Hi! I’m Anne and I live in Georgia with my wonderful husband Randall and our handsome little guy Caleb who is quickly approaching his first birthday…wow, time flies! I used to be a behavior analyst, where I spent my days working with children with autism and other special needs, but now I pretty much spend my days with my own little guy! Being a stay-at-home mom definitely has both its challenges and its rewards, which I’m sure a lot of you can attest to. I take the good days with the bad, but less than a year ago my life definitely had a lot more bad days.
Let me give you some background on what led up to my postpartum depression. First of all, I had experienced depression before, mostly related to the stress I was under when I worked with special needs kids. I was able to manage the depression without medication, and when my husband was relocated due to work and I had to quit my job, my depression simply went away because the circumstances causing it were no longer there. Fast forward a year, when my husband and I started trying to conceive. We were elated to find out I was pregnant just a couple of months later, but sadly the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. We were devastated, but leaned on God for comfort and peace when understanding wasn’t available. He also blessed us in a way we weren’t expecting; I got pregnant a month later and enjoyed a relatively healthy pregnancy.
I was so excited to be a mom. I read all the books and watched every episode of “A Baby Story” I could find. I loved shopping for maternity clothes, as well as baby clothes and items for the nursery. I especially loved finding out our baby’s gender and picking out the perfect name. I took the childbirth and breastfeeding classes, I filled out the birth plan, I took the tour of the hospital. I was determined to have a natural childbirth experience. I felt prepared for anything and everything. I wasn’t foolish enough to think that everything would go to plan, but little did I know that almost nothing would.
My water broke a few days before Caleb’s due date. We were sent to the hospital and I was put on pitocin since I wasn’t yet having contractions. Already I felt frustrated since this wasn’t the labor I wanted. The day stretched on and though my contractions got stronger, I never dilated past two centimeters. Finally right before midnight, I was administered the epidural I didn’t think I was going to get and wheeled into an operating room to have a c-section. The surgery itself was a little scary, but the worst part for me was not being able to hold my little son right away. What followed was a painful recovery, frustration with nursing for the first time, and the first twinge of depression that I wrote off as hormones.
The first few weeks of my son’s life were very difficult for me. He was sent back to the hospital when he was just over a week old due to lethargy and an extremely low body temperature. Tests were run, and it turned out he just wasn’t getting enough to eat; my milk hadn’t fully come in and as a first-time nursing mom, I had no idea I was in danger of starving my child. His diagnosis gave me both relief and guilt. Another twinge of depression. Then I experienced painful mastitis due to breastfeeding, followed by a case of thrush that took over a month to fully clear up. I felt like I was in a stranger’s body, since I had gained a substantial amount of weight and had no immediate way to change that. Caleb screamed after every feeding and I tried everything I could think of to comfort him. Turns out he had silent reflux, but we wouldn’t know that until he was a couple of months old. Meanwhile I felt helpless and ill-equipped to properly mother my son. Another twinge.
Shortly after Caleb’s hospital stay, my husband had to return to work. I was terrified to be left alone with my son. I soldiered through the first few days alone but cried almost constantly. I started having panic attacks when I cried; my heart would beat rapidly and I would have trouble catching my breath. I kept thinking someone else could do a better job than me and that Caleb should have been given to someone else. When I was able to venture out to run an errand and my husband would stay at home with our baby, I would fantasize about getting on the interstate and not ever coming back. It pains me to type that out even now, but back then that was my mindset; the depression was interfering with my ability to bond with my son, as well as with my ability to control my emotions.
Finally, when our son was a month old, my husband convinced me to call my obstetrician’s office. I spoke to one of the midwives over the phone, and she was very understanding. She prescribed medication that wouldn’t interfere with my breastmilk, and told me to call back if I had thoughts about harming myself or my child (which, thankfully, I never did).
What followed was a long road back to what would become our “new normal.” The medication helped (in fact, I only took it for a month), but what really came through for me was my faith in God, the loving support from my husband, and just accepting the fact that this episode with postpartum depression would not define my life and my role as Caleb’s mother. I had to let go of guilt, fear, regret, and a lot of other realities that my depression tried to make me hold on to. And I had to realize that I was a good mother no matter how I felt that day.
I did a lot of research once I realized I had postpartum depression, and I was surprised to find out how common it actually is. I had several predisposing factors that made me more likely to develop it, including my history with depression, my miscarriage, and the difficulty surrounding my baby’s birth. And what I was experiencing went beyond the normal “baby blues” that are to be expected after giving birth, both in duration and in intensity.
Looking back, I wish I had done one thing differently on my road to recovery. I wish I had been more candid with what I was going through with my friends and family. To this day, only my husband, my parents, and a few select friends know about my postpartum depression. I felt embarrassed at the time and didn’t want to discuss it with anyone. I didn’t realize till later that a friend who had recently had her second child was also experiencing depression symptoms, and while I did share my story with her a few months later, I regret that my shame prevented me from helping her sooner.
The unfortunate fact is that many mothers, like me, may deny the diagnosis or feel ashamed by it, and therefore may not receive the help they need. If you or someone you know may be suffering from postpartum depression, I encourage you to seek help. If not for you, do it for your baby.
Here are some online resources that helped me:
I also found Brooke Shield’s book “Down Came the Rain” helpful, though ironically I read it while I was still pregnant!
I won’t deny that I’m nervous about next time. My husband and I have been discussing about when to try to get pregnant again, and it has crossed my mind more than once that a re-occurrence of the depression is possible. However, I refuse to obsess over it and instead try to focus on the positive in my life. Out of this hard yet temporary experience, I have grown into a stronger person. I have my husband and son. We are all healthy. I have lost forty pounds and can almost get into all of my pre-pregnancy clothes. I have no reason not to expect good things in our future, and am actually excited about the prospect of having another baby. God is good all the time, and I’ll trust Him no matter what He brings my way. :o)
Another great postpartum depression post
Another great postpartum depression post