Admitting to Postpartum Depression

I can sit here at 20 months out with only a wisp of "the crazies", as I dubbed it afterward. There are some of those same emotions and feelings that made themselves present in the first months that even now, jump up, scare me and remind me of all that I went through in the beginning. I come from a family of talkers, we exercise our demons by talking them into submission. So it's actually something I enjoy sharing, how hard those days were for me after my son's arrival. Always when you share your hardest moments you are rewarded in finding your own strength and possibly you let another person know they aren't alone. No other woman did with me and I had only heard picture-perfect stories told.

Of course the "babymoon" ends, the drugs wear off, the other parent goes back to work. You can read up on parenting long before your bundle arrives, but no amount of smarts prepares you. I believe that isolation is PPD's best friend. Coupled of course with all the hormones changing... AGAIN... and a woman's will to stand strong and the desire to "have everything under control"... PPD has a lot that can help it work it's way in. Almost like water seeking the cracks in a rock face... then freezing and..... CRaaaaccckkk!

It is very normal to have mood swings in the first two weeks. If your "blues" continue past that point or even accelerate, you probably have PPD. You should certainly connect with your physician or midwife to explore this possibility. Some symptoms you or your partner may notice are:
• Depressed mood-tearfulness, hopelessness, and feeling empty inside, with or without severe anxiety.
• Loss of pleasure in either all or almost all of your daily activities.
• Appetite and weight change-usually a drop in appetite and weight, but sometimes the opposite.
• Sleep problems-usually trouble with sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping.
• Noticeable change in how you walk and talk-usually restlessness, but sometimes sluggishness.
• Extreme fatigue or loss of energy.
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, with no reasonable cause.
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
• Thoughts about death or suicide.
Some women with PPD have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies: these thoughts tend to be fearful thoughts, rather than urges to harm. You should realize PPD is more common than you think, affecting roughly 12.5% of mothers in America or approximately 800,000. My suspicions are that we are much more removed from extensive family networks, we no longer are a culture that passes down such basic child-rearing and home-caring knowledge mother to daughter, we feel with all the information out there that we should be able to navigate parenting independently. All too often women suffer silently, like there is a written code that to martyr oneself is somehow a good, affable trait. Not so.

There are so many great health care practitioners out there and this is what they are trained to do. Listen to the problem and find a solution. For some that may mean psychotherapy, hormone therapy or antidepressants. Self-help for postpartum can include:
• Finding someone you can talk to about your feelings.
• Finding people who can help you with child care, housework, and errands so you can get some much needed rest.
• Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Do something relaxing or that makes you feel good about yourself.
• Keep a daily diary of your emotions and thoughts. This is a good way to let everything out and to keep track of your progress as you begin to feel better.
• Give yourself credit for the things you’re able to accomplish, even if you only get one thing done in a day. If you aren’t able to get anything done, don’t be hard on yourself.
• Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed.
• Remember that no one expects you to be supermom.
• Be honest about how much you can do and ask others for help.
• Join a support group.
(Source: American Academy of Family Physicians)

It would have helped maybe if I had been on maternity leave and eventually been given the opportunity, by going back to work, to incorporate some of Me back into my world. I think the "Me" time everyone touts but puts on the back burner is essential. There can also be a dramatic sense of loss of self. In any given day of nursing, changing, cleaning, trying to feed myself, napping when the baby naps, I was always frantically thinking "wait I don't really want to do all this boring and practical stuff, shouldn't I be able to just go hang out with a pack of girlfriends, all of us laughing and sipping lattes at a cafe, while the baby sleeps sweetly in his little carrier?" Or wanting to leave to go yoga by myself. Or wanting to be loved on and petted when my husband came home yet one more person touching me, needing me at the end of the day and I'll pull my hair out. Everything is right. Everything is wrong. One moment blissed out Mommy just cooing at my son, the next a sobbing tyrant crying "what about me? what about me?" To incorporate yourself into the routine amidst the practical from the get-go is key.

I know that I'm a shy person. I DO NOT like reaching out to others. I DO NOT like sharing when I don't have everything under control and all is sun-shiney. But I did. I found a group of women, strangers, and hung out. Shared here and there. There was that feeling of safety in numbers. It was certainly helpful to hear other woman's feelings mirror my own. It's the one thing I would recommend for every woman right after pregnancy. Hang out. With whomever. Even an online community if that's all you can muster. You aren't alone. PPD is so common. Think about it, what would you tell your grown daughter/daughter-in-law to do if you found she was in the same position? Maybe we can mother ourselves a bit too, brush the stigma aside, reach out, share, talk. Heal.


Michelle said...

I can really relate to the first two paragraphs of this - so true for me as well - My daughter is 8 and I have only began to feel normal in the last year or so - didn't really realize what was happening to me. Glad you are on your way back

Kate Ogden said...

Thank you Michelle. I hate I missed your comment but am glad to hear your voice.


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