Postpartum depression can be a really scary thing. I think it is becoming less scary because people are talking about it. Women are talking about what it felt like for them and how they got help. Men are talking about what it was like watching the mother of their child go through it. Grandmothers are talking about why they didn’t really talk about it. Here I am. Talking about it. Putting my story out there. Praying that just ONE new mommy, sitting at home, in tears on her couch, nursing her baby at 3 a.m., can feel a little less alone in this world.
What We DO Hear
We are familiar with the weird hormone changes that occur after giving birth to a child. A mother’s body has been put through a lot in nine months’ time (give or take). Once that beautiful baby exits the womb and enters the world, mother’s body is trying to figure out what to do now. After being so content with housing, feeding and supplying all the needs for another life, it is left with emptiness. The body has worked in overdrive to sustain this life and has mustered up all its energy to bring this little being into the world… and then is left to figure out the aftermath. It’s like trying to stop a train. It messes with our appetites. It completely throws off our emotions. Our tear ducts are out of control! Soon, we begin to come down from the emotional high of having a baby. Things at home begin to sink into a routine, and we are still wondering how to exist with this little person on the outside.
I experienced a rather normal pregnancy, labor and delivery with our firstborn. Despite being a senior in high school and all that comes with that stage of life, the medical part of my pregnancy went very smoothly. Once I brought my little girl home, once the visitors had died down… I did experience some “baby blues.” Baby blues occur when the mother is anxious, sleep-deprived, and emotionally and physically exhausted. I was all of these and more. The cure for baby blues is simply support, love and assistance. I was surrounded with all of these; and within a few weeks, I was back to normal (well, as normal as possible).
With our second daughter, I also experienced a medically sound pregnancy. However, during labor and delivery, I asked for an epidural (as I had also done with the first). About an hour before she was born, my head started pounding! This pounding continued for the next 10 days straight. The doctors call it a spinal headache, when a spinal tap causes too much fluid to leak out. My daughter came into the world as pink and loud as she is today. I held her, I loved on her and I quickly had to pass her off while I tried to find a comfortable position that soothed my throbbing head.
My mom stayed with us for almost two weeks to help with the girls while I laid in bed, praying for the pain to pass so I could spend some time with my girls. The next seven days are a dark, blurry memory. I remember nursing my daughter and having my mom come get her when she was finished. I remember laying in bed asking, “Why me?” It was depressing. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Two weeks later, I began to get my life back. I was able to get up, to take a shower, to snuggle my girls; but always with the fear of the headache returning. I spent the next week or so living life, but living very cautiously.
At my two-week checkup, the OB advised me to make an appointment with my physician. I cannot remember what I said to my OB or how that appointment went, but it must have raised some red flags. I promptly made an appointment to meet with my doctor.
I don’t remember much about those few months after Liliana was born. I recall just feeling numb. Yes, I cried. Yes, I adored my girls. Yes, I loved being their mom. However, nothing really made me laugh. Nothing really made my heart swell. I was not angry, scared, or even anxious. I was numb.
As I told my doctor all of this, she thoughtfully took notes and offered support. She also wrote a prescription for Wellbutrin and asked me to see her again in a couple weeks. Within a few months’ time, I was taken off that medication and returned to life.
Some may say that my struggles were because of the change in my living situation. With my second daughter, I had moved three hours away from my family and friends. I was a nine-month-old wife adjusting to so many roles. I also felt crippled by a spinal headache for what seemed like an eternity. I missed out on countless bonding opportunities with my girls during that time. I think a combination of all these things, coupled with my body’s hormonal changes, just completely messed with my system.
My pregnancy, labor and delivery were all fairly normal with our son. Epidural and all. After enduring seven weeks of morning/all-day sickness in the beginning of my pregnancy, I was completely blissed out for the remaining weeks. Ask anyone who knows me! They may roll their eyes at the memory of my third pregnancy. I felt secure, prepared and experienced enough to handle it all. Once he was born, not the NICU taking him away nor the fact that they pumped his stomach nor the fever on the first night made me anxious. He was here. I didn’t experience any baby blues or postpartum depression after bringing him home. Just the normal tears and emotional roller coaster of having sore breasts and no sleep.I share each individual newborn story to tell you this: Postpartum depression is not anything YOU or I could have predicted or prevented. Depression is something that can consume us if we don’t seek support and even medical advice. You are not alone. You are doing the best you can to “keep it together.” It is okay to need and ask for help. Depression is a deep, dark hole that no one wants to be in. But when you are in it, you want to find a corner and stay there. It’s where you feel safest, in that hole. I’m here to throw you a rope. You can climb out of that hole. You will not be able to do it on your own. You may need some help from your husband, your parents, your doctor… and that is perfectly fine. Come back to life. Experience love and happiness again.
How To Cope
- Baby Center has some fantastic material on postpartum emotional health. Please take the time to read it if you or someone close to you is experiencing the same numbness I felt. They deserve a rope to cling onto. You may be just the person to pull them up out of that hole.
- Talk to your husband, your doctor, your sister, your best friend. Anyone. Just open up and let someone in. There is no reason to feel ashamed or alone. You are loved and you are needed.
- Taking time for yourself is essential, I believe. This may even cure your baby blues. However, if it has been more than a few weeks since the first time you held your newborn and you are still battling depression, it’s time to seek help.
- Tell others your experience to help them recognize depression. During my diagnosis and treatment, I learned that my own mother and even my grandmother had both experienced postpartum depression. Twenty-seven and fifty-some years ago, they were not encouraged to talk about it.
- Journal about it. Get those feelings out in one way or another. It will help bring some meaning and feeling back to your life.