To any moms reading this, what was the initial postpartum period like for you? Was it filled with joy? I bet it was sleepless, right? Maybe a coffee hazed period of confused bliss.
For most moms this is the case. You are tired as all get out, but you are wonderfully in love with your new little one.
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if instead of joy, you felt unbearable sadness? What if you spent those first few months not bonding with your child, but feeling separate and alone?
*TW/CW- postpartum suicidal ideation, self harm, death of children
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This is sadly the case for many women. There are women out there who yes, love their babies, but are not filled with a sense of joy at becoming a mother. For many, that love is accompanied by sadness, anxiety, shame, and silence.
I was one of those women.
My story of postpartum depression
We started trying to have a baby in July 2014. We were dizzy with excitement. Nervous obviously, but so excited.
Fortunately, it was first time’s the charm, and I got pregnant that first month. It was a very easy pregnancy as far as those things go. I felt sick maybe 2 or 3 times in the first trimester and was tired but besides that, I had it very lucky.
When Olivia was born in April 2015, my husband and I were instantly in love. She was so, so sweet and perfect. There was nothing about her I didn’t like. The same is true today. Pure sweetness.
Almost right away, along with that dream-like feeling of love for a new baby, I didn’t feel like myself.
Granted, I have always had depression. Well, since I was about 9. So normal for me, might not be normal for most other people. Still, I didn’t feel right.
What was happening
For one thing, I HATED breastfeeding. Hated it with a passion. Her latch was really painful for the first month or so. Most nursing sessions ended in tears.
I also just felt really isolated. So much of my time was spent nursing, rocking her, putting her to sleep, changing her, bathing her… I started to lose something critical for mental health: my identity.
Our identity as women is something vital to our wellbeing, and when we lose it, we sink into a pit of quicksand, the light slowly disappearing as we vanish beneath the surface.
Around 5 months postpartum, I became significantly suicidal. I never made an attempt on my life, but I was desperate to. In a way, I was angry with myself that I didn’t have the courage (or whatever you want to call it) to end my suffering.
I felt so disconnected. So despaired. So alone.
Finally, I talked to my husband about it, and we worked together to make sure I got help. Today, my little lovebug is 4 1/2, with an almost 3 year old sister. They are the joy of my life, and I am doing relatively well.
My story has a happy ending. I might not have a good day every single day, but I am alive. I came out on the other side of postpartum depression, which is not the case for everyone.
According to one study, around 70-80% of women experience some level of postpartum depression, which includes the “postpartum blues.” The postpartum blues are relatively minor and pass quickly.
Actual clinic PPD affects 10-20% of new moms. So, for every mom’s group of 20 women, between 2-4 are being treated for postpartum depression or related issues.
There are approximately 4 million live births every year in the US, and a recent study suggests that 600,000 of those moms are diagnosed with PPD. This number is nearing 1 million when you factor in the moms who suffer pregnancy loss and children born sleeping.
Postpartum depression symptoms
With these staggering statistics in mind, it is important that we are able to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression. This way, we can help anyone who might be struggling. To share this article, use the icons at the beginning and end of the post.
The blues do not fade
As the statistics above indicate, it is relatively common for women to experience a bit of postpartum blues. But I want to be clear, prolonged sadness after giving birth is NOT normal.
If your sadness persists for up to a month or longer, schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN. They can point you toward some great resources.
Sadness or guilt
Many women experience sadness or guilt after the birth of their child. Often, the guilt is due to the sadness itself. They feel sadder than they believe they ought to feel happy, and that makes them feel guilty.
Important note: You should never feel guilty for experiencing postpartum depression. Like with “normal” depression, it’s not your fault and you did nothing to cause it.
Loss of interest
This can also be common for women who suffer from PPD. Sure, when you have a baby it can be normal to be so consumed by the care involved that your hobbies take a pause.
However, if you find that you no longer enjoy things like you used to, I would consider seeing a doctor. This is a classic symptom of depression.
Worry or anxiety
All moms worry. I totally get it. After all, you are now responsible for the health, happiness, and safety of an entire HUMAN BEING. This is overwhelming on its best days and that shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
That being said, if you feel as if you are unable to function (for example, you lie awake all night worried your baby is not breathing) that is not normal and is the sign of a larger issue.
Trouble making decisions
Anyone heard of mom brain? That’s legitimately a thing. Our brain is overloaded with so many worries and feelings as a mom that we sometimes find it hard to think or concentrate. I definitely experience that on a daily basis.
Pay attention to it, though, if it gets to the point where you can’t concentrate on simple tasks. This brain fog could mean you are experiencing PPD.
This is not to be confused with a situation in which a baby won’t let you sleep. I am referring to having the opportunity to sleep, and not being able to.
Or maybe, you get sufficient sleep (lucky mama!), but struggle to stay away during the day. Fatigue and insomnia are both signs of underlying mental health issues.
Thoughts of suicide or self harm
While this is an issue that many women experience, it is by no means normal. There is never a situation where this should be written off as a new mom thing. If you think you might be likely to harm yourself (or someone else!) you need to seek immediate professional help.
As someone who was suicidal after giving birth, this is something I am extremely passionate about. So listen carefully:
It is never ever ever (not even for one moment) normal for a new mother to want to commit suicide or harm herself. I will go into my thoughts on this more in a little bit, but keep that in mind as you continue to read.
