I haven’t been shy about sharing my bought of Postpartum Depression back in 2011 after the birth of my first child. This might be considered over-sharing in some circles, but I feel it helps me connect to my clients more because I really can relate to what they might be experiencing – not just saying I can relate because I read some scholarly articles on the topic.
I was miserable during the first 6 months of my sons life and I deeply resented him. I loved him with all my heart, but he was a very unhappy baby – he cried all the time because of what doctors decided to call “colic;” I never slept and when I did finally fall asleep, he woke crying; I didn’t have anyone to talk to; and I didn’t have anywhere to go, nor the desire to go anywhere. My husband was beyond supportive, but he just made me angry – no matter what he did, I was angry with him because he wasn’t stuck home with this crying infant like I was. My house was dark, I was dark – it was a dark, dark time.
I remember going to my son’s first appointments and filling out the depression questionnaire. Being a clinician, I knew how to answer the questions to give my pediatrician an inkling that I was depressed, but not so much that it was clinical and I needed help. I can’t begin to understand why I under-reported my feelings on that assessment each visit, but I did and I know I’m not the only one.
I also remember telling the OB, who I was scheduled to see since my regular OB was busy at the time, that I wasn’t ready to go back to work at 3 months. I cried, I told her I was exhausted, I told her I wanted to go back to work, but that I just wasn’t ready. I told her sex was extremely painful, that I didn’t have anything I was looking forward to, and that I was sad all the time. She prescribed me Wellbutrin, told me I’d go back to work in a week, and that it would be good for me. I left the office bawling because this doctor, who only knew me through my delivery since my OB didn’t get there in time, didn’t trust my instincts. I was bawling because she thought that a pill would fix everything. I wasn’t understood, I felt ignored, and I was angrier than when I arrived there. Had she given me a referral to see someone who was actually qualified to treat me, I may have left her office more hopeful.
Instead, I returned to work the next week and cried on the phone to my mom every.single.day on the way to work about how much sleep I didn’t get, how miserable I felt, how this doctor who made me go back to work knew nothing, and how much I resented my kid. I knew I was depressed, but between the needy infant at home, my husband, our house chores, and work, I didn’t have the time to seek proper treatment and, quite honestly, I didn’t think I needed to. My solution was sleep – if I could only get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time, I’d be golden.
An article on www.romper.com reports that 1 in 7 women experience some form of postpartum depression, yet only 15% of women seek treatment for it. WHY?? For one, some women think the way I thought – I could handle it on my own, I’m just exhausted, this is normal. Some women feel embarrassed to not only ask for a PPD screening, but to admit that they might actually be suffering from PPD. But, you know what? Feeling down in the dumps after your baby is born isn’t normal and it isn’t embarrassing. It is more common than we realize AND there is help for it! Why do we women choose to suffer, make excuses for our suffering, deny that we are suffering and refuse to get help? We deserve to be the best we can be for our families, for our newborns, for the newborns we lost (because, yes, those who miscarry or deliver stillborn babies can still suffer from PPD!!!)!
Treating PPD isn’t difficult. Among the first things to try are:
- Getting plenty of rest (you may laugh now)
- ACCEPT help from whoever is offering to give it to you, ASK for help because some people are waiting for you to ask since they don’t want to bother you
- Connect with other new moms
- Make time to take care of yourself, either by taking a long bath, a walk, going shopping, or taking an hour away from the baby to focus on yourself
When you need more than just what’s listed above:
- Find a therapist who specializes in Postpartum depression
- Explore antidepressants – they aren’t a bad thing. Think of meds as a bandaid. You wouldn’t leave a cut to bleed until it clots on its own – you’d put a bandaid on it. Medication acts like a bandaid until you get squared away with your feelings. Once you catch your footing, you could talk to your prescribing doctor about titrating off of the medication.
You may be suffering from postpartum depression, but you’re not alone. Your friends and family want to help and there are caring professionals who can help. The first step is recognizing that something isn’t right. The next is reaching out for help.
If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from Postpartum Depression, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am available by phone and email and will help you in any way that I can.
For your reading pleasure: