If you read my last post about postpartum anxiety, you know that I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school. When I got pregnant I fully expected to have postpartum depression. I adjusted my antidepressants, I went to therapy regularly, I completely and totally prepared myself for PPD. To my surprise, I didn’t have any postpartum depression. I didn't even have any baby blues. I did, however, have horrible postpartum anxiety, (which you should read about in my other post!) but no depression.
Postpartum depression will affect close to 20% of moms, so it is something that I think is super important to talk about. Since I didn’t have any PPD, I don't have an experience that I could share with you, but I still wanted to talk about it. So, I went on social media and asked if there was anyone who would want to share their postpartum depression stories. Another mama who follows my blog was kind and brave enough to share her story with me and gave me permission to share it (anonymously) on my blog.
“When I got pregnant, I was so excited to meet my baby. From the second I found out that I was expecting I fell absolutely in love with her. My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for over a year, we were losing hope, so when it finally happened we couldn't have been happier. I watched her grow inside me for nine months and anxiously counted down the days until her arrival.
I loved every stage of my pregnancy. From the morning sickness of my first trimester, to the swollen ankles of my last trimester, I loved it all. Yes I was uncomfortable, but every symptom just reminded me that she was there. Our little miracle baby.
Finally, delivery day! We checked into the hospital and prepared to meet our little girl! I fantasized for nine months about meeting my daughter. I would daydream about the first time I would get to hold her, and how sparks would fly and I would feel like instant love that everyone talks about. To say I was excited was an understatement. After nearly 30 long hours of labor, and 20 minutes of pushing, our beautiful 8 pound daughter was born.
They handed her to me and when I held her...there was nothing. There were no sparks, there was no instant connection. I felt a wave of emotions. A mixture of confusion and disappointment and sadness. Why didn’t I feel the way I was supposed to feel? Why didn’t I feel the way all the other moms felt when they first met their babies? I handed my baby off to the nurse so they could check her out and make sure that she was all good to go. I looked over at my husband and he had tears on his cheeks, he was so happy. I was jealous that I wasn’t having those same feelings. I told myself that I was just exhausted, and that once I got some rest, I will get all those feelings and emotions everyone had told me about.
We brought our baby home two days later, and I felt more disconnect than I did when I had first had her. When I held her, it felt like I was just babysitting someone else’s kid. Like I was looking down at a stranger who happen to have the same color eyes at me. My husband was over the moon in love with her, and that made me angry. I was the one who carried her for nine months. I was the one who sat through 30 hours of painful labor. I was the one who pushed her out of me. Why was he able to love her and I wasn’t?
I had heard of baby blues, for a while I tried to tell myself that this was all it was. But after a while, it started to feel like a lot more than that. I was so tired all the time. Not just new mom tired, but emotionally tired. I didn’t want to hold my baby, I didn’t want to take care of her. My husband was amazing, he did most of the work. I was only really needed when she needed to be fed since I was breastfeeding. This went on for about a month. I thought I was just being dramatic because baby blues weren't supposed to be as intense as my feelings were. I felt so much shame because I didn’t love my baby. She had been living with me for over a month, and she still felt like a stranger.
Another month went by, and I was getting worse every day. My daughter was two months old, and I hadn’t enjoyed a single day of it. My husband had to go back to work when she was six weeks old, so now it was just me alone with her all the time. She would cry and I would get so angry. I just wanted quiet and I just wanted to be alone, but I was never alone anymore. There was always someone there, always someone who needed me. I felt so hopeless. One day she fell asleep in my arms and I looked down at her and I just sobbed. I wanted to love her so badly. I wanted to feel like her mom. I wanted everything that I saw my husband had with her, everything that I saw other moms have with their babies.
When my daughter was 3 months old, I hit my lowest point. One evening, my daughter was taking a nap when started crying. I knew I needed to get up and take care of her, but my body felt so heavy. I tried to move, but I was just too tired. I laid and my bed and cried, and as her screams got more intense so did my depression. I laid in my bed and prayed to God to make her stop. I begged him to make it so I didn’t have to take care of her.
I am ashamed to admit this, but an hour later I didn’t get out of bed. My daughter was still screaming. If it wasn’t for my husband coming home, who knows how long the two of us would have sat there. My husband saw me laying in our beed crying and went to take care of our daughter. She had peed through her diaper, she was soaked, and I just let her sit there in it for an hour. Writing this right now, I am sobbing thinking about how I neglected her like that. It was at the point that my husband told me that I needed help, and I agreed.
I went to my doctor and told her everything that was going on. My husband sat in there with us and held my hand, added in things that I was too embarrassed to say out loud. My doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I was put on antidepressants and started going to therapy. Within a couple weeks, I started to notice a difference. I was more interested in my baby. I regained some of my energy. I wasn’t miserable anymore.
Fast forward a year later to today, and I am more in love with my daughter than I ever thought that I could be. And I fall more in love with her every day! I still go to therapy and I am still on antidepressants, but that’s okay. Because I got help, I was able to finally have that bond with my baby everyone told me about. Postpartum depression isn’t as uncommon as people think, and it’s not talked about enough. There is so much stigma around it. I am still kind of ashamed of that part of my life, and not a lot of people know my story which is why I asked Kelsey to keep me anonymous.
The most important thing that I can say is to get help. Speak about what you are feeling and don't try and hide it. It is more normal than you think. The only thing you ever hear about is that instant love and connection moms feel the minute their babies are born, but no one ever talks about the other side of it.”
Just to reiterate, that is not my story. It is the story of a brave mommy who follows my blog and was willing to share her story to hopefully help other moms who are going through the same thing. Though I didn’t have postpartum depression, I did do a lot of research on it. Before I end this post, here are a couple of facts that every mom should know about postpartum depression.
1. There Are Other Mood Disorders That You Can Suffer From Postpartum, Not Just Depression:
There is postpartum anxiety (read my post about my story with postpartum anxiety), postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, and postpartum psychosis. (If you have questions about any of these disorders or think you may be suffering from one, you can always email me or speak to your doctor for more information.)
2. Postpartum Depression Is NOT The Same Thing As Baby Blues:
Baby blues affect 50%-85% of women and it is completely normal. It can last a few hours after birth or can last for up to six weeks after you have your baby. Experts think that this is caused by the big shift in hormones that happens postpartum, and it should clear up on its own. Whereas postpartum depression needs to be treated by a professional.
3. Believe It Or Not, Postpartum Disorders Don’t Always Show Up Right After Birth:
Symptoms of PPD can show up, weeks, months, even years after you have your baby. A mom I am very close with didn’t start experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression until her son was 4 months old. So if you start to feel some depression or disconnect from your baby, even if it’s been weeks (or months or years) don’t panic! It is completely normal.
4. Any New Mom Can Get PPD, But There Are Some Women That Are More Likely To Get It Than Others:
If you have a past history of mood disorders, or develope a mood disorder during your pregnancy, you are more likely to have postpartum depression. With that being said, nearly half the women who had been diagnosed with PPD said that it was the first depressive episode they had ever experienced. There are other factors that can lead to a woman being more likely to develop PPD. A history of pregnancy lose, a high risk or complicated pregnancy, health problems with themselves or the fetus, a premature baby or a baby having to go to the NICU, or simply not having a support system postpartum are all things that can leave women open to developing PPD. However, this by no means that if you have any of those risk factors you are guaranteed to develop postpartum depression.
5. Extreme Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Postpartum Depression:
I know that when you first have a baby, getting any sleep is near to impossible, especially since newborns need to eat every two hours. But sleep is actually one of the first things that doctors recommend women to do when they are being treated for PPD. If you’re breastfeeding, this may mean letting someone else bottle feed baby while you get in a good nap.
6. Many Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression Are Similar To Major Depressive Disorder, But There Are Some Additional Symptoms:
On top of the normal depression symptoms (sadness, fatigue, loss of pleasure, ect.) there are some other symptoms that new moms need to be on the lookout for. Anxiety of being alone with the baby, anxiety about being a bad mom, thoughts of dropping the baby, thoughts of harming the baby, irritability, feeling indifferent toward baby, and not being able to sleep when the baby sleeps no matter how tired you are. Now, lots of new parents have anxieties like these without necessarily having a mood disorder. But when these feelings get in the way of caring for your baby or other everyday tasks, that’s cause for a red flag. Also, not all moms will experience the same symptoms, and all the symptoms can range in severity.
7. Many Women Suffering Think That They Are All Alone:
As said in the story above, if you are experiencing any postpartum mood disorder, you are not alone and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. There is so much strength in sharing your story or reaching out to others. It is one of the main reasons I started this blog. So don't, keep it in. Don't bottle it up. Speak up and find support because you don't have to go through this all by yourself.
8. Postpartum Psychosis Is What You Always Hear About On The News, But It Is Extremely Rare:
Postpartum psychosis is that rarest of the postpartum mood disorders, affecting only 1 to 2 women in every 1,000. But it is very dangerous. Symptoms of PPP are being extremely paranoid, going days without sleep, and having not just thoughts of hurting oneself or the baby, but actually carrying it out. Other signs of psychotic behavior is delusions (like thinking the baby is possessed or the devil) and hallucinations. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, get help immediately. It is extremely important that the mother go to the hospital and get treatment.
9. Having Postpartum Depression Does Not Make You A Bad Mother:
Let me say that louder for the people who need to hear this. Having postpartum depression DOES NOT make you a bad mother. It can feel absolutely devastating to feel anything but love and happiness towards your baby, but it does happen and it is completely normal. And more importantly, it is absolutely not a reflection on your abilities as a mother. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being human.
I know this was a long one guys, and I know that PPD isn't easy to talk about it, but there are too many women suffering from postpartum mood disorders that feel alone. If you know someone that might be struggling with this, I hope that you send them to this post and that they can add it to their tool belt. My email is always open to anyone who wants to submit their stories, ask any questions, or just talk it out! Thanks guys!