Posts Tagged ‘ death ’

Taking Antidepressants When Pregnant

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Full disclosure:

I take antidepressants.

I will continue to take them through my pregnancy.

I took them while pregnant with Fia.

Internal conversation:

I can’t believe what you just revealed. Hurry. Duck and run for cover!!

No. I’m not going to. It’s time to get this conversation on the table.

You sure? You will be nailed to the cross on this one. Judged and deemed unfit for motherhood.

I don’t believe that. I think women are terrified of talking about this. I think many will feel relief that I’m admitting my own dirty little secret. They may carry the same secret. And it’s okay.

Do what you will but don’t say I didn’t warn you…..

Alright, it’s out there.  And I’m not shying away from it. It is my truth.

In my post about my dying mother, I mentioned her bipolar disorder. I breathe a deep sigh of relief that I don’t have that. But I do struggle with depression. And anxiety. For years I just “dealt” with it. With herbs and holistic medicine; with therapy and exercise; with meditation and yoga. Didn’t matter. Nothing changed how my chemical brain worked. I still do all those things, but now I take a small white pill everyday.

When I began taking it I felt this huge cloud lift. I felt less anxious. And far happier. I didn’t become an emotionless zombie. I became much more present in life–not in my head.

I went off of them a few times to see if perhaps I was “cured.” It can happen. Not me. That familiar dark cloud would start to drift into my periphery and I knew the storm was coming.

When I got pregnant with Fia, I struggled with my decision to stay on my meds. I even tried to wean off again. I felt the pit coming almost immediately. So I made my decision and stuck to it. I had to stop googling all the horrible things people talked about. I know it’s a risk. So is breathing the polluted air of NYC. So is going through the x-ray machine at the airport. So is my secret love of Taco Bell’s #3 with a diet Pepsi.

What I will say is more studies need to be done so women can have the facts. For a variety of reasons, there is just not a lot of conclusive data out there on taking antidepressants while pregnant. As an article in the NYT points out, pregnant women often aren’t part of drug studies. Therefore, a lot of the data is inferred, not proven. And even the most ardent studies have holes in them. I have an excellent OB and psychiatrist, both of whom agree: going through my pregnancy depressed and dark is far more dangerous than sticking to what works. (Also, during my pregnancy with Fia, we moved to LA for a bit. I saw 3 different OB’s/specialists. They all had the same unanimous opinion.)

What is proven is that some people have chemical imbalances. It’s in their genetic makeup.  And sometimes medicine is the only thing that works. Yet when taking those meds, the judgment from others can be severe. I guess that’s why women like me don’t disclose this. But today I’m feeling brave.

So there you have it.  Anyone else out there who wants to talk? I’m here.

Side note: I was recently informed about a study being conducted at Columbia University Medical Center exploring some of the issues around antidepressant use during pregnancy. If you are interested, and live in the NYC area, you can contact the study coordinator, Michelle Gilchrist at (212) 851-5175 OR mag2241@columbia.edu.

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Losing My Mom–Near the End

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Author’s Note: I wrote this post a couple months before my mom died. I wanted to share it now.

I called my mom to check in. She was out of breath. Told me she had been lying on the deck enjoying the sun. I can picture her– relaxed, closed lips, slightly smiling as the sun beats down on her weathered face and medically worn body.  I think about how I’ll miss her. It’s much easier to hate an addict. It’s a lot harder to love one. Especially because these last 9 months have been a gift.

When she first went septic, I thought, “F–k me. So typical of her.”

If only she had gone to the ER when her doctor told her, she wouldn’t have had her entire colon removed.

This led to every complication imaginable.

But my mother has never really done things right. Except maybe this time she has.

If she had gone in right away they would have fixed the problem before it became a disaster. She probably would have gone home a few weeks later. Which means by now, she would have gone through at least another 12K of her dwindling life savings to buy crack (a habit I just recently found out about, and one she decided to pick up at 62 years old). She could very well be in the gutter, dead. I’d dismiss her death as a relief. And think about what a waste it all was. Now I’ve had her back —at least in some capacity—as the mom I knew and loved once long ago. And it’s much harder.

I know the end is coming. They found out they simply can’t do anything more for her.  They don’t have enough length in her small intestine to operate; to fix the damn fistula. And with it spewing out bile like Old Faithful, it’s impossible for her body to absorb any nutrients.

The PA told me on the phone that she and two highly skilled doctors stood around staring at it, feeling so helpless. They equated it to the Gulf Oil spill, when brilliant minds around the world simply couldn’t come up with a way to cap it.

When my mom heard the bad news, she said, “I’m so sad I won’t see Fi grow up.” Maybe as a mom myself, that is the hardest thing to grasp. Death is final. And my own mortality seems so tenuous at times. It gives me perspective: life is a privilege. A gift. Not a given.

During these past months with her in the hospital, I have often thought about all that could have been, but also the small window that was. When she’s gone, I’ll remember that in the beginning she was as good a mom as they came. The best. Unconditionally loving, full of personality, adventurous, independent. All things she instilled deeply in me.

I’ll try and skip over the middle years. The nearly 3 decades of a life sadly lived.

And then I’ll focus on the recent–the times that she cared about Fi and me. No matter how much pain she was in, every phone call her first question was, “What’s Fia doing right now?” I’d have to yell over Fi’s verbosity and paint the picture for her. Tell her the new tricks she learned. My mom would laugh deep and strong.

When I came down with the flu this winter, she worried. In every phone call she’d ask how I was feeling. She said she’d always worried about me. Perhaps she didn’t worry in the middle of a drunken stupor, but somewhere deep down, I know she always had me close by. A mom always holds her daughter close to her heart. And I guess that’s what I have to take with me.

I am glad she has her sun. She always loved it. And I hope she basks in it as long as she can….

Mom at The Zoo no border

She passed away June 7, 2011. Fly away Mom. You are free.

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Losing My Mom–With a Second Chance

Monday, July 11th, 2011

As she lay dying, I spoke to her on the phone. I told her that it was okay to go. That she would live on through me and Fi.

I told my mom’s sister how much Fia loves sautéed spinach.“Your mom loved that growing up. We’d call her Popeye,” she said. I cringed. Dear lord, please give Fia the good genes from her. Like love of spinach and not crack.

It’s not that my mom didn’t have some amazing traits. In her early years she was smart and beautiful. Kind and colorful. But that was then. In her darkest days her childhood friends would shake their heads and tell me, “Everyone in high school wanted to be Suzy Newlon. Such a shame.” We’d all look down and mumble awkwardly in agreement.

My Mom

My Mom

Five decades of alcohol and drug abuse—including picking up a crack habit when she was 62-years-old—a few suicide attempts and a clear-cut diagnosis of bipolar—didn’t really give her a fighting chance.

One recent Christmas she went around her Florida condo complex with a 20-foot ladder. She climbed up the trees and spray-painted the coconuts red.  It was an instant hit. On another Christmas she tried to kill herself by jumping off a parking garage.

I truly believe some people are born to conquer addiction while others are just born to stay addicts.

Last year at 64, her life had become desperately depressing and tragic. I rarely spoke to her. Neither did my siblings. But then a miracle occurred.

She had an intestinal rupture and went septic. Almost died. Ended up on life support. And while her health slowly deteriorated, her life got surprisingly better.

For the next 11 months she was mostly confined to a hospital bed. She had psychiatrists who tweaked and tweaked her mental meds. She had hot meals and an entire staff at her beck and call. She was the queen bee and basked in her royal treatment.

“I love it here. I can order a milkshake at 3 in the afternoon,” she’d tell me in her southern drawl.

The next day she would complain that the chicken was dry.

“Mom, this is a hospital, not the Four Seasons,” I’d remind her on the phone.

“I know that, but how hard is it to cook chicken right?”

I’d roll my eyes; secretly glad she was even complaining. In the past, depressive days meant curling up “in the ball” on her couch and refusing to speak to anyone.

At least now we knew where she was and that she was safe. It was also finally safe to bring Fi down to meet her. A hospital—germs and all– is far more sterile than her living conditions had become over the years.  And I knew what I was getting: glimpses of the mom I had in childhood; when she was a superstar. Cool, fun, unconditionally loving.

Over this past year almost every trip down she was alert and attentive. She couldn’t get enough of Fi. This is a woman who had missed so much of my life. My wedding, my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter. We were both getting a second chance.

She would tell me how much Fia reminded her of me when I was little. I’d relish the stories. And feel relief that (so far) it seems Fia has much more of me in her genes than her grandmother.  I can only pray the ones she does have from either of us are the good ones.

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Losing My Mom–Lilacs

Monday, July 11th, 2011

We’d communicate through lilacs. That’s what my mom and I decided on my last visit to see her.

We debated between them and hyacinths. But she was the expert.  She ran a successful plant and flower business for years– until her demons got the best of her. I trusted her instincts on this one. Plus, she reminded me, we had a big one in our yard growing up–and that my favorite color was lavender.

A week later I got the call. Her time was running out.  There were probably only hours left.

I went desperately seeking a lilac bush. It was early June and I knew the season had passed. But surely there must still be one in bloom.

I found one with two blooms hanging on. They were past their perfect purple color, on the brink of death. But I could still close my eyes and inhale. I called my mom. Her caregiver put the phone to her ear.

“Mom, I’m standing here in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I’m smelling a lilac.” I heard a small moan. I went on to describe the setting. I could sense her smile.  In life, nature was where she found peace and perfection. Nature could also survive the storms. She had too–for better or worse—until now.

“Remember to find me. Every year I will wait for them to bloom. And I’ll know you’re here with me,” I said through tears.

I heard a deep breath and sigh.

“I just wanted to make sure we have our plan in place,” I continued. “That you won’t forget.” My voice remained strong.  For many years, I was the mother to my mother. This day was no exception.

“You can go now.”

I hung up the phone. That was the last time I spoke to her. She died two days later on June 7, 2011.

So now I wait until next spring when we talk again.

lilacs2

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