I may have touched on this in earlier posts but I wanted to dedicate a full post to Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. Baby CJ’s delivery rocked my world – in wonderful ways, and in some ways that sent me feeling out of control.
Having survived a life threatening complication made me feel like I should be only feeling grateful for each and every day with my son. And, honestly, I do genuinely feel grateful for each moment that I get with him (and I think most parents share that gratitude for their kids, regardless of any sort of complications). However, in the midst of my new life as a mom, something was wrong. Outings regularly sent me into a tailspin that only my poor husband got to witness.
This was the nagging stream of consciousness going through my head: Is this from the lack of sleep? He is sleeping through the night now… Was it breast-feeding wearing on me? Maybe… let’s see if I start to feel normal after weaning (which, unfortunately, was something that happened way earlier than I’d planned on). OK, still feeling weird after weaning… Maybe it is because I’m still vitamin deficient, let’s make sure I’m taking a vitamin and eating well… OK, maybe it’s because I’m still out of shape… Let’s join the Y and see if that helps…
Finally, the chat with my OB the first week after I had CJ, when he was removing my staples, kept sneaking in, specifically, after a particularly bad episode of my son crying in the car while I flipped out because formula powder spilled everywhere. The OB’s words, which were actually more directed at my husband, telling us that he would more likely notice changes in my before I even noticed. Those comments, along with my husband’s comments about how freaked out things were making me for no reason, made me think, “Something is actually wrong with me.”
My life is great – I have a great husband, a healthy son, I was healthy, we are financially stable, I am enjoying our set up with being able to stay home… Why the heck do I feel so different? And, it wasn’t a “good” different either. I also had remembered my mom telling me about family members who’d suffered chemical imbalances after bad hemorrhages, that triggered mental illness. Before telling my husband that I wanted to talk with the doctor, I reached out to a friend who has always been very open with me about her own struggles with PPD/PPA after having her daughter (and having a bad hemorrhage). Her words to me were, “Girl, you are textbook – go see your doc now.” I was also given this link: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english
I’d always envisioned PPD or PPA looking like it does in those commercials for antidepressants. The ones where the mom can’t get out of bed, she cries all the time, doesn’t eat or can’t stop eating, ignores her baby, etc. And, maybe those are true symptoms for other people – but I was none of those things. Also, my son was 9 months old before I went to see the doctor (finally!) about what was going on. The link above made everything click when I read this:
- “Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.”
Most of the other things she detailed were starting to hit home as well, but that bullet point nailed it for me. And, it gave me a way to articulate to my doctor how I was feeling. It turns out, my OB’s wife suffered from an almost identical case of PPD/PPA for months as well after their child was born. She, like myself, managed to hide it from all of her close friends and family too, but just felt so angry and frustrated with everything all of the time.
I went on a low dose antidepressant for about 6 months, had a lot more open conversations with my husband, and finally started to catch a break from whatever that was lurking around in my head. The meds can have their own drawbacks, but I was very grateful that I was able to regain a bit of balance back.
I do worry about having a repeat performance of this after I have Baby #2, though I feel better knowing that I know what to look for ahead of time. I refer back to the page I linked here often as a bit of a reminder (and resource to share with other friends) of what to look for. I also owe a huge thanks to a few of my closer “mommy-friends” who opened up with me enough about their own experiences and made it OK for me to talk with them about how I was feeling as well. PPD/PPA are so common, but are still considered somewhat taboo – hence my motivation to post about it here.