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You see a sweet black and white picture of me and my girl ❤️. I see a mom barely making it, drowning in an ocean of postpartum depression.
For me, it looked like the inability to sleep, feeling completely overwhelmed, unable to eat, terrible anxiety and utter rage.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me except I didn’t want to be here anymore. I felt like a burden to my family and kids. At one point, I remember telling my husband everyone would be better off without me. I didn’t feel suicidal, nor do I think I had suicidal thoughts (even looking back) but I was so far away from where I needed to be, that I didn’t know how else to put it into words.
My husband, even though supportive, thought I was struggling with welcoming a second baby. He thought my oldest was my favorite and I just needed to accept that I had another baby and love her the same. I didn’t think that was the case at all. My mom knew something was off, but was helpless from 250 miles away.
Looking back, postpartum depression is the right diagnosis and I hadn’t bonded with my baby like I did my first. After having my first baby, I suffered from postpartum anxiety, I had difficulty leaving the house but without other significant demands, I was able to manage fairly well. This was obviously not the case with my second. I felt prepared for my second baby, asking friends for advice, setting up my house for easy access to everything I would need with 2 under two. I made special boxes for my son to take out while I was nursing, I had a plan that I would help my toddler before helping the baby and I even hired a babysitter to help me out in the evenings so I would be sure I had enough time to devote to having 2 young babies to care for.
But of course, life does not ever work out perfectly and with the best laid plans, comes life. My daughter was born 3 weeks early and in 3 hours. I was enjoying a movie with my husband when my water broke. Since I was not in active labor, I assumed my labor was going to be long, similar to my son and I was prepare to settle in for the long haul. Well, she had other plans, within 30 minutes of arriving to the hospital, I was in active labor. Since it was a busy night on labor and delivery, anesthesia never made it to me and I delivered her to a first year resident, without a single dose of pain medication. Following her birth, I suffered a hemorrhage, requiring a uterine evacuation, still unmedicated. Four hours ago, I was sitting at the Slider House having dinner with bestie and now I had a brand new baby and had just undergone a terrifying medical procedure, while in terrific pain.
While my story is not unique or as traumatic or scary as some, it was enough to “throw me off” and set me into a spiral I wasn’t able to get out of alone. My daughter was also born with a medical condition that caused her to be in significant abdominal pain that wasn’t diagnosed until she was 13 months old. This caused her to be a horrific sleeper and extremely fussy, crying 12+ hours a day, every. single. day. I learned that welcoming a second baby in addition to all the demands of life, family changes, marital stress, and the death of a friend, all made for the perfect storm, culminating in the deterioration of my mental health.
When enough was enough, I finally called my OB and got a same day appointment. I was shocked when she told me she thought I had postpartum depression and needed to be treated. My baby was 10 months old. Didn’t this happen when my baby was first born? Wasn’t I supposed to hate my baby? I wasn’t afraid I was going to hurt my baby. For me, PPD didn’t look like it did in the commercials and the Edinburgh Depression Screener didn’t hit any of my symptoms. Why didn’t I feel blue? I even had friends say “oh, you don’t seem depressed” which of course made me feel worse and question if maybe it was all in my head or I was being dramatic.
What PPD looked like for me
My biggest complaints were inability to sleep, changes in appetite, a sense of being completely overwhelmed and RAGE. Sleep was very difficult for me. I would wake up at 2am every single day and be up for the day. I was completely unable to fall back to sleep, starting your day at 2am every, single. day for months on end, is exhausting. In addition, I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed but I brushed it off to being a new mom with 2 under two. I dreaded everyday, I had no idea how I could possibly get up and do what I needed to do.
