Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

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.

  • Stacey

    Good for you. Good for yours. “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” You have so much more than something. Right on…

  • Candace

    You are a very HONEST, REAL woman who puts a face on inspiration! Thank you!

  • 🙂

    Once again, the brave Dooce we know and love. Not that you went anywhere, just saying, you’re shining brighter today than usual.

    Now give Marlo a kiss for Teh Internets!

  • Melissa

    Even though I’ve never gone through post partum depression, but have lived through depression & anxiety (and also take medication daily) your description of the anxiety is so amazingly accurate. I try to describe to people what I feel like when I don’t take my meds. They don’t get it. YOU get it! Strangers on the Internet Get it! I am SO thankful to have your blog to read!!

  • Anonymous

    you go, girl.

    Look at it this way — whatever it is that causes the black cloud to come and eat your head — whether it’s a chemical aberration or whatever. It’s the stuff that is NOT normal.

    With doctors and medication, you ARE normal (well…whatever your definition of normal is, but you know what I mean).

    So you owe no explanation or apology to anyone for choosing to be NORMAL.

    Glad you have the strength to give the intarwebs the finger and do what you need to do to make the four of you happy.

  • Well done chic. You know at least you have people who share your experience and can relate……
    I had to have a blood patch done because the hospital screwed up my epidural – no bloody joke – they went too far and pierced the epidurum straight into my spinal fluid and column and made a hole so that my spinal fluid actually leaked out – the only fix??? A bloody nightmare called a blood patch…..has anyone else out there ever had one of these?????
    It only happens to one in 2000 people……..and yep, I drew the short straw…..

  • Ada

    Wonderful, awesome, terrific… so glad you got the help you needed as quickly as you did so that you don’t have to miss a moment of joy in this experience.

    Thanks for your candor and spirit…

  • You’ve empowered MANY women with this post. Glad to hear you are well, that you managed to site the problems and then know what to do, face it and address it! You have a healthy and gorgeous family Heather! xoxo

  • Lisa

    Good for you! You did the right thing……..there is no reason to suffer through this when there is SO much help available! Enjoy that baby!

  • Kim W.

    Glad to hear. And… thank you. I hope you know how many you’ve helped with your writing and honesty and humor and all that.

  • I am ECSTATIC that you are enjoying Marlo! My sister-in-law experienced the same anxiety with her 2nd child and the pain had its grip on her for 10 months. That was 10 months she could have been enjoying her baby but wasn’t. Kuddos to you for recognizing the problem and having the humility to admit it existed so that it could be resolved. You’re an inspiration to all mothers out there who want to love their baby but can’t!

  • I’ve just recently been turned on to your blog–and I gotta say–I like you! Just the kind of refreshing honesty I need in my day. I’m glad you’re feeling better–I’ve been there, and relief certainly didn’t come that quickly. Good luck to you!

  • Sadie

    You must get this yelling on video! Marlo is adorable btw. Thanks for sharing all the cute pictures : ]

  • Heather, I am so happy for you that you got the help you needed and that you’ve been bonding so well with Marlo. What a gift!

    And those 19-year-olds need to know that our delicate flowers don’t come naturally waxed. Thank you for that important public service.

  • Mama V

    Rockin’! Good for you!

  • –>Take the drugs and enjoy the time with the newest member of your family.

    I realize in talking to more and more of my “new-Mom” friends that we never talk about post-partum depression. Ridiculous!

  • Yay Heather! Enjoy. Every. Minute. (even the poop filled ones)

  • Yay!!

    I’m so glad you posted this!! I’m also glad your new meds are working and you don’t have to miss ANYTHING!

  • Heather I am so glad you share this part of your life, even though it opens you up to such harsh and cruel judgment from perfect strangers.

    A few years ago my mother was telling me a story about some people she goes to church with. Their daughter had been hospitalized with PPD and they thought she was doing much better. Sadly, one day about 6 mos. or so after her baby was born, this poor tortured young woman drove to a Sheetz, bought a can of gasoline and went out into the woods. She doused herself in gas and set herself on fire. It was a horrific tragedy and she so loved her child. She even left her a note.

    The care women get for PPD (and mental health in general) is sorely lacking in my state. It would be fantastic if you doctor would write a book about his treatment! Possibly other physicians could learn from it! Good Luck to you and Jon! You are good people doing your best to live your lives. Just like the rest of us.

  • Susie


  • Pam

    I did not have PPD with my first child, so when it popped up with my second I had no idea what to do! Thankfully, I had doctors who also helped me get back to my normal again very quickly. Thank you for sharing your story, Dooce!

  • Vee

    I’m so glad you’re doing well. Thank you for being so open and honest. I re-read your entire blog and I cried and laughed and am so grateful you’re not afraid to talk about depression.

    Love to you and your beautful family.

  • Alyxherself

    I get how much you understate with humor, and I think that is why the need-a-sledgehammer-to-get-it crowd gives you grief. They just don’t understand, comprehend…they just dont get it.

    Bits said what I wanted to, that the body has A FILTRATION SYSTEM ppl.
    You go be a good mom, and cool person, and loving wife 🙂 And hey, thanks for all the years here, and doing what you do. You’re like a fun public service announcement for common sense.

  • You can count me among those who have been wondering (caring) how you’re doing post-birth, but I didn’t want to be the one millionth person to ask you.

    Heather, I am so, so glad you are feeling good again & are enjoying gorgeous Marlo. For people like us that need them, meds are a wonderful thing.

    You & I spoke briefly in Portland about my similar experience (you even let me hug you), and after years & years of trying different meds, or thinking that my issues were just me, that violent mood swings were just a part of who I was, or denying that I really was depressed, I now have a referral from my doctor to see a psychiatrist about being bi-polar. When I told my mom, she said ~ are you sure it’s not just postpartum? (my “baby” is 14 months old) So many people just don’t understand what it’s like to feel this way, so I thank you, again, for being brave & giving others the strength to be brave, too.

  • Sally

    Not only am I not going to pick on you for taking meds and breastfeeding, I want to know what you’re taking and I’d like you to overnight be a month’s supply! 🙂 I don’t even have a newborn! But you sound like you found the perfect medicinal cocktail that takes most people somewhere between and year and never to find, and by people, I mean me.

  • Anonymous

    you just made me cry – and I am not pregnant or postpartum – I am sooooo happy for you. Enjoy your family 🙂

  • Erica Hennings

    Awesome! Glad to see that when you “tripped” you acted like it was nothing and just jogged for a few steps like anyone else who trips in public! Medicine is a wonderful thing and you should feel no shame in getting help. Screw what everyone else thinks!

    Glad things are going great. Waiting anxiously to hear about the labor and miracle of it all.

    Much Love from Memphis,

  • Jenny

    I don’t normally comment but I just had to on this one. I found your blog a year ago. I loved it so much that I started at the beginning and read forward.

    I applaud you for doing what needs to be done to keep yourself healthy. Luckily this time you knew what to watch for and were able to jump on it early. Don’t listen to the negative people out there. Only you can decide what is right for you.

    As a dedicated reader, I want to say congratulations and please know that your readers are so happy that everyone is doing well!

  • It’s good that this time you were able to recognize the signs and were able to get competent help immediately. I was ok after my son was born, but I am still grateful that my doctor talk to me frankly about PPD and made it clear that if I needed help he was there. Good doctors are a great gift.

  • Anonymous

    My newborn is 10 days old today…..named Marley (as in Bob Marley). Many congrats and glad I have company in the world of sleep deprivation.

  • Stacy Wittmann

    I’m so happy to hear that you are doing okay. Thanks for writing.

  • Amen girl. You need to take care of yourself in order take care of your baby. You are inspiring.

  • Amy

    I am so very happy for you. Happy that you took the step and went to the doctor. Happy he could help you and happy that you’re adjusting. I’ve been thinking of you and your brood and hoping everything was fine. I’m so glad it is.

  • Sara Houston

    Tears, woman! You give me tears like only that movie P.S. I Love You can give me. Mazel tov to you, Jon, Leta, Chuck, Coco and, certainly not least, Marlo. I am so happy for you and this new, great experience.

  • I’m glad things are going well. I’m SO glad you went right to the Dr when you were having a problem.

    You are always funny.

    Love you.

