“EVEN THROUGH ALL OF THIS, I still didn’t know I had postpartum depression. It’s a sick thing, really. But I had no idea. Because through it all, I still sang to my baby. I cuddled him. I kissed him. Through it all, I loved him. My demise was purely personal. I was dying inside, but somehow, I had sheltered him. And I thought that made everything okay.” ~Natalie Telyatnikov, Founder, Better Postpartum
My story isn’t remarkable. And it certainly isn’t glamourous.
It’s actually quite common. Like–1 in 7 common.
Although, if we’re being honest, it’s probably even more than “1 in 7”–because statistics can only be as accurate as the people reporting them–and I, for one, somehow managed to slip through the cracks of the system, and remained completely undiagnosed throughout my entire year-long-bout of postpartum depression, which I had after the birth of my first son.
It still puzzles me, to this day, that neither I, nor a single one of the plethora of pediatricians, OBGYNs, or any of the other specialists I came in contact with during that time in my life, thought that maybe–just maybe–given the glazed-over look in my eyes and the tear stains on my shirt–I was perhaps in a state of crisis–and suffering from depression.
So let’s say it’s 1 in 5 women, for arguments sake. Or maybe 1 in 3. Heck. Let’s just assume most every woman has it, to varying degrees, after they give birth. Because really–why wouldn’t they?
So yes–I had postpartum depression after the birth of my first child–a thing I am still working on admitting. And strangely, I didn’t even know it, until after the experience was over.
It literally wasn’t until I was (albeit ironically) sitting in an auditorium, getting trained in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and Components of Care through Postpartum Support International, that my tears started to flood, as I slowly and painfully realized that my early postpartum life completely mirrored that of the subject matter being presented. I was sitting there, getting trained to help women like ME.
OH MY GOD. I had PPD.
Now–let’s back up, for a moment.
I am sure you might be wondering why I was unaware of the state that I was in–especially if it was as seemingly obvious as I am making it sound.
Well, the reason, I believe, was three-fold.
First off, culturally, here in America, we have no real understanding of what Postpartum Depression IS. Extreme cases we hear on the news would have us believe that so long as we don’t turn psychotic after giving birth, complete with thoughts of harming ourselves or harming our babies, then we must have steered clear of PPD. [Don’t even get me started on my soapbox of how inaccurate this is. PPD is actually marked simply by feeling any combination of overwhelm, stress, anxiety, weepiness, anger, etc. What I described above is called “Postpartum Psychosis,” which is far more rare, affecting only 1 in 1,000].
Secondly, no medical professional I came in contact with even so much as suggested the term, and I was conditioned to hold their opinions of me in very high regard–even above my own intuition.
And thirdly, there has been this mass, gross, ‘normalization’ of being unwell, in our country in particular, but also, around the world. What I mean is: You could practically walk around saying: “I have loose stool every day, and I’m bleeding from the eyes,” and your peers would likely give you a pat on the back and be like:
“Oh yeah, that’s happened to me before. Just hang in there friend. It gets better. Think happy thoughts.”
So there I was, a new, starry-eyed, adequately-sleep-deprived mama, who loved my baby fiercely, but all the while suffered from crippling amounts of insomnia, fatigue, stress, overwhelm, resentment, guilt, and shame. And I just thought: “Geez. Motherhood! Am I right?”
I felt so challenged by motherhood. So perplexed that nobody had told me it would be SO HARD. Some days, I would wonder: Had I made a mistake? Maybe I wasn’t ready for this? Where had I gone wrong, and what had happened to my life?
Now, I could go on-and-on about the beautiful, natural, textbook HypnoBirth I had with my first son, because–ask anybody–I love reliving the glory of it.
So much of it was truly beautiful.
I gave birth with a midwife and a doula by my side, at a birth center that was reminiscent of a charming bed and breakfast.
So why was I unhappy?
Well, perhaps, it was because I was leaving out the inconvenient parts. The hard parts. The parts I never wanted to talk about.
