About (my) Mental Health

depression-clouds

Those of you following the blog long enough may remember that I experienced a mild depression and a few burnouts during the last 3 years. In fact I only started to feel better since last year, and feel truly happy again the last 6 months or so. This morning I read this blog post and it all came back.

In the blog post, Gabrielle said:

“I realize that if you haven’t experienced anything like this before, the idea that I wanted to die might freak you out. But amazingly it’s actually quite normal for someone who is depressed. Isn’t that awful? “

I was lucky that I realized that I was having depression VERY early. Honestly I knew I was having depression when I suddenly understood why people would kill themselves and why couples got divorced. I wasn’t feeling suicidal and I knew I didn’t want to get a divorce, but that time I understood how someone would feel like it was an option, perhaps the ONLY option. I am generally a positive and happy person so that it was obvious to me that something was wrong in me – in my head as well as in my body.

For weeks I cried very often and I felt so alone. I had 2 little children to take care of, no family nearby and my husband buried himself in work. I knew that my depression was still mild so that I didn’t look for medical help. I called my doula to come help me. She came for 3 weeks and helped me tremendously. It was also an eye opener that help was available, I just had to shout for it!

The year after was hard. I was still under post-partum hormonal whack, my husband was “ignoring” us by working all the time (also during the nights and on weekends), we moved house and suddenly there were so many things to do, and me finally staying at home with no income. Bad, bad combination. But thankfully I managed to keep my head above water. I read a lot, and being a scientist I constantly analyzed our situation, I tried small adjustments and easy fixes that some worked. I also concluded that it was partly a very hard early parenthood phase (at least for me – for those in deeper depression it may NOT be just a phase).

When I finally got a space at a day care for my son, I got mended quickly. I could breath, did many of those things on my to-do list, and finally had my me-time. So yes, stay-at-home moms may need help with child-care, too. I know that many of you live in similar condition to me, being too far from family support. I can say that it’s NOT normal to care for your children 100% of the time. Get some help! It takes a village to raise a child – it does!

Paying for a day care while we only have one academic income is A LOT. We couldn’t save, let alone afford vacations. But for that price, I was healing mentally and I believe it saved our marriage (again, I never wanted to separate from my husband, but there was a significant crisis in our relationship). In addition my son loved it there – he could play with other kids and learned French. It was a win-win for us.

As I already mentioned above, things already look brighter for me now. I know that depression is not uncommon among us. Remember that a burnout, as mild as it may sound, is a real mental health problem. Realize it early and take actions, save yourself and those who love you.

If you think you are suffering from any kind of depression, I plead you to seek help. These below are the things that helped me:

  • Postpartum support from my doula
  • Day care (2 full days/week) for my son (then 1y) and Jardin d’enfants (3 mornings/week) for my daughter (then 3y)
  • Stay-cations (we spent many few-day trips in Bern where a good friend lived. It helped us to refresh ourselves while keeping the cost down)
  • Leaving the not so important things aside. Replying emails and blogging were among those. Remember that I only posted a few blogs between 2011-2012?
  • Coming back to my hobbies. I re-started sewing, and even found a new hobby: gardening

By no means I’m saying any of those are for you. You will have to find what works for YOU. My hope is that you can see that even the very simple things may help.

Sometimes, one does need professional help and medications. Please consider them. I know one, Elizabeth Frei, was recommended by many:

Elizabeth Frei, Ph.D.
Centre de praticiens de santé à Lausanne
Rue Beau-Séjour 28
1003 Lausanne
079 954 40 11
www.drfrei.wordpress.com

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for listing any names here, and I had no first hand experience with any of them

 

I hope that by sharing my story I could help at least one other depressed person, and to raise awareness about mental health. Early parenthood is extremely hard, and with all the hormonal changes post-partum mothers are prone to it. But we also know depression can strike anyone anytime, it’s not a weakness nor failure, so don’t hesitate to shout for help!

P.S. If you have more time, do read Gabrielle’s blog post that inspired me to write my own story.

