What I Didn’t Know About PPD

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I thought I knew what to look for. I thought I’d educated my family–anyone who would be close to me after I had the baby–about PPD signs. I knew my history of depression and anxiety. I knew postpartum depression had been in my family through a few generations. Even though I was worried, I was so confident in my knowledge.

But BAM! It hit me anyway, and I didn’t even recognize it for months.

During the pregnancy was one thing–I coached myself and others on what I thought PPD was. But then I had a traumatic delivery culminating in a c-section that didn’t heal the way it should have healed, and all my attention turned to surviving the trauma, the pain, and the fog of new motherhood. I didn’t have time to think about postpartum depression for a even a minute. My high-needs baby couldn’t be consoled a lot of the time, and he didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time. Ever. At least not for me. He nursed every 90 minutes, and feedings typically lasted 45 minutes. I was exhausted and unable to think straight.

I didn’t know that PPD doesn’t simply mean crying a lot. I didn’t know that my rage was a symptom. I didn’t know that my intrusive thoughts (about illness and accidents harming my son) were due to postpartum anxiety. I wanted to quit my job because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my son’s side at all. That’s when I knew I needed to seek help, at least to prevent myself from making a drastic decision like leaving my job and jeopardizing my family’s financial safety.

It was in therapy that it became clear to me just how badly I was suffering–and that it wasn’t the baby blues. Fortunately, it also became clear that I didn’t have to suffer and that there was help within my reach. Each appointment gave me hope that carried me through the week leading up to the next one. Coming up with a course of action and goals and being guided toward those goals helped me immeasurably.

I only wish I hadn’t waited months after my son was born to receive the help I needed. Nowhere during my “education” during pregnancy was I guided toward what to do if I actually did experience PPD. No physician, no nurse, no childbirth educator, no book or magazine article taught me about all the resources available in person or online. I never heard of postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, postpartum OCD, or any of the myriad perinatal mood disorders, let alone what the symptoms were for each. Even my “facts” weren’t completely accurate.

Did I somehow miss the information, or was it just not readily available? I’m not sure; maybe it was a little of both. It was unfortunate that I suffered for months before the right person–my OBGYN–saw me crying and knew what to do to help me. I consider myself very lucky that the stars aligned that day and I got the help I needed.

With that memory always near, I try to be vigilant when my loved ones have babies. I let them know they have me as a resource, and I have a whole Warrior Mom army behind me. We are armed with experience and knowledge, unafraid to fight both the illness itself and the stigma about having it.

 

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About Jaime Harker

A mom to one, I began blogging as a tool to recover from postpartum depression and anxiety in September 2010. Through writing about my experiences with PPD/PPA, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and working outside the home, I healed (along with therapy & lots of self-care!). I still write about those things, but from the perspective of someone who crawled out of the mud, into the sunshine.

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Comments

  1. What would you suggest for a mom who is recovering from birth complications who also has a high needs baby? What would have helped you?

    • That’s a great question, Emily. What would have helped me was more interaction with family and friends, I think. I could have used a few more visits and phone calls, a few more “it’s not you” and “it will get better” comments. But I think because my son was high needs, people were afraid to pop in unannounced or call and possibly wake him, and this may have been the vibe I put out there myself.

      • That social support can be so helpful, but sometimes it’s kind of in the wrong direction which makes us scared of it (interfering MILs). I always thought it would be good to have the baby scream at someone else for even 30 minutes. It can be so constant. I wonder if that would be a situation where it would be good to have a post-partum doula.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m almost 3 years away from my ppd, ppa and ppocd experience, yet I read posts like this, and I quickly recall similar experiences. I knew I had ppd, but when the intrusive thoughts began, I thought I was losing my mind and turning into a monster. I wonder why health care professionals don’t tell women about the possibility of intrusive thoughts. Do they worry it will trigger women/cause them? Are they just too terrible to mention? Or are healthcare professionals simply in the dark and unaware? In any case, stories like yours will help educate others. Thanks!

    • Hi, Ana. Thanks for commenting. I have no good answer to your question! I went to a conference once (as a matter of fact, Katherine was there, too) that focused on various health care providers’ lack of education about PPD in general. It was eye opening to be present in a room full of clinicians admitting they received so little education about these issues! A better job needs to be done, for sure. I do think we’re getting there. :)

  3. Jamie, my experience is so similar to yours, it’s reassuring and well, let’s just I feel for you. Even now, I’m sometimes challenged by anxiety and worries – I’m going through a phase right now being overly anxious, but as you said with a Warrior Army right behind me it’s not what I want, but it’s bearable. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. i need some help…
    i am now exactly one year postpartum with my second child and was just diagnosed with ppd/ppa. i can’t believe it’s taken this long. i have not felt well since my daughter’s birth, with many physical symptoms (extreme fatigue, weakness, muscles aches, headaches, joint pain, terrible insomnia, and more recently raching heart and shakiness). i haven’t felt particularly sad, but i have been VERY frustrated at how i’ve felt and been to the dr countless times to try and figure out what’s wrong. all blood work/tests have come back normal. and just this week my dr. did a ppd screen which showed that i definitely have signs that point in this direction. she started me on zoloft and melatonin to help me sleep better (i haven’t really noticed that it helps me sleep).

    what i’m wondering is, has anyone else had such physical symptoms related to ppd?? i have to go back to work this weekend doing 12 hour shifts and i am SO fearful that i won’t be able to handle it!! i also had never heard of moms having so many physical symptoms as a result of depression/anxiety. any information/stories would be helpful just to ease my mind. has anyone had good results with zoloft?
    thank you!!

    • I have no experience with Zoloft, so I can’t help you there. But I have heard of people experiencing a wide range of physical symptoms caused by depression and/or anxiety. I suffer from terrible insomnia since the third trimester of my pregnancy–almost 5 years ago! I take melatonin, which provides some relief. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to receive a diagnosis that indicates PPD, but I’m glad you persevered. This website has tons of great articles I think could help you, as well as a forum where you might find women with whom you can talk in more detail about what’s been going on. I wish you well! It’s sometimes a long road to recovery, but it sounds like you’re on your way.

      • thank you so much, jamie…i tried to find the forum, but i can’t see it anywhere. could you point me in the right direction?

  5. I was talking to someone last night about the fact that there is not enough information out there regarding all the different symptoms of PPD and PPA. I had no idea either until I found Postpartum Progress that rage and extreme anxiety were symptoms.

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