My change in behavior was gradual – nothing screamed to me that something was majorly wrong. I never had thoughts of hurting my baby. I still got up and cared for both kids like I was supposed to, but it just didn’t feel right. And looking back, for every little symptom I had an excuse.
Symptom: I was beyond exhausted.
Excuse: I have a newborn and a toddler.
Symptom: I was constantly sad.
Excuse: Our family visitors were gone and some of my best friends just moved out of state.
Symptom: I wasn’t handling stress well.
Excuse: Again, I have a newborn and a toddler.
Symptom: I was obsessing over random things.
Excuse: I’m sleep deprived.
I didn’t think I was the ‘type’ of person who would get depressed. Transitioning with baby number one was a breeze. So for baby number two I thought I was even more ready because I knew what to expect. I was startled when two friends (after two different conversations) both suggested that I may be suffering from postpartum depression. I have no idea what we talked about that prompted them to speak up, but their words forced me to reconsider my preconceived notions.
Okay maybe something was wrong, I thought, but depression seems severe. I had heard of the baby blues and thought that must be what was going on. While I had some of the symptoms, I learned the baby blues only last a few days to 2 weeks after your baby is born. I was seven weeks postpartum and nothing seemed to be getting better – I still didn’t feel like myself.
As I sat on my couch one afternoon holding my beautiful baby and bawling my eyes out for no apparent reason, I finally accepted that I needed help. I realized that I needed to stop making excuses and embrace that all ‘types’ of people can suffer from postpartum depression. I decided to stop denying it so I could find a way to enjoy these precious moment with my baby girl.
It was hard, but I called my doctor. I was surprised my doctor automatically recommended antidepressants when I explained what was happening. Meds? I don’t need meds. Wasn’t there anything else I could do? They explained that it was a chemical issue and not something I could necessarily fix on my own. The longer I held off the longer it would take to get better.
Still the control freak in me said. “No, I can do this.” My husband and friends asked that I give myself a time limit. I told them I’d reassess after one week of taking a little time to do things that made me happy like exercise and cook. It worked for a couple of days but then I was back in the place I didn’t want to be. I couldn’t run or cook myself out of this! Something inside of me had drastically changed after giving birth – something I couldn’t control.
I called my doctor back, agreed to medication, and I soon started to feel like myself again. Through this process I’ve learned I’m not alone. So many women have experienced similar feelings, six weeks even six months after giving birth. And while it’s hard to understand why, it’s important to realize that you didn’t cause it and you may need help fixing it. Plus I’ve learned like every season of life, postpartum depression doesn’t last forever. After a several months I was able to stop the medication.
So whether you are making excuses for the way you’re feeling after giving birth or are worried about a friend, I’m here to tell you to speak up. If my girlfriends hadn’t specifically said the words “postpartum depression”, who knows how long it would have taken me to realize and admit that something was wrong. Every postpartum case is different, some more severe than others but as I learned it happens even when we don’t think it will. So speak up, ask for help and know you’re not alone.