Painful Postpartum Depression Memories Can Arise on Baby’s Birthday

Painful Postpartum Depression Memories Can Arise on Baby's Birthday -postpartumprogress.com

Happiness exuberated from his tiny soul as our crowded kitchen full of loved ones belted out a very off-key “Happy Birthday.” He looked so grown up in a plaid shirt that he had chosen all by himself, sitting in a “big boy” chair at the table. I couldn’t believe it. I held tears in the back of my throat as he excitedly waited for his cue then he blew out the candles.

Everyone cheered and my husband gripped my shoulders reassuringly.

“Are you okay?” He whispered in my ear, “I’m so proud of you today.”

I closed my eyes at that very moment and remembered.

For 40 weeks we had impatiently waited for that special day when our child would be born. We guessed, made bets, and then waited, and waited. On the exact due date, I went into labor.

As I lay in the hospital bed, I envisioned that August 14th would be forever ingrained as a day of full of happiness. It would mark the day that our lives had changed and how our dreams had finally came true. It would be full of balloons, decorations, candles, cake, ice cream, smiles, and love, lots of love, as we watched our growing child embark in a new year in life.

August 14th would always be a day of celebration of our child’s birth.

Yet, for me, it would also represent the beginning of my journey with postpartum depression.

The first year of my son’s life was extremely hard and it was mostly, sometimes thankfully, a blur. However, when his first birthday approached, my mind started recalling snippets of events. Memories I hoped to never remember flooded my mind.

I became overwhelmed with sadness.

Anxiety slowly crept its way in after.

I did my best to focus on the celebration of my son’s first year of life and to fight the onslaught of memories that triggered these intense emotions. Even things such as the way the sun sat in the sky, the way the once smoldering summer breezes started to cool, the smell of my house with the windows open, nighttime, the anticipation of the date itself, and so on all triggered them.

I began reliving August 14th and the weeks that followed it just like it was a year ago. It terrified me because I couldn’t escape.

I started to see my psychiatrist more regularly when the memories and the emotions became too much to handle alone. My husband and family took on the birthday party planning while I took time to rest and heal my aching soul.

I felt horrible for not being a big part in his first birthday like I had wanted to be, so I vowed that subsequent birthdays would be different.

You may also experience the same conflicting sadness and joy upon your baby’s birthday.  

Tips to Make the Birthdays Easier When Dealing with Postpartum Depression Memories

  • If you’re planning a party, keep it simple. Your children won’t remember that you had the house decorated like it should be photographed for a magazine. And buying a cake from a grocery store as opposed to baking it yourself is PERFECTLY OKAY.

  • Ask for help. You’d be surprised that our spouses are pretty awesome at party planning. And don’t forget very willing Aunts and Grandmas!

  • If you see a doctor/therapist, ask to see them more frequently during this time.

  • Take time for yourself and do things that make your heart happy.

  • Know that it’s okay to feel sad. We miss out on a lot of things when we are in recovery and it’s okay to mourn that loss. But don’t dwell on it for too long. I find that writing out my emotions in a journal helps me to let them go.

  • Have a good cry. I find that when I fight my emotions such as sadness I only feel worse. Sometimes taking a time out in the bathroom or in the bedroom and letting them in and then having a good cry afterwards helps me to move forward.

  • Know that this does get better. It truly does.

As I opened my eyes, I saw my son’s smile from ear to ear. We were all surrounded by loved ones who have not only witnessed our son grow these last few years, but have supported and held us along this journey.

On August 14th 2011, our beautiful son turned three years old.

And I; we became three-year survivors of postpartum depression.

A day for celebration indeed.

 

Do you have a hard time around birthdays/anniversaries/dates?

What are some of the things that you do to help you cope during this time?

What are some of your triggers for painful memories and emotions?

 — Kimberly

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. C turned 1 on August 9, and I've been spending so much time thinking about where I was 1 year ago. We even made some of her birthday celebration about us. My husband and I chose a nice restaurant and took C there on her birthday. It was our way of celebrating making it through the year, especially when there were days we weren't sure it would happen.

    • I am so glad that you are able to recognize and celebrate the leaps and bounds that you have made as well. You and I and all the women who suffer from this need to be celebrated for your accomplishments no matter how big or small.

      Congrats for fighting as hard as you do every day.

  2. So beautifully written Kimberly!

    My daughters first birthday this year was difficult but, just as you suggested, I look the time to lean on family and friends for support.

    I have a very hard time with the passing of time and cannot look at photos or scrapbooks after they have been created, this triggers my post partum.

    Thank God for support systems and family who understands what we are fighting!

    Happy Birthday Chunky, you are loved by so many

    • Oh the photos are huge triggers. Huge. Sometimes I will get the strength to go through them…but I feel awful afterwards. I have yet to complete Chunky's first scrapbook. But it gets better. Sometimes those moments caught on film were full of love and support and happiness and I try to focus on those feelings.

