When you give birth for the first or second time, the expecting books, the online information sites, and the doctors and nurses are very much aware that this is new for you, and they take great care in giving you as much information as possible including on postpartum depression.
postpartum depression can occur in women who’ve had no other history of depression.
You are told very clearly what to look for: loss of appetite, fatigue, lethargy – because none of those things happen when you have a new baby unless you have depression, right?
Two other symptoms to watch out for are if you can answer yes to the following questions:
Do you want to hurt yourself?
Do you want to hurt your baby?
Since my answers to both of those questions were resounding NOs, I knew I was in the clear.
Despite that I couldn’t make decisions or do anything that wasn’t taking care of the baby, or even lying on the floor with the tiny baby, both of us crying hysterically. It went on and on, and every time I thought I must be depressed, I need to see a doctor about this, I would go back to those two questions and answer them:
No, I do not want to hurt myself. No, I do not want to hurt my baby. I just need a vacation; a day off. And I muddled through. I just wasn’t strong enough to handle a second baby. I must be doing something wrong.
Not to mention that my mother had just died; eight weeks after the birth of my son, which came eighteen months after the death of my dad. Of course, I was depressed, but I wasn’t, you know, depressed.
It wasn’t until eight years later and actually becoming suicidal, wanting it all to just end and being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety was able to look back at that time, lying on the floor crying, not wanting to do anything but sit in a chair, sometimes holding my baby, not cooking or wanting to eat, did I realize that I did, in fact, have postpartum depression.
It’s hard to look back and know that if only I’d looked deeper into it, I could have come to of it sooner. As it was, when I became pregnant with my third child, when my second was only six months old did the hormones kick in, pushed the depression away, and saved my life.
I was miserable, and I had help. My husband stayed home and worked as often as he could, especially after baby number three was born, and my mother-in-law visited and stayed with us for extended periods to help us out and visit.
We need to listen to new or not so new mothers when they complain about how hard it is. Even if we complain all the time, we need to take a special listen after the baby’s born. Offer support; don’t wait until it’s asked for. By then, it’s probably too late and the request is coming from a shrieking, arm flailing door slammer.
The questions shouldn’t be will you hurt yourself or your baby; the question should be how are you, are you okay, can I help? Do you want me just to come over and watch you and the baby sleep for an hour?
postpartum depression is hard to recognize. I never recognized it until I was on anti-depressants and in therapy for about six months. I was lucky. I never wanted to hurt my kids. If they were with me, I wouldn’t hurt myself, but looking back it is one of the scary experiences I’ve ever had, more than when I was actually suicidal.
The good news is that I came out of it. I survived. I look at my kids everyday and I’m glad I’m here with them. I survived and I’m still surviving. I’m hyper-aware of how I feel. I have my coping mechanisms, which I’ve adapted to over time.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re crazy or imagining things. Take care of yourself first. Love yourself first. Always keep fighting.*
[*Always Keep Fighting and Love Yourself First are from the Always Keep Fighting (AKF) campaign to raise awareness and fight depression through Supernatural actor, Jared Padalecki’s charities.]