Like the fact that I had vaginally delivered my son ‘posterior,’ and so he broke my tailbone. I hemmoraged and tore badly. I needed much stitching and suturing. The first thing I felt after hearing my son’s first cries, was a needle of pitocin forced into my thigh, to stop me from ‘bleeding out.’
These interruptions–both chemical and physical–ended up taking their toll on my entire postpartum experience.
The chaotic aftermath of my birth had rendered it impossible for me to hold my baby to my chest, because I was in too much pain from being stitched up, to hold him. And once I was reunited with him minutes later, our attempts at breastfeeding didn’t work. (In fact, I was never able to get them to, which was depressing in and of itself. But that’s a story for another day).
And so, as one might imagine, my physical, mental, and emotional recovery in the weeks and months that followed this whole ordeal, (which was simply, the act of giving birth), was nothing short of horrific.
Every time I had to excrete, I had to gulp back tears: it felt like I was birthing another baby.
When I tried to have sex again after the “6 week-okay” mark, my stitches reopened and I got a resulting UTI and bladder infection that started spreading to my kidneys and made me unbelievably ill.
My breastfeeding incompetence created Mastitis in both breasts. And so, another horrific infection and illness ensued.
On top of all of this, I had become anemic and hypoglycemic after my massive bleed-out. My energy tanked, and I became unhappy. I barely had the energy to take care of my newborn, let alone anything else. My whole world was slowly slipping away from me, and had been replaced with a needy and starving baby who scream-cried every hour or two all through the day and night. It honestly felt like torture, especially the part about never being able to sleep at night for more than a 45-minute stretch at a time, and there were many times that I thought my heart might just give out, and it would be the end of me.
Soon, all of these crippling things surmounted and blended together, making my health worse and worse.
It was not long before I had turned into an anxiety-ridden insomniac; no matter how tired I was, I could never ‘go under’ into REM sleep. I had heart palpitations every night. Some of which felt like they could escalate into mini-heart attacks.
In this condition, as you might imagine, I could barely function. I had become a shell of my former self, and I couldn’t live my life alone. I needed constant company, and if ever I was left alone with my own baby for any stretch of time, I would nervously watch the clock thinking: “Okay, Natalie. You just have to keep going for X more number of minutes until you get reinforcements. Then relief will come.”
I routinely cried and hated my husband for going off to his long days of work. Because how dare he leave me alone, to die like this???
And through all of this–YES–EVEN THROUGH ALL OF THIS, I still didn’t know I had postpartum depression. It’s a sick thing, really. But I had no idea. Because through it all, I still sang to my baby. I cuddled him. I kissed him. Through it all, I loved him. My demise was purely personal. I was dying inside, but somehow, I had sheltered him. And I thought that made everything okay.
It wasn’t until after my son’s first birthday, that I really got a clue. He started sleeping through the night, but I didn’t. He continued to grow and thrive, while I got sicker and sicker. I landed myself in the ER on several occasions for unexplainable episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. Every time, despite monitors and blood tests galore, I was left without answers. They told me I was fine. But I knew I wasn’t.
Desperate for answers, I became my own doctor, desperately researching and reading about my seemingly unexplainable and unlinked symptoms: insomnia? diarrhea? vomiting? hair loss?
And by the grace of God, I found Anthony Williams, Medical Medium, and some very interesting research on “adrenal fatigue.”
Astoundingly, after only 2 days of adopting the suggested dietary changes for curing adrenal fatigue (which by the way, none of my “Western Medical Doctors” thought was a ‘real thing’), my sleep and other symptoms all started improving. After 2 weeks, I felt much improved. After 8-12 weeks of strict dietary cleansing, I was making seemingly magical strides back toward my former, robust state of health.
Once I was finally finished dealing with fixing my physical recovery, I of course, had loads of healing work to do to both my heart and mind. I’m talking about the kind of emotional and mental therapeutic processing that I am still uncovering layers of, 4 years after the fact.
