Bet you are wondering what I am apologizing for. Nothing. Yes there are probably some things I have done or said in the past 6 years that I should apologize for, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But one thing I am not apologizing for is suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. Didn’t know that about me? Then you are probably not a member of my local moms group www.chesapeakemommies.com a part of www.themommiesnetwork.org. Chesapeake Mommies has been a major support for me in the last 3 and a half years. It has connected me with many other moms, introduced my children to new friends and new experiences. It has been an invaluable resource for us! It has also been a safe place for me to open up about having PPD. But the reality is I feel like I should not have to hide my struggle with PPD. Lots of people suffer from depression. But one thing about PPD that is hard for many to understand is that during a time people assume is one of the happiest in your life you have trouble facing the day, may have paralyzing fears or compulsions that drive you to do things you know are not rational. Most people know about the “baby blues” when the hormone shift after birth causes the mom to become a little sad, a little sentimental and usually a good laugh with friends or just the joy of spending time with her husband and new child are enough to lift her out of it. But PPD is different. I know you didn’t ask but I thought I would give you a glimpse into my world with PPD.
It’s 8pm, my mom has made a wonderful dinner, I am fed, loved and should be happy. I go up to take a hot bath while my mom, dad and husband look after our newborn son. He has just been fed and I should have at least an hour if not two till he needs me again. I sit in the hot water pretending to read and contemplating how to take my own life. I know one thing for sure, I don’t want anything to happen to my son, but I need out. The unexplainable pain needs to go away and I can’t figure out anyway to stop it but to no longer be alive. It went on like this with me being able to put up a good show for a couple of weeks. None of them had a clue. My mom was actually pleasantly surprised with how well I was doing. Eventually it came out though. I was starting to lose my ability to care for my son. To care for myself. I had also started to develop anxiety. The only way I could get myself to leave the house was for his doctors appointments and for the breastfeeding support group at our local hospital. That support group was my life line. Though that group I was able to connect with other new moms. I met a group of women who became my life line. We started a play group and we met weekly for over 3 years. I am still friends with many of those women, though we don’t see each other much. Life gets in the way. They were there for me when we had BK and they were again my life line. I had the support of friends, we had a busy social schedule and we were so ecstatic that BK had survived her traumatic birth that I was blessed not to suffer PPD in the early days with BK. With BK I probably have a touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have developed a severe anxiety over her getting sick. To the point that I some times can’t function. It’s very embarrassing when she needs me so much I often have to call for outside help. Vomit is a huge source of that anxiety for me. I had trouble dealing with it before BK, but now that most of her seizures seem to have been triggered by Stomach Viruses I become particularly unhinged when any of the kids vomit. Fortunately my husband has been very good about stepping in when I need help.
JK was born 15 months ago. I had lost a lot of my support by this time. I no longer had a weekly play group we were attending and while I had Chesapeake Mommies the lack of face to face contact with other adults has been hard. We also have had some major changes in the past year. BK changed preschools this fall. TD started kindergarten. JK is growing up. I have had to face the last of the firsts as I think of them. The last child I will breastfeed, the last child I will watch take her fist steps, the last child I will feed her first solids. It feels good to know we are done having kids some times. But it’s also a source of sadness. What Mommy doesn’t want to hold forever those precious tiny moments when your newborn is so tiny, sweet and quiet. They smell delicious, they are beautiful and when you have the time to snuggle with them it is priceless. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss middle of the night feedings, I won’t miss diapers and I won’t miss the tantrums for no reason I can’t figure out. But its all bitter-sweet. It has led me in and out of depression over the last year. I have had some really dark days. But now 6 years into fighting this monster I am better able to formulate my thoughts and better able to figure out what I need to do to help myself. This self discovery has led me to realize that my PPD is feeding itself. I need interests outside my home, I can not let my anxiety and my PPD imprison me in my home and force the cycle to continue. But it’s hard! I mean really hard.
The bus stop has become over the last 4+ months my biggest challenge. In some ways its awesome, I get out, I see other adults and I have 5 minutes every morning that I feel normal. But it is also a huge source of stress for me. I don’t know many of my neighbors well and I honestly don’t know how to get to know them better. We moved into an established neighborhood almost 3 years ago. Most of the kids here are older than my own so our oldest is younger than or the same age as many youngest children around here. Many of the neighbors are very nice! But I don’t know them. I don’t know how to reach outside of my comfort zone to say “come on in for a cup of coffee” I don’t know how to get the kids around here to accept my son (or my daughters) and include them in things. I feel like I am back in high school some days. I am on the outside looking in at that bus stop. Even though I am standing right there in the middle of it all, I still feel like an outsider. I know part of it is the depression talking. Whispering its evil poisonous thoughts. But it’s persuasive, I some times can’t help but listen.
Maybe in reading this you recognize some of this in yourself? In your wife? In a friend? Reach out to them. Tell them you are there for them that it is OK to admit they need help. The best thing you can do for any mom that first year is just check in periodically see if everything is going ok. They will appreciate it.
For more info on PPD and Postpartum Anxiety I recommend this site, it has good info.