Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
My first experience with postpartum depression started with the birth of my daughter. I was so excited to be having a little girl! I dreamed about what she would look like and all of the fun we would have together. However, the birth itself was very traumatic; I had a high fever during the delivery and shook uncontrollably for part of my labor. When my daughter was finally born, I didn’t want to take care of her because I was so exhausted. Eventually, my husband and I took our daughter home–we loved this little girl! However, I remember feeling sadness and boredom. I asked my obstetrician about my feelings, but he dismissed my concerns and eventually the sadness stopped.
Four years later, I was pregnant with my son, and again, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to have trucks and cars rolling around the house. It was about this time that I started to have strange thoughts about my daughter–thoughts of harming her. I didn’t know what had started these thoughts or where they came from. Over the next few weeks, I noticed that the thoughts were getting worse, and as my due date neared, I became more scared because of the increased intensity of the thoughts. I kept thinking, “I’ve got to get rid of this before this new baby comes!”
I remember being at work a week before my son was born and having a panic attack. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a mild one compared to the other ones I would have. After a natural birth, my beautiful son was born. However, while in the hospital, I started having crazy thoughts about my baby. My brain was telling me that I actually was acting on these thoughts. I felt sick.
My brain was telling me lies. There was no way I would ever act on these thoughts I was having, but I started believing these things. I was scared out of my mind, but there was no way I was going to tell anyone about them. I didn’t want my children taken away from me or my husband to leave me!
Over the next few weeks, my brain continued telling me horrific lies about myself and my intentions. I was afraid to do anything with my children–afraid to change diapers, buckle seat belts, or bathe my children.
One day, the baby started crying, but as I picked him up to feed him, a thought came. I put him down. He lay there on the floor crying, and I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t pick him up no matter how hard I tried. I would reach to pick him up and pull back as soon as I looked at him. I was panicking.
My husband had become frustrated at this point. He didn’t understand what was happening either. He was as confused as I was. I finally told him everything, and he helped me find assistance. I started meeting with a counselor and began medication. At this point, I had so much anxiety that I wouldn’t let people sit by me, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I didn’t eat, talk, or smile. I felt sick to my stomach all the time, and my hands were cracked from constant hand washing. The only way I could get relief was by sleeping. I wanted to sleep all the time.
After a few days, my thoughts and worries followed me into my dreams. I would wake up and have to run to the bathroom before I got sick. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. I felt so isolated, and yet I was constantly bombarded by these thoughts that prevented me from being with anyone else. I couldn’t watch my own kids. I had to pass them from friend to friend while my husband was at work.
I finally was diagnosed with postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and the medication started working. I finally felt like I was heading in the right direction. I could feel a difference in myself.
A few months passed and things were slowly getting better. However, I found out I was pregnant again and my son was only 9 months old. Was I going to have to go through all of this again? I was so scared. However, my experience with my third pregnancy was much better, and in fact, a fourth pregnancy followed soon after. Again, I experienced no signs of my earlier struggles.
I have seen miracles during this whole process. Thank goodness for people who care, for medicine, and for healthcare. I have come to the realization that mental illness might be a lifelong struggle for me, but I know that there is help. I know that there is no shame in taking medicine; there is no weakness in medicine. Conversely, taking medicine shows strength. It shows that you know you can’t do it alone. The same goes for seeking professional help. There is power in numbers. Reach out! Speak up! Save yourself!