I have had postpartum depression … twice. And so have A LOT of your friends and family.
When you’re a first time mom, the postpartum experience is new – and since it’s your first time around – it’s not easy to figure out what’s normal and what isn’t.
During my first pregnancy I was aware of the postpartum depression possibility so I guarded against it. I encapsulated my placenta, I worked out, I went to therapy, and still – the bottom fell out from under me. Only I didn’t know it – and not knowing that you are in the midst of postpartum disorders is the most dangerous.
One day, when my first born was about 4 months old, I noticed that I felt really good. I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders – and over the next few weeks, the puzzle pieces fell into place and I knew I had been depressed and anxious.
Here’s what my first go with postpartum disorders felt like:
- Having thoughts of my baby getting hurt or dying A LOT.
- Extreme jealousy and irrational behavior.
- Fear that my husband would find a better woman.
- Not connecting with my child.
- I tended to her needs and no one could tell I wasn’t truly connecting – but I knew.
- Resentment of my new life.
- I wanted a baby, and had one, but then I was kind of pissed that my life had changed so much. Where had my life gone? Where had my freedom gone?
So then, with my second baby, I was ready. I knew what to look out for. My husband and I were ready!
With my second baby I had a traumatic birth (I lost 50% of my blood and had to have blood transfusions) so my OB was on high alert for me having Posttraumatic stress disorder, but after a few checkups, she deemed me fine.
The first several months of my second baby’s life were a dream. I was in love with her, I was connecting with her, I had help around the house, and my husband was helping a ton – ALL GOOD!
But then around month four – things started to get weird. I started to have major anxiety and my fuse became shorter and shorter. And around month five, my girlfriend Alexis at Birth 360, posted an article about late onset postpartum depression – and I read it – and it all clicked.
Dang it! It happened again!
I immediately called my doctor and made an appointment.
Here’s what postpartum depression felt like the second time around:
- Having thoughts of my children getting hurt or dying – A LOT.
- A general sense of fear of not having enough (money, food, time, etc.)
- A short fuse, zero patience.
- Anger toward everyone. Suppressed rage.
- Feeling like someone had a boot on my neck.
- Feeling helpless to affect change in my work life.
- Irrational thoughts
Here’s a quick example of irrational thoughts:
My husband and I were out of town visiting family. We were staying in a quiet farm town, at least 30 minutes from a grocery store. One morning he cooked our oldest daughter breakfast — eggs and hotdogs. He also precooked hotdogs for the rest of the day – so that she would have something ready to go if she got hungry.
I asked him if he had had his fill of hotdogs, and he said yes. Then I said, “Okay, I’m going to eat the rest of these hotdogs with my breakfast.” I too wanted eggs and hotdogs. And he said, “Why don’t you have the chicken (there was cooked chicken breast) so that she can have the hotdogs later?”
And I got PISSED.
Thoughts started swirling in my mind. He doesn’t think I deserve hotdogs? Am I not worth hotdogs? I should be able to eat the hotdogs if I want. Am I not worth the $8 worth of hotdogs? And on and on.
I jumped in the shower and began to weep.
Guys, my husband and I have a strong relationship. He loves me and I love him, deeply. We have been through life together and still, we pull closer together. The sky is blue, and my husband loves me — I KNOW these things. And I knew intellectually that he would want me to have the hot dogs if that’s what I wanted – but my brain was spinning OUT OF CONTROL.
And when I told my OB/GYN the hotdog story – she said, “I’m glad you’re here for help.”
Useful questions for help for postpartum depression:
I recommend you ask yourself or have a person you trust ask.
- Are you having fears you didn’t used to have? What are they?
- Are you angry your life has changed?
- Are you having thoughts that your baby is going to die?
- Are you frustrated throughout the day? What sparks the frustration?
- Do you feel inadequate?
- Do you feel supported?
- Do you feel like you can be honest about your feelings with those around you?
- Has your libido changed? How?
- If you have children, how do you feel toward them? Same as before baby? More connected, less connected?
- If you are married or in a relationship – how do you feel toward your spouse/partner? Has it changed since post baby? Describe.
These are BIG questions and they only work if you commit to being honest.
The thing I’ve heard most from women about postpartum disorders is that they are ashamed. I am here to tell you – there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a hormonal issues – not an issue of ability or will power.
You can ask for help from your OB/GYN, your child’s pediatrician, a counselor or your girlfriends, community and family. Some women feel better after talking about it with friends or a therapist. Some women need medication (me!) And some women need a combo of things.
We are all with you and for you.
Childbirth brings on so many changes, good and bad and messy ones. But the point of it all is to ENJOY your new baby and your new family. Get the help you need, you deserve to feel good!