Baby Blues. Postpartum Sadness. Depression. Anxiety.
Postpartum Depression has many names and many meanings to those impacted by it. I didn’t think it would be something I would suffer from, but I also knew it wasn’t a total impossibility.
Postpartum Depression is something that lots of Moms experience — roughly 600,000 U.S. mothers will endure PPD.
I was advised well in advance of Ev’s arrival that it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions after the baby arrives. Your hormones are going berserk. If you think about the normal cycle of a woman, the running joke is that you want to be nowhere near a PMSing woman. Why? Because those crazy hormones are jumping up and down and turning her into a rollercoaster of emotions.
Despite the head’s up, I thought that in order to have PPD, you absolutely had to have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby.
So when I had lingering feelings of anxiety that I absolutely could not shake and outbursts of tears after her birth, I thought there was no way it could be PPD because I had an overwhelming urge to PROTECT her rather than harm her. I thought, “Wow, this must be what parental instinct is? I’m sure this’ll pass once I get some sleep… at some point…”
Fast-forward several months and I still felt the anxiety-driven need to check Ev three, four even five times within a period of 30 minutes to make sure she was breathing when she would fall asleep. I would wake up sweating and would immediately lean over to make sure she was warm multiple times in the middle of the night, even if she wasn’t stirring or crying. I absolutely could NOT have her sleep in her car-seat under any circumstances because I was certain that she would asphyxiate.
I felt certain that I could not leave her for longer than an hour without something terrible happening to her while under the care of someone else. I trusted no one, even my own husband who I KNEW loved her as much as I did. C.D. and I would have tense arguments about things that he felt were safe or okay and in my mind I felt could do irreparable harm to her.
Finally after one very emotional battle, he calmly asked me if I thought I should see the doctor about how I had been feeling since I wasn’t being myself. I told him, “I’m not depressed, I’m just anxious.” He pressed the point again that I really hadn’t been my happy, goofy self, especially after being blessed with such a beautiful, healthy baby. I thought about it and determined it wouldn’t hurt to just talk to the doctor.
When Ev was five months old, I went to see my doctor and described what I had been feeling.
- Extreme anxiety: Thoughts that I absolutely couldn’t shake even when self-assuring myself that the worst was NOT likely to happen (I will never say not guaranteed because unfortunately bad things do happen, but the likelihood is another story).
- Sadness that would come about suddenly: One minute I was happy go-lucky playing with the baby, the next moment I would be weeping at the thought of losing her.
- Feeling of “Nothing”: It’s hard to describe, but there were days when it felt like a task to be happy and a task to be sad. I literally felt nothing.
- Feeling of Heightened Pressure: I understand almost ALL new moms and dads feel pressured by their families and friends to take advice or follow their lead. I had an overwhelming feeling that I was being overly scrutinized and judged for the decisions I was making (when really I was putting much of the judgment upon myself).
He assured me that what I was experiencing me DID fit the PPD description — that harmful thoughts are not always a hard and fast symptom of PPD.
He gave me the option to try a low dose of the Lexapro generic and because I hadn’t yet found my rhythm with working out again (with exercising providing the natural endorphins that can lift one out of a funk), I was open to trying something to help improve my mood. I reminded myself that:
- Helping MYSELF helps my family. I can’t be a good mom or wife if I’m not happy myself.
- PPD is a result of hormonal imbalances. I wasn’t a crazy person for having PPD.
I’ve been taking the medication and working in exercising now for five and a half months and I am so happy to say that I feel like the old me. Albeit a TIRED old me, but the old me nonetheless. There have been instances in which I’ve forgotten to take my “happy pills” as I affectionately refer to them, and so far I haven’t felt any of my old symptoms creep back in.
I’ve come to realize that PPD is a side effect of childbirth that should be talked about more and in greater detail prior to childbirth. I was so lucky to have a husband who supported me and helped me come to the right decision to battle this side affect head on. Unfortunately, others may not have this support.
With more education, more women may feel comfortable, open to and empowered to talk to their general practitioner or OB-GYN about how they are feeling and get the help they need. Sometimes medicine is the answer, other times simple breathing techniques or talk therapy can help.
For anyone who may be feeling what I felt, don’t be ashamed. Talk to someone — it’s hard to turn off the mommy feeling of “I have to put my family first,” but there ARE instances in which you need to help yourself first.