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« Confessions from "Neomammas" - Some truths about bringing home a baby | Main | My Sleep Secret »
Tuesday
Mar012011

When Reality of Motherhood isn’t Sublime: Diagnosed with Postpartum Depression 

 It’s taken me a long time to write this particular blog post, in part, because I didn’t know what, or how to say it, and in part, because it’s so personal. I have decided to share my experience dealing with postpartum depression (PPD) because it’s an important topic. A topic that is sometimes hard to grasp, especially when it involves bringing home a new baby – a time that is supposed to be one of the happiest in a family’s life. Or maybe it’s because society places so much pressure on the idea of the “perfect mother” and anything less than perfect is inadequate and makes you an unfit mother. I feel like there is stigma attached to PPD. I felt awful when I’d get asked, “So how’s everything going?” I wanted to respond, “Really great, loving every moment!” And to people I was not that close with I think I might have lied because I wanted it to be true, but to family and friends I was very open with them about having such a hard time. Anyway, here is my story.

I was aware of postpartum depression (PPD) before having a baby but never did I think it could happen to me. The concept was distant and unfathomable, which is why it took me a while to come to terms with. The reality is that between 13 percent and 15 percent of new mothers experience depression.

After my doctor diagnosed me with PPD, I was a bit embarrassed and somewhat ashamed…upset that I wasn’t handling motherhood the way I had imagined. While most little girls dreamed of their wedding day, I dreamed of bringing home a baby and starting my family. I envisioned being a new mother to be super easy for me…like I could do it with my eyes closed. Boy, was I in for a dose of what was to be my reality for the first couple of months, and then again at four months.

When The Pieces Came Tumbling Down

I wasn’t diagnosed with PPD until Tazzy was about four months old. My doctor said that PPD can happen within the first year of having a baby. I think back and realize now that there were certainly signs of a bad case of the Baby Blues (which impacts up to 80 percent of new moms), leading up to this. I had some really great days and some really bad ones.

During the first month I dealt with a colicky baby that resisted sleep, complications from my c-section, and complications from breastfeeding. I cried A LOT…everyday. I was overwhelmed and felt like the rug had been pulled from under me. I remember crying in my own Mother’s arms, sobbing really, saying, “She [my baby] hates me. She won’t stop crying. It’s not supposed to be this way.” All I wanted was to be happy like the seemingly happy new Moms I’d seen out and about with their newborns fast asleep in the stroller. I was envious of the new Mothers who could tote their new babies around easily. And to top it off, there was this unspoken tension in my house - something that my husband and I have never experienced before. My husband is the most patient person and ultimate problem solver. I could see frustration written all over his face each time his attempts at calming our screaming baby didn’t work. It shattered my heart every time.

It was hard for me to leave the house. I wasn’t emotionally prepared to deal with Taz’s crying in the stroller, in the car seat, pretty much anywhere we went until after a couple months when she was at least comforted in my arms. I knew that my family didn’t necessarily understand this part and thought I needed to get out more but I didn’t budge at their attempt to get me out. I needed to do things on my own time.

During months one and two I focused on only the good days. I had a ton of support from family and friends. It’s how I kept myself from losing my mind. And finally at about month three I started to feel better. I felt relieved and happy.  

When the $hit Really Hit the Fan

Then, coming on four months, I started to feel unmotivated to leave the house again, really tired (which didn’t seem right since Tazzy was sleeping 12 hours at night) and I’d have awful crying spells that would last for hours at a time…and for no reason. There were days I’d feel numb but put on a smile because that is what I felt I needed to do. I guess I felt like if I put on a smile then everything would be better. So FYI…for anyone who saw pictures on Facebook during the early months, I can assure you that the pics were taken on one of the good days.

But I knew something was really wrong about four months in when I was standing in line at my local Walgreens, tears streaming down my face, followed by uncontrolled sobbing as I ran out of the store thinking, “It would be so much easier if I weren’t here.” WTF?@#! I freaked out at this thought and when I got home shared what I was feeling with my husband. He was worried and recommended I call my doctor immediately.

