One mom’s story: postpartum depression
Being a new mom is supposed to be rewarding, heartwarming, happy… right? Sometimes.
Writer Lydia* describes how postpartdum depression snuck up on her and how she sought help.
Now that I think about it, the writing was on the wall from the start: Type A personality perfectionist gets pregnant, tries to be World’s Most Perfect Expectant Mom, things go wrong, baby is born and doesn’t do what it says in the books – world crumbles. This is a story about my experience with postpartum depression.
Pretty standard story, really.
In fact, the only person even remotely surprised about the fact that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety when my son was five months old – was me.
Anyone with any clarity could have seen it coming – especially given the circumstances of the previous 12 months.
You see, life has a funny way of totally sucking sometimes. Just a few months before I conceived my beautiful, totally adorable son, I’d been pregnant with another no-doubt beautiful, totally adorable baby. I lost that baby at 12 weeks. I was devastated – but I buried my pain, didn’t tell many people, and bumbled on.
Somewhat miraculously, four months later we were expecting again. It was a nervous time for me, as I waited out that first trimester, but all went well, and by our 20 week scan, we had found out our son was doing great. Such a relief!
I couldn’t wait to call my mom to tell her our happy news – but when I called her I was met with a terse, ‘Can’t talk’, instead of the jubilant shrieks I was expecting. I knew something was amiss, so I called again. And again. And again, until finally she picked up again, and confessed that she was at the hospital, on her own, and had just found out that the routine scan she was having had revealed she had breast cancer and needed surgery immediately.
Talk about a blow to the head. It was devastating. I was already frightened about impending motherhood – but now I had the added burden of worrying about whether my own mom would even be there to meet my new baby.
My perfect pregnancy became anything but as I tried to put on a brave face for my family, while collapsing in tears at night, worrying about what might happen. My partner, bless him, had no idea how to help the blubbering, stressed-out mess he now found himself with and, though he did his best, I felt so alone. It was awful. On the surface I was coping-coping-coping – behind closed doors I was falling apart.
But still I forged on. And by the time my son was born, things were looking bearable again – Mom had responded well to treatment, and the prognosis was good. Louis was born and I was instantly, head-over-heels smitten with his squishy deliciousness.
But inside I was still a big ball of anxiety. What if everything went wrong again? And my gorgeous baby, who I loved with a ferocity I didn’t know I had, just wasn’t doing what the books said he would. He catnapped, fed constantly, cried a lot, and by the time I knew I had a problem, he was waking every hour in the night. I developed insomnia, and my anxiety grew until I was awake all night, waiting for the next little cry from the crib. I was a wreck.
On the insistence of my sister, a general practitioner, I went to my own doctor and sat in the waiting room, baby on hip, until someone saw me. Thankfully the receptionist knew a close-to-the-edge new mom when she saw one, and bumped everyone else to prioritize me.
Thank god she did.
By this stage I was barely clinging to my sanity, and she knew this. I’d been in such denial for so long that to finally admit that I wasn’t coping was such a relief. And as I sat crying great dolloping tears onto the head of my smiling newborn – thankfully blissfully unaware that his mom was having such a tough time – I began to see the gravity of my situation. And how much I needed my doc’s help.
We spoke to close to three hours that day, the doctor and I, and she prescribed me with a course of SSRI antidepressants for my anxiety, instructing me to come back as much as I needed until I started to feel like myself again. I did. I also went online and sought out support groups, read forums and took comfort in the arms of my husband, who, to his credit, was amazingly supportive, even though he later admitted he was scared out of his mind as he watched me unravel before his eyes.
If I’d had more clarity, I could have seen it coming. But I didn’t. PPD crept up on me, threatened to overtake me, and very nearly undid me. But I sought help. And you can too. Go to your general practitioner or OBGYN. Sit in their waiting room until someone sees you, and be as honest as you can – I promise you’ll be fine.
Two years later, my son is happy, healthy and the most delicious, squishy ball of toddler. My mom is in remission, and has a new zest for life. And I’m happy. Like, really and truly happy.
Life is good.
These are your go-to places:
American Psychological Association
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
Postpartum Support International
Office on Women’s Health
*The writer of this story requested that her real name not be used.