Even when you’ve got some idea you probably have postpartum depression, it’s easy to come up with a billion reasons why you shouldn’t call the doctor. Please welcome today’s guest contributor, Warrior Mom Rebecca J., who shares why she waited to ask for postpartum depression help even after she knew something was wrong.
It has been roughly four months, five days and 14 hours (not that I am keeping track) since I began to fear that I might have postpartum depression and anxiety.
Yes, pregnancy made me a bit anxious, but who isn’t? Fifty-six hours of birth trauma was rough, but the end result is a healthy baby, right? Yes, the baby blues had me crying almost around the clock, but that is normal. Breastfeeding was disastrous, but I was being a wimp …
At almost seven weeks postpartum, when my son, husband, and dog were all asleep and I laid there awake for hours, I had a feeling something really wasn’t right. Was it adjustment to motherhood? Hormones? I cried my eyes out because of the confusing, devastating, and heartbreaking pain, and that’s when I knew.
I had been good. I did my homework and read about postpartum depression and anxiety, and I followed the tips in the guides. I tried to sleep when my son slept. I exercised. I ate right, and tried to do things for me and only me. I asked for help from my husband. I had terrific friends come and visit.
I’ve always been anxious so I started to think that maybe I brought these feelings on myself. That had to be it. Postpartum depression couldn’t be real. You can’t see it, touch it, measure it on a blood test. It wasn’t an illness, just a weakness on my part. I just needed to be stronger. I didn’t need postpartum depression help. Yeah right …
Two months later, I asked for help. Two months during which I got worse and worse. The tears became impossible to hide, the lack of affect in my voice raised questions, and people became a little too worried to leave me alone —“maybe I’ll stick around until your husband gets home.”
Why had I waited? Fear. I was afraid that I’d be encouraged to take postpartum depression medication and that it would harm my son through breast milk. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get any better. Mostly, I was afraid that help would mean that I am weak, that I couldn’t handle motherhood. I selfishly walked into something that I had no business doing and my son was to pay the price.
Now I know better. I know what weakness means for me. It means giving into my fears, it means that no action is easier than action, and it means not confronting who I am. It is the opposite of strength and being strong is who I want to be. While I am not sure who I am —not entirely, anyway — I know that I am not a bad mother or a bad wife. I know that I am not afraid to take chances and or to listen to my doctors and support network. I know that I am not weak.
I am now on medication both for sleep and for anxiety. Because breastfeeding was stressful (I was exclusively pumping with Reynauds syndrome and dealing with an awful case of infant reflux), I decided to discontinue at six months. While the decision to not breastfeed on medication was first made because of fear, I know that I could have continued and still be medically treated. I am in talk therapy as well, and I have joined an online support group.
My path to wellness is ongoing and has involved seeing an expert in postpartum depression (not just an expert in depression or anxiety), letting at least a few people in my inner circle/household know what is going on, having a system by which I can check in with myself to help monitor progress, and most importantly, finding friends (even if they’re friends online) who are going through postpartum depression and anxiety to talk to. Critical to my sense of recovery has been the sense that I am able to be open and honest no matter how scary my thoughts were.
After everything that has happened, I can honestly say things are okay, and sometimes I go as far as to say that things are great! To recognize the simple fact that things are fine has been the most difficult struggle of my life. Engaging in the battle was hard enough, but to feel like I am winning, well, that has taken strength.
I have learned that giving yourself a break isn’t the same as not taking responsibility. I’ve learned that owning the fact that I am not perfect is a lot harder than pretending to be perfect, and that what others think is not as important as what I think. And finally, I’m learning that putting yourself out there, while embarrassing and nerve-wracking, can be amazingly rewarding even without the validation of others. I now see that I built my life with all sorts of safety nets that just weren’t going to work in my new role as mother. That being me, really being me, without fear is the best gift I could give my son.
Four months, five days, and 14 hours after my first admission to myself that something was wrong, I not only feel able to engage in this particular bout of catharsis, but am also able to recognize the amazing support network of caregivers and friends! Thank you!
Don’t wait to get postpartum depression help.