Isn’t it interesting how we can think that Postpartum Depression is something that happens to other people even while we are surrounded by the signs of depression within ourselves?
I struggled with Postpartum Depression with three of my four births and I’m not yet out of the woods with my fourth. My fourth baby, Laurelyn, is only three months which means that I could still be kicked in the gut by depression. Postpartum Depression could kick in any time within the year after the baby’s birth.
There’s something to look forward to.
I have been looking back over the blog posts I wrote during my depression with my other children and it makes me scared and grateful at the same time. I’m scared it could happen again and I’m grateful for all the happy, wonderful days I’ve been having since Laurelyn was born.
Having a baby is not a guarantee that you will have PPD, thank goodness but chances are better that you would be affected by it in subsequent births and it usually gets worse. My third baby, David was the one that I struggled with the most. He was a great baby and the birth was normal with no complications but I was hit with a terrible bout of PPD. It took a long time, some counseling and a lot of talking with my husband in order to get myself out of it. I was able to work through it without medications but it made me change my mind about anti-depressants. If you need them, get them. Don’t put guilt onto yourself and don’t let anyone else get away with making you feel guilty for taking them.
This is an excerpt from my blog written during my depression after David was born. (September 2006)
Saturday started out like most nightmares. I was wondering what happened to my brain. Had it been surgically removed while I was sleeping to be donated to someone who would use it more responsibly? Where were my legs because I couldn’t will myself out of bed. What was wrong with my tear ducts because all I could do was lay in bed sobbing?
Not a good start to the day.
Nothing had happened. I just opened my eyes and this was how my morning began, with tears and a depression that felt like it was choking me. I could hardly breath between my sobs and I hoped my kids wouldn’t come into my room like they normally did. I wouldn’t know what to tell them. That I’d officially lost my mind? That mom was crazy?
I finally pulled myself out of bed and hoped a shower would make everything feel better. I cried all the way through my shower, through getting dressed, through putting my makeup on. It was useless, I was useless.
Finally I ran out of tears but still felt like crap. Chuck asked me how I was doing.
Hmm, how do I describe emotional hell?
I didn’t have to. He could see it. I’ve never been very good at hiding my emotions. I might not say something but it hangs off my face like a bad outfit.
I would like to hope that no woman feels the way I felt after having a baby. I have such admiration and
awe with what our bodies are capable of doing while bringing our babies into this world. How tragic that some of us battle with feelings of worthlessness after doing something so magical and empowering!
These are some of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression as seen on the U.S. Department of Women’s Health. If they feel familiar to how you’re feeling I hope that you can have the strength to see a Doctor and ask for help.
Feeling restless or irritable
Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
Crying a lot
Having no energy or motivation
Eating too little or too much
Sleeping too little or too much
Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
Feeling worthless and guilty
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Withdrawal from friends and family
Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
I didn’t know as much about PPD then as I do now. I googled PPD after a a visit with a doctor while we were on vacation. I went in to his office to get a prescription for David’s Thrush. Since this wasn’t my first baby I knew what Thrush was and I knew what I needed so I expected a quick visit. I just wanted that little white paper with the prescription on it and I wanted to leave. The doctor said I was right, it was Thrush and he handed over what I had come in for. What I didn’t expect were all of his questions:
How old am I?
How many children do I have?
Do I work?
How many hours a day?
Am I married?
Is my husband supportive?
Do I have support outside of my husband?
I couldn’t believe the gall of this guy. Who did he think he was. He certainly wasn’t my doctor. I was just about to stand up and walk out when he asked me if I had Postpartum Depression with my other children.
I was blown away. Definitely not what I was expecting.
He gave me some information on PPD and sent a fax to my family doctor. I drove back to the place Chuck and I were staying, the whole time thinking about what had just happened. Was he right? Did I really have PPD? What do I do now? How am I going to tell Chuck that his wife is a lunatic?
I should have had more faith in my husband but at that point I didn’t have faith in anyone at all.
I sat under a tree holding our new baby and told Chuck everything the local doctor had said. He didn’t seem shocked or surprised. He said that he knew something was wrong but he wasn’t sure what it was and he was so happy that we knew now. We looked PPD up online and read as much as we could. Everything sounded so familiar and that alone made me feel better. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only woman who felt worse after having a baby. I wasn’t the only woman crying in the shower to hide the tears. I was a part of a large group and that brought a small amount of comfort.
After our vacation was over I went to my family doctor and talked with her about how I was feeling. I had been so scared to tell anyone but since the previous doctor had already let the cat out of the bag I felt free to let the feelings run out and I told her all the dark thoughts I had. I told her how I couldn’t get myself out of bed most days and even if I did get out of bed I stayed in my pajamas all day and hid from going outside. I told her about feeling detached from my children and that I didn’t even feel like they were mine. I felt no responsibility or affection toward them.
She sat and listened and not once did she get the judgmental look I was afraid of. She didn’t say that she was taking my children away from me and she wasn’t going to call the police and lock me up. She simply asked me what I was willing to do to get better.
We made a plan. I would try medication only after I tried therapy. My church is very helpful so I called my Bishop and met with him several times. I talked with Chuck and we made permanent plans for a Friday date night. We made it a sacred engagement that could never be broken. Every Friday we went out without the older kids and got away from the house and all of my responsibilities. I told my two closest girlfriends and we made plans to go out regularly, just us girls. Once I was willing to tell the people closest to me I never again got as deep into that depression as I had before. As soon as I started ignoring the phone I’d be greeted by one of my girlfriends at the door ready to take us to the park, the Zoo or anywhere else with somewhere for the kids to play and for me to sit in the Sun.
I couldn’t have made it through my depression without the help of my husband, my doctor and my girlfriends. Slowly I started to feel like I could breath without something weighing on my chest.
Now I look at the face of a new mother and search for the look. More than just tired. It’s a look of fear. A look I remember seeing in the mirror and I can’t walk past that look on a new mother without offering help of some kind.
As I said before, I had my fourth baby three months ago and I feel great. I am relishing her scent, her tiny finger and toes and the way she looks when she’s sleeping. Although it is common for women to experience PPD if they’ve had it before, it’s not a guarantee. I am in love with my baby girl and I fall more in love with her every day that comes.
by Jen McKinnon
Photo graciously provided by Annadriel, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved