Postpartum Addiction Personal Story

I am a Woman of Many Colours
Melissa Baker

My Name is Melissa Baker. I am a Mother, a Wife, a Postpartum & Birth Doula, Director of the Edmonton Chapter for PMDA, and I am so grateful to be here!

I am a woman of many colors, and of many passions, that was broken, or at least that is how I felt after the birth of my beautiful daughter Nalanii Night whom was the third gift given to me by my creator as I like to call God. I felt isolated, almost like I could not breathe. On one hand I was so in love with this little baby girl that I had just birthed at home; I had created the most serene, uninterrupted, and beautiful way to bring her into this world. I "should" have nothing to be upset about with the birth I just experienced. I "should" be glowing with joy. But instead I felt like I could not breath.

The signs were so clear, but I could not see. Classic Postpartum Depression symptoms after all three of my children: Extreme over protectiveness of my children to the point that I did not want to share my baby with anyone, not even my husband at times, and Grandparents could not hold the baby even in the early days. I felt I needed this time; I completely isolated myself, to the point that at times I did not want to get out of bed to face the day, nor my children. I felt as though I was a complete failure and that there must be more to life than this. The pain & mood swings were unbearable at times, always weepy & just wanting to escape; the very existence that I had always wanted to create, a family, had become a prison. I felt like I always had to have control over something, because I had no control over any other aspect of my life.

This experience wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life, especially my marriage. If I had any unresolved issues from the past or childhood, it was coming out in full force; birth can be a catalyst for unresolved pain we have not healed from. I was a strong woman who had raised a child on my own for several years, before meeting my husband and committing to the transforming union of marriage. I had many opinions on the idea of marriage from my childhood that I had to adjust too, plus a new baby, my second child. With a six month old baby, I found out I was expecting again. Shocked, devastated, and confused, I felt helpless and not ready. I was barely married over a year, we had moved to a new province, bought a house, and my husband started a new job. I had left my career to stay home with my new baby, and we could hardly make ends meet financially with two children. How could we do it with three? I was so scared and confused, and quite frankly angry that I had no control over the decision to have another baby. I had no choice but to accept it; I moved on and prayed for an amazing life altering birth experience, which is what I was gifted with.

Baby number three came into this world on a beautiful August morning in the safe environment of our home. I was still feeling angry & moody, a full emotional storm of fragmented feelings. Looking back on this time, I now know that I had suffered from Antepartum Depression during my pregnancy. Another common misconception that all woman are or should be joyful when pregnant - this is not always the case, nor should it be. More accurately I would say pregnancy is a very difficult experience with joyful moments rather than it being 40 weeks of joy. I was frightened to be left alone with both children who were, just days old and 16 months. My whole body was grappling with this idea of two babies, I wanted to be detached from breastfeeding, yet I loved holding her so much. I just needed a break somehow. As the weeks went on I felt guilty all the time because I could not spend quality time with my middle child, and of course, my oldest who was 8 at the time - he got little attention to his needs. This meant I literally had none of my needs met, and my husband’s needs were at the very bottom of this list. How can a family survive like this? Or cope with a mother who is emotionally unbearable and confused as to why she is upset half the time. There were some very dark times when my husband and I were estranged from each other. We just did not know how to make our life together work with all of this added responsibility and no support. I think some contributing factors to my PPD state were a lack of social & emotional support, changing hormones, low self-esteem due to my postpartum appearance, feeling inadequate as a mother because I did not breastfeed as long as others, feeling isolated and alone, serious financial issues, and a catalyst of life changing events. It was an incredibly difficult time.

With the instability of my emotional state, I needed people and support more than ever now. Instead, I pushed people away, and of course being in a new community I had no close friends I could trust to confide in. I picked up habit forming behaviors like micro managing my household, and having a glass of wine in the afternoon became a regular event just to get me through the day. I began to self-medicate so I could cope with the pain of my failing marriage and the guilt of feeling like an inadequate mother. Thinking back, it is hard to see how much pain I was in during those years, It was such a blur. I should have reached out, but I could not, to me it meant failure. I could not deal with the day to day needs of the little ones; I barely had time to go to the bathroom, or even take a shower, and puttting on makeup did not even happen anymore. I did not want to wake up to the cries of my infant daughter; I was shutting down & nothing made me happy. I went down this spiral until I hit my bottom, and did not seek help for my substance abuse issues until my daughter was almost a full year old. I truly did not know how to be a wife, or a mother, as these things were not modeled to me as a child. I was only doing what I grew up in. My life was spiraling out of control; I was telling people I was fine & smiling on the outside, but inside I was crumbling. I wish now that I had sought help for Postpartum Depression & Addiction sooner. Counseling, a Support Group, or Postpartum Doula would have been invaluable!

