All Is Not As It Appears – Battling Postpartum Depression
On the outside looking in, I looked like a regular woman that just had her second baby and had it all together. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, I could’ve been the poster child for postpartum depression. I was recently separated from my husband and had just had our second son within 15 months. I had moved back in with my mom, so she could help me with my two children under two. The old me, that was a little OCD about cleaning, nurturing, happy, and fun-loving, was a person of the past. I never cleaned anything; you couldn’t even see my bedroom floor due to the clothes that covered it. Most nights I fell asleep on the couch while working without any thoughts of moving to my bed to be closer to my kids. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night when my babies cried and rarely did I do late night feedings. I felt disconnected from everyone, including my children. For almost a year, I didn’t care about much at all. I couldn’t concentrate and was just going through the motions. My mom was constantly fussing that she was doing everything on her own and she was. I was beyond overwhelmed and I felt like I wasn’t able to do this “mom” thing that others acted like was such a great and exciting thing.
Can you relate to any of this? Have you had a baby within the last 12 months? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Any feelings of guilt over how you’re handling parenthood or bonding with your baby? Are you confused, scared, or constantly worried? Do you feel irritated or angry? Are you lacking patience and feeling easily annoyed? Have you been crying endlessly? Or maybe you feel nothing at all, kind of numb and going through the motions of life. The birth of a baby can elicit sooo many emotions, from excitement and happiness to fear and anxiety. It can also trigger something you may not expect – depression. While it’s not uncommon to have mood swings, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and crying spells after childbirth, these feelings known as the “baby blues” usually wane after a couple of weeks. However, long-lasting, more severe feelings are known as postpartum depression.
Having postpartum depression says nothing about you as a parent or a person. Sometimes, it’s just something that comes as a result of childbirth. According to the CDC, up to 20% of women who give birth each year experience postpartum depression symptoms. It is the most common complication of childbearing and affects approximately 600,000 women and their families in the United States alone. Only 15% of women with postpartum depression seek professional treatment, which means over 500,000 women are not getting the help they need and are suffering unnecessarily. A huge reason for this lack of professional help is that many women are not being screened.
I was one of those unscreened women and here’s why that is a problem…. I didn’t know I was depressed. My mom didn’t know I was depressed. No one around me knew I was depressed. It wasn’t until years later, that my mom said, “looking back, I think you were depressed.” Even then, I didn’t think I had been depressed, much less had postpartum depression. To be honest, I remember very little about that time. I’m so thankful for the pictures that give me glimpses of what that period was like. It took over 10 years for me to actually admit to possibly being depressed and two years after that to realize it was postpartum depression. If only one person had picked up on it, or if my pediatrician or obstetrician had insisted on screening me, regardless of any signs, then I wouldn’t have had to suffer in silence. I could’ve received the help I needed and I could’ve enjoyed my children’s infancy and toddler years.
Don’t be me. If you’ve recently had a baby and have any feelings of depression (or you know someone that is exhibiting signs of depression after having a baby), get help. You may not be experiencing all the symptoms I’ve listed or even most of them, postpartum depression is not an illness where one-size-fits-all. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a 10 question self-rating scale that aids in identifying postpartum depression. If you’re even a slight bit uncertain, then take the screening and call your doctor to be sure. Don’t put this off, there is no need to suffer alone. You want to enjoy this moment in your life, not look back at it with regret or doubt. If your child is over a year old and you’re still suffering, you could still have postpartum depression. Call your doctor, you can still get help.
Additionally…. If you’re pregnant and having similar symptoms, this isn’t unusual either. There is such a thing as prenatal depression, speak with your doctor. Also, if you’re experiencing moments where you can see or hear things that no one else does, if you’re feeling paranoid as if others are out to get you, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s very important to reach out for help immediately. If you have these symptoms, your illness has the potential to take over and lead you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. These symptoms require immediate attention as they could be signs of postpartum psychosis. Lastly, if your partner is showing these signs of depression, it is not uncommon for men to experience postpartum depression (Paternal Postnatal Depression or PPND). One in ten men meet the criteria for moderate to severe postpartum depression and are more apt to suffer in silence, please help them seek help.
A Labor in Love offers doula services to families in the Charlotte area of NC and the Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and Lancaster areas of SC. If you are pregnant or recently had a baby and live in the Charlotte area, I’d love to meet with you to see if I might be a match for your family as a postpartum and newborn doula. Contact me to schedule your free consultation, and we'll take it from there.