Did you know May is Postpartum Depression Awareness month? As a mom who was diagnosed with PPD, I felt, and still feel, the need to share my experience in hopes of raising awareness so they may know 1) it’s ok to open up about it and 2) you’re not alone! Here’s my (original) story….
I worked up until the week my daughter was born. As an ultrasonographer, I had the pleasure of chatting with a lot of my patients about motherhood. Everyone was so eager to give me advice; what it’s like, how to eat, when to sleep, proper ways to exercise, etc. While becoming a parent seemed magical and wonderful, it was also painful and exhausting. There was so much excitement that came with expecting our first baby, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.
I was afraid.
“Babies are hard,” they’d say. “They’re messy and tiring.”
…Ok, really afraid!
As hard as I had tried to prepare myself for the birth of our daughter, I was NOT prepared for the emotional roller coaster that came the first few months of parenthood. I had always envisioned motherhood as a serene experience in which you enjoy every minute with your new child…apparently not in my case. To this day I am still surprised at how quickly the weight of caring for my newborn sat in. There was a dense fog that quickly settled over me after having my baby. Within the first week home, I began to experience a major hormonal fluctuation which led to a combination of jumbled thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I had hoped it was just normal baby blues and that it was something that was to be expected with childbirth, but unfortunately, as we later discovered, I did suffer from PPD.
I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. I had prayed for and wanted this baby for so long and it even took us a while to get pregnant, so I couldn’t understand why I was more stressed than happy about it. My body just felt “off” and out of sorts. I was so tired, scared, and overwhelmed, with a terrible feeling of guilt. It took a few days for it to really set in that she was mine. I just didn’t feel connected to her right away, the way I had imagined. There were moments of extreme joy followed by a lot of crying but amidst all the stress, I knew I was thankful and that I loved her.
On top of the emotional instability came other unexpected (personal) problems like; losing my hair, peeing my pants, and treating the numerous hemorrhoids that developed from pushing so long and hard (TMI, I know! But, hey! I’m just being honest). Then, on top of dealing with the personal problems, I had to keep up with laundry, dishes, feeding and bathing myself and finding time to go to the bathroom (which is probably why I peed my pants) as well as play host to all my family and friends who were so eager to visit, hold, and kiss the baby when all I wanted to do was SLEEP! (No offense friends/family. You all know I love ya!) All around me I saw “perfect” moms, who seemed to have mastered the art of showering and applying makeup every morning. I literally felt like the world’s biggest failure. I felt like I needed two of me to do the tasks of one.
After dealing with daunting emotions, loss of appetite, and insomnia for two weeks, my husband finally convinced me to express my feelings and concerns with my doctor to which she quickly determined it to be PPD. As reluctant as I was to ask for help or be medicated to “fix” the way I was feeling, I’m sure glad I did. Her prompt treatment helped take away the fear and anxiety that had been weighing me down over the past two weeks.
I didn’t really believe people when they told me “It’ll get better, “or “It gets easier!” But, it does. It just does. After a month or so I felt a distinct change in myself. The fog had finally lifted. I didn’t break down as much or get frustrated as quickly and I was beginning to feel “normal” and enjoy myself again. It was then that I also discovered just how in love I was with my tiny human! It may have been a rough start, but it was all worth it.
** I have since had a second child! I was extremely nervous and worried I would relapse and struggle with the same daunting depression after discovering PPD is more common in those who have already experienced it in prior pregnancies, so I was quick to talk with my doctor during my first OB visits. She was very comforting and understanding and promised to help me. We sat up a plan to begin taking antidepressant medication towards the end of my pregnancy (FYI it takes 3-4 weeks for the medication to take full effect) and I immediately felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. I was one step ahead of the game the second time around. I felt prepared because I was familiar with the not-so-normal signs and feelings. So, at 36 weeks I began a 50 ml dose (the lowest dose available) of Zoloft. I am so thankful I took the preventative steps to decrease my chances of PPD. I was able to enjoy my maternity leave at home with my son, like every new mom should!
If you are pregnant, hope to be pregnant, just had a baby, or know someone who is struggling with PPD I hope you will find this article helpful and can recognize the signs and symptoms of PPD. If you are or do experience signs of PPD, please don’t be too embarrassed or wait to get help. PPD is NOT a character flaw or weakness. Find time for yourself, accept caregiving help, find a support group, and be patient.