My life has changed dramatically over the last two years. I began working through the pain of my past that stemmed as deep as my childhood. I healed my relationship with my mother and father. I started going to counseling, and I have wonderful friends who I can call if I am having a rough day & need to talk. I have this organization - PMDA, and all of the wonderful woman who share this experience, strength and hope. I have my faith, which has revolutionized my journey as a mother, and a wife. Motherhood is a delicate dance. For me it is about progress not perfection, and I am ok with that. It is a stage of life that can be really hard & exhausting. It is not forever, it's just a season...
Only after my daughter was 15 months old and with a full decade of child rearing experience behind me, did I begin to see how devastating this misunderstood & very often misdiagnosed illness can really be.

Distraught, Exposed, Fragile, Out of tune with my body, and Exhausted physically - emotionally - spiritually.
I didn't know what to do or where to turn...
You may be told these symptoms are nothing, but a woman’s intuition is her best device. Listen!
From the book: What your Doctor may not tell you 1999. Jon R. Lee, M.D., Jesse Hanley. M.D., Virginia Hopkins.
They only treatment offered most of the time seems to be anti-depressants. I am not opposed to anti-depressants, but felt I needed to explore other options. I wanted a doctor who would hear my concerns, and more natural solutions. I found an M.D. who specializes in natural medicine. I described in detail my symptoms and the situation with my children and husband. He explained to me that my symptoms were very normal for a woman with so much on her plate. Two children so close together and my body just could not keep up with all the changes, emotionally or physically. Basically, when we are pregnant, our bodies produce the equivalent of 100 progesterone pills a day; give a woman back her progesterone - her mother hormone, her essence hormone - and you give back an opportunity to reconnect with herself. I tested with complete estrogen dominance, a common issue among Women with many contributing factors including pregnancy, and other hormone imbalancing contributors, like xenohormones. Xenohormones are substances not found in nature that have hormonal side effects. They can be found in synthetic estrogen & progesterone, such as those found in birth control remnants of urine that has been flushed and then worked it's way back into the food chain. Exposure to these can cause huge hormone imbalances like estrogen dominance. Side effects can be severe mood swings, irregular periods, and depression.

My Doctor prescribed natural bio-identical progesterone, NOT synthetic. This has made a huge difference in the way I feel day to day. Also taking a more holistic approach to life and integrated approach to the treatment of PPD, prescribed to me as: nutritional therapy, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, moderate exercise, adequate rest, emotional support, stress reduction techniques, and the elimination of caffeine, alcohol and other drugs.

Before I was a mom, I had never been puked or pooped on. I had complete control over my mind and my thoughts. I slept all night. Also, before I was a mom, I never looked into teary eyes and cried, I did not know the feeling of holding my baby outside of my body & never wanting to let go. We are mothers and it is the hardest job in the world! Let’s go easy on ourselves, and remember one day at a time. I am a survivor of a perinatal mood disorder. Speaking out and telling my story is one of the most cathartic things I have ever done. Looking back and healing from words that can be spoken, and maybe help other women along the way. Don’t stay silent, reach out. Organizations like Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness Ltd. are here to help you. Woman get so much support before their baby is born, and then are left alone to deal with the aftermath of reality. We need to stick together, create community, find the village and support one another.

Where am I at now… well I try to nurture my own soul, while embracing the delicate dance of family. I always try to maintain peace by creating balance within chaos. I am a certified DONA (CD) Birth Doula and a DONA Trained Postpartum Doula, I am the volunteer Edmonton Chapter Director for PMDA, and I currently speak in prisons around Edmonton & area - sharing my experiences, strength and hope with other woman & men raising our next generation of children. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story!