  3. I understand completely about the triggers. I think the main thing which I mourn (and which I was just crying about yesterday) was not being able to enjoy my son's infancy and the time he was a young child, because of my illness. I feel I missed out on a lot.

    But the thing I focus on when my son's birthday comes around (July 31, close to your son's birthday) is remembering how I am so much stronger than I thought I was, and that I can survive virtually anything because I survived the illness. You sound like you are growing close to feeling this way, too, if you don't already feel it.

    • I mourn that loss too Janet. Boy do I ever. One of the things that has helped me to move forward from that loss is a lesson that I learned from my psychiatrist…

      "There is no better time than to be present in the now and to enjoy every last second of it. There is so much more in their lives to come."

      I always remember that when I'm "grieving" that infancy period. Sure it sucks that I missed out on all that infancy stuff, but now? Now I know how precious time is. I don't take those tender moments with my son for granted…I'm capitalizing on the now.

      I hope that birthdays get better for you. They will.

      Hugs

  4. Oh my…and I thought I was the only one! My firstborn will be 5, ya FIVE, in a couple of weeks and I'm already thinking about those first few months/year after his birth. Good STUFF..thank you!!

    • I thought that I was the only one too until I started to talk about it openly.

      I really hope that it is easy for you in the next few weeks and know that you're not alone in this.

      Sending you hugs

  5. Oh my friend, I am here to tell you how much I sit in awe of your courage and your hard work in dealing with, living with and sharing with us your struggle with PPD. While I didn't deal with PPD my first year with the boys was a blur, having twins after 4 yrs of infertility should have been a double blessing but I was diagnoseed with complex migraines and fibromyalgia…the whole time so scared that I might die and leave my children…that first year was so hard. So today I am so glad that I am willing with my fibro and the migraines.

    I just love u sweets….and I'm always here for u!

    • Thank you so much friend. I'm so sorry that you had to struggle too. I think that the first year of our children's lives are hard no matter what. But when we have co-existing diagnosis that we have to fight through, it only makes it that much more difficult.

      PS. I'm always here for you too.

  6. Oh, I love this post. That is why I love this site. It educates people!

    Kim, I don't know your exact pain as PPD never came. But I do know that my struggle with antenatal depression made the birthday of my second a little bittersweet.

    I mean, I was so happy on the day he was born. But when I saw him I felt terribly guilty over having suffered from depression during my pregnancy. It's almost like I couldn't forgive myself for being depressed after I met him. How dare I have gotten depressed while carrying him, ya know? I mean look how precious this little life is! I still struggle with guilt over missing much of my pregnancy due to depression.

    But the fact remains that we came through it. We arrived on the other side of sickness. You and I may not be well all the time. But we survived. And we're still surviving!

    • Thank you so much for sharing that Molly!

      I think that the guilt is really hard to swallow sometimes. I often get to his birthday and I reflect on all that has passed and I feel guilty for being sick, missing it, not being the mom I wanted to be, the "Why am I depressed when I have a beautiful healthy boy", and so on and so on…I need to keep in check that this is not my fault and that I'm doing the best that I can.

      And you're right, we are surviving.

  7. Sweetie, you are so much stronger than you know. I'm so proud of you for writing this post. Sometimes I reflect back and wish I could have been more a mom, wish I could have enjoyed my newborn more. I have sadness for those days. I wish it could be all sunshine for all of us, but some of us just struggle more than others. But you've made huge strides. Thank you for these suggestions. It's good to let ourselves off the hook.

    • Thank you so much Rach.

      I definitely have those same exact thoughts and I definitely mourn that infant phase. When my son's birthday approached my psychiatrist told me something that helps keep me moving forward…

      "There is no better time than to be present in the now and to enjoy every last second of it. There is so much more in their lives to come.”

      And it's true. Our babies have so much more "stages" to go through that we in the NOW can witness and be fully present for. I'm excited about that…even the…gasp….teenage years.

      I, we can never get that time back, but we can thrust ourselves entirely in the present. 3 years ago, I never would have imagined this.

  8. Eileen Joy says:

    Snap how spooky!!!!… August 14, 2005. xxx Check out my post here 🙂 and many MANY big hugs to you .

  9. Hello, I'm visiting from Momo's

    Lovely place you have here.

    Just wanted to say …the things that is hardest is letting go…letting go of that regret, of those times you can't let go, of the No Do Overs….

    Still struggle with that, because it triggers the guilt.

    Anyway…beautiful post…sometimes, writing about it all, the whole mom-hood thing, helps too!

  10. That is spooky!!! Many hugs to you too for your strength!!!

  11. I turned 22 yesterday and idk why but I have been down the whole day kept thinking of hurt and sadness and all I wanted was for it to go away. My daughter is 14 months old made 14 months on my bday. She kept smiling at me and I was frowning. Her dad kept trying to make me laugh and smile and nothing worked. However on my daughters 1st bday I made her cake and set everything up myself I wasn’t sad at all on her bday I was amazed at how she reacted to her smash cake and enjoyed seeing family.