  • I want to hug you right now, is that weird? In a totally platonic way, of course. I read your book shortly after giving birth and have read your blog for ages, partially because I can relate so much to your anxiety/panic/depression issues. Fortunately, I avoid postpartum depression or any other issues. Anyway, big hugs to your family and my little guy has a big dimple like that too!

  • Laura

    Be happy!

  • Jen

    No one should have a problem for you being pro-active. No one. I am happy for all of you…and that little Marlo is just too much for words.

  • jennifer

    It’s amazing that you are willing to share this experience. I know there are so many women who go through the same thing after birth but don’t get help. I think your writing will educate women to know that there is a way to get and feel better. Thanks for sharing.

  • Holy crap. I read this post, and there were 147 comments. I checked out two (just TWO!) pictures, came back to make a comment, and it jumped by 32 comments more to 179!

    I’m sure by the time I’m done typing this comment, I’ll be # two bajillion and eight, but that’s okay.

    Your baby is beautiful. And I’m glad you’re fully able to enjoy this experience on such a sane level.

  • Liz

    Fantastic! I’m glad to hear you’re feeling well and adjusting to a new little baba! She’s gorgeous! Enjoy!

  • Valarie

    Been there with panic attacks…hell on earth. All I can say is good for you…you go sister…right on…congrats…and all other good, supportive stuff. You helped me to stop feeling like a freak for what I went through after my 2nd was born, and what’s great is I know I don’t even have to tell you how invaluable that is. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Hooray! That first 48 hours after natural childbirth were awesome and amazing. And then I came home and wept because things I needed were upstairs and I was downstairs and I’d been told to make no more than three trips up and down the stairs daily. And also, I realized I was suddenly terribly incompetent for this thing I’d undertaken, you know, the whole responsibility for another life thing. Panic! Fortunately, I was able to trudge through the first two weeks by promising myself that I’d feel better the next day, the next day, and the next day, and damned if it didn’t turn out to be true. I feel incredibly lucky that it happened like this for me–five weeks in, and I feel exactly like my old self. I could do with a bit more sleep, however…
    I’m so very glad you were knowledgeable and confident enough to be able to nip the horror show in the bud this time. I know you don’t blog to be an example for others, but what a wonderful example you are to women who are hesitant for whatever reason to ask for help in an incredibly fragile time.

  • Cyn

    To #32 “anonymous”: It’s and THEN I cried, you absolute idiot. If you can’t speak English, why should anyone take you seriously?

    Heather, I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing so well and the girls are beyond beautiful. I think one of the many things that makes depression so powerful is the shame that our society has attached to it. You are doing so much for women (and men) everywhere by being upfront about your experiences. We really need you. Thank you for your honesty, you are an amazing woman.

  • the niffer

    I’m so fucking happy for you that I can’t help but type these!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Pain-med-free birth is the best drug I’ve ever had. And I did a few drugs back in the day. 😉

  • Kate

    Good for you, Heather. I’m so glad to hear that things are going well for you this time around.

    In other news, I think my daughter-to-be (due July 30) will be named Marlowe. 🙂 It occurred to me after we chose it that you have a Marlo, too!

  • Erika

    Good for you.
    And (this isn’t directed at you, Heather, this is directed at anyone who’s reading this & wondering about drug safety for themselves) if anyone out there is wondering if it’s safe to take a certain medication while pregnant or b/f’ing, there’s a book called “Drugs in pregnancy and lactation” that can give you answers. If you can’t find it, call the medical library at your state univ., and have one of the librarians look things up for you.

    Kiss that baby. And don’t do what I did at 10 days ppt, and have a dream in the middle of the night that you’re eating an onion (?) and wake only to find that you bit her on the forehead. Just sayin’.

  • Jen

    I love you. When you share these stories with me it makes me feel less alone. And it makes me feel like I can get through each day. Because you can do it, I can do it, too.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Rhonda

    I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!!! Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  • Katie

    Oh, Heather, you make me cry! Then again, I’m 11 weeks pregnant and Tylenol commercials make me cry…but I digress. I’m so proud of you; you really give me hope for myself once my little one makes its entrance. Thanks for being so honest (and funny!). You’re such a good person.

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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