I'm due to give birth next week and all the memories from the newborn stage are starting to flood my brain.
I haven’t written about my experience with postpartum depression (PPD) out of embarrassment, shame, guilt and not wanting anyone to feel bad for me. I also don't want anyone to feel bad for not reaching out or doing more. I got through it and I want other moms to know that they aren't alone. There are so many resources and support groups out there that I wish I had known about while I was in the midst of PPD.
Postpartum depression is defined by the National Institution of Health as follows: “Mothers with perinatal depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue that may make it difficult for them to carry out daily tasks, including caring for themselves or others”.
That definition doesn’t really do justice to what it really feels like going through it every single day. Postpartum depression/anxiety feels like a fog. A fog mixed with tons of crying, sleepless days/nights (even when the baby is sleeping), exhaustion, extensive worrying, loneliness, irrational thoughts and fears. On top of that add feeding the baby (because no one really tells you how hard breastfeeding can really be - not to mention my son had a lip tie and tongue tie), changing the baby, baby laundry, regular laundry, pumping, remembering to eat and drink enough water. I felt like I lost myself but also found myself in motherhood.
It was odd because although I felt all those negative emotions I also felt extreme love that I had never felt before.I had euphoric feelings about motherhood. I was confused as to how I could have some days filled with highs of love, laughter and smiles while other days were the complete opposite. I wanted to be around the baby all the time. I wanted to protect him in every way possible. I wanted to do everything for him myself. I refused extra help but I needed extra help, badly.
The thing is that I had help. Especially the first month. After that first month the help dwindled and the depression and anxiety continued to intensify. I thought my feelings were normal because everyone says “What you’re feeling are 'baby blues' ". I thought EVERYONE felt like this until I spoke to other moms who didn't have the same feelings I had.That made me feel even worse knowing that some moms really enjoyed the first couple of months after birth. PPD does not discriminate and it can happen to anyone and there are no real known factors to identify whether it will happen to you. It just happens.
I felt crazy! I was ashamed to be so sad while I had a sweet, beautiful and healthy boy. He was such a good baby and it was still so hard to adjust to being a parent. I felt guilty to even show any sadness because I knew so many moms who had lost their children or who have had a difficult time conceiving. I was thankful for my child but the emotions I had were intense that they probably overpowered that at times. At my 6 week follow up appointment, I received a ONE page questionnaire (rather, a scale) that is supposed to identify postpartum depression. The statements range from “I have felt happy...” and you fill in “always,most of the time, not often, never” to “I’ve been so unhappy that I’ve been crying...”. While this is a nice gesture to cover their butts, at 6 weeks as a new parent you probably have experienced crying at some point and some of the other things that are on that scale. It’s “normal”, right? I passed that part of being able to mask how I really felt. I'm pretty good about doing that under normal circumstances but I guess I perfected it during the postpartum stage because no one noticed.
Although I wasn’t formally diagnosed with having PPD I for sure knew I had it as soon as I wasn’t feeling that way anymore. I think I felt like I was out of that terrible fog after 6 months. It was around the same time I stopped breastfeeding. Again, I thought what I was feeling was normal so when people asked, “how are you doing?” I answered, “I’m fine. It’s hard but I’m fine”. What else can people do except take your word for it?
It wasn't until after I experienced PPD that I found a great support system with other first time moms. I joined a mom group in my city that I found on the MeetUp app. It was so nice to talk to other moms about all the stuff people without kids or people who had kids over 10 years ago would not understand. It was also just nice to be around other moms who had kids born around the same time my son was for playdates. Also, a lot of moms reached out to me and I reached out to other moms on IG. I'm a part of a couple of mom groups on there, too. It's so crazy to think that other people who you've never met take the time to check on you, share resources, tips, ideas and vice versa!
I'm not sure how much support I'll be able to get physically with my second child because of the pandemic but I think now I'll KNOW when I'm not okay and be able to reach out to my support system or utilize resources to just talk to someone. I hope all you moms know that you aren't in this alone even though it can feel pretty isolating. Someone out there is going through the same thing you are. Don't be afraid or ashamed to reach out to someone. Anyone. I'm an open book if you need me. I have listed some resources below for all of you.
The Motherhood Center - Houston (there are various locations around the country)
They offer classes online and in person with newborn care, CPR, sleep consultants, lactation consultants, etc.
Postpartum Support International
Largest non-profit organization dedicated to postpartum depression and anxiety. They have virtual support groups for NICU Parents, Military moms, Black Mamas Matter, Perinatal and Infant Loss.
Mrs. Patel's Blog and Instagram
support for new moms and breastfeeding tips
The Recovery Village
support for drug and alcohol addiction
pregnancy and substance abuse information
treatment for pregnant women struggling with drug & alcohol addiction
There are also a ton of IG accounts that I follow that post motherhood problems, tips, laughs, websites, information, resources, guides, etc.
@getmooresleep -- sleep consultant
Even on your worst days, your baby still loves you.