Doula Week 2013: Birth Story by a Dad

This week is the World Doula Week that will last until tomorrow, 28 March. I’d like to use this opportunity to celebrate and thank all the wonderful doulas out there, by sharing some birth stories from parents who were assisted by doulas during their births. This is the third story — and this one is written by a local dad!

vine-leman


Our first birth was a prolonged one, complicated by a umbilical cord that was wrapped around our unborn baby.  It took a long time for the midwife or doctors to tell us what the problem was, and I partly suspect they were unsure themselves.  After hours of what seemed like pointless pushing my wife was talked into having an epidural, which was not part of our birth plan.  From there we ended up in a preped op room with one last chance at a natural birth in the form of a Venteuse assisted extraction.  We were lucky, and on the second of three potential “heaves” that the doctor had allowed us, our little baby arrived.  While he was fine, the clinical atmosphere of the theatre meant that the nurses whipped him away for weighing and cleaning.  My wife could hardly see him, for all he knew, he had no mother in those first very important moments of his life.  Continuing the clinical experience, my wife was refused a drink and treated coldly as she was sewn up.  It had been over a day since the birth had started, it was 4 in the morning, and everyone was exhausted.  The experience was unpleasent, leaving bitter memories of the staff.  Having a second child was far from my mind for many years after that.

When we decided to have number two, my wife found out about doulas and convince me, even though I was sceptical, to invite one round to our house for an informal chat about what role they play in a birth.

I was pleasantly surprised at how a doula could help, and how it wasn’t just about having someone present at the birth to help with decision making in potentially stressful times.  We engaged the doula and over the last few months before the birth I learned all about different types of pain management, stages of birth and all the options available to us, from birthing centres, through birthing pools, all the way to c-sections in case of emergencies.  I am the sort of person who likes to be fully informed before making decisions, and I was surprised to learn how ill prepared I had been for the first birth, even though I had attended three antenatal classes, one of which even included a video of a home birth (somewhat of a shock to my unprepared mind!).

With a birth plan in hand and all my questions answered, the day finally arrived when number two decided to make a start.  We had decided on a birthing centre.  As we waited at home for the dilation to reach the required diameter, I assisted with pain relieving techniques and words of encouragement that we had discussed during the planning of the birth.  This helped my wife a lot and gave her the energy to carry on in a very positive manner.  Due to a minor complication (waters broke, but nothing else really got moving), we were encouraged to go to the local hospital rather than the birthing centre, to reduce risk.  We had learned from our doula that c-sections can often result from simple decisions due to complications early in labour but we had also learned about understanding risk and what the complications meant.  This meant that we were part of the decision making process, rather than having someone decide for us.  That empowered us to feel in control, and because we had a well designed birth plan prior to all this, we were able to look positively toward the chance of a pool birth.  Our doula helped organise this, partly as she spoke perfect french, which I don’t – another reason to have a doula if you live in a foreign country!

A day later, the labour was induced, but not in a negative way.  Rather, my wife was given a drip on a mobile stand meaning she could be mobile herself, during the labour.  That is something which is very important and which I had not understood during the first birth.  During the first birth, doctors had told us it was advisable to have an epidural without telling informing us of why or that its effect (no mobility) could be negative.  There had been no dicussion at the time, which makes sense – there isn’t really time during a birth, because the doctors have to rush from one patient to the next.  Having all the facts before the decision needs to be made makes the decision making process much easier.  The doula can also intervene and give you the information which a doctor may not have the time or inclanation to do.  In our case, mobility may have entirely changed the first birth, and the lack of a doula could be attributed to nearly ending up with a c-section.

Being mobile, allowed my wife to try lots of different pain reducing positions – on a swiss ball; leaning on the bed; squatting on the floor; whatever took her fancy with the ensuing contractions.  With each one, the doula had a new idea on how to manage the pain.  My wife could give feedback and the three of us worked out the best approach for the next contraction.  As well as helping to relieve the pain, it gave us lots to talk about which helped pass the time – another important aspect!

