My Tale of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety.
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
***WARNING! This blog may contain upsetting material or triggering items for individuals. This is my personal account of having experience postpartum depression & anxiety. Please seek professional help for perinatal mood & anxiety disorders. You are not alone, not to blame and help is out there!***
I have always wanted to be a mom. Ever since I played make believe when I was 8 with my friends…I was the mom. High School drama and dilemmas… I was the maternal one everybody went to. College, adulthood and so forth… I have always been the fixer, the comforter. You could say it was my gift, it came naturally to me and I enjoyed it. So, when my husband and I struggled for several years with infertility, my dream of motherhood was threatened, and it broke my heart to think that this was something I couldn’t fix or make better. But that’s not what this blog is about…it’s about the aftermath of my pregnancy journey, one that led me down scenarios in life I never thought I’d have to conquer, and moments where I never knew I could be so strong. So here it is…my story of postpartum depression and anxiety.
I was 30 when I finally got pregnant with my first child. The 1st trimester was rocky as I bled often
and had to be put on modified bedrest for half of it, but once the 2nd trimester started everything evened out and was remarkable. Every week that passed I basked in loving how my body grew and changed, was amazed and in awe of creating this life… I felt beautiful, powerful, confident and feminine. July 1st rolled around and I my water broke (like in the movies, all over the place…oh my god get me a towel and a mop!). We rushed to the hospital due to the baby being breech and after a few hours and an emergency c-section welcomed our son. It was an amazing moment, but one that would soon unravel.
Within 24 hours of having Malone (that’s my son!), I could tell that something was off. Physically I hurt from just having had major surgery, but that wasn’t it. I couldn’t sleep, there was this thought ever so slight in my head that I had to keep watch over him because what if he stopped breathing? In fact, I use to lay my hand over into the bassinette, so I could feel his breathing while I tried to rest. This continued for 3 more nights, and I maybe slept 10 hours over the course of 4 days. Once at home, it only intensified.
Everybody tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps, let the laundry pile up, don’t worry about the dishes, get take out, etc. But I couldn’t relax or let those things go, and I couldn’t shrug of the fear of him dying, or what if I dropped him, or what if my husband dropped him. Terrible scenarios played out in my head frequently (later I would learn that these are called “intrusive thoughts” and can be a symptom of a PMAD). As days passed, I started to feel like we had genuinely made the biggest mistake in having a baby and that I wished he would just disappear… maybe we could put him up for adoption, maybe I should just leave, etc. I still was barely sleeping, hardly eating, and grew to resent being around him. Breastfeeding became a form of physical and psychological torture…but I HAD TO BREASTFEED, because breast is best and if didn’t I was failing somehow as a mom. But I didn’t want to touch him, hold him or anything… I would silently cry as he fed and all I could think about was how I wanted my old life back so desperately.
Now some of you might find my word disturbing (that’s okay, they are… just imagine being the one experiencing them) and don’t think I am proud of these thoughts or looking for attention, they are extremely difficult to write, and I truly never wish for any woman to experience them. But I think it’s important to understand just how serious of a matter postpartum depression and anxiety is. My intrusive thoughts upset me and shook me to my core. I couldn’t understand why they would just pop into my mind at any random moment… I felt guilty, ashamed, and like I was starting to go crazy. By the end of week 2 into my postpartum period, I had lost 35 lbs and felt like somebody had taken over my brain and I could only witness it’s terrifying and upsetting thoughts. Life was just “going through the motions” that a proper mom would do… change diapers, feed, comfort, repeat… but there was little or no emotion behind it. I felt no connection whatsoever to my son. Nothing. Void. Empty. I just wanted to vanish.
Everything came to a tipping point during week 3. My husband brought me my son to feed (by that point I mainly just stayed in our bedroom at the back of the house) and while trying to get him to latch properly as he’s crying, I was filled with this rage and thought for a fleeting second how I could just throw him into the wall. This thought broke me completely, and I knew that I would NEVER in my life harm him, but I started sobbing and confessed to my husband all the struggles that I had been experiencing over the past weeks. All the terrible thoughts, the lack of connection, the fear, the shame, etc. Of course, this scared him, and he asked me to hand him our son. I was certain he would leave me, that I had lost my mind and was a terrible mother. But instead he became my biggest champion and best support.
We contacted my OBGYN and were in for an appointment the next day. Within 5 days of that I was sitting in a psychiatry office filling out an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale questionnaire and spilling my heart out to someone who I’d never met before, but desperately wanted help from. The therapist diagnosed me with severe postpartum depression and put me on medication. I was to go to therapy weekly and participate in a support group for other women experiencing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. All of this was intensely overwhelming, but I distinctly remember as we walked out of her office that a sense of calm came over me. I had postpartum depression & anxiety, but for me, a diagnosis means a treatment plan, and a treatment plan means recovery. I finally had hope.
Over the course of 6 months, I experienced a lot of ups and downs. Adjustments in medications,
immense frustration and having to get past my shame and explain to those closest to me what was going on and that I needed help. I learned that it was not a sign of weakness to depend on other people, that being vulnerable allows for people to grow closer, that I did NOT do anything to experience postpartum depression, and I needed my “village” more than ever to get through it all. Eventually, my good days outnumbered the bad, my son gradually became the joy of my life, I started to enjoy motherhood (blow-outs, diapers and all!) and the love I felt for him was indescribable.
The sad reality is that you’ve probably known someone who has experienced a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, whether you’ve realized it or not. The stats tell us that 1 in 7 pregnant or postpartum women will experience some type of PMAD, but that less than 50% of them will seek professional help (say what?!). Even more unsettling is that PMADs can happen to any woman… no one is immune to it and you may have never had a day of depression or anxiety in your life and experience it. I don’t say these things to scare you, but to inform you (knowledge is power!). So, that you aren’t blindsided like so many of us have been, because perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are NOT discussed enough during pregnancy nor are proper pre-screenings done. But there is HOPE and you are NOT alone, you are NOT a bad mom, and you DIDN’T do anything to cause this to happen to you.
For more information or help with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, check out http://www.postpartum.net or call 1.800.944.4773