I went on to dedicate my life to making sure that no other woman would ever go through what I went through, without proper education, support, healing tools, and a clear and easier path through to the other side.
I am now a trained doula and postpartum support specialist and a certified postpartum care practitioner, who has already helped over a hundred women (and counting) through my work with Life After Birth CT.
I am also the proud Founder of Better Postpartum, which I created so that all women could access knowledge about true postpartum support and healing–the kind that our post-birth physiology mandates that ALL women SHOULD have–in order to ensure a happier, more healthful postpartum for ourselves and our babies during that crucial first year of life together and beyond.
My husband once brought home a shirt for me, from one of his FINTECH business conferences, which had inscribed on it, the words: BUILD. BREAK. LEARN.
It was supposed to refer to the job of a tech engineer.
But this was the most meaningful gift I had ever received. Because the words on this otherwise unimpressive, plain, gray T-shirt, had encapsulated my entire journey of motherhood so wholly, and so completely, that it touched me to my very core.
BUILD. BREAK. LEARN.
I stared at it, in awe. I had BUILT a new life. It had BROKEN me. And from that experience, I LEARNED everything I needed to know, to both better serve and support myself in having a totally exuberant, vibrant, happy, healthy and all-around-blissful postpartum experience with my second child (a son born to me via a beautiful home birth just 10 months ago), and to then also be able to support others to do the same.
You know: I actually created Better Postpartum while postpartum myself. I created the entire program throughout my second son’s infancy and babyhood, starting when he was a mere 8-weeks-old. How was this possible? Because throughout my entire postpartum this time, I felt SO GOOD. SO ALIVE. SO energized and passionate and purposeful and amazing!!!
Because the healing methods and modalities I devoted my life to learning–those that are shared in Better Postpartum–really work.
Because as it turns out: Postpartum recovery, hormones, sleep, nutrition… all of it can be managed.
You CAN make your body and mind work for you, instead of against you, after you give birth to your baby. And you can even live on to benefit from a more vibrant state of health after birth, than you enjoyed pre-pregnancy! (That’s not just my opinion, that’s a scientific fact.)
It was a long road to recovery, but I now know in my heart that everything I went through was a means to an end, ultimately leading me to my purpose in creating this incredible resource for women… a ‘one-stop-shop’ containing the wisdom of every professional that any expectant or postpartum mother would need to hear from, in order to experience the most enriching and rewarding postpartum: the sacred, small window of time they have to thoroughly enjoy their baby, on the other side of giving birth.
Anyone remember the epic ’90s movie, Field of Dreams? The famous quote from it is: “If you build it, they will come.”
Well, I’ve built it.
So now the rest is up to you.
1 thought on ““If You Build It, They Will Come:” My Postpartum Manifesto”
I love this! I can relate to so much of what you wrote and strongly agree with the large number of women who go undiagnosed. I had it with my first 2 births and like you, didn’t realize it until I was coming out of it. I even brought up my concerns at every postpartum visit after my first birth (which was unfortunately an unnecessary cesarean surgery) and was told by the doctors that what I was going through was completely normal and would eventually get better. They repeated this at each visit even after I told them that I could barely get myself to and from work as I had to drive while sobbing and cried multiple times in the bathroom during the work day. Physically, I seemed healthy and I, too, showered my baby with love. In fact, he was what kept me from going completely over the edge. The depression returned shortly after the birth of my second son with all of the unprocessed emotions from the first birth. Again, I was told that my experience was normal and didn’t need attention or professional help. Eventually I seemed to be doing better. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my third and was flooded with extreme fear and sadness that I realized I truly needed help. Thankfully, I was able to get help processing the first 2 births and had a beautifully healing VBA2C followed by an incredibly supported postpartum period. I’m so grateful for the work you are doing so that women can finally get the support they deserve. It is very needed.