Warrior Mom Tana W. shares how she buried herself even deeper in her work while going through postpartum anxiety just to feel a sense of purpose.
After an unplanned c-section due to some medical complications and a four-day hospital stay, I was desperate to get out of there and get my daughter home. I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family and in my own bed. What I didn’t expect when we left the hospital was to be hit with postpartum depression and anxiety immediately. Already severely sleep deprived, I was not prepared for yet another endless night of a crying baby and no sleep. The sleep deprivation was getting to me, and I was unaware of how ruthlessly that can affect your mental health. In fact, the only information I knew about postpartum depression were the horror stories in the press of mothers who took their babies’ lives or their own. I wasn’t aware that “PPD” rears its ugly head in many forms.
Even today, I look back and am still so thankful that I didn’t have to deal with the weight of wanting to harm myself or the baby. However, while I knew that I didn’t feel “right,” I wondered if what I really had was postpartum depression. I was so afraid that I’d walk into the baby’s room and find blood in the crib, among many other irrational, sometimes unnameable fears. Afraid that she’d need some sort of help I couldn’t give, and afraid to be alone with her for fear that I wouldn’t be what she needed. I hadn’t even heard of postpartum anxiety before, and yet I could literally time the anxiety attack I felt every evening as the sun set, and the sense of stomach-knotting dread and nausea that it brought with it. I couldn’t stand the thought of another night of no sleep and me feeling helpless to “fix” whatever might be wrong with my baby. In fact, nothing was wrong – she was just a baby that needed food, diaper changes, swaddling and her mother to cuddle her. But, being perfectionist and a “fixer” who was struggling with postpartum anxiety, I felt nothing but inadequate and in over my head. I was literally in survival mode and lived in 2-hour increments, waiting for and often dreading the next feeding.
Even though I went to the doctor a week after Lily’s birth and was given antidepressants, I convinced myself that I was being weak and was perfectly fine, and took myself off of them after six weeks. That’s when my anger started. I felt angry about everything, from my husband blowing his nose in the middle of the night for fear he would wake up the baby, to the baby needing to eat yet again. I lived in a fog of denial and frustration and pushed myself to go back to work after eight weeks. I used the excuse of unpaid maternity leave and our financial situation to bury myself in work because it was something that was controllable and predictable. I even took on additional freelance jobs and was working incredible hours on little sleep just to feel a purpose and that I was worthwhile at something, since I felt I wasn’t a decent and loving mother.
Finally, even though things had started to feel a little better (though not much), I ended up getting back on my medicine. The funny thing is, even though my closest family members knew what was going on, we didn’t really talk about it. I think it was mostly because I did my best to give off an air that everything was totally fine even though it wasn’t. My mom, sister and husband where there for support, but it just wasn’t a subject that was readily brought up unless I did it. And I just couldn’t face it, so we didn’t talk about it.
What finally broke the ice and got me to face up to my postpartum depression and anxiety was a friend who knew I’d gone through a “hard time” after the birth telling me what a good mom I was, and saying that I was so strong to get through everything, even though she didn’t know half of the story. It took someone else pointing that out to me to make me realize that I had been through an ordeal, and that I was doing okay, even though it wasn’t over yet. I began to search online to find resources to help me. It was then that I found the blog Sluiter Nation and reached out to thank Kate for being so brave for posting her story. She in turn directed me to Postpartum Progress. As I read through the postings of symptoms, stages, and everything else, I realized I wasn’t alone and I felt immense relief at the idea that there were other women out there just like me, and that postpartum depression and anxiety doesn’t have to be a shameful, horrible secret.
The stigma surrounding PPD is so truly unbelievable to me. Women in my family that should know better told me things like, “You don’t need to share this with the rest of the family,” and “You’re just scared of your baby.” While they come from an older generation, and one eventually admitted to struggling with PPD herself, it’s no wonder that I felt it was a shameful secret that needed to be hidden. Postpartum depression is very, very isolating and I’m so thankful that even though there aren’t any local support groups I was able to find online ones. While I know that it’s scary and overwhelming at times, the best thing you can do is to reach out and find others that understand. Postpartum depression and anxiety don’t need to be shameful or hidden. By bringing it to the light, you take away its power and find your own strength. I hope that my story can help you as much as the other brave women’s stories here have helped me!
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