After a few hours, the pool was filled and still on the mobile unit, the three of us and the midwife moved next door to undertake the third and most painful stage of the birth.  The contractions became more intense and longer.  The banter became more serious.  Slowly but surely, baby number two was well on the way to delivery.  Time passed swiftly and before long my wife was taking the last few pushes to conclude a comparitively perfect birth.  “It’s a girl!” was followed by sighs of relief and tears all around, including the doula.  Such a magical experience, one never to be forgotten!  Baby was introduced to Mummy immediately, during stitching, and within minutes was latched enjoying her first milk.  All this had occured with no medical pain relief.

While a lot of the improvements in the second birth were down to a better hospital, the doula helped not only with her presence, but because she enabled us to make properly informed decisions when they mattered.  Would I use a doula again?  Definitely.  Even though I know more about births than before, I’d need a refresher course before undertaking a third birth, and you never know what will happen on the day, where a doula might be able to help.

Our doula was also a hobby photographer and happend to have her camera with her.  A few days after arriving home we received a CD filled with lovely photographs of the successful adventure we had had.

 

*Link to: the first and second stories of this series

*Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Doula Week 2013: The Story of Catie’s Birth in London

This week is the World Doula Week that will last until 28 March. I’d like to use this opportunity to celebrate and thank all the wonderful doulas out there, by sharing some birth stories from parents who were assisted by doulas during their births. This is the second story — written by another local mother, although the birth was in London.

towerbridge-london


I have had two births and two doulas.  My first birth was in London and I was keen to have a homebirth and to be as empowered about my choices as possible.  I wanted a doula so that my husband would have as much support as I was expecting.  He’s not good with “out of control” situations, so I needed someone to help him so I could concentrate on doing my “job”.  He was skeptical about the doula and even more so about the homebirth, but with a lot of information and support from our local midwifery team, he was eventually as excited as I was.  We had several meetings with our doula, a wonderful, warm woman with a husky laugh from Somerset (we had been moving there mid pregnancy, but life changed and we stayed put, but as we felt a great connection with the doula, she very kindly said she would stick with us – at least a 2 hour journey for her).

During our meetings, she did what I had hoped she would do, namely make my husband feel part of the process.  I had already taken him to birthing yoga (oh yeah, I was that keen!) but chatting with Kate really made him feel engaged and “get” what I had been feeling for several months.  We were so excited and happy and with eyes wide open to all the possibilities, we approached 41 weeks quite confidently.

Exactly at 41 weeks, labour started and although my husband went completely hyper and filled the birthing pool with 50 degree water and tidied the hose away, saying it would cool down in time (I can laugh now….), once our doula arrived he calmed down, as he felt there was back up.  She mostly just left us to it, gently encouraging my husband to be the best labour supporter I could have and as he was confident with the support, he relaxed into helping me during contractions.  She was the person who suggested it might be time to phone the midwives and when they arrived, she did not interfere medically, she just helped fill them in with the progression.  She made cups of tea, made sure I was drinking water and when out of the blue I started bleeding and the decision was made to call the ambulance, it was her who gathered up the bags, turned the lights out and made sure we were calm and confident.

The transfer to hospital was the only time I was afraid during my labour, and it was not because (as many people assume) my homebirth dream was over.  I had said all along that if I needed to go to hospital, then it would be for a very good reason and I would happily go.  No, it was because it was the only time I was not able to move about and have my freedom to labour as I wished.  I was strapped to a stretcher and every contraction was very uncomfortable, the paramedic would not stop talking and I was out of my previous very calm headspace.  Our doula suggested that my husband swap places with the paramedic so we could hold hands, something we would never have thought to ask and something that calmed me down enormously.

On arrival, the loveliest midwife met us and helped us get settled.  She was smiley, welcoming of the doula and kept spirits high.  As labour progressed, my husband and the doula took turns in having a break (lucky them!).  It was such a comfort to know that at any time I could look up between waves of concentration and find a smiling, supporting person there to chat to.  She kept me relaxed and encouraged my breathing.  She helped me to visualise open fields and made me breath out with loose lips to help release tension.  All helping to relax me and open the cervix.

