A note on Post-Partum Depression: you don’t have to live like this
If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you know one of my earliest posts was about the delivery of my son and the PTSD that resulted from that experience.
I have also mentioned a couple times that I suffered from Post-Partum depression as well. This wasn’t a surprise for me though, since I already had anxiety and depression and chose not to medicate during my pregnancy.
What did surprise me was how different PPD is from regular clinical depression. It should be obvious, since it has a different root cause and accompanies the biggest life change possible. It’s not worse or better, it’s just different.
When I was in the depths of my PPD and my PTSD I felt like parenthood was this impossible task that I should never have taken upon myself. I wondered how anyone did it. How did anyone have a baby and then appear to function so normally afterwards? How did anyone have a baby and then actually decide to have ANOTHER one? I didn’t understand how my mom had 6. Or how my sister had 2 close together. Or how anyone in the world could ever have multiples! I felt like getting up in the morning to get the crying baby was the biggest accomplishment of my life. Most days all I could do was sit on the couch with my newborn and feed and change him right there in that spot. I wouldn’t eat until my husband came home from work.
Any time in the night when my baby woke to nurse, I was instantly filled with dread and despair. Nursing didn’t go well for us, and especially at night it was always an episode of tears and frustration.
My mom was with me for the first couple weeks after giving birth. It would have literally been impossible without her considering the intense recovery I had from both a long labor and a c section. After she left my mother in law and sister in law came for a week. Once they left, I sunk to a level of despair so deep I’m not even sure how I got out of it. The next couple of days were terrifying and lonely. I didn’t have help while my husband was at work anymore. I was on my own.
Things were so bad my parents decided to come back for an extra week to help out. Both my parents worked hard to help me get to a place where I could function on my own.
Still, the day they left drove a hole in my heart. I felt completely incapable, inadaquete, and ashamed.
Honestly the first month of my son’s life is a blur. I know in my mind all these things occurred. And I know how despaired I felt. But I don’t remember much at all about the day to day. It’s all a fog. I don’t even remember what that little guy looked like. I struggled for a while to bond with him. It was not that magical moment in the hospital they show in the movies. In the hospital I was confused. I couldn’t connect that the baby my husband was holding was the same one I had been carrying for 9 months (I blame that in part to being put out for the c section and not being awake for his actual birth).
If I’m going to be completely honest here, the first three months of my son’s life are a big void in my mind. I have glimpses of memories that I’m unsure were dreams or memories invented by later hearing others talk to me about that period of time. I lived in a daze. Always half asleep. Sleep never feeling restful. Living in constant stress, fear, and despair. And throughout it all I couldn’t figure out how to connect with and bond with my son.
It wasn’t until he was 6 months old that I was diagnosed with PTSD and finally got the professional help I needed.
I don’t remember when I started taking anti-depressants again. I know that they did help with the PPD a little. But mostly I had to re learn how to apply those coping skills I’d learned for years in therapy. And it was a big waiting game while my hormones settled.
I saw a doctor a few times with questions about why my fatigue was so extreme, why my brain never seemed to work, why I felt ill all the time.
I was told over and over that it was just normal. That this was what motherhood was like.
I felt shocked and crushed. How did ANYONE endure this? I became convinced I would feel this way for the rest of my life. Because that was what they kept saying.
“Yep, welcome to motherhood.”
“Of course you feel different, everyone does.”
People assumed I had been unprepared for how hard motherhood would be. They assumed I didn’t understand what tired felt like and that I was complaining of normal fatigue caused by sleepless nights feeding a colicky baby.
It took me months to realize they were wrong.
What I was experiencing was NOT NORMAL. It was severe PPD combined with PTSD. I was ill. I was also suffering from an eating disorder that wasn’t noticed until my husband found out I hadn’t been eating while he was at work.
They all told me that dark place was my new reality. There was an assumption that since I was on medication, the PPD was solved, and what I was experiencing was normal adjustment to parenthood.
Moms, if you feel you are in a dark, lonely place, if the fatigue is weighing on you like a dark fog that you cannot rise above no matter how much you “sleep when the baby sleeps,” if you are wondering how women manage motherhood when it means feeling that way for the rest of your life, or you are questioning your decision to become a mom, if you are struggling bonding with your baby, if you feel every day is the hardest in your life, if the sound of your baby’s cry fills you with dread, if you are incapable of caring for yourself, if you feel utterly hopeless about the future and your ability to be a mom –this is NOT normal parenthood adjustment. And you are NOT alone. None of these feelings should make you feel guilty. Seek help. And know that it DOES get better. It DOES end. Those hormones will regulate. Medicine will eventually help. Therapy can help. You can overcome PPD and feel the way you expected a mom should feel. You will bond with your baby. It’s ok if it takes time. It’s ok if you didn’t have that sparkly magic moment in the hospital.
It’s ok. It will be ok. And while motherhood is exhausting, and emotional, and a huge adjustment –these dark places of half sleep are not motherhood. That’s depression. Don’t let anyone tell you different.