No Longer Quiet: Postpartum Depression, a Silent Killer

Everything changed May 15, 2015 at 8:14 pm. My delivery was quick and challenging at the same time. Quick because I pushed five times and challenging because I had never been in such agonizing pain. For most brand new moms, the minute they lay eyes on their new baby, the overwhelming sense of love takes over. As for me, not so much. I held her and she looked at me with such intent. I stared back at her with the same intent. At that very moment I noticed I didn’t have that “over the moon” feeling towards her. I really didn’t have time to really ponder much because there were many distractions while I was in the hospital.

However, when I got home, I had time and fewer distractions around me. I’ve yet to share pictures on the big world of Facebook of my new baby girl. I was tired and sleep deprived. I cried every day. I tortured myself by looking in the mirror. My body was different. It was gross and I didn’t recognize it. I felt unattractive. I felt useless. I was afraid to say anything to my husband. I didn’t know what to tell him because I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I wasn’t…me.

Postpartum depression. Just saying it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It is a condition that is often ignored or belittled by society; however it is extremely common amongst new moms. I myself went through it after I gave birth to the most incredible little girl. I felt alone, sad, angry, scared, stupid, and fat all at once. I felt trapped, like I was suffocating. This brand new responsibility hit me like a severe blow to the stomach. I had no idea what was wrong but I did realize something wasn’t right.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is somewhat taboo. Why is that? Why are these feelings not taken seriously by most, even by new moms? Could it be lack of education? Moms don’t discuss it because they don’t realize what is happening. Uninformed mommas simply chalked up to “I’m just tired” or “My hormones are just trying to get back in order”. BabyCenter surveyed over 1,400 mothers and the number one reason PPD is unspeakable is because of embarrassment, which comes to no surprise. Find me a momma who wants to come out and say, “I’m crying. I’m anxious. I think I’m failing.” Go on…I’ll wait.

What is postpartum depression anyways?

Simply put, postpartum depression is a depression that occurs after childbirth. (Mayo Clinic) In fact, 1 in 7 women are affected by PPD . Symptoms include:

  • Overwhelming feeling
  • Irritated and/or angry
  • Dark thoughts
  • Hard to concentrate
  • Sad
  • Scared
  • Confused
  • Can’t seem to bond with your baby/ disconnected
  • Can’t sleep and/or eat
  • Embarrassment/ guilt
  • Trapped

Most do not realize that there are stages when talking about postpartum depression after giving birth.

Baby Blues” causes mommies to experience mild depression and mood swings, which is extremely common. The vast majority of new mothers experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues, including moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes, and concentration problems. Symptoms of the baby blues typically show up within a few days of giving birth and last from several days to a couple of weeks. As you can probably tell, “baby blues” can be kind of hard to distinguish from actual PPD.

PPD lasts much longer than a few weeks, and share the same symptoms as baby blues. The difference is that with postpartum depression, the symptoms are more severe (such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your baby) and longer lasting.

Then there is postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis is a rare, but extremely serious disorder that can develop after childbirth, characterized by loss of contact with reality. Postpartum psychosis should be considered a medical emergency because risk of harming yourself or your baby is heightened. Symptoms included:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme agitation and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Bizarre mood swings

The cause of these stages of depression is unclear; however stress, hormonal changes, and physical changes are certainly factors that are taken into consideration.

When I decided I needed to talk to my doctor, I was a nervous wreck. I just knew he was going to look at me with pity and he was going to deem me weak. As silly as that sounds, all logic goes out of the window. Of course my doctor has heard this complaint I don’t know how many times, but I was letting my emotions get the best of me.

He wrote me a prescription for depression medicine and it confirmed, in my fragile mind, what I thought. How could he possibly think I needed a pill to feel any emotion towards my baby? Wasn’t I supposed to bond with her naturally? I felt lower than low. That was just one more reason to cry.

I didn’t fill the prescription; doing that would only confirm my spiraling thoughts. I did, however, talk. I talked with tears in my fatigued eyes, begging for a way out. My family made me fight. They made me remember who I was. They made me do the things that make me happy.

The most important thing to remember is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. More and more people are becoming educated about this sensitive subject. More mommas know what to look out for and more and more mommas are seeking help, trying to nip it in the bud.

Here are some tips that helped me cope:

  1. I got some sun. What a feeling! The warmth of the sun made me feel better and energized. I wasn’t running laps or anything, but it did put a smile on my face.
  2. I listened to my favorite playlist. And I mean I blasted it! I even sang a bit. It’s even better if you listen to your tunes outside!
  3. I cried. I’m a water head anyways, but I didn’t deny myself some tears. Understanding why you are crying is even better. It puts things into perspective.
  4. I wrote in a journal. Sometimes you don’t want to talk, but you have to get your emotions out somehow. I found it to be therapeutic.
  5. Take a drive. You don’t have to fill up your tank. Just let the windows down and feel the breeze.
  6. Give yourself time. Be realistic and be fair to yourself. You did just give life you know.
  7. Let family and friends take care of you. I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.

Fortunately I came out unscathed. I did however come out of it more knowledgeable about what I was facing and what so many others are up against. I’m so in love with my girl but it took time, and that’s okay. The only way to get educate people about PPD is to talk about it. Mommas, do your research. Recognize the signs. Friends and family reach out to new moms and offer a shoulder, an ear, even a casserole. Believe me, it helps.

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Let’s face it. Being a new mom is tough. Babies are time consuming, inconvenient, and down right tiresome. An interesting situation occurred this week. I called my kid a jerk. Not to her face, but as I was rushing to get to class on time. My Monday morning was hijacked by my cranky girl and I didn’t get it. She usually wakes up very happy with a huge smile on her face, so it threw me off that she was anything but. All of my attempts to calm her down wasn’t working, my husband was gone to work already, and the sitter was running a bit late. My morning ritual was doomed that day, however it got me to thinking. I called my baby a jerk..and I laughed at myself. Most mothers would not approve of this at all, but hey, that’s how I was feeling at the time. I wasn’t thinking ‘Hey, she’s just a baby, she doesn’t know better’. I was thinking ‘I haven’t had my coffee, my face isn’t done, and I’m gonna be late to class’.

Society makes mothers feel like they can’t have a negative thought towards their children. That’s unfortunate. Basically, I’m supposed to be a robot when it comes to my girl. Well, not me.I don’t want to have to start lying to myself about anything, especially when it comes to her. I’m not saying to be a meanie to your kids. I’m just saying…it happens. We get flustered. Frustrated. Irritable. It doesn’t make you a bad mother. It doesn’t even make you a bad person. It just makes you human. I’m still working on the patience thing, so it’s bound to happen from time to time. It’s okay not to like your kid sometimes and it’s okay to say it. If anything, your mommy friends will understand you completely. They may even give you kudos for being real with them.

When I got back from class, I came home to the biggest smile from my girl and I laughed again. If anyone was the jerk, it was me. Sometimes, even most times, things don’t go according to plan when there is a baby involved. I’m learning that, still; and that’s okay.