Surviving Postpartum Depression
Surviving Postpartum Depression
Valuable advice from a mom who's been there
In the early weeks of my first pregnancy, I braced myself for the misery of morning sickness.
At seven weeks, when the nausea hit, it was worse than I'd imagined. I had pictured an upset stomach, maybe a bit of vomiting in the morning. I hadn't foreseen an all-day sickness that made my mouth taste like dirt and made me loathe even the thought of food.
But I found comfort knowing I wasn't alone. As I gagged on Saltine crackers, I reminded myself that it was a normal part of pregnancy. It would come to an end.
What I was completely unprepared for was the anxiety disorder that accompanied my pregnancy hormone surge.
I had always been a "worrier." But whatever worries or anxiety I had experienced before paled in comparison to the panic and fears that took over my barely pregnant body.
When my son finally arrived, I was overcome with love. I adored him. But I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't sleep. I could barely force air into my lungs.
I remember my second night in the hospital. I still hadn't slept. My baby was resting, but my panic was raging. I wrapped my robe around me and ventured out to the nurses' station.
I had noticed a WWJD bracelet on a friendly nurse's wrist. Perhaps she would be willing to visit with me, to help me get through the lonely night.
As I sat twisting a Kleenex into a tightly wound band, she talked to me. She told me stories about her own children, about motherhood, and even about her friend whose baby had died of SIDS.
Some other nurses came by and indulged in the fresh-baked cinnamon buns my friend had brought me earlier in the day—I had given them to the nurses, since my stomach rebelled at the sight of food.
They all talked about their children and I remember staring at them wondering how they had survived becoming mothers and actually returned to the world.
I couldn't imagine an hour without tears, let alone life as a working mother. I was sure I was destined to forever experience this fear and worry. I loved my new little baby too much. It was too much to bear. It was all just too much.
Fortunately, a week later at my baby's check-up, the doctor immediately recognized my condition, and I began to get help for my anxiety and postpartum depression.
Seven years later, I am still on medication for anxiety and depression. Thankfully, I resumed medication immediately after delivering my daughter and avoided another severe episode of postpartum depression.
I still have my rough days. But I also have wonderful days, full of laughter and joy and mothering bliss.
And I have a mission. I want to tell expectant and new mothers facing anxiety and depression three things I wish someone had told me.
• You are not alone . Anxiety and depression may not be as common as morning sickness, but there are untold armies of us who have fought the same battles you are fighting. We are here—and many of us are talking!
• You can get help. Tell your doctor, your family and your friends. They can all contribute to your healing. Support, counseling, exercise, sleep, maybe even medication—your doctor can help you determine what is best for you.
• You will feel better. When trapped in depression, we often feel hopeless, like it's a permanent condition. But it isn't. Good days will come again. They might even come in a few hours. Just hold on.
My struggles aren't neatly packed away in a box labeled "Past." Some days I still get bowled over by waves of depression that have my coughing and sputtering to catch my breath. Some days I feel so weak and defeated I can hardly find the strength to play with my baby girl or sit down to work.
But when those times come, I just wait out the storm. I reach out for help and sometimes I let the tears fall. And then the good days return. My son makes me laugh, my daughter makes me smile, and I thank God that I am their mother.