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