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.