THANK GOODNESS that Postpartum Depression (PPD) is being talked about! The more women who share their stories, the more we can support others looking for information and reassurance that they are not alone, and that they are definitely not crazy.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 8 women report symptoms of postpartum depression. You are not alone.
Signs of PPD
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as postpartum depression symptoms, but it is worth noting that everyone experiences PPD differently:
- Severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating more
- Insomnia or sleeping more
- Overwhelming fatigue
- No interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
