It really grieves me to the core to think about the taboo that is surrounded around postpartum depression. Even the name weighs heavy when compared to the cutesy reference of baby blues. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services depression is a common problem during and after pregnancy. About 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression.
That may not seem like a large number but when you are battling it yourself knowing that even one other mother is or has experienced PPD can mean the difference of another woman acknowledging it and seeking help. I have a sneaking suspicion that the number may be larger but this is a subject that women are secretly ashamed. Whether it is the fear or being seen as weak, not appreciating the gift of a new child, or afraid that there may be some other mental illness that hasn’t been uncovered it remains hidden. I can tell you from experience that things that are hidden usually appear worse than they are and seldom go away on their own.
A dear friend of mine asked me about the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues. I could (and will) post a link that lists things to look out for but I hoped a real-life example would be of use. I am also hoping to remove the unnecessary shame and loneliness that goes along with PPD. Here was my response:
I can tell you from experience. I had PPD with Riggity and Poots and the baby blues with Beaner. They are very different. I will underline the symptoms:
After I had Riggity I had to go back to work 6 weeks postpartum. I was a walking zombie and it wasn’t because of lack of sleep. Riggity was one of those rare babies that slept through the night early on. I wept on and off, I was clearly so unhappy that every one would mention it. I was not interested in any of the things I used to be, including friends. I started isolating myself (not wanting to see anyone because it was too much work or caused anxiety. I was not my self and it wasn’t getting better as the months went on. Her father worked evenings and I would have Riggity every night after work. I was exhausted and would come home, feed her (she was bottle fed) and I would sleep on the couch until morning. She would be in a playpen next to me (even though she had her own nursery…I didn’t feel like taking her there and I wasn’t so quick to attending to her). I truly loved her and felt so blessed to have her but I was disconnected from her because of how I was feeling. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to look for at the time and it took my mom at about 6 months postpartum to plead with me to talk with my doctor.
I’d seen my doctor for my yearly check up and she asked me how it was going and I cried my eyes out. She said that my appearance looked different, my eyes were distant and I was not the same happy person I was a year previous. She’d said exactly what hubs had just told me (which led me to schedule the appointment) and I knew she was right.
I believe I waited too long to be treated. I had just lost my mother and thought I was heavily grieving and that was the reasons for my symptoms. I also thought it was something that could be reasoned and prayed away, a positive attitude and strong-will would help me overcome it. I eventually agreed to try some medication and after two weeks or more started I started to see more clearly and not walk around with my head in the cloud. I also started to see a counselor to process some things. Both helped. Again, I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long.
With Beaner, I had the baby blues. We were on alert and looking for PPD because of the hard pregnancy, traumatic labor/delivery I’d had. The baby blues felt like an emotional roller coaster that came and went around the second week. It was intense when it peaked and I had one melt down when I was feeling overwhelmed with healing, nursing, lack of sleep and my hormones had tanked but after that things settled and started to feel normal.
Either way, I felt alone even though people were around me, and scared, anxious and unhappy.
Don’t feel guilty if you find that you do have PPD. It is nothing you did wrong, nothing you can control with will power and like any other illness if there were treatments available no one would judge you for using them.
Practical notes: Have someone to take babes while you sneak a nap, take a soak, have some quiet time. It will make you a better mama if you get as much rest as you can, stay hydrated and nourished. Stay connected to your partner and be honest about how you are feeling. Even if it is continuing to communicate about how all of the changes are affecting you both, snuggling up to a comedy or doing more if you feel up to it (don’t feel bad if you don’t).
Accept help when it is available; food, cleaning, errands ran. Breathe and when you are feeling overwhelmed acknowledge it and stop and think what do I *need* to be doing right now, or today? It may be just getting back in the bed with baby and counting her little fingers, smelling her hair, listening to her breath or eating a soulful meal, taking a stroll or a nap. Pace yourself, there is no pressure. You are the perfect mom for child(ren) even if you are dealing with PPD.
- Postpartum Depression Clinic The First Of Its Kind (npr.org)
- Fourth Trimester (Survey) (memoirsofamodernhousewife.wordpress.com)