When I finally talked with my doctor I explained that logically I knew everything was great. Really! Tazzy was doing so well -- sleeping 12 hours through the night, which meant I got a good night’s rest, breast feeding was going wonderfully, she was a healthy happy baby, which was a big change from the first couple months of her life and I was starting to feel like myself (on good days) etc.

Within a week of being diagnosed with PPD and starting a very low dosage of Zoloft, I felt pretty much back to my normal self. I’m still taking Zoloft and will continue to take the meds for another couple of months. My doctor assured me that this would not impact my milk supply. I now feel 100% back to normal and am filled with joy every day. I haven’t cried in months (except during a couple movies) :)

Why Don’t New Mom’s Talk About the Not so Good Days?

I can only speak from my own experience and also from what I’ve heard from others who (only after I shared my experience), shared similar experiences. Not only was I somewhat disappointed at myself for not coping with the transition of becoming a new Mom, but on the really bad days I was ashamed at myself for resenting the situation, which made me feel like an unfit parent, because while I didn’t resent my daughter, I did resent the difficult times brought upon me. I felt helpless, lost, and out of control. Why would I want to admit that to anyone including myself?? There were nights I would cry myself to sleep telling my husband, I just don’t think I can do this…” He would hold me in his arms and assure me that we’d get through this. There is no other person on this earth I could have imagined going through this with. I feel so lucky to be married to my definition of the best husband. And finally, I feel so lucky and honored to have Tazzy as my baby girl. I am the proud and doting mother that I imagined I’d always be. But it took time…

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

Why didn’t anyone tell me?! I have some really close girlfriends who went through the baby blues. When I ask them why they didn’t share, one said, “Because you wouldn’t have understood.” I don’t think it’s a concept one can understand until they are in the moment. Ugh! I still wish I’d had an idea of what could and did happen. Another friend said, “I just didn’t want to burst your bubble. Since I’ve known you, you’ve always wanted babies and I knew you couldn’t wait to be a Mother. And not everyone who has a baby has such a hard time at first…” Okay, I get this but again, I would have liked to know.

I’m not trying to scare anyone who may be expecting soon or plan on having kids. All I’m doing is sharing a little of my story and trying shed light on an important matter that I don’t think gets talked about enough. I’m being very open with family and friends and pretty much anyone who asks, about what it was like for me the first few months. And I can do it with a smile because I’m having the time of my life! My standard line is, “The first few months were really hard for me. It wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped and now things are great and couldn’t be better!” If only I had known some of the things that I know now. But I guess that would have been too easy J I’m loving motherhood more than I could have ever imagined. My husband and I didn’t know we could love anyone like we love our baby girl.

Did you experience baby blues or postpartum depression? Or do you know anyone who did?

Some interesting facts below:

  • Depression is a common problem during and after pregnancy. Approximately 13 percent to 15 percent of pregnant women and new mothers experience depression.
  • Postpartum depression affects Dads too.
  • Celebs including, Brooke Shields, Courteney Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow and Amanda Pete are just a few who have shared their story with the public.
  • Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth.
  • Symptoms differ for everyone and might include the following.
    • Feelings of anger or irritability
    • Lack of interest in the baby
    • Appetite and sleep disturbance
    • Crying and sadness
    • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
    • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
    • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

References (1)

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    Though most tiny damsels dreamed of their nuptial time, I dreamed of bringing house a child also starting my lineage. I envisioned existence a unaccustomed nurture to be terrific amiable for me…like I could do it among my orbs closed. Chap, was I in for a prescription of what was to ...

