I had heard about postpartum depression, I had read about postpartum depression, but I really never knew anything about it. All of the books that you read throughout pregnancy have a blurb or a mention toward the end, in an “after the baby is born” section, but I rarely read those. I had been pregnant and had a healthy baby boy before, so I assumed that the same would be true for my second pregnancy. However, although I did have a healthy baby girl, the thoughts and feelings that I had after her birth were nothing that I had ever experienced.
I cannot pinpoint when the postpartum depression began, but when the time came that I did start noticing the signs, it hit me with an unbearable force. I was completely exhausted, incredibly sad all of the time and the anxiety that I was experiencing had me questioning my sanity. I was certain that I was a horrible parent and had overwhelming thoughts of harm coming to my baby. Some women believe that they will be the ones that harm their child, but my thought process was that everything else could hurt the baby and I was the only one that could keep her safe. On the opposite end of the spectrum though, I was horrified at the thought of my husband leaving me alone with the baby. My rational self told me that I had done this before and was completely capable, but I had these irrational thoughts that kept whispering in my ear – you have no clue what you are doing, you are a terrible person, you will not do what needs to be done, you will fail her. There were times that I just felt like I needed to get away, that there was nothing good that could come to this child if I continued to be her parent.
As things progressively got worse, my husband and family members starting noticing the changes. There was one evening when I felt as though I could not take the thoughts in my head any longer. I started crying and could not quit. I was shaking. My thoughts did not make sense. I just felt like I needed to go, and I needed to go right then. I called my parents to come and watch my children and my husband helped me to the car and we headed to the emergency room. As we rode toward the E.R. I started talking to him and telling him how I felt. It felt good to talk. I started to calm down. I asked him not to take me to the E.R. that night, I thought that the talking had solved my problem. We went home but as much as I had hoped, things had not changed. After a while all of the thoughts came flooding back. The next morning, I called my OB/GYN and made an appointment.
My OB/GYN was incredibly supportive and talked through my feelings and thoughts with me. We discussed now knowing exactly what causes PPD, but she felt as though I was suffering from it. She wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant and asked that I take it each day. I fought taking the medication, but after both she and my husband voicing their concerns, I agreed. She also suggested therapy. In the end, I did take the medication as directed but was unable to find any therapists that were able to take me on as a patient. I would be waiting a minimum of two months for treatment. I did find some relief with the anti-depressant, but the most help came from talking to my husband, my family and my friends.
For women that are dealing with PPD, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- 1. You cannot think of PPD as a taboo topic. Mothers have been made to feel as though they should only be happy and excited by the birth of their child. However, there are so many other emotions that you can experience. For example, I had a c-section and now only was I feeling happiness and elation at my beautiful little girl, I was also hurting and feeling dependent on my husband, which I did not like.
- 2. Talk to someone. I was able to find a caring and understanding support system with my husband and my family. Some women may not have that option. If you do not, call your doctor, a counselor, a therapist. Just talk. Make your feelings known. The more you keep to yourself, the harder things can be.
- 3. Read the information about things that could affect you after the baby is born. Women are incredibly interested in exactly what is happening with their body and their baby throughout pregnancy, but many forget to really pay attention to what will happen after that bundle of joy is no longer taking up residence in their body.
- 4. Ask for help! If you need help watching the baby so that you can sleep, ask for it. If you need help catching up with the dishes or the laundry or the housework, ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask, many women have given birth and they will completely understand.
Postpartum depression was one of the most difficult things that I have gone through. The inability to think clearly and constantly questioning made for difficult days. Feeling as though I was dependent on others weighed on me, too. However, after beginning to ask for help, using my medication as prescribed and being more open about the things that I was experiencing, I was able to begin healing. I learned that I did not have to be the perfect mother, I just had to be the best that I could be for my daughter and ask for help from others as needed. It was a tough lesson to learn, but one that I try to keep in mind when things become overwhelming.