Postpartum Depression: The Side of Motherhood That You Don’t Expect

You’ve been waiting to see and hold that baby you’ve been carrying around for the last 9 months, and it’s an amazing feeling when you finally get to hold that sweet little baby in your arms.

Reality quickly sets in and you realize that it takes a lot of time to care for a newborn and there are so many things to learn about this new baby in your life.  Suddenly your whole life changes with this new little one and sometimes it’s really hard.  Learning to and teaching your baby to breastfeed can be hard (it was for me at least).  The constant crying that can sometimes come with a baby is really hard to deal with, at times like this you wish they could talk and tell you why they’re crying.  You don’t have time to ‘hang out’ with anyone and it’s hard to go anywhere with a new baby.  Having a new baby is exciting and scary.

After you have your baby and reality sets in there is something called baby blues.  Baby blues: A common temporary psychological state right after childbirth when a new mother may have sudden mood swings, feeling very happy, then very sad, cry for no apparent reason, feel impatient, unusually irritable, restless, anxious, lonely and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as 1 to 2 weeks after delivery. The baby blues in this sense are less severe than a postpartum depression. The baby blues do not always require treatment from a health care provider.

Yes, today we are talking about baby blues and more in depth: postpartum depression.  I’ve asked my sister who did the post about miscarriges to guest post again and talk about her journey with dealing with depression and how she has overcome it.  This post is really blunt and to the point, exactly how it should be.  Baby blues can happen to any new mom and it is normal, but if it doesn’t go away, that is the time to do something about it.  If you’re a mom, I’m sure you can relate somewhat to this about how you feel after you come home from the hospital and start life with a new baby.03718a29908eb10783860ef996b87854

Hi, this is Jamie again. I’m the one who wrote about miscarriage recently. I’m back, and yes, I’ve been asked to write once more, about a bummer part of my life. But like I said in my last guest post: if my sharing, in any way, helps another mom get through something like this, or helps a mom who has a friend to support, then going through it myself was all worth it.

Honestly, there’s a lot I don’t remember about my postpartum depression. Not sure if I’ve just blocked it out, or if it’s because I wasn’t really “there”. It began after baby #1 was born. I think all mothers can agree that having a baby changes everything. Life is different. Taking care of a newborn is a huge responsibility. It’s tiring. I chose to breastfeed. In the hospital the nurses tried to tell me how it should feel, that it shouldn’t hurt…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever. They sent me home with a baby I hardly knew how to take care of.  He didn’t like staying latched on. I ended up supplementing with a tube, so that he would be rewarded for continuing to suck. It stressed me out big time, but I thought breastfeeding was THE ONLY WAY if I wanted to be a good mother. I cried a lot. My baby cried a lot. He was not gaining weight and was off the charts. They had a lactation specialist at his pediatrician’s office. She helped us every week. But when we were home, sometimes I just wanted to throw my baby across the room because it wasn’t as easy as everyone said it was supposed to be. Still, I refused to bottle feed exclusively because I was a “good mother”.

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I am LDS (Mormon/I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). We give a blessing to our babies at church when they are a month or two old. Traditionally, mothers of these very young babies will bear their testimony of the gospel later on in the meeting. They usually mention how wonderful it is to have a sweet baby who has recently come from our Heavenly Father. And they always seem to think that this baby is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. I did not remotely feel this way. And as I couldn’t see lying in front of a congregation of God, I refused to get up and say anything. That was when I first had an inkling that maybe I wasn’t quite right. But SOME baby blues are normal, so I thought I’d just ask at my 6 week appointment.

I meant to ask my doctor during the appointment, but it completely slipped my mind. So I asked his nurse on the way out. She said: “If you’re not crying every day, then there’s nothing we can do for you.” I didn’t think I cried every day, so it must be normal. I cried myself home instead.

Baby #2 was born 4 years later. I received a phone call the afternoon that he was born. My best friend/neighbor/helper-with-my-oldest-child-after-2nd-baby-was-born had a stroke that day. I was devastated for her and for me. I didn’t know what I would do. I was going to be completely on my own with two kids! I spent quite a bit of time crying that day. And when we took baby home, I didn’t even get to show him to my friend because she was still at the hospital.

With baby #2, I decided to breastfeed AND pump, hoping that this would boost my supply. I pumped every two hours with no increase in supply. So I started taking supplements. It helped a little bit. I still did not stand up in front of the congregation at church and lie about how wonderful it was having a new baby. This time I had a 4 year old to mother as well as my newborn. And this is where my memory gets fuzzy. I really just struggled to make it through every day. I spent a good part of each day feeling like the worst mother. Wondering how so many other mothers made it look so easy. Ironically, I put on a mask every day. No one knew what I was going through. I was afraid to confide in anyone. I felt like maybe I was going crazy. And if I did tell anyone how I felt, what would they think? Maybe “they” would confirm my worst fears (that I was not fit to be a parent) and take my kids away. That terrified me. So I put on a show in public.