Reader Comments (14)

Alex,

Wow, I'm speechless at how eloquently you were able to capture your feelings and write such an inspiring and beautiful post about something that was so hard on you. You know yourself inside and out and that's so important for you, Josh and Tazzy. I'm so sorry you had to go through this experience but so proud of you for sharing it so others won't be scared to discuss it or feel ashamed of it. There is nothing to be ashamed of - we can't control hormones or baby's temperaments or even our emotional responses to situations like these. You are an amazing mother with an amazing family and I'm so HAPPY that things are going so well for y'all now - you deserve all the happiness in the world. XXOO

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to share this story, but know that you are helping so many people by doing it.

I had no idea that PPD could come on months after the birth until you told me about your diagnosis. It's so important for moms to know that they aren't out of the woods once they get past the first few months. I think describing your symptoms and the way you felt also helps get a more accurate picture of how PPD can present itself.

You are so fortunate to have had Josh and your family to support you through this. I can imagine it was hard for them to see you suffering, and I'm so glad that you've now hit your mothering stride.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathalee Ghafouri

Thanks for sharing, Alex. I tried to reach out to you when you first had her because I worry about new moms after my difficult experience. I wish I would have tried harder but when I didn't hear from you I figured things were great for you and that it was just me who couldn't deal. I remember people asking if I was having so much fun and I would just smile. I finally got fed up and answered, "NO!" My answer to "how are you feeling?" turned into, "Like dying." I'm grateful that those days are past and that I can enjoy my little Coraline.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I, too, had a very difficult time in the first 12 months. It fluctuated. Some days were wonderful. He'd sleep, eat, poop like clockwork and I'd think "Huh, maybe I can do this?" But the other 95% of the time, I'd either feel like hiding in the bathroom, sobbing, or be thinking "I can't be here and do this... but how can I leave my child and allow him to grow up thinking his mother didn't love him enough to stay, when the opposite is true?"

He's 2 1/2 now and despite the "terrible twos" I've NEVER been happier or more fulfilled. I've never been as passionate about anything else - at all - as I am about my son or being a mother.

The dark days sure are hard, but the rewards make weathering the storm SO worth it.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

As a new mom, I applaud you for having the courage to share your story. Bravo! (And sending you a big hug!)

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZeenat

I know how hard it is to share your feelings publicly and I could not be more proud that you are my friend! I knew the first few weeks were hard on you but I had no idea about the crying episodes when you thought Baby Tazzy hated you. That part broke my heart! Especially because I know what a great mother you are and that I know Tazzy knows it too.

I have to say, I am glad not to be the resident not-so-rosey person on this blog. Motherhood is hard and it is hard in ways that you simply cannot anticipate. Even if we had been warned about these things, the specifics of the reality would still have caught us off guard. There are times when I find myself wondering why Jennifer and Nathalee have it so easy. Why are those girls always so graceful, beautiful, and happy, goshdarnit!? I feel like I'm the only one who finds this challenging.

But then there is perspective.

I have friends that have an admirable quality of making everything around them beautiful but I also believe that we all have different challenges and handle them the best we can. Jennifer and Nathalee aren't perfect, even if they seem like it. They are just graceful. And so are you, Alex. It may have been tough but you've handled yourself with grace. You may not know that now but you will someday.

When it comes to motherhood, we can't compare. We can only console. That is why we have one another - so that we know that there is no such thing as perfection, that it will be a rocky ride, and that we are all in it together. I appreciate this story from that perspective and I appreciate you as a woman and friend! Love, love, love.

March 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterNatali

Erin, that is a beautiful story too. I can't believe how we all have such similar thoughts and vocalize them so seldomly. Thank goodness for mommy blogs.

March 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterNatali

You have done a wonderfully accurate job of describing what it can be like to suffer from PPD. My child is a thriving almost-3-year-old now, but when he was around 1 1/2 years old, my husband and I realized -- on our own -- that I had suffered from PPD for 6 months or more after his birth. What made us realize it was that around 1 year postpartum I suddenly started feeling "like myself" again, and that's when we knew for sure that something had been terribly wrong. Like you, my issues developed in tandem with colic, breastfeeding problems, and persistent sleep difficulties. I didn't bond with my child emotionally for at least 10-12 weeks after his birth. Also in our case, we had very little outside support...Mainly because no one in either of our families had dealt with this, and so no one knew what to do for us. It was truly a nightmare for a while.

