What is Postpartum Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.”
The American Psychological Association states that “up to 1 in 7 experience postpartum depression”.
I don’t know about you, but that statistic surprised me. I had no idea postpartum depression was so common.
Treatments options include therapy and antidepressant medications. According to NIMH, “Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby.”
This is the hard part.
This is where I have to swallow my pride, wipe away the tears, and leave myself wide open for everyone to see. It’s not easy. I debated writing this article for a LONG time. But God kept telling me I needed to do it. He wanted to use my experience to help someone else. I even asked my husband if he thought it was a good idea and secretly hoped he would say it wasn’t. But alas the time has come. As I sit here with tear stained cheeks, I still don’t know what to say.
This was a planned pregnancy. We waited five years for this (by choice). Pregnancy itself wasn’t easy, but I was still beyond excited to be a mother. Labor and delivery went well and there were no major complications for Josiah or I. I had a perfect baby boy. The first two weeks at home after his birth went as expected, sleepless nights and exhausting days, but lots of help from my husband. Then he went back to work and things got a little harder. My son wasn’t a good napper and he never did what all the books said he should. So, like any new mom, I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I was a terrible mother, incapable of properly caring for my newborn son. My life drastically changed within a blink of an eye and I suddenly had no idea who I was or what my purpose was outside of caring for this tiny human. It all went downhill from there.
I constantly stressed about his sleeping patterns or lack thereof. I spent countless hours browsing the internet for some magic cure to help my son sleep better. The more I read, the more I thought it was my fault. My husband constantly reassured me that it wasn’t and that I was doing my best, but I just didn’t listen. One little thing led to another and before I knew it my mind had turned on me. I was telling myself I was worthless and I didn’t deserve to be a mom. I thought this was a mistake and my son and husband deserved better. I never felt that instant connection with my son and I didn’t feel overwhelmed with love for him like everyone said I would. Remember that quote from NIMH above? It said that depression makes it difficult to connect with your baby. That was me. I didn’t even feel like he was mine. There were times when I felt absolutely nothing towards him. That was the depression talking. I told my husband I wanted to give our son away. That’s how bad it got. I didn’t want my own son. How awful is that?
I often found myself sitting on the couch with tears pouring down my face for what later seemed like no reason at all. I just couldn’t help it. I would literally talk myself into being depressed. Now don’t get me wrong, I had moments of pure joy. My son has always been a happy baby, and my heart would melt when he smiled at something I did. I knew he loved me and I knew I loved him. But when an episode of depression hit, I couldn’t see past the darkness.
I hid it from everyone, or at least I tried. I know a few people wondered. I only ever discussed it with my husband. Not my mom, not my close friends, not my son’s pediatrician (even though he asked), and not my OB. I kept it inside. All bottled up. Eventually, at three months postpartum, my husband convinced me to call my doctor’s office to see what they recommended. The only reason I finally made the call was because I was afraid of my son growing up without a mother.
My doctor was out of the office when I called, so the nurse spoke to the on-call doctor. He prescribed me an antidepressant and recommended a follow up visit with my doctor in two months. Seemed simple enough. I took the first dose and hoped for the best. I was going to be a good mom. I was going to be happy and enjoy every moment of my son’s life. Unfortunately, I had almost every side effect from the medication including a few serious ones like difficulty breathing and heart palpitations. When I notified my doctors office, they of course told me to stop taking the medication. I was told “hopefully it will get better after you settle into your new routine with a baby”. If not, they suggested I see my family care doctor because there wasn’t much else they could do for me. So, that was that. I was stuck like this until I could work through it on my own.
My son is now six months old and I still have an episode about once a month. It’s a lot better than what it was and I am finding ways to work through it. I wish I would have let more people in and talked about what was going on. I was so afraid of being judged that I let it cloud my judgement and ignored my husband’s advice. I should have talked to other moms and surrounded myself with friends and family. Instead, I shut myself in. If I had to go out I plastered a smile on my face and played the part. Please, if you feel even slightly depressed, talk to someone right away. It’s not worth missing out on such important moments. Believe me, I would know.