My son was born with fluid in his lungs, a cracked collarbone, and a congenital cataract in his left eye. He was admitted to the NICU while I left the hospital, and being discharged and going home with an empty car seat was the hardest thing ever. It was then that I started to notice my depression symptoms creeping up on me.
Even after my son came home, I experienced many challenges. For instance, I got mastitis twice within 4 weeks and experienced serious pain. I would cry endlessly when my husband left for work, and I would cry when the baby cried (I would even cry over commercials). My best friend took notice of this and urged me to address my struggles at my 6-week follow up appointment. Fortunately, I was able to start a medication that eventually helped me start seeing the light in my days again.
Two years later, I was pregnant with my daughter and preparing for her to join our family. I had weaned myself off my medication and was feeling good with life. However, I was concerned about having to deal with the depression again. Even though the delivery was a breeze, that first night in the hospital was a nightmare. I couldn’t hold still, I couldn’t relax, and I couldn’t calm down. I wanted desperately to go home.
With my daughter, I experienced severe feelings of anxiety. I remember waking my husband up at night and begging him to check on the baby because I thought I could hear her crying. Eventually I got to the point where I felt helpless–I felt like nothing was working. My anxiety medication hadn’t kicked in yet, and I remember begging my husband to check me into a hospital because I felt like I was losing it. We called a Crisis Line that our local hospital provides, and the Crisis Team provided me with counselors in my area. Over time, the therapy helped get my anxiety under control.
In dealing with my postpartum depression and anxiety, I learned that we never really know what is going on in someone’s head. We all have our struggles, and the most important thing you can do for a person is be there for them. If I knew someone was struggling, I would tell them to just keep reaching for help. If you feel medication isn’t working, try something else to find the help you need. We all have different ways of coping, but you have to look in order to find those things.
I also learned different ways in helping someone out who might be struggling. I feel like in the thick of my anxiety and depression the things that made the biggest difference was someone offering to take my son for the day so I could get a little break, bringing dinner unannounced, or running my errands for me. I think as humans it’s a natural instinct to say “Let me know if you need anything,” but I feel like it was easier to accept help when people offered it in a specific way.
It can be hard to understand something if you’ve never experienced it, but if a woman comes to you and say’s she’s hurting, try to just support her. Let her know you have an open heart to her feelings and emotions. My biggest hope in life is that by talking about postpartum depression and anxiety, we can spread knowledge and acceptance so other women don’t feel alone.