Stories from others
Cassie from http://upcycledadulting.com
“I had a very difficult case after my son was born. I had 4 other children (blended fam) & didn’t have it with my other pregnancy. Sadly, I was very ashamed & didn’t tell anyone about it until a couple yrs ago (not even my husband). I went on meds when he was around 2. It helped but over time the meds led to anxiety & suicidal ideation.
“I’d just like to add that my husband & I were best friends for 15 yrs before marriage & have been married for almost 20. It wasn’t a marital issue that prevented me from telling him. I struggled to bond with my son. Even when I was pregnant (which was planned & filled with joy) I felt like my body had been invaded. I was very afraid that I was hurting him or he was going to feel unloved. Of course, I deeply loved him. I just felt so disconnected.
“I wondered if it was because he was a boy. If I was sensitive to the inutero testosterone. Who knows. It was very difficult. On the upside addressing my PPD had long term impact on improving my generalized anxiety & MDD.”
Karalee from talesofbelle.com
“2 months after I had my daughter, we moved to Denmark because my boyfriend’s US visa was expiring. We stayed with my boyfriend’s mother, and that period was a horrible time for me. While my boyfriend and his mother were working, I stayed home to take care of our daughter.
“When my boyfriend and his mother were home, they often argued over how to care for my daughter, and it made me feel like I was doing a horrible job as a mother. My boyfriend’s mother specifically told me that I always need to be talking to my daughter, and I found that so difficult to do, which led to more arguments.
“I was crying every day, and most of the time I did not know why. I avoided going out, and I remember one time I got into an argument with my boyfriend because I did not want to go out for lunch with his family who came to visit, and I spent the whole time they were gone in bed crying.
“My boyfriend recognized that something was wrong, and he even talked to my parents about it, but I always denied that there was something wrong. In my mind, I thought what I was experiencing was a normal part of adjusting to a new country.
“After 3 months of living in Denmark, my visa expired, and we moved back to my parents in the US. During the time with my parents, I felt like I was able to be myself again before the 3 months in Denmark. I was no longer crying every day (in fact I was rarely crying at all). Since my boyfriend was not working, he was also able to help me take care of our daughter.
“I found going out enjoyable again, and we would often take my daughter out to the city. I remember one night my mother watched my daughter while me and my boyfriend saw a play, and it was enjoyable. Also, I started my blog during this time, and it gave me sense of purpose that I lacked in Denmark.
“In retrospect, the depression I experienced after having my daughter and moving to Denmark 2 months later was not a normal part of adjusting to a new country. I was away from the support of my parents, and during the day I was home alone with my daughter then in the evenings I was around constant arguments that made the time there miserable. After returning to the US, I was able to have the support of both my parents and my boyfriend.”
Andrea Yates is probably the most famous example I can think of when it comes to postpartum depression. Her PPD became psychosis and it unfortunately led to the death of her 5 children and her incarceration.
Now, just to be clear: Andrea Yates is the exception, not the rule. It is very very uncommon for a mother to be so depressed that she becomes psychotic and takes the life of her children.
The purpose of me mentioning her story is to drive home the point that all postpartum women need adequate care and support. Sadly, Yates received repeated ineffective treatment, and when she was stable, the treatment that was working was discontinued because she was “better.”
She is certainly a very extreme example of PPD that became psychosis. Just keep in mind, that all postpartum issues deserve attention, lest something tragic happen.
Check out her story on my True Crime page!
Tips for LIVING with postpartum depression
Fortunately, there is hope. I am writing to you from the other side of maybe the darkest period of my life. I am still clinically depressed but I consider my season of PPD over.
So what can you do if you find yourself in my situation?
If you are sadder than normal after giving birth, or have any of the other symptoms listed above, you need to say something. If not for you, than for your partner and your child. They deserve to see you healthy, and so do you!
I’m a major proponent of journaling when you have problems you need to work through. You can get all your thoughts out of your brain and put them on paper. There is something truly powerful about that!
Here are some super cute and handy journals, if you aren’t sure where to start:
Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude Journal
See a therapist
This has done wonders for me personally. I totally understand that it can be scary to discuss your insecurities and larger issues with strangers.
But seriously, it is so helpful. Therapists are trained to offer coping strategies that you would never even think of on your own. Bring a list of questions and call ahead to ask what you can expect at your first therapy appointment.
See a naturopath
Natural wellness is something that has become more and more intriguing to me as the years go on. There is so much information available today!
I encourage all moms (PPD or not) to explore ways they can complement their traditional health care with natural solutions too. You might just be one supplement, yoga class, or essential oil away from a slight improvement in your health. It’s at least worth looking in to.
The dangers of complacency
Like I said before, you are 100% never ever to blame for your postpartum depression. It is something your brain is doing to you, not the other way around. Please remember that.
However, we also need to remember the following:
Postpartum depression is not normal. It is not just some phase that you can pray your way through. It is a legitimate medical condition that needs to be taken seriously.
Do not be complacent. It is not normal. It is not your fault, but it is never normal to feel cripplingly sad. Please reach out, get help, and take back control of your life.
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Have you ever experienced PPD or some form of PP blues? What was your experience? I would love to hear about it in the comments.
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