I alluded to my postpartum depression in a previous post about breastfeeding, but I thought it was important to give this more discussion. I’m making myself pretty vulnerable here, but it needs to be talked about more. So here we go…(And the below photo credit goes to the fantastic Katy Cooper Photography)
What I was experiencing:
I didn’t feel like myself, and I kept thinking it was going to pass, that I needed to sleep more, and I would get on top of that feeling and finally feel rested. Somehow I just couldn’t shake the way I felt. I was always tired, always feeling down, incredibly irritable, and I knew something wasn’t right.
I felt like all I ever did was drive the baby to daycare, drive to work, go to work, come home, and go to bed. And I felt like I needed more time with the baby but when I got that time I didn’t want it, I didn’t feel attached to my child. Sometimes I thought about hurting him. And even though I would never do that, it made me feel like a terrible mother.
It occurred to me that I had been getting more than enough sleep for weeks, and adequate nutrition, and I was still extremely fatigued. At the worst of my depression, my husband was doing EVERYTHING, the cooking, the cleaning, and most of the care for our baby. He is amazing, and I felt terrible for putting so much on him. He didn’t complain once, and took such wonderful care of me and our baby.
The breaking point:
One morning, I had dropped the baby off at daycare, and I started driving down the country road that takes me to work from daycare, and I contemplated driving down it as far as it would go and never coming back. Just running away from everything.
This alarmed me, because I felt like everything was almost perfect and I was unhappy for no reason. I love my husband with all my heart, our marriage is wonderful even with all of the life changes we have experienced with having a baby. Our baby was a very happy little guy, and was sleeping through the night regularly. I love my job, it is a good fit for me and I love my coworkers. We were still struggling with breastfeeding, but I had accepted the fact that it was necessary to supplement with formula for my sweet boy to get enough to continue to thrive (If you missed that post you can read it here). There wasn’t anything that logically should have been making me feel the way I was feeling. So what was wrong with me?
What I did about it:
I realized that how I was feeling wasn’t normal, and I didn’t need to continue on feeling the way I did. I told my husband that I had been feeling depressed and I asked him what he thought. He agreed that something wasn’t right. I also asked my mom what her experiences were after having a baby, and she told me and also asked me about what I had been experiencing. After I told her what was going on, and she agreed that I needed to see a doctor.
I made myself an appointment to see my doctor, and told them on the phone that I thought was experiencing postpartum depression. They made me an appointment for the next day. My husband knew I was apprehensive about going, and came with me.
At the doctor’s appointment:
I was a wrec, and I had talked myself out of everything in the waiting room and had convinced myself that I was making a huge deal out of nothing. I was grateful I had Jeff there with me. My mother in law watched the baby for us while we went.
The doctor asked me about my symptoms and agreed immediately that I was depressed as well as anxious. They completed a blood panel to see if anything was wrong physically, and everything came back normal. The doctor recommended a medication to treat both depression and anxiety.
I told the doctor that I didn’t want medication. She asked me why, and I was unable to provide a good answer, other than “I don’t need it” (Which was NOT true). She reminded me that I didn’t need to take it forever, and that most people who choose to take SSRIs short term do better when they take them for at least 6 months and then gradually taper off of them.
My husband reminded me that if I were to talk to someone in a counseling setting who was experiencing what I was experiencing, that I would recommend they see a doctor and get some medication. He was absolutely right, and for some reason it can be difficult to allow ourselves to admit that we need help.
What happened afterwards:
I took the medication as prescribed. After I had taken it for a short while, I began to feel more normal. I actually felt rested, and I felt attachment to my baby again, and the thoughts of harming him passed. I hadn’t realized how irritable I was until I started to feel normal. For me, it was absolutely what I needed and it felt wonderful to feel like Hailey again, and not the strange, angry, tired, sad shell of myself that I had been.
What you should do if you think you are experiencing postpartum depression
1. Make an appointment with your doctor. As soon as possible.
2. Tell someone that that you love what is going on, and tell them that you have made an appointment for the doctor. Have them follow up with you after the appointment so that you can’t back out of going.
3. Follow your doctor’s recommendations, whether it be medication, counseling, something else, or some combination of those things.
4. Attend your follow up appointment with your doctor after time has passed.
5. Know that it is ok to accept help. It is ok to need medication, it is ok to attend counseling, it is ok to get the help that you need.
I think many women don’t see the signs of postpartum depression or anxiety creeping in because their lives are so different after having a baby, everything is so hectic, your hormones are everywhere, and it’s hard to define what your new normal is. Your life is never going to be the same, but that doesn’t mean you need to be miserable. Get the help you need, and don’t you dare feel guilty about it