Earlier this year, my husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away due to health complications, leaving me a widow of 2 young boys and 6-months pregnant with our baby girl. Anyone in their right mind would say I had every right to fall into some sort of depression. Surprisingly, this is not when my story with postpartum depression begins. In fact, it was my experience with postpartum depression 2 years earlier that saved me from it this time of around.
My husband and I always knew we wanted our kids close together. We had such a great start to parenthood with our first son that we quickly had a second son. Things got rough at this point. Not only was I adjusting to being a working mom of two babies that were barely a year apart, but my husband was working nightshifts as an ER nurse. We rarely saw each other. I found myself feeling incredibly alone and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety and anger. I felt like I was failing in both my role as a mother and wife. In my low points, irrational thoughts would flood my mind, and I had a hard time differentiating logic from lunacy. I was quick to anger, which stirred up a lot of frustration and resentment in my marriage. I was constantly disciplining for kids for being…well, kids. I blamed everyone and everything around me for my sadness, never once realizing that it could just be me.
It would be almost 2 years before I even realized that I had experienced postpartum depression. I become familiar with The Emily Effect from a dear friend who happens to be Emily’s sister. I began reading these “Letters of Light” stories and soon realized I had a lot in common with these women. Then, another close friend of mine opened up to me about her battle with postpartum depression and the treatment she was seeking. Suddenly the pieces all started to come together. How had I never noticed it before? Luckily for me, with time and an incredibly understanding husband, I had managed to crawl my way out of depression before I even realized what it was. The unfortunate thing is I didn’t have the knowledge to catch it earlier; I believe that knowledge alone can help save others!
After my husband died, I opened up to my OB-GYN about my previous experience with postpartum depression. I feared falling down that rabbit hole again. She agreed that I had most likely experienced postpartum depression and was extremely proactive. She explained what resources were available to me and helped me understand what signs to look for. She encouraged me to ask someone close to me to be my “watch dog,” because sometimes it’s those around us that notice the changes in our behavior more than we do. She even suggested that if I started to feel too anxious before my baby arrived, I could start taking an anti-depressant medication to help ease the transition into being a widowed mother of 3. I opted to closely monitor my feelings instead, knowing she would help me seek treatment, if necessary. I believe that my understanding and knowledge of postpartum depression has helped to keep me afloat these past few months. Do I have terribly sad days? Yes. Do I find myself losing my temper at times? Yes. But, my good days far outnumber by bad days. I believe this movement to bring more awareness to postpartum depression and to encourage mothers to seek help is so important. Don’t live in ignorance or fear of postpartum depression–become educated instead!