My Post Partum Depression Story
New & Expecting Mamas, I’m sorry to be another person to cast a dark shadow on the beautiful, bright, Norman Rockwell fantasy motherhood scenarios many of you may dream of sharing with your new bundle of joy(s). We need to talk about the very real, very scary, and for some reason very stigmatized boogie man: Post Partum Depression (PPD).
I’m not here to preach about PPD as a sickness from a clinical perspective, but to open up about my experience, struggle, and journey to health again. I hope that creating more public dialogue about our experiences with Post-Partum Depression, more mothers will come forward to seek early help without fear.
Beyond “Baby Blues”
Seriously ladies, babies are exhausting! Even the most energetic and resilient moms will have moments where they feel overwhelmed and exhausted, especially at 2am when Jr. just won’t stop crying or feeding. “Baby Blues” are temporary and maybe a trip to Starbucks with a friend, or letting Grandma get her wish of an afternoon with the new baby “So you can sleep, honey,” can help relieve your exhaustion and fortify your spirits.
PPD is so much different. When your crying just won’t stop, you always feel desperate, inadequate (though all mothers feel inadequate periodically), never attached to your baby, empty, numb- not feeling anything at all. These are all indications of PPD, though many other signs can identify this complex condition. Most seriously, anger and suicidal ideation can manifest in Post-Partum Depression. These are never symptoms to ignore. Seek help immediately if this describes you.
Precious Moments Lost
Autumn was born in October 2014. Immediately she had problems nursing. This was a crushing blow to my hopes for motherhood. The only thing that I wanted to do was nurse Autumn for the first year. Everything else I would play by ear. The entire hospital stay was a nightmare of painful feedings, unhelpful lactation consultants, and a feeling that Autumn was someone else’s baby that I was babysitting. *Red Flag!*
Things didn’t get any better when we got home. Her feeding problems persisted and it seemed like she nursed around the clock, but was never satisfied. My nipples were wrecked, she wasn’t getting as much milk as I was making, and I still didn’t feel like a mother. At her doctor’s appointment, she was checked off as gaining weight OK, but I didn’t feel like I was adequately providing for her needs. She cried ALL. THE. TIME. I felt so out of touch with her and hopeless.
I couldn’t handle it. Like, I literally dreaded the days that my husband worked night shifts and I had to brave the seemingly endless nights of painful feeding, constant soothing, screaming from her, tears from me alone. Who was I to complain? Innumerable mothers had valiantly swallowed their discomfort for the sake of their precious bundles of joy. Why couldn’t I buck up and take it like a mom? I felt so ashamed at my feelings of displeasure, borderline unloving, and straight up misery that I didn’t say anything and refused to acknowledge these true issues for months. Months of bonding, joy, and love with my baby were lost because I hid my depression.
After I went back to work, things didn’t improve. As a direct service worker for adults with disabilities, I worked very closely with medical and psychological professionals. After leaving a shift with a client who had a history of severe mental illness, I decided that I needed to get “checked out” for Post Partum Depression. (I think this was March 2015!)
My doctor’s visit wasn’t scary, shameful, or awkward at all. My doctor, (who is now my primary doctor, how cool!) a mom herself, was very compassionate and open about the prevalence of PPD. She did give me a bit of a finger wagging for not coming in sooner, but a concerned, loving one. I was so relieved to have more understanding, hope, and a reason for my feelings. medication and counseling were the best options for me and they helped immensely.
It’s a Journey
Since my original diagnosis of Post Partum Depression, I have “graduated” to Major Depression. That just means that my symptoms didn’t end after the technical Post Partum period. I’m ok with that. I am not ashamed; it’s just a sickness that needs treatment just like my epilepsy. I don’t love being on a bunch of medications for seizures and another for depression and anxiety, but I am beyond grateful to be in a place where I feel love, joy, connection, motivation, and like my daughter’s mother and my husband’s wife.
Power of Prayer
I can’t meditate. I just can’t not “talk” in my mind. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and having a personal communicative relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is deeply important to me. Prayer has become my meditation- meditation where I can talk.
I don’t ask to be “healed” in prayers, but I tell Heavenly Father what I’m feeling, the pain that I’m going through, and the anxieties I have. I try to focus on scriptures that empower me and remind me that through Christ’s Atonement He not only saved us from sins, but He felt every pain and affliction we have and ever will experience. Knowing that I am not alone in my pain nor talking to a “brick wall” is some of the best (and free) therapy ever.
Sunshine After Rain
Mama’s new, again-ers, empty nesters, and everyone in between: let’s not continue to stigmatize and hide our individual stories of depression and mental
illness wellness, post partum or otherwise. Speaking up and letting others know that they are not alone can create a closer community of sisterhood, healthy mother-baby relationships, and increase early access to behavioral health.
Take heart, the rain never lasts forever. Even the gloomiest places get pockets of sunshine. Love yourselves, love your babies and families, and know that you are never alone.