Postpartum Depression – My Story and What I Did To Fix It
My Postpartum Depression Story
You could say my pregnancy experience was a good one. Aside from swollen ankles, sleep deprivation, loss of bladder control, hemorrhoids, difficulty breathing, sciatica, and virtually sacrificing my body and all of my vices for 9 months, it was a good experience. I had some complications and had to give birth via cesarean section. This meant several weeks of recovery and limited activity since this is a fairly major surgery. That being said I wouldn’t change it for the world. I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl and my life changed forever. I was/am completely and totally head-over-heals in love with this child.
I had my daughter during a time when postpartum psychosis was all over the news. Women were killing their children and themselves. Thankfully, I never experienced feelings that I wanted to harm myself or my daughter however, my anxiety was sometimes debilitating and caused many arguments with my (then) husband. He wasn’t the most supportive or caring man so that added to my anxiety. He thought I was just plain crazy and didn’t want to be around a lunatic so he decided he wasn’t going to be around.. As you can imagine I felt very alone. No one tells you how hard it is. Sometimes I felt this whole motherhood thing was impossible and I was doing everything wrong. If that wasn’t bad enough a few family members made it known that they didn’t agree with my parenting style which made me feel like an outcast. Before giving birth, I had been working and earning my own money. Now I was out of the workforce, completely dependent on my (then) husband and embarking on a journey where I felt completely unprepared.
My Breastfeeding Nightmare
On a post-op appointment, I sat there in the office crying because breastfeeding was not working and this just added to my anxiety. He told me “just stop!” Shocked, I looked up at him. He said “if breastfeeding isn’t working then just stop. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself”. At first I thought he was insane. What is he saying to me? It goes against everything I’ve been told. Breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby. All of my friends and family were breastfeeding without a problem. I want to do what’s best for the health of my baby. When I left his office I was stunned. On the drive home I realized I had to look at things differently. I have to do what’s best for my mental health so I can take care of my child. I can’t do it like everyone else because my experience is different. That was a good day. He gave me permission to stop and that is what I needed. Amazingly enough, after I stopped breastfeeding, more and more moms emerged saying they had difficulty as well and stopped breastfeeding after a few weeks. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone.
I Needed A Break
About 3 months after she was born I took a much needed 2-day trip with some friends. I left her in good hands with Gramma. This was very hard to do but it was truly what I needed. I was becoming overwhelmed and it helped me get away from my feelings of inadequacy and do something “normal”.. I was a new person when I came home and was able to get through the next month or so. But the feelings of worry, confusion, anxiety, fear, etc. returned. On the next visit to my gynecologist, I asked him for antidepressants. He told me “I can’t prescribe them because I’m not a psychiatrist and I can’t monitor your progress while on these medications”. He recommended a psychiatrist but I couldn’t get in to see someone for several weeks. I needed help NOW! I went to another doctor and he told me I needed “counseling not antidepressants”. I told him I wasn’t leaving his office until he gave me something for my anxiety. He prescribed Valium. Over the next few weeks I took Valium on occasion but it just made me lethargic. This was not helpful since I was already struggling with staying awake. I couldn’t believe with everything in the news about postpartum depression, I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me.
My Third Doctor
I made an appointment with yet another doctor (Internal Medicine). This time would be different. When I got to the appointment, I filled out a form that asked specific questions about my depression. I felt confident this doctor was asking the right questions and I was going to get the help I needed. He prescribed an antidepressant and within a few weeks I was feeling better. The lesson here is to keep trying until someone listens to you.
I don’t recommend staying on these medications long term. Once you stabilize, explore different ways to help yourself cope and work towards getting off the medication safely and as soon as possible. With the help of your doctor of course. I did several other things to help with my depression. When I stopped breastfeeding, I felt more in control of my body which helped with feel happier. I kept a journal of my daughter’s development and our daily experiences which truly lifted me up and helped me through the darkest times because I was able to look back on the day in a positive way. I surrounded myself with supportive people. I developed several new ways to adjust to my new life and eventually got off of the medication.
For ideas on how to cope with being a new mom see my blog post, “How to Keep Your Sanity – tips for new moms”.