A few weeks ago a friend (a fellow photographer!) of mine shared about her battle with postpartum depression and it really inspired me to share mine. (In case you didn’t see her viral post, it can be found here.) May is ppd awareness month and I think its so important that we talk about it, because with a little more awareness a lot of moms can be helped.
This is not something that is easy for me and infact I have went back and forth probably about 20 times on whether or not to even post it. It is hard to talk about something like this and the fact that I have so much anxiety about whether or not to even post it means that it is important.
Here is my story. I had the perfect birth for me with my second child, who was born this past January. It was exactly what I wanted, all natural, non-medicated and peaceful. I was surrounded by the love and support of my husband, mother and our doula and my doctor was AMAZING. I had a similar experience with my firstborn’s birth 3 years previously. I had been so afraid to have the same issues nursing that I had experienced with Mikaela but Kaedence took to nursing right away, in fact she nursed for a half hour straight after she stopped screaming from being born (this should have been my first clue to her disposition).
Everything was going perfect for the first week or so. And then my husband went back to work and started his spring semester of classes. We had a lot of appointments for Kaedence and things started to get overwhelming. The house was never clean, the laundry never ending and I felt like all I did was sit on the couch all day and nurse Kaedence. I felt guilty of not spending the amount of time I had previously to Mikaela and I felt like a failure because she was watching TV almost all day. Most days I couldn’t even fit in a shower, let alone cook an entire healthy meal. I began to resent my husband and the time he got to spend out of the house. Between work and school he was hardly ever home (Mondays and Wednesdays he had school from 8-10 am and then work straight and he didn’t get home until 1030, then Tuesdays and Thursdays he had school all day from 11 to 730. Friday, Saturday and Sunday he would work either 12-10 or 3-1 am although he did get 1 day off besides tuesday/thursday) and I never got any time for myself. Mikaela, being the 3 year old that she is, wanted all of my attention and began to act out when she didn’t get it. There were many nights that I would break down crying because of the guilt and the feelings of failure that I was having. My husband did everything he could to reassure me that I was doing a great job and that I was taking care of our 2 girls and that’s what mattered but I couldn’t see through my haze.
And then Kaedence became colicky. She had an intolerance to dairy and we didn’t know it at the time. So my wonderful baby started crying uncontrollably ALL THE TIME unless she was nursing. So now I was spending even more time on the couch nursing and my feelings of guilt intensified. Then they turned into anger. Mikaela was just being a kid and I would snap at her for the smallest things. Things that are age appropriate behavior. I was yelling at her all of the time and losing my temper more than I’d like to admit. My emotions were all over the place and if I wasn’t crying then I was mad or sad.
Then one night my mom came over after I had put the girls to bed. She told me that she could see me losing my patience with Mikaela and that that wasn’t like me at all. We had an argument fight because she kept telling me that her and my dad worked opposites when me and my siblings were young and that you have to do what you have to do. I was so mad at her and I couldn’t see past my anger to realize what she was trying to tell me. See, the thing is, most people don’t recognize anger as a symptom of postpartum depression, but it is. What I needed was someone to say that the feelings I was having were valid and that it’s okay to have them. Its okay to feel like a single mother because your husband isn’t home a lot and even though he is the WORLD’S BEST DAD, he can’t be in 2 places at once.
After the argument I had with my mom, I did some googling and ppd and anger came up and I found out that I wasn’t alone. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t going crazy and I was so surprised to find out that what I was experiencing was normal and many women go through it. Because the next day was a Sunday, I called the on-call nurse line for my OB and talked to a nurse. I made this call while my husband was in our basement working on a project, because part of me was ashamed and I didn’t want him to know what I was feeling. I told the nurse that I was just so angry all of the time and that the littlest things would set me off. Through my tears she reassured me that they could help me and I just had to call my OB in the morning and make an appointment. if I hadn’t had the argument with my mom then I might not have realized what was happening in time and things could have gotten much worse. At my appointment I felt embarrassed to even be there for what I perceived as a “non-medical” reason. They had me take an assessment and my doctor told me that my case was actually pretty bad. We chatted about my situation at home and even though I had a good support system (my mom and mother in law, among many others), I was still struggling even though I love my two girls more than life itself. He started me on paxil and suggested I talk to a counselor.
I am not a person who takes pills for every little thing. I prefer the all natural way and always try that before anything else. But in this case, the medicine helped me. After a few days where I was a little hazy I was beginning to feel better. I felt like myself again, my patience returned, and I wasn’t yelling at Mikaela anymore. Even though I’ve been taking medication for almost 2 months now, I just last week called to make an appointment to see a counselor. There is a stigma attached to postpartum depression and taking medication was something I could do at home, with only a few people knowing. It gets more real when you see a counselor and it took me a while to come to grips with that, because of the stigma that I am a bad mother if I need help to do anything. I was afraid to ask for help or to talk about my feelings, because that’s not something I am used to doing. I am the type of person who doesn’t ask for help and wants to do it all on my own, but when you’re a new mom you NEED help. Thats why its so important to start a conversation about postpartum depression. If myself or those around me knew the sympoms of postpartum depression then we could have headed it off and someone could have seen the road I was heading down before I went down it.
SO what are the symptoms? and what can you do to help #endthesilence ? The symptoms below can often be confused with the baby blues but they last longer and are more intense:
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Excessive crying
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death
- Feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Loss of appetite
- Eating much more than normal
- Loss of sleep
- Sleeping too much
- Panic attacks or anxiety
- Fatigue or lack or energy
So what can you do to help? For one, stop the silence. Start a conversation. Don’t make someone feel like they have to do it all. Do you know a new mom? Then CALL HER and ASK how shes feeling, or if she needs help. VISIT her and do some housework, ask how the baby is sleeping. Let her take a nap. Every little thing helps.
One day, about a month ago and well before I had even thought about writing this post, I was shopping at target and I saw a onsie that said “strong like mom”. I knew it was perfect for my girls not only because of the issues I have been going through but because I want them to know that they are strong and they can get through anything. The best way I can do that is to work my way through this and be strong for them.
Of course we had to do a photo shoot after I found a matching shirt for Mikaela as well. Most days this is what my life looks like, all smiles and giggles.
and then of course, some days it looks like this.
But thats okay. Because motherhood is HARD. Its the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done in my life. And I have two AMAZING little girls to show for it. I hope one day we will #endthesilence and break the stigma of postpartum depression. It all starts with being #stronglikemom
If you or someone you know is struggling with ppd, please see a doctor! Here are a few links to help you out as well ❤