I remember being told before my daughter was born to expect to be sad and have problems with my emotions as my hormones settled after her birth. I went into the situation expecting to feel a lot like I did every month during my period – sad, angry, and a little listless. I was NOT prepared for the onslaught of emotions that came about 48-hours following delivery.
I spent the first week crying almost CONSTANTLY. There was this feeling of dread and dismay that I couldn’t shake. I asked friends with babies how long this would last and was repeatedly told “4-6 weeks”. That amount of time felt like an eternity when I was facing what seemed like the end of my life as I knew it.
A trip out of the house when my daughter was 10 days old helped with the constant crying, but there was still a dark cloud over me. I felt sad, and then I felt guilty for being sad. Then I felt angry for being guilty, which would make me feel sad again. Wasn’t a baby supposed to bring joy?
My six-week follow-up appointment with my midwife included a postpartum depression screening, as I expected, but the results are what came as a surprise: I exhibited the classic signs of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Putting a name to the ugly feelings inside me helped a lot. When I would feel the onslaught of panic before walking down the stairs with my daughter in my arms, I could recognize that it was my PPD, not me. When I would feel the rage boiling inside me after my daughter woke for the fourth time in as many hours, I could say to my husband, “This is triggering me and I need your help”.
But it didn’t get better for a long time. I was prescribed antidepressants but scared that taking them would harm my already-shaky breast milk supply, so I didn’t. I tried more sunshine and better foods, but didn’t see a lot of results. It wasn’t until my lactation consultant recommended vitamin supplements that I really started to feel better; also, by the point, my daughter was nearing six months of age.
My struggle was hard and compounded by breastfeeding and health issues that triggered me. But I’m so glad that I sought help and talked to others about it. Postpartum depression wasn’t a sign of weakness or indicative of my abilities as a mom; it is an illness that I had to treat and continue to do so today.