As for not being warned ahead of time, the truth is, I think we *are* all adequately warned. So many articles and books about pregnancy and childbirth mention PPD, its symptoms, etc. In my case, the problem was not that I didn't know about it, but rather that I never believed it would happen to me, nor that I would need help if it did. My husband and I both tend to be "superhero" types who think we can handle anything ourselves... ha ha. We were wrong, and now we know we were wrong.

In discussing child rearing with people now, we are only too ready to tell people how blindsided we were. We are not ashamed or embarrassed to say that it was basically hell for a long time. It is that shame and embarrassment that keep this issue swept under the carpet, and that is wrong. Of course we are quick to tell people all of the good things about having a child too. Things DO get better, and yes, it IS worth it! Thank you for a great article.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Alex, you are so wonderful. I am very proud to know you and I think it's great that you shared your story. I think there are more mothers out there than we can even fathom who are putting on a smiling face and not talking about how they really feel. In the days of facebook and blogging - putting yourself out there publicly - it is so easy to put your best face forward. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your stories. I'm sorry you struggled so much but I'm sure you are a better woman and mother for being honest with yourself. It is sad that there is a perception that everything has to be happy and perfect, otherwise you are unfit. But not everything is happy and perfect and we should all just be able to say that. I can't imagine PPD - and know just having bad days doesn't compare - but I think you are courageous for accepting and talking about the diagnosis.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecki

I'm still soaking in the emotional impact of your eloquently written blog about your Postpartum Depression episodes. At this point, I can only wish you and your family all the very best and for you personally a speedy and full recovery from your difficulties. I'm glad to know that you're dramatically improved, but don't let your guard down...this condition has been known to reoccur without warning to millions of other mothers around the world!

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuke Chung of SF, CA.

My sis-in-law went through this with the birth of her daughter....no one knew...no one could understand....I wish my parents would read this...they just didn't get it....instead, they got angry at Stacy and blamed her for withdrawing and now there is a rift in my family between them that is almost irreparable...thank you for sharing this. Maybe if I ever have a baby one day, I mean, maybe if my wife has a baby, I'll have somewhat of a better idea to know what to look for and what she is needing from me. Thanks for sharing. And thanks to Natali for tweeting it.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

Thank you so much for sharing your story you will truly help future mommys know what they are feeling is real and it is okay to need ask ask for help when it's too much. I've struggled with depression through out my life and the biggest challenge is the stigma around it. I feel like I can't tell people I take antidepressants and regularly meet with a therapist but with more people talking about their struggles maybe that too will change. Thank you again it takes a lot of strength and courage to write the truth!!

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

I was filled with all kinds of emotion as I read these comments. I felt the warmth and support from each and everyone of you and sympathized with those who went through something similar or who know someone that did. I do agree that the more we talk about it, the better off others may go through PPD or even Baby Blues will be. Thank you!

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Thank you, thank you, thank you for opening up and having the courage to be honest about this experience. I had PPD and it really knocked me on my knees. I was bawling every single day and it actually was endangering my marriage, as my husband was bewildered and could not understand if I somehow resented both our newborn son and him. The combination of a colicky baby, overwhelming hormone-induced emotions and lack of sleep had me honestly wondering how I would ever make it through. I wondered why none of my friends seemed to have such a hard time, and I kept wondering "when does the good part start?" (Answer: when my son finally smiled at me for the first time ...). It was a hard, hard time and I think it's as important to lift the stigma of the diagnosis and the drugs it can take to help someone out of that downward spiral. Thank you for writing and glad to hear you have made it back to the light side.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAimee G.

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