Becoming a Mommy with Bipolar Part Two: From Pregnant to Mommy

This is part two of a three part series: 

The next thing that troubled me as my pregnancy progressed was how I was going to handle the labor and delivery. My psychiatrist sent a letter to my OB recommending I have a scheduled c-section. I knew that if I started labor at night and skipped a night of sleep that even just one night could cause me to have manic symptoms return.  My OB was hesitant at first but then he agreed when he saw the level of my anxiety around labor and delivery. Knowing the date and time of my daughter’s birth really helped to lower my anxiety. The other concern I had was from a research article I had read that stated that severe pain and trauma such as giving birth could cause mania or depression post partum. I knew a c-section was the right plan for me. 

My beautiful daughter Honey Magnolia was born on June 4th, 2013 and her birth was exactly how I hoped it would be. I was a bit nervous like any new mom, but also quite calm, comfortable and happy. I had my husband right beside me during the c-section and that first cry we heard was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my entire life.  The nurses at the hospital knew I had bipolar disorder and made sure that I had plenty of opportunity to rest. The recovery from the c section was uncomfortable at times but bearable with pain meds.  Everything went smoothly, better than we had hoped for. We brought our little one home with us to start our new life together. I had found out that I was able to breast feed my baby because the levels of my medication in breast milk was low enough to not be harmful.  The only real blip in my mood was that I was “hormonal” for a short time right after the birth.  I cried a lot and was kind of nasty to certain people for about 2 weeks, but I am told that this is for the normal for early post partum changes in hormone levels.  I remember feeling so silly for telling my husband that I was feeling jealous of my baby, as these words came out of my mouth: “ Strangers at Walmart don’t smile at me and my belly anymore, they just want to see the baby” . Going from childless to pregnant to new mom was the biggest changes I had ever experienced since my bipolar disorder had kicked in nearly ten years prior. But I recovered well and enjoyed being a new mom very much.  

Flexibility in your plan is important too. If something isn’t working you need to be able to change your plan. When breast feeding at night became too hard to handle due to the lack of sleep, I pumped one feed a day so that my husband could do one of the night feeds. That way we each got a stretch of almost 6 hours of sleep at night. By the time my daughter was 3 months old, it seemed that we had our normal life back. We had a great routine, and she had been sleeping through the night by 2 months. Unfortunately I had to stop breastfeeding because I ran dry at that time, which my family physician said was due to the medications I take. But 12 weeks of breast feeding was better than none and I had to accept that I had done the best I could for my daughter. Switching to formula in the long run was good for me, I am a social creature and had found I was starting to feel isolated and tied down which is detrimental to my mood– so once the formula feedings started I was able to get out for some much needed visits with my girlfriends. 

All of the worries about my illness that we feared, didn’t happen.  After that first week or two of major hormonal post partum changes I was back to my “normal” self and felt pretty good, although I was as  exhausted as any new mom.  But as good as my mood was, I still had anxiety and paranoia around SIDS. Once she reached 12 months and the risk of SIDS was greatly decreased I relaxed a bit, however from time to time I still worry about it if she has a longer than usual nap.  But luckily, the anxiety doesn’t affect my ability to function as a mother – and when my worries go too far I just check on her. 

Read Part Three: Returning to Work 

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