I'll just admit that I'm addicted to internet queen Heather B. Armstrong's website, Dooce.com. Just this week, I learned about exploding toilets and talking to Oprah without any pants on--all from mommy blogger Heather.
Heather chronicles her life in detail as a mom with a kid--and another one on the way. Her ups and downs are insightful, funny and helpful. They let me know I'm not alone. She has been candid about her upbringing, her religion, her marriage and even her serious struggles with depression.
Heather has a new book out about pregnancy and depression called It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown and a Much Needed Margarita.
I recently talked to her about it in person.
Cafe Kristen: What's the hardest part of new motherhood for you? Taking care of the baby or the depression that ensues?
Heather B. Armstrong: I don’t know if you can separate the two. I just had no idea what I was doing. I was very cautious about my milk supply. I thought if I set her down, she would die. I would put her down for a nap in her room, and try to do some work. But I’d check on her every 30 seconds. I felt guilty when I had those thoughts. Leta was probably 6 to 8 weeks old when I realized that it wasn’t getting easier or more manageable.
CK: What was your depression like before pregnancy? How serious was it?
HBA: I had really severe depression in college and was treated for it. I remained on my medication until we got pregnant. When I went off the medication, it was pretty severe. I had episodes of rage. It was severe and crippling after the birth. I didn’t sleep for 7 months. I could not unclench my fingers because the anxiety was so bad. I had no help. I was taking care of a newborn and myself. It was the most isolating, lonely and desperate experience. At the end of July, we went on a weekend trip with my family to a cabin in Utah. I had several episodes where I couldn’t handle my anxiety. And I physically couldn’t unclench my fingers. I said to my husband, take me to the hospital, I’m not going to make it thorugh the day. He was relieved. I checked myself in after that. I was only there for four days. I met the right doctor and got the meds. Then I went home, and it was like night and day.
CK: So, you had to stop breastfeeding after 6 months with Leta to go back on medication. What's your plan for this baby?
HBA: Yes, I had to stop breastfeeding. It was devastating. I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding, I had finally gotten good at it. But weighing the pros and cons, there was no question. Absolutely, if you’re depressed, it's more important to get meds than to breastfeed. The next baby is about feeling it out, playing it by ear. I totally plan to breastfeed. We have the number of the doctor who treated me in the hospital. I feel like I have an arsenal of tools I didn’t have last time.
CK: What tips do you have for other women who are dealing with or worried about depression, pre-baby and post-partum?
HBA: I’ve never done something so isolating as having a baby. Understand that it’s normal, you shouldn’t feel guilty abut it. Find friends online or in real life. See a therapist. Take medication without feeling guilty. All of this is with the advice of the doctor in the hospital, pre- and post-partum. He recommended I not go off my Prozac, and I will continue to take it afterwards. Huge difference.
Have you dealt with depression? Do you read Dooce like I do? What are your favorite websites?