When the inevitable shift change came, the smiley midwife was replaced with a sour faced jobsworth, who instantly changed the atmosphere in the room.  I turned to our doula and said “tell me I like her as much as the last one” and she told me that this new midwife had a lovely smile.  Now, even at the time I knew she was just trying to keep me in the zone, but I needed to believe her and it worked, labour was not hindered.  Our lovely doula kept our options open when the new midwife wanted me on the bed and labouring on my back.  She had enough knowledge and experience to be able to persuade them to allow me to carry on bouncing on the ball.  When the second stage started and the totally unexpected gutteral roar ripped out of my throat and the midwife told me to be quiet (!), it was my doula who suggested I project the energy inside to aid the process – a kinder and more useful way of saying the same thing.  When things got a bit crazy and a dozen medical personnel appeared, concerned about the baby’s heartbeat, and my husband hid behind a curtain in fear, it was Kate who held my hand and told me to keep doing what I was doing and not to worry about all the fuss around me.

She stood beside me and my husband as the final stages came round, she reminded the midwives (doctors had all disappeared by this stage, thankfully) that I wanted the baby placed immediately onto my chest if all was well.  And when after he was born and they jabbed me in the leg to hurry along the third stage when I had specifically asked for a natural placenta delivery, it was she who reassured my panicked face that because of the bleeding they needed to get the placenta out quickly.

After our beautiful baby boy was delivered, naturally, with no intervention and no pain relief and I was ecstatic that I had achieved what I set out to do, pretty much the way I had hoped to do it, she took photos of us.  To this day I look at them with such raw emotion that I cannot thank her enough for thinking of all the things we would not have thought to do.  I’m sure we would have managed, but her presence gave us such comfort and such support, that she holds a special place in our hearts forever.  She knew us, and she knew just how to keep the energy in the room and to have our backs when we were apprehensive about what was happening.  Even though the hospital staff was incredible and gave us a very empowering birth, it was just good to know that someone who knew us and our wishes was there to support us throughout.

 

*Read the first story of this series here

*Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Doula Week 2013: The Story of Clare’s Birth at Morges Hospital

Today is the World Doula Day – that marks the beginning of the World Doula Week that will last until 28 March. I’d like to use this opportunity to celebrate and thank all the wonderful doulas out there, especially Inna, our doula who helped with our second birth.

This week I will post several doula stories written by local moms. You will read wonderful birth stories, but will also learn that the doulas in CH face resistance for their presence from many medical personnel (midwives, doctors) especially the ones in bigger hospitals. It’s a shame, really. Many use the rule that there is only one other person allowed in the room, so that if you have your partner there, your doula cannot come. But having our doula for our beautiful and “easy” second birth (more story here), had helped my labor and dilation to progress well (not stalled like our first), which lead to a no-needle-no-drug birth. I really wish they will get the well-deserved acceptance soon at all hospitals and birth houses — and more mothers can have a non (or less) medicated birth.

Here comes a story written by Clare Kutschera, who had Monica Borel as her doula for her second birth at the Morges hospital.

Happy Doula Day and Week!

morges-lakefront


My son was delivered by ventouse in a UK hospital after a 27 hour labour. I spent most of my labouring time in hospital flat on my back, after induction with a static epidural.

When I fell pregnant in Switzerland, I knew that I wanted things to be different. I felt more empowered anyway as I knew better how to exert my opinion, but I still had some concerns.

My husband doesn’t speak French. Would I be able to make myself heard in the throes of labour in my second language? How exactly does it work here? I’d never had a gynaecologist and no doctors were involved in my first pregnancy and birth apart from at the very end. Did I even want to give birth in a hospital?

I cannot remember how I found out about doulas, or indeed how I found our doula, Monica, although it was probably by that good old fall-back, Google.
Monica is an American, married to a Swiss, and her French is very good. That ticked the main box for me. But meeting with her for the first time I realised that she was so much more. Not once did we feel pressured into doing anything we didn’t want to do, or making decisions that we didn’t agree with. She spoke with us about the pain-fear cycle, which was extremely interesting, and helped me to face some fears I still held from my first labour.

She also showed us techniques to cope with labour, and I think this is where she was worth her weight in gold. My husband had been a bit of a bystander at our son’s birth, mainly I think because he wasn’t sure what to do, he didn’t want to get in the way and to be honest all the drips and monitors were a bit scary. What Monica showed us was how he could be involved, how he could actively help me and what to look out for at every stage of labour.

