When you depend on a medley of medication to function as a normal human (or relatively normal in the case of my bipolar self), it's incredibly scary to give them up. My personal cocktail of pills has not been proven to be 100% safe during pregnancy, with several birth defects accredited to one of them in particular—so procreation for me meant going cold turkey.
The decision for us to "pull the goalie" was not one we made lightly. In truth, it was made at the Beijing International Hospital within the 4 tiny walls of my psychiatrist's office. Later, it was discussed in detail yet again with my therapist. Hot, right?
The consensus among all parties (I even got to weigh in a little) was to gradually reduce all doses to zilch over the course of 6 weeks. Undoubtedly, I was heavily monitored during that time—not just by my doctors and my husband, but by my mother, 6000 miles away through the telephone (with a 13-hour time difference I might add). You haven't lived until you've tried to convince someone of your mental well-being while shouting over the crowds of Chinese women negotiating the price of a kilo of dragon fruit at the local market.
At the end of the 6-weeks, it was go time. I got knocked up faster than a lady bunny in the prime of her fertility. And then, we lost that baby. Heartbreaking. Debilitating. And honestly, confusing. What to do now? Get back on my meds while we wait to try again or hold out so that we don't have to go through another 6-week weening period?
We (all parties included) decided I would stay off the 'scripts so we could give it another go. The thought was that an on again/off again pill approach might make me even crazier. Clearly—not the objective.
Thankfully (but I mean seriously, thank you, Jesus) we were pregnant again in less than 2 months. This time, it stuck. We have Olive Bee to prove it.
After 9 months of pregnancy + 14 months of nursing (can't take my specific meds while milking either) it was time to get back on the bottle...of pills that is. I nursed Olive one last time. Cried about it. Then, I popped a few pills and in a couple of weeks, I started to feel like myself again.
When we decided to go for baby #2—it was time to repeat all of the above. But for this round, I was already prepped with coping skills to combat what pregnancy hormones and nursing endorphins couldn't.
For any of you struggling ON or OFF meds (it's every mamas prerogative to take or not to take) during pregnancy or nursing, I wanted to share my formula for survival. It's not a guarantee, and it is in no way a replacement for true medical assistance—but in my specific case, it helped get me out of bed on dark days and calmed me on crazy ones. Perhaps it can offer some relief to you as well.
Let It Go + Get Moving - Reading x Maintenance = Sanity Sans Pills
Let It Go:
I will never forget my introduction to Cognitive Therapy.
"What a crock of sh*t", I thought to myself, as I smiled at my therapist like a good Southern Girl. But I'll be damned if that crock of sh*t doesn't totally work.
Like anything, practice makes perfect, and now after years of work, when I coach my brain to toss the "bad crap" into the river, it's as if I am literally watching it float away. My mood changes. The storm lifts.
Bottom line—look into this. Study it like it's a new language opening your world to another culture. Because it is. Because it does.
Perhaps you are thinking, okay 'Captain Momvious', of course exercise improves your mood...and everything else. But I'm not telling you to train for the NYC marathon. I'm telling you to sprint up and down the stairs when you feel so overwhelmed or agitated that your skin is crawling. I'm reminding you to get up and walk around the block when the world is falling down around you. A little goes a long way and in that moment when you feel your body is working against you—make it work for you.
Okay. I'm not literally telling you to stop reading. I'm telling you to read wisely—and perhaps I am telling you to stop reading idealized parenting books because guess what? Sometimes a baby just DOESN'T sleep...no matter what you do. It's not your fault. You are not failing. That f'ing book is just making your feel that way. Burn it. (And PS...if any of the implied books "worked" for a friend, she probably just birthed a baby that likes to sleep.) Some moms have all the luck.
Maybe it's as simple as a manicure. Maybe it's allowing yourself to take a nap or sleep in one morning. Maybe it's drinking a cup of strong coffee or eating a non-organic, completely unhealthy snack that makes you feel like a rebel. Maybe it's calling your best friend to join you for a wine drinking lunch (on a week day...gasp!). Maybe it's meditation. Maybe it's prayer (lots of this for me). Whatever it is, sometimes you have to come first.
Because here's the truth mamas— a Type I Diabetic woman can still medicate with insulin during pregnancy, but in many cases a mentally ill woman cannot continue with her medication. For that reason, other methods of coping must be developed and used. There is no shame in the game. Mom Guilt is an epidemic among the masses, but it's time for us to realized that if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't take care of everyone else.
I must share that this "formula" is just one part of my coping routine. I continue to see my therapist and my psychiatrist (even when not on meds). I openly and honestly talk to my OB, and I even check in with our pediatrician. All of that on top of keeping open communication with Brett, my mom, close friends and family.
Pills & Pregnancy don't often go hand-in-hand, but that doesn't mean that a pill popper (I'm referencing a legal and smart PP of course) can't make a baby and nurse a baby in a healthy and responsible way. I am so grateful that my body responds to pregnancy and breastfeeding in the way that it does. I know that I am lucky in that regard, but I also know that I am taking action. I am staying on top of it—for the sake of my husband, our babies, my family, my friends, and last but not least myself.
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