My appetite changed. Food was uninteresting to me and I just wasn’t very hungry. I dropped 15lbs below my pre pregnancy weight and while, at the time, I enjoyed feeling “skinny”, looking back, it’s a sad reminder of the way I felt. And my rage was out of control. Things would make me so very angry. I could feel my whole body losing control. It would boil up from my stomach and fill my entire body. It was scary sometimes how stinkin’ mad I could get. I didn’t understand why I was so mad and angry. I didn’t want to feel that way. I felt so out of control. These symptoms came on slowly and I do not remember feeling this way until my baby was about 6months old, worsening over a 4 month period until I was able to get help. As it would turn out, these are the more common symptoms of PPD and
My OB’s choice of treatment was over the counter sleeping medication and an over the counter supplement called methlyfolate as a first line treatment before starting an anti-depressant. I also enrolled myself in personal counseling. I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel better right away, but I was able to function and focus on getting better. It wasn’t until I was done nursing that I felt more “like myself”. I continued to take the methlyfolate while trying to conceive with my 3rd baby. I had planned to get pregnant by the time my daughter was 12 months so I could have my kids equally spaced (insert laughing emoji at how TYPE A I was/am).
God had other plans and we were not able to conceive for 6 months after starting to try which was a huge surprise since “trying” wasn’t something we had done in the past. The decision was made between me and my husband that if I had another baby, I would need to be medicated from day one. Talking with my OB, she definitely agreed and we discussed the best medications for moms who are nursing. I started taking Lexapro the day after my 3rd baby was born.
Following the birth of my 3rd baby, I did not suffer from an increase in anxiety and depression. I felt great, I was able to manage what life threw at me. The Lexapro took the edge off and I was and still am, able to deal with the pressures that come along with having 3 kids in 4 years. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy, what I am saying, is the medication is helping. I’m currently 21 months postpartum from my 3rd baby and I just quit nursing about a month ago. I have weaned down to the lowest dosage of Lexapro and I’m feeling good. Along with a healthy diet, time set aside for prayer/meditation and exercise, I’m fighting my way through my life long struggle with anxiety. It will never be easy for me, but these strategies help me be the best version of myself.
I still see a counselor, working through what it means to be a survivor of postpartum depression. I’m still not fully healed from that year, but I’m working through it. It’s taken intentional time with my daughter to make sure that we bond properly since that came as such a struggle during that year.
Here are FIVE myths I found after my struggle with this disease
Myth 1: Postpartum Depression happens right after birth.
NOPE! It can actually occur anytime during the post partum period. I always thought it was a continuation of “baby blues” but that’s simply not true. While “baby blues” are expected, those sad, uneasy feelings should resolve within two weeks. PPD CAN occur following this “baby blues” period, but it doesn’t have to. It can happen in month 4, 6, 8, or even in months 11 and 12 post partum.
Myth 2: Moms with PPD can’t/don’t take good care of their babies.
NOPE, not true. In my head, I thought that because I’m very able and willing to take good care of my baby, I couldn’t have PPD. This is not true, while PPD is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis, a woman can have PPD and still care for their baby well.
Myth 3: Moms with good support systems won’t get PPD.
NOPE. I truly thought that because I was an older mom (31 when I had my second daughter), was middle class, and had good family support, I somehow was exempt from developing this disease. But that is simply not true. I have a supportive husband, network of friends and family support. This disease can affect ANY woman who has a baby.
Myth 4: Medication isn’t safe for postpartum moms, especially those who are nursing.
NOPE, this is not true. I am such a type A mom who has to research everything I put in my body when I’m pregnant or nursing. After several discussions with my doctor, I was convinced that the risk way outweighed the benefits when it came to medication. I needed medication to be the best version of myself and be the best mom I can be. Of course, this is a decision that should be made with your doctor.
What I’ve learned is that counseling in addition to medication, is the best form of treatment in situations where it is needed.
Myth 5: People will think I’m weak and not able to be strong for my kids.
NOPE. Oh my goodness, nope. I remember having feelings similar to this. That people would think I was being dramatic and not believe me. But once I was able to speak about this, I started to hear such positive and encouraging words. While I walk through this journey, I do hold it as a badge of honor. I was able to care for my children DESPITE everything that was going on around me. I asked for help, when I didn’t even know what I needed help with and that, I’m proud of.
Through my journey, I learned that I’m not alone in thinking I didn’t have postpartum depression. In fact, I found that my symptoms are COMMON symptoms of PPD. My story is not unique and I’m not alone, in fact, it is estimated that 10-15% of moms struggle with PPD. I have a heart for struggling moms and I wish I was braver and could tell my story from the mountain tops. God gave me that journey through fire for a reason and if me telling my story, saves ONE person, I’ll be happy.