When I first learned about postpartum depression, it was nothing like I know to be my new reality.
I’d heard that I may be hormonal and weepy, or a little extra irritable immediately following the birth of my son (and I was). However, no one could have prepared me for what was to come.
Picture this: you and your husband finally become pregnant after 4 years of being told you would not conceive. You have a healthy pregnancy and have never felt more blessed or beautiful in your entire life, and then you deliver THE most handsome and easy-going baby boy on the face of the earth. You are on top of the world and love being with him every day for the first 5 months of his life…and then one day, you wake up and everything changes.
The happiness you once felt is fleeting. Smiling and playing with your baby takes a tremendous amount of effort and doesn’t feel organic. You cry about little things you did or did not do. You are extremely agitated with anyone and anything that makes noise or interrupts your concentration, which is already non-existent.
On top of that, anxiety and sadness rule your thoughts and dreams, you cannot sleep even though you are exhausted and intrusive “scary” thoughts make you feel like you’re losing your mind. All this change in a short period of time then makes you feel (at times) like you’d rather be dead.
To put your mind at ease, I have never attempted suicide and I have never wanted to hurt myself or my baby. However, too many mothers have taken their own lives due to Postpartum Depression (PPD); approximately 20% of postpartum deaths are related to suicide.1 While I have been labeled as “high-functioning,” by my Doctor, PPD has changed my quality of life and outlook on motherhood, even questioning if I would have another child.
My mother and grandmothers made motherhood seem so natural and easy, but with this dark cloud following me where ever I go, nothing is easy. Even a meal at a loud, busy restaurant can set me back and make me retreat to a quiet room for the rest of the day. My quality of life is pretty fantastic from the outside looking in, but if you were to examine my thoughts for just one day, you would see a different side.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in this struggle. 15% of new mothers will experience postpartum depression.1 Sometimes symptoms start right away or even before birth, but like mine, symptoms can pop out of nowhere months, or even a year, after giving birth. The cause is not completely understood, but a hormonal component has been suggested. Don’t you love hormones?
I pray daily that no one ever has to go through this feeling isolated and alone. Unfortunately, I know that is too often the case especially in the military community where we are often separated from loved ones. It is never too early or too late to receive treatment and it is okay to be honest about your symptoms no matter how severe. If you know someone suffering and have never experienced PPD, offer an ear to listen instead of trying to fix the problem.
“Snapping out of it,” isn’t an option even though I wish it were that simple. It takes months or even years of treatment with lots of love and support to overcome this condition. And sometimes like other illnesses, medication is required to support proper brain chemistry.
While I am still walking through the storm, I have a compass and am on the road to recovery. I could not have made it this far without help from my terrific support team including my husband, friends, family, my healthcare practitioners and Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Since I have opened up about my situation, so many of my friends have shared their experiences with me and have prayed for my recovery. This has reassured me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and has reminded me that I am loved and cherished.
1. Pientrangelo, Ann. Everything you need to know about postpartum depression. Healthline.