post, Dooce! I think I can speak for everyone here (even the crazies) when I say we’ve missed you!

    I’m glad you got help early this time and that everything is better now. It’s wonderful knowing that you and Marlo and Leta are making it through this. Just take it one step at a time, girl! You’ll be fine! 🙂

  • good for you heather! i’m so happy you feel normal again. & it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says, you feel normal & your baby is healthy. it is important to find a doctor that knows what the eff he’s talking about & i’m so glad you did. awesome for you! she’s beautiful by the way & i can’t wait to see leta lovin’ on her as well.

  • Kate

    I could not be more thrilled for you—YAY!—and impressed by your commitment to your family. YOU ROCK.

  • It’s true, we have all been wondering how you are doing, even those of us who haven’t directly asked. Glad to hear that you have the help you need and it sounds like it will be a so much smoother ride this time around. Thank God. Or whoever it is you thank.

  • Tina

    So, so very happy for you. So good to hear. And just think your journey as a family of 4 has just begun. Congratulations!

  • ang

    Bravo to you Heather! I respect you for stating your life the way it is and for taking a sense of responsibility (with that of your doctor’s advice) and doing what is best for you and the baby and your family.

    I know you must feel and know it – but wow were you lucky to get to see your Dr. Awesome! I want people to get the help they need, but I know it must also SUCK to get on the wrong meds and just go through hell while trying to find the right mix and tweaking that is right for your body chemistry. So I’m ELATED that this is working for you. Thanks for sharing your story and your life. And I’m glad you don’t care what people think – you’re doing what is best for YOU and your family.

    I have to say that while I know you’re busy, I jones for your posts and I’m SO happy to hear an update! Yeah, totally selfish of me, I know. 🙂

    We <3 and support you!

  • anonymous

    WOW! I am so amazed at your ability to speak so openly about the postpartum depression. So many people act like it’s something to hide or to be ashamed of, which helps no one. It is so wonderful to hear that you are doing what you need to in order to take care of yourself. Keep talking please. So so many women need to hear it; need to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Also, thank you for being honest about your battles with depression in general. I have also struggled on occasion – particularly in college. I feel so much better knowing that I am not alone and that depression doesn’t mean you are crazy or unhappy or dysfunctional. You are an inspiration.

  • Sue

    Heather, I (for one) think that you “done did good” ~ postpartum depression is a horrible thing to experience, and by seeking help, not only are you doing a very wonderful thing for yourself, you are doing a wonderful thing for your family. You are now all intertwined and what affects one, effects everyone ~ and it will be that way for a very long time ~ you need to be there for one another, whatever help you need to make it so is what you need to do.


    The picture of Chuck with the diapers? Totally freakin’ hilarious. I think you need to get one where he looks like some old judge dude…

    “Here come de judge!” (It’s from Laugh In, for those not old enough to remember)

    ((Hugs)) to Jon, Leta, Marlo and most of all ~ yourself


  • Maria

    Yay! I am so happy for you! Marlo is a way cooler name than Maria, btw. I love your blog, it fills my 4:00 hour at work with much needed laughs.

  • Momof3

    Hey Dooce…I have been reading your blog for a few years & think you’re hilarious. I just wanted to let you know that I think you are a wonderful mother & applaud you for getting the help you needed. I have had anxiety for a few years & know how HORRIBLE it can be. I also breastfeed & my children are perfectly healthy. Keep up the good work!

  • I’m so happy for you.

  • Karen

    Love this post! Glad to hear you are alright! Glad to see you’re still writing so soon after delivery! 🙂

  • Caitlin

    Congratulations on overcoming this, once again. Your family will always be happier when you are happier! Loving photos of little Marlo. She is gorgeous!

  • Kate

    Very happy for you and glad that you’re taking care of yourself. Also writing to apologize for my comment to a prior post, begging for the birth story, because that was really selfish of me. Of course we should all be asking how you are doing and giving you more time….as much time as you need.

    (But seriously, where is that birth story?) Just kidding…totally just kidding.

  • YR

    I’m so happy for you and your family!

    I went through postpartum with my first. I was prepared with the meds the MOMENT my second was born. My only regret I was scared to breast feed even though the doctor said it was ok and I didn’t.

  • Good for you for recognizing that you needed some help and doing something about it. Not like you need any affirmation, but I did want to say that I made the decision to go back on an anti-depressant that I had gone off of in my third trimester after just a few weeks off. Wasn’t worth it. AND I am breastfeeding.

  • I am in the middle of your book right now…and I am SOOO glad to hear that things are going so much better this time! Your post made me happy. I worry at times that I will have a hard time when I have a baby…but you give me hope that I can handle anything that comes my way. Congratulations again to you and Jon. I look forward to hearing more about little Marlo! 🙂

  • Jill

    I, too, chose to breastfeed while taking my meds and all is just fine. My little man just turned 1 and I got through the first year with my sanity intact. That’s really all you can ask, right?s

  • Anonymous

    Wish I would have sought help. It’s hard going through it alone and thinking that people will make fun of you if you do tell them about what’s going on in your head. Thanks for your bravery.

  • Hollie

    Congrats, Dooce. The most important thing is to be a good, HEALTHY mother. You are doing the right thing – listening to a good doctor. So happy you’ve found something that works for you.

  • I’m glad to hear that you’re doing all right. Take care, Heather. 🙂

  • jen

    I’m so glad you are doing better and I am so glad you continue to write so eloquently about ppd. I think many women struggle with it and yet feel as though it is somehow their fault and don’t tell anyone about it. Leta and Marlo are such lucky girls to have such a strong mother to look up to.

  • Fuckin’ AWESOME. There’s some dooce CAPS for ya.

  • Feisty

    I’m so happy to hear that it made me tear up. I’m not a crier 🙂

    Congratulations 🙂

  • You are hee-larious.
    And very very wise.
    And very lucky to have a good strong network of support around you.
    Enjoy it all.

  • I am SO, SO GLAD that you all are doing well. Thanks for keeping us all posted!

  • Yay! So glad to hear from you and that everything is going well and you’re getting everything you need. Now whip up that empowering natural birth story- I need to read it asap while this boy kicks me in the ribs and liver over and over.

    Aaaannnnd I just failed my captcha and had to write this over. I’m not a robot, I swear.

  • Tasha

    This is wonderful and congratulations to the whole family. I would love to see/hear a video of Marlo yelling. You know what I’m hearing in my head by the way you described it? That goat that yells like a man on youtube!

  • i am so happy for you… and i wish you and your family the very best!! you are FANTASTIC and are doing a wonderful job!!!

  • Bravo, Heather, Bravo!
    Thanks for letting us in on this. Lots of love to your whole family.

  • Lisa

    I was just thinking this morning of you and wondering what your mental state has been like over the past 2 weeks. I am thrilled you saw THE DOCTOR and you are able to enjoy your time with Marlo and all she adds to the mix. I am insanely jealous of the post you wrote about your new, and surprisingly deeper, emotions involving Leta. I desperately want a second child, but my body won’t let me do it anymore. Your book was wonderful and made me cry outloud in some parts with that, “Yes, yes, me too!” yell.

    I thought panic attacks were normal when you have a newborn, and you are telling us, that no, they really are not. Thank you for that.

  • Richelle

    Heather, you are amazing! Thank you for talking about your experiences. It makes it so much easier to deal with what I’m going through now. I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and last week was diagnosed with Gestational Depression. My family doctor didn’t want to prescribe anything because he is not familiar with what could harm the baby. I was able to get an appointment with the physiatrist that treated me for post partum after I had my daughter and we will discuss what medication I can take that will not harm my child. He specializes in PPD and will know exactly how to help me.

  • Ann

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dawn

    GOOD FOR YOU!!! You go, girl!!!!!!!

  • Isn’t cool when you know what’s wrong and you can deal with it?

    Yes, you must record the yelling…

  • Anonymous

    Just want to chime in with my own Thank You for writing so honestly and publicly about post partum anxiety (which is connected to but not the exact same thing as ppdepression). I had terrible anxiety after I gave birth to my twins, and it took several doctors over a year to find the right medication to get things under control. I am still angry that it took so long to feel better — really, that first year was just miserable and I did not enjoy much of it at all. But I feel great now (my twins are 2 1/2) and I am very open with friends, etc. about my experience because it shouldn’t be a taboo. I wish you the very best with your new family.

  • I do not think you are poisoning your baby. In fact, I think you are doing the absolute best thing for your baby and yourself. Hang in there!

  • YAY! You so deserve to feel this way. Congrats and don’t let the haters convince you that you’re doing anything wrong. You’re taking care of your family, and most importantly, YOURSELF!

  • Heather, if you are feeling like a “regular person who has an infant and can handle it” then you are doing better than most of the “regular” persons out there. Infants are hard to deal with!
    I had my second baby last spring, in a foreign country, with no family around, and because of what I read on your blog I found myself in my Obgyn’s office the first week I was back in the US telling him that I loved the baby, but never wanted to leave my flat. Medication quickly followed, and continued thru the horrible winter. Thank you for showing me that there was a way out of the darkness…
    Wishing you & Jon all the happiness in the world, and I hope that Leta is enjoying Marlo as much as ours are enjoying eachother…

  • Heather, I am happy you got help and that you are feeling better. I am happy that life is so good for you, too. When I saw the title of your post, I thought Oh dear! I knew exactly where it was leading.

    I suffer from anxiety brought on by my son’s health problems. He had 4 heart surgeries in almost 3 years, the first 3 in his first 6 months of life. He is 6 now and doing great but I haven’t recovered so I finally started seeing a therapist. One of the things she has taught me that I thought I would share with you when it comes to anxiety is to let it in. When you feel it coming, welcome it in. Say, “oh it is you again.” That way, you don’t suppress it and it doesn’t become a battle in your body to keep it down. It just arrives and fizzles. It has really helped me.

    I hope your medications continue to help you and look forward to reading more about your family.

  • I did wake up in a bed of liquid chocolate next to a supermodel once, and it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be, trust me. But I’m very glad you’re feeling good about baby this go ’round. And thanks for being so open about the postpartum depression, too. It helps a lot of people, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes notwithstanding.

  • Stenar

    I’m glad you got into that doctor and are doing well now.

  • famousamy

    Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on your experience and or telling it like it is. I am one of many who have been touched by your ongoing story.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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