We are all well aware of the stigma that is associated with various forms of mental illness. Unfortunately, there is too much involved when it comes to the topic of post-partum depression.
It is many women’s dream and ultimate joy to bring new life into the world. However, several do not always experience the expected euphoria of motherhood and are instead greeted with feelings of guilt and resentment among many other hard to identify emotions.
In preparation for this week’s post, I received feedback from four mothers. This group of women includes veteran and first time mommies. When Standing Strong first launched, I received a message from a long time friend of mine:
“Please don’t leave post-partum depression out of your blog! Its real and sadly, my family hasn’t been much support.”
Before we read more from her and our three other moms’, here is some critical information regarding the subject.
Just like many may suffer from general depression or anxiety disorder, 1 in 7 women will experience post-partum depression or anxiety, and sometimes both. Many symptoms can include feelings of being overwhelmed, guilt, irritability, hopelessness, and often the unexpected feeling of not being able or want to bond with your baby. Most often, these symptoms will resolve on their own, and are the result of hormone fluctuations. However if symptoms persist after 2-3 weeks, it is important to be honest with your ob-gyn about what you are experiencing. Despite contradicting reports, it is generally safe to take anti-depressants if you are breastfeeding. Physicians may start you at a low dose and most SSRI’s such as Zoloft and Prozac are passed through breast milk at low levels. If you were already on medications prior to getting pregnant, doctors will monitor you closely and make appropriate adjustments to your current dose. If you prefer to stay clear of taking any medication while pregnant or nursing, speaking to a therapist is also highly beneficial.
I heard from four mothers who shared their experiences and advice for handling the baby blues. Below are their comments:
- “Three months before I got pregnant with my daughter, I suffered a miscarriage and it was very hard. When I got pregnant with my daughter I was caught off guard. The whole pregnancy was a rough one and when she was born I was in complete denial. I didn’t think she was going to be alive because of what had happened before. When she was here I felt hopeless and like she was an intrusion on my life. My mom took care of her the first year of her life because I couldn’t and I’m so thankful she did that for me. I was put on depression medications and started to finally get better. She’s now 7 and the light of my world. I’m now so thankful for her.”
2. “I wasn’t diagnosed with full postpartum, but scored higher than my doctor would have liked on the quiz they make you take at your 6 week check-up. I was given resources to local Mama groups for breastfeeding and postpartum care. I had a follow up appointment two weeks later to retake the test and scores were significantly lower that time around.
As for advice: as cliche as it sounds sleep when baby sleeps. Running on minimal sleep just made everything a million times worse for me. Absolutely everything made me cry and being woken up every two hours (sometimes less) made everything a million times worse. Between my husband’s recovery from his tumor removal surgery, my c-section recovery, and caring for a newborn, we had a lot of changes in a very short period of time.”
- “I have anxiety attacks every night before I sleep and sometimes I can hardly sleep, and it’s not the baby, it’s the panic attacks. Every day, I can hardly open my eyes yet alone get out of bed. By the time I flip myself out because both the kids need me to, I already want to crawl back and cover my head with the blanket and sleep my life away. I’ve wanted to kill myself and people believe that to be selfish but it’s one of the many things that run through your mind. You feel like you’re not good enough and that your children would be better off without you even if it’s not true and it’s all the complete opposite of what you think. After all, if you don’t take care of you who the hell will take care of your children? It makes you feel like you are doing everything wrong and you’re not a good parent. You could be the best mother ever and still feel this way. It’s a dirty depressing feeling.”
4. “When I went through it with my first child, no one believed me. They all said it was in my head. I started to feel like it was because I didn’t have it with my second child and I still try to figure out why or what I could have done to prevent it. My mom says postpartum is in my head. Today was a very hard day, but yesterday was perfect. I thought to myself, maybe it’s almost gone. Then I catch myself blaming me keeping my third child. Sometimes I wish I gave her up. I just want her to have an everyday loving, caring, and nurturing environment. I know she feels it. I told my mom I think I need to go to the hospital for another stay. And she replies with “tomorrow you’ll be fine,” but will I? I feel like shit. There are so many women who would love to have her. Why can’t I feel like that every day? I love them and I want them to be safe and happy, but I feel as if I do it because I have to and not because I want to. I didn’t have postpartum with my second. and caring for her was so different. Even to this day everything I do for her feels different than the other two. My doctor always asks me if I feel like I’m going to hurt them. I’ve never felt like I could hurt them. I don’t know that part of postpartum. I only know that I’m always tired, sad, and completely overwhelmed.”
At the end of the day, whether you are struggling with minor or major symptoms, it is highly important to surround yourself with a positive support system. After all, a happy mommy means a happy baby.