When the day came (well actually my waters broke on the Wednesday evening and our daughter was born on Saturday lunchtime) although she was there, Monica was unobtrusive. She took over soothing and massaging me when required, she made simple suggestions of alternatives and kept our spirits up when we were flagging (and believe me, that did happen!).

We had originally planned that I would go to the birthing centre in Lully, with our midwife, Alice, but as the days passed, and my labour was not progressing, we realised that this was not going to happen. The decision to go to Morges hospital was the darkest point for me. I felt that I had failed and that my labour, which was following a similar pattern to my first, albeit a bit longer, would end up the same. Again Monica helped me.

I went to the hospital on Friday morning. Having Monica there (as well as my husband, obviously!) really helped. Alice wasn’t allowed to come with us as she doesn’t work at the hospital, so Monica offered a continuity of care.
On Saturday morning I was induced for failure to progress. This was just like my first birth. But this time it was different. One difference was Morges hospital. My induction drip was mobile allowing me to move around, as was any monitoring equipment.

The other difference was Monica. On Saturday we met Sandrine the midwife. I explained that Monica was arriving soon (she had gone home during Friday as nothing was happening apart from waiting as my contractions had stopped). She said that she had no problems with a doula, but the big boss might not like it. I started to cry, explaining that I couldn’t do it without Monica, although I knew I couldn’t stop the birth happening even if Monica wasn’t allowed in. I felt vulnerable. We agreed that if the doctors came in the room, Monica would melt into the background.

After the induction was started, and I finally dilated a bit, I was allowed in the birthing pool. I remained in the pool until our daughter was born. All the time Monica was there reassuring us. I remember at different points thinking “she told us about this stage, she explained it to us” and it was such a comfort and such a calming thing to have that knowledge.

Just after lunchtime on the Saturday our daughter was born in the water, after a labour with no pain relief (my Tens machine was redundant!), just with soothing massages from my husband and Monica and hot compresses on my back.
Not long after our daughter was born, and we’d all shared a lunch of bread, butter, cheese and jam, Monica went home. We met up afterwards to talk about what had happened and our epic journey together, and even now, we still see each other occasionally. She was part of something very special and she helped to make it so.

Having a doula was the best decision we made when I fell pregnant the second time. If I was to do it again, I would not hesitate to hire a doula once more. But I’m probably not, so what I will do is recommend hiring a doula to anyone who is pregnant.

 

*Photograph of Morges Lakefront taken from Wikimedia Commons

My Doula and I – Birth and Post-Partum Stories

I feel terrible doing this post VERY late. My baby boy is now 10 month-old, which means I am 10 month late of showing my gratitude to one of the dearest persons I’ve ever known in my life — Inna, my doula. You know, it is very difficult to do a “public” post when there is a lot of emotion involve. And please don’t expect this to be objective, as it is not. But I learned that this week is the World Doula Week, so what a timing to finally post this.

I met Inna through another doula who was supposed to be my doula. Due to family obligation, she could not be there around my due date. She recommended Inna. I didn’t immediately like the idea, as I wasn’t sure I wanted someone I had never heard of before as my doula. But we didn’t have family around. I was afraid that no one would be there for me if the babysitter for my 2-y.o. daughter could not come and my husband had to take care of her. So I contacted Inna.

Inna is a Swiss, originally from Ticino, but had lived in the US for several years and just moved back to Lausanne when I met her (April 2011). She is trained as a nurse, and then on training to be a doula. She had been following my blog so she felt like she knew me, and somehow I also felt the same. I like her almost instantly, kind of love at first sight. We had similar birth experiences, which I think really connected us in the beginning. As I was expecting my second baby, I did not need the pre-natal care, only during labor and delivery. I met Inna once alone, and another time with my husband. The next one was already when I was in labor.

My labor began at 3am. I recognized it immediately. I was really happy, and excited to meet my little man soon. The contraction was strong but not too painful and very irregular, so that I only sent Inna a text to be ready but she didn’t have to come yet. The painful contractions started at around 2:30pm. I called Inna and she arrived soon later. She was really wonderful. The two of us were a wonderful team. Together we tried to manage the pain of the contractions. She helped with massages and labor positions that I felt most comfortable with. She also reminded me to drink and eat, as well as suggested some labor “remedies”. One of the most helpful thing I found was that she took care of noting down the duration of the contractions, so that I could relax. Contrary to the labor of my first baby, instead of checking the clock, I could just listen to what my body told me and prepare myself best for the coming contractions. I felt in control and cared for. With these, I was not afraid of the contractions. I knew that each contraction, while painful, brought me one step closer to welcoming my baby. And I was at home, free from any needle or machine, and could even attend my daughter in between contractions. See my pic below, Inna took it in between contractions. I really smiled, it was a hard but happy labor.

In the end, the whole labor was done at home, and at 7pm I arrived at the hospital (CHUV) only to push. In fact, the baby was almost born in the lobby as I felt the urge to push immediately after we arrived. I sank onto the floor (there, see the arrow on the pic) as I swear I felt the baby’s head was coming.

Then, again, having Inna was priceless. My husband was busy with paying the taxi and bringing my bag. Inna was with me at all times. She yelled to some people there to help. I think only visitors were there at that time, as the reception at the maternity department had closed. Somebody grabbed a wheelchair and they lifted me onto the wheelchair. Inna pushed me to the delivery theater. I remember my eyes followed all the signs (Salle d’accouchements, yellow arrow below), hoping to see the final turn. But I knew it was a quick ride (approx. 50m) so that I calmed down a bit.

Arriving in the room, they quickly moved me to the bed. Pushing was easy peasy. Really. It felt so natural that I didn’t do any effort. My baby just glided out. No pain. No tear. No needle.

The hospital record says:

  • Arrival at the maternity: 19:05
  • Pushing: 2 min
  • Birth time: 19:08

You see, I had a REALLY wonderful birth experience and obviously having Inna as my doula had contributed to it enormously. Here’s a pic of the three of us after the birth — Inna, baby boy and I. I don’t know why I didn’t look happy there, probably too stunned to smile 🙂

When she was my doula, Inna was still in training. To qualify as a doula, she had to assist 2 birthing mothers. She needed me, so that she didn’t charge me anything. I didn’t mind paying though, as she was so helpful and that I finally had a beautiful birth experience (which also means I recovered almost instantly).

The doula story didn’t end there.

Fast forward four months, I had a mild depression. I was unhappy and fed up with our house (we moved to a new house 2 months before). I was tired and needed a break. All of a sudden everything piled up. I hadn’t had any vacation for a whole year, which was hard after carrying a pregnancy, taking care of a newborn and a pre-schooler, organizing the moving house, packing and unpacking, decorating, … the list seemed endless. Those, and perhaps the changing of the hormones, made me blue.

Re-enter Inna. She gladly helped me as my post-partum doula. She came 1-2 times per week for a couple of hours. It immediately changed the whole situation. Just having her around already made me feel better. She also helped with anything that I needed to do. From taking care of the kids, to washing the dishes, to taking me grocery shopping. It was amazing to see how a couple of hours of help could boost my mood. For example, on our very first session, I (finally) could plucked my eyebrows and quickly applied nail polish, and boy how I felt much better afterwards that I could pamper myself! Having her around again was a bliss!

The post-partum doula support last around 3 weeks. I was a much MUCH better person again after. I was glad that I had such help before things got much worse. As someone who is usually very positive, it really sucks to be unhappy.

The best thing is that Inna and I remained very good friends until now. So there you know why this post could never be objective as, man, I love this lady!

(Happy Doula Week, my sweet Inna!)

To contact Inna:
Corinna Rasmann
Français, Italiano, English, Espanol
076 321 26 08
corinnarasmann (AT) gmail (DOT) com

http://www.co-naitre.ch/le-reseau-de-professionnels/doulas/

Copyright © 2017 Lausanne Mom
Credit Crunch Theme by Billion Studio | Valid XHTML | Log in