Postpartum depression is the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to contend with in my life. Don’t get me wrong, giving birth was no picnic either, but having my recovery sabotaged by a dirty little mental illness just made everything so much harder.
Postpartum depression is a sneaky little bastard that creeps up on you when you least expect it. It hides in and among your already-raging hormones, stealthily camouflaging itself, and prays not to get caught.
But I did. I caught that bugger red-handed, treated it and now I’m the best mom I can be.
But how do you Know You Have postpartum depression?
How can you see there’s something more going on than just the baby blues? How do you describe how you feel, when you’re so sleep deprived, you’re feeling everything, amplified ten-fold?
Here’s how I knew that something was very wrong.
As I went into labour, my birth plan went flying out the window when my daughter decided to “poop in the pool” before she came, so an emergency C-section blew away any romantic ideas I’d had of a “normal birth experience”. I developed a blood clot in my uterus and my incision and ended up back in the maternity ward to recover.
I continued to nurse though, and when I did get home, I lived on my living room couch, a home care nurse keeping my wound clean, my daughter sleeping in the bassinet and the rocking chair next to me for feeds.
The days were mind-numbing and the nights were filled with sleep-deprived paranoia.
With my hormones out of whack and my body in shambles, I started imagining hearing the baby cry, or stir, or even breathe differently. I could hear everything in the house, so it was impossible to sleep between feeds. I was so determined to nurse, I was afraid that supplementing would screw up my supply. Even pumping didn’t seem to satisfy me.
My family tried to help me, to convince me to let go a little bit, but nothing anyone said made me feel better. I was inconsolable, and my husband was beside himself.
One night after feeding my daughter, I tried to burp her, but she kept crying and crying. She was so upset, and nothing I did made her stop. I didn’t know what to do, and it scared me. Putting her in the crib, I walked away, and called my mom for help.
I didn’t trust myself. That’s the best way I can describe it.
I had no confidence in my own existence as a human being, let alone in caring for another one. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and it was that fact that made me say, “Ok, Vickie, this is more than baby blues. This is not you. Something is very wrong.”
So after talking with my family and my doctor, I got help. It was the absolute best decision I have ever made when it came to my daughter. I answered a questionnaire, was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and prescribed the lowest dose of a mild anti-depressant.
Ladies, it saved my life.
After about two days, I was able to fall asleep without jerking awake to the slightest sound. My raging hormones were turned down just enough to let my brain relax, and the two hours of sleep I got between feeds felt like five.
I finally started to find my feet as a mother. I started bonding with my daughter in a normal and healthy way. My incision healed, the infection disappeared, and after four months I stopped nursing. I was a better mom for myself, for my daughter and for my husband.
I understand why postpartum depression isn’t talked about more these days.
It’s ugly, and not something a lot of mothers would admit to struggling with. We’re supposed to be built to handle childbirth and the hormones that come with it. We should be able to sleep when the baby sleeps because our bodies need it. We should be able to breastfeed comfortably without ripping the arms off the rocking chair.
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In my case, I am not ashamed to say that my body could not. In my mind, my daughter’s needs were something I didn’t think I could handle, but my instinct was to push myself through the fear, the cracked nipples and the sleepless nights. My body just could not keep up with that tug of war and I needed help.
So, if you’re a new mom struggling to get to sleep right now, check in with yourself. Even if you’re not sure, ask your family what they think about how you’re coping. Talk to your healthcare provider. Please don’t be ashamed to ask for help. I promise, your body and your baby will thank you for it.
Do you know a new mom who’s having trouble coping? Do her a favour, share this with her, if for any other reason than to let her know she’s not alone. Thanks so much for reading.