I was familiar with postpartum depression, even knew a few women, friends and a family member who experienced it. But I was too happy and too strong for it to affect me. I was wrong.
That’s probably the way many people think. “It won’t happen to me.” Until what they least expected is staring them in the face.
Nervous and afraid is how I was feeling when I decided to share my story about postpartum depression. Most people know me to be upbeat, funny, happy. This would show a different side.
It started the day I came home from the hospital after having my baby girl. My Mother had decorated the front door and set up pink balloons on our mailbox. It felt good to come home to that sweet surprise.
When I stepped foot into my home, things were different.
At the hospital, I was taken care of. I didn’t have to think about cooking and cleaning and being a Mom of two. The hospital was quiet and they allowed me to rest. And there were tender moments after tender moments of silence.
My Dad, Mother and son were there when my husband, daughter and I arrived home, each of them doing their thing. My Dad, talking to my son sometimes too loud, laid back on the couch, leg up. My Mother, moving from here to there, there to here, at a brisk pace, unaware of my blank stare. My son, bouncing off the walls, seeking my attention, needing his normal Mom.
The energy was too much too soon.
This strange feeling came over me within minutes of arriving home and sitting on the couch surrounded by my family. Everything around me was moving so fast but I was moving in slow motion. The two worlds were competing. I couldn’t slow down my surroundings and couldn’t speed up my thoughts. I felt anxious. Overwhelmed. Crazy. Dark. I wanted to run away.
I thought back to a particular document I had to read and sign while in the hospital. It talked about postpartum depression, signs to watch out for and what to do if you experience the symptoms.
I’ll admit, I read it but only because I had to. For a moment I even considered not reading it but did just because.
With each day it got worse. I never had thoughts of wanting to hurt my baby like I had read was a symptom but rather started to feel immensely disconnected from my five year old son.
My son had also changed. He was no longer an only child who got all of Mommy’s attention. His Mommy now had someone else to take care of and I’m not sure he knew what to do with that reality.
What he did do was act out towards me. He listened less. He pulled away from me. And he pushed every one of my buttons as if PUSH HERE TO PISS MOMMY OFF was tattooed on me in large red letters.
I’d get frustrated, then annoyed, then angry, then sad, and then be left with a deep sense of guilt. I stayed upstairs in the nursery with my daughter. I used it as my escape and would stay there as long as I could.
I thought back to the checklist I had read in the hospital and then did my own research.
Sadness, emptiness. Check.
Crying all the time. Check.
Lack of enjoyment. Check.
Overwhelming feelings. Check.
Avoiding family and friends. Check.
Feeling angry or irritable. Check.
The list went on and I checked off most of the symptoms. This scared me.
I don’t remember when or how I told my husband how I was feeling but I do remember the argument that tore us apart. I felt like I was screaming for help but wasn’t being heard. I may have just been screaming.
Many of the things I read said that getting out of the house was helpful – something as simple as taking a trip to the store – so I got showered and dressed and put my lil’ one in her car seat and we headed off to Target.
On the way out, I saw our neighbors down the street and decided to drive down and thank them for a gift they had dropped off. I hopped out of the car and tried to look happy but broke down into tears in my neighbor’s arms. Her husband stood there not knowing what to do.
Back in the car I called my husband. Luckily, I hadn’t fully lost my sense of humor.
Wiping tears from my eyes, “Well babe, our new neighbors are officially our friends now.” “Why? What happened?” he responded. “I just boo hoo cried in her arms. I mean, boo hooed babe. Like, for no reason, I couldn’t stop crying.” We chuckled but knew then that we were dealing with something more than me just acting “different.”
For the record, the trip to Target didn’t help. I felt completely empty as I floated around Target in this dark cloud I existed in. And I was paranoid that people could tell.
I called my OBGYN and they referred me to another doctor. To my surprise the other doctor was a psychotherapist. A psychotherapist? Like, the person you go to when you’re crazy? Oh hell no! I was too stubborn and too proud to go that route before trying everything I could on my own. And I was too strong of a woman and too happy of a person to let this thing beat me.
First, I accepted I had postpartum depression and stopped hiding the fact that I did.
I tried homeopathic remedies. Supplements that balance hormones and “Happy” herbal tea that is supposed to lift your mood. I spent time with my son when I could. Hugged him and laughed with him. I opened up to family and friends and asked them to be patient with me. I discovered that the dark, sad moments were worse when I was exhausted and were exacerbated by the negativity in my life so I did all I could to sleep as often as I could and remove all negativity. And, I asked my husband for help.
These things didn’t change anything overnight but after a few weeks the depression came in waves. Two dark days for one happy day. One happy day for one dark day.
A few weeks after, consecutive happy days turned into more consecutive happy days with only moments of darkness. My depression was completely gone. My daughter was around five months old.
Some people experience postpartum depression for less time while others battle it for as long as two years. I have a new-found respect for women, Mothers and anyone who battles with depression. It is an ugly disease and we should all show empathy.
I’m not sure if it was the herbal remedies, the positive steps towards being happier or a combination of the two but I would have visited that psychotherapist if my situation did not improve.
If you feel you may have postpartum depression, call your doctor immediately. Family and friends may not understand your calls for help but still be open with your loved ones and try to explain what you are feeling. Keeping your pain to yourself will only make your depression worse.
I believe that because postpartum depression doesn’t change your physical appearance, some people don’t believe it is real. And some don’t understand the impact of hormonal imbalance. Postpartum depression is real.
Pregnancy changes your hormones and your body works overtime to produce a life. Then you add the lack of rest and stress that your body and mind are put through during labor and delivery and there’s no wonder so many women are faced with this.
The five months after my daughter was born were tough but I got through it and you will to. Talk to your doctor, communicate with your loved ones what you are feeling, educate yourself on postpartum depression so you know the signs, and don’t be too strong or too proud to ask for help.