I am no stranger to postpartum depression. I just didn’t realize it until I recently came out of the fog of my most recent struggle.
When I had my first daughter, I assumed my feelings of panic at taking her home were first-time mom jitters. I thought that the dark days of the first months of her life were a direct result of her undiagnosed reflux and my inexperience as a mother. Who wouldn’t call their husband every day when he was at work, crying, if their baby screamed every time she ate?
A couple of years later, I had a completely different experience when I had my son. I don’t recall having any depression. However, a few years after that, I had my second daughter after experiencing two heart wrenching miscarriages. Her birth seemed like a miracle! After bringing her home, the dark, sinking feelings I had experienced with my first child returned. I assumed it was the baby blues, made more intense by the frigid cold winter and memories of recent loss. This sadness, like before, seemed to gradually fade away as spring approached.
I can now see that my most recent experience with postpartum depression actually began a few months before finding out I was going to have another winter baby. I experienced a third miscarriage and had to have a D&C (dilation and curettage). I sunk into a depression that morphed into persistent anxiety upon finding out I was pregnant again. I was constantly afraid that my baby’s heart would stop beating any second. I was very eager to finally hold her so the anxiety could end. After a birth riddled with complications and scary moments, I finally held her in my arms.
Unfortunately, my anxiety didn’t go away. Along with the familiar feelings of sadness and hopelessness, I felt great anxiety about my children, especially my newborn. I felt that since she was my fourth child, I should know how to handle every situation. But her unpredictable sleep patterns left me feeling clueless and sick with worry. I felt like I was always doing something wrong that would ruin this precious daughter I had wanted so much. At times the depression and anxiety weighed so heavily on me that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I wanted to disappear. Though I never contemplated suicide, I felt that my children would be better off with a different, more capable mother. I cried almost every day, many times in front of my children, and that filled me with even more guilt. On a daily basis, I would wonder if I had always been like this. How could anyone stand to be around me? I wanted to feel a sense of hope for the future, but I simply couldn’t.
I started to think that maybe something was going on that went beyond baby blues, especially after hearing about Emily. I thought about her every day and started to read the stories on the Emily Effect website. One day, after watching a news story about the Dyches family, my sister called me to see if I was okay. Shortly after talking to her, I read an email another sister wrote to me about the possibility that I may have depression. These experiences gave me the final push I needed to call my doctor, even though I felt really scared.
I have to say that I was disappointed after talking to my doctor. I was hoping to visit his office and have a good discussion with him about my treatment options and what to expect going forward, but he prescribed me an anti-depressant over the phone and that was that. I started to take it the same day, and after about two weeks I felt like a cloud was being lifted off of me. I felt light flooding back into my life. I could feel hope and optimism again. I felt like I had my old self back and realized that it had been at least a year since I had felt normal. I still have down days. I think I am genetically predisposed for anxiety and depression, and I will always be working to deal with those feelings. I would love to see a therapist eventually to get advice about dealing with the emotional challenges I have and to work through my pregnancy loss experiences. But, I am grateful that I worked up enough courage to take the first steps.
I hope that my experience might help someone struggling as I did. No one should have to live their lives in a dark cloud with no hope. I resisted the thought of taking medication for a long time because I felt that if I did, that would mean that the depression had beat me. However, I realized that I was letting it beat me already by not doing anything to challenge it. The medication has given me the clarity and strength to move forward and enjoy my life. You are worth it. Fight for your happiness. Muster up a little courage, and take the first tiny step to recovery. Talk to people. You will be surprised with how many people can relate to you in some way. There is help and hope ahead!
Here are a few articles that were a huge help to me: