We Need to Talk... Postpartum Depression
A personal experience and insight
When people imagine postpartum depression, they automatically think of all the horror stories such as mothers murdering, abusing, or neglecting their children. There’s a stereotype around postpartum depression. Women who suffer from this are afraid to speak out for fear they’ll be labeled mentally ill or be accused of hurting or mistreating their child—when that’s not the case at all. In fact, 40% of moms do not get help for their PPD. I’m here to share my story with you, and shed some light on this matter and show that PPD is very real, very scary, and doesn’t make me—or anyone suffering—a bad person.
My son was born one month early, and stayed in the hospital two weeks after birth due to intense acid reflux and oxygen de-saturation issues. At first, I felt fine. I felt amazing, even. I had a few complications after giving birth but overall, I was recovering wonderfully; felt little to no pain; and was up and walking the same day he came into this world. But as a few days went on, I started to feel something I couldn’t quite describe. I just simply chalked it up to missing my baby and wanting him home safe and sound. Then, with each passing day, it got worse. So much worse. I would cry for hours feeling empty and sick, and going see my son in the nursery didn’t help at all because it just amplified this feeling. He finally came home the day after Easter, and all felt fine for a while. Until I started having panic attacks in my sleep that caused me to wake up panicking and screaming that my son wasn’t breathing. Until I felt I couldn’t be home alone with my son because for some reason, I wanted to harm myself. Until there were times when I would become so overwhelmed with varying emotions and happenings around me that I would hurriedly pass my son off to my husband and just freak out. Until one day, I was sitting on the couch holding my son—home alone—doing absolutely nothing, and a feeling of immense depression and need to end my misery enveloped me. I couldn’t stop crying. Why did I feel this way? Why am I so damn depressed? I have my child, one of the most beautiful gifts in the world—I shouldn’t feel this way. He’s finally home and doing amazingly—why won’t this sadness go away? Why do I want to kill myself? …And then it hit me. I had postpartum depression. The taboo and terrifying thing that everyone warns you about, and makes it seem like it’s not valid in any way, shape, or form.
Here I am—six months later—and though I’m still suffering, this is a topic that can’t be ignored any longer. At this point, people seem to think that just because he is perfectly fine, that I shouldn’t feel this way anymore. The problem is, PPD is a hormonal issue, not chemical. For up to a year after giving birth, a woman’s hormones are still trying to find a new normal, especially if they’re breastfeeding. So basically, progesterone (the “crazy” pregnancy hormone) is still in a woman’s body a year after having her child. In that year, all kinds of other problems are happening—adjusting to new parenthood/trying to parent more than one child; recovery from giving birth/c-section; medical bills; career situations (for both parents); finances; sleepless nights… need I go on? We cannot expect women to not feel at least some kind of burden, stress, or sadness after having a child. There is so much responsibility for her, yet somehow in the middle of it all, she still has to try to find the time to take care of herself. And to top it all off, most moms do not reach out for help. So, the feelings fester, and eventually begin to take over her personality and wellbeing. People are so quick to assume that moms don’t need help, and that they can take care of themselves. Moms are human, too. Sure, sometimes they may seem like superhumans, but it’s still there. And the way they are feeling is not their fault.
It’s important to remember that what a mother with PPD is experiencing is very frightening. In some cases, yes, mothers do injure or abuse their children. But quite obviously, this is not true for most moms. Some women may experience negative thoughts about their children, but never act on it. But just because they don’t do what they imagine, doesn’t make it any less terrifying for them. I know I was fearful to talk to anyone about how I felt because the first thing they would assume was that I wanted to hurt my son. I once brought up my feelings to my husband and that was the first thing out of his mouth. “Do you want to hurt our son?” I was livid. How could my husband, someone who knows me so well, ask me such a question? Yes, I can understand his concern; but if you know someone well enough, you should know if that will be an issue. Outwardly asking something like that can only make a mom regret opening up, and never mention it again. Be kind and considerate—think about what she is feeling and going through. Most moms with PPD already feel like a failure, they need someone to remind them that they’re not—not make them feel worse. Suicide is actually the leading cause of maternal death—not hemorrhage. Twenty-eight percent of accounted suicides are maternal. Let that sink in for a moment...
Overall, postpartum depression is a part of mental health and needs to be talked about. Mental health in general is still widely ignored or people are just too afraid to talk about it because it’s so “dark.” It’s time that changes. As a mother with PPD and a history of depression, I desperately wish there were more communities for support; or more information; or that I could’ve gone to my doctor the second I felt like something was wrong instead of letting it go. We need to support our moms and let them know this is not their fault; they are not failing as a parent; and help is available. Check on your friends or loved ones that are parents. Sometimes, it goes a long way when trying to take that first step in getting help.
If you think you or a loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, get help right away or get more information at www.postpartumdepression.com