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Everything was overwhelming. My older son was in preschool. It was a comfort to know that at least while he was at school, he was not stuck at home with me. We spent most of our time inside. My second baby was born in the fall anyway, so the weather was getting too cool for a baby. I didn’t go anywhere unless I absolutely had to go. It was SO much work getting 2 kids ready and in the car. It was hardly worth it. It was all I could do to drag us to church on Sundays. My husband has chronic migraines and for some reason he had one almost every day during this time. Even when he was home with us, he wasn’t really “there”. Sometimes I felt like a single parent. I had no energy, I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Disciplining my four year old was too much, so I did the very minimum. He was a good kid, so luckily he didn’t need a lot of disciplining anyway. I did everything in my power to lift my spirits. I tried to do what I could to be a good mom, even though in my mind, it was never enough. I read to my kids. I read my scriptures every day. I listened to uplifting music every day. I prayed every day. I was almost drowning, but I kept my nose out of the water for about 4 months. Until one day.

One day my four year old did not want to do what I asked him to do. I probably yelled at him. ‘Cause I did that a lot when I was overwhelmed. For some reason that day, I just could not deal with his defiance. I began to cry and went to lie on my bed. I started thinking to myself that everyone would probably be better off without me. I wasn’t doing anyone any good. No one listened to me. Someone else could do a much better job. I was a terrible wife and mother. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be good enough. I wished I could just cease to exist. These thoughts were nothing new. I felt this way almost every day. But this day it went beyond just these thoughts. This day as I laid there face down on my bed crying, all of these feelings of inadequacy took one more step. I seriously considered using a gun to take my own life. I mean I REALLY thought about it. I thought it through enough to realize what a mess it would make. My husband wouldn’t even find it until he got home from work. The boys wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves that long. I realized my baby was awake from his nap and crying for someone to come and get him. I got up off my bed and got him out of his crib.

I was shaken. I had scared myself. Those kinds of thoughts I KNEW were not normal baby blues. I knew I had definitely crossed the crying-every-day line. They couldn’t ignore this. They would have to do something. I waited until my husband and I went to bed that night. I told him what had happened. I told him that I needed help. I told him HE needed to find someone who could help me. I knew I couldn’t get myself the help I needed.

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He called my OB’s office the next morning. He was told to take me to a hospital emergency room. We took our boys with us. I wasn’t ready to explain my reasons for needing a babysitter to anyone. Yes, it was embarrassing to tell the staff why I was there. And I was still afraid they would take my children away. But I couldn’t live like that anymore. The ER doc sent a crisis worker in to speak with me. I had to tell her everything. It was uncomfortable. My husband had to take the boys out to the lobby so she and I could talk freely. So I didn’t even get to have my husband there during our talk. She told me that if I would stop breastfeeding my hormones would settle down, and most of this would go away. I had not realized that breastfeeding had this kind of effect on my mental stability, and I did not feel like I could stop breastfeeding at this time. So I told her I couldn’t do that. (And I just want to say that I AM NOT saying that breastfeeding is a bad thing. I am not saying that the reason I had postpartum depression was because I chose to breastfeed. No. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that for me and my situation, it was probably not my best choice for my first 2 babies. With baby #3 I decided that if I had issues with baby latching on, or issues with supply that I would not continue to breastfeed. But everything was great with baby #3. With my first 2 babies, breastfeeding gave me A LOT of anxiety. Yes, breast milk is best. But not when it interferes with mom’s mental stability.)

They determined I was okay to go home as long as someone was with me, or I had someone nearby I could call. I was prescribed a low dose anti-depressant. It was such a relief to realize that I was not crazy. That what I’d been feeling and telling myself over the last few months was not me, it was the depression. They encouraged me to go to counseling. Our insurance would not cover it, and we didn’t feel like we could afford it. So I never did go to counseling. It has been 6 years since I was seen in that Emergency Room. I still take medication. I still struggle with depression. But on a much smaller scale.

Yes, I did have another baby. He is 3 years old now. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having a baby this last time. It was wonderful! Yes, it was still hard to wake up multiple times during the night. It was difficult to take care of other children AND a newborn. But there were also SO MANY things to enjoy.

Please be extra aware of your sisters and friends who are new mommies. And know that if you are going through postpartum depression, you are not crazy. There are people and medications that can help you get through it. You just have to talk to someone. If you can’t talk to your doctor, talk to a friend or your husband. Those close to you can help find someone who can help you, if you feel like you can’t do it yourself.

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