Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Experience with Postpartum Depression

All I ever wanted to be was a mother, and as soon as I became one, all I could do was cry.

My pregnancy with my son was perfect, and I looked forward to the day when I could hold the little one growing inside me in my arms. I decorated his nursery with airplanes, hung his tiny outfits in the closet, and stared at his profile on the ultrasound.

I was made to be a mother, and I couldn't wait. I was ready, or so I thought.

When the pains woke me from a dead sleep, I screamed louder than I ever had and hurt worse than I knew was possible. From zero to dying - this was my labor story.

After laboring for hours, it was finally time. Time to see his face. Hold his body. Touch his flesh. It was time, but something wasn't right.

He had turned, and a natural delivery was no longer possible. Surgery was required, and I was devastated. My tears began then, and they didn't stop for weeks. The plan in my head was gone, and a depression I had never experienced had come.

He was delivered, and he was healthy. Six pounds, 3 ounces, with wisps of dark hair and the eyes of an old-soul. He was perfect. But I wasn't.
Right away, something wasn't right. Initially, I had strange reactions to all the medications. I hallucinated and spoke out of my mind and gave my family a lot of laughs.

But when I got home, I still wasn't right.

I was trying to recover from a major surgery, trying to breastfeed, and trying to understand why I felt so unhappy. All I could do was cry, and all I wanted was to be alone. It's hard to admit nearly eleven years later, but I was severely disconnected from my son. His needs overwhelmed me and his cries consumed me. I had a picture in my head of how motherhood was supposed to be, and this wasn't it. I wanted to close my eyes and disappear. Close my eyes and ignore my baby. Close my eyes and maybe not wake up.

I knew I was sad, but I didn't know why. I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a name for how I felt.

I was going through the motions of motherhood, but I didn't realize how far away from myself I was.

I cried nonstop, and no amount of determination changed how I felt. No amount of prayer fixed me. When I wasn't crying, I was staring into space, numb.

I was sick, so sick, but I didn't understand. I was in the vise-grip of depression with no way to escape on my own.

My mother stepped in, and I believe she might have saved my life. She forced me to call my doctor, and had she not, I honestly don't know what would have happened. She forced me to make an appointment, and she forced me to go. She sat in the waiting room with my tiny baby as I told the doctor I needed help.

I did need help, and I got it. Not everyone who needs it does, and that's why I'm sharing my story with you.

Recently, a friend of a friend took her own life. She was a new mother, and she was depressed. Her story could have been mine, and it's the story of so many others. I recently learned that suicide is the leading cause of death in post-partum mothers. It doesn't have to be.

My hospital sent me home with a list of instructions on how and when to feed my baby, how and when to change my surgical dressings, how and when to bathe my baby. Included on the sheet was a side-note on what to do if depression struck.

Depression is not a side-note. Depression, especially in new mothers, is very real and much more common than it's spoken about. So we need to be honest about it.

It's not your fault. It's not because you did something wrong, and it's not the end of your story.

Depression is treatable. But I'm convinced most who experience it cannot - will not - treat it on their own. They, like me, will hide it in shame and wait for it go away. They will pretend they are ok and will try to convince themselves they are. Most people who experience it need someone who loves them to step in and demand they get help. Make an appointment for them. Force them to go. Sit in the waiting room while they admit they need help.

If you love someone who is pregnant or newly post-partum, make yourself the one who looks out for her. Be her advocate. Be a voice who speaks into her life and says, "It doesn't have to be this way. Let's get you some help."

I cannot overemphasize that I do not believe I would have sought help on my own. I would not have swallowed my pride and said, "Help me." I would not have admitted I couldn't handle my problem. The woman you love? She might not either. It doesn't have to be this way.

Watch for the signs. Listen to what she's not saying. And step in to her pain. She may need it more than you can understand.

Allison Goldstein's story
Brooke Shields's book Down Came the Rain

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jennie. I too have suffered with depression - and more recently overwhelming anxiety. We need to share our stories and break the silence that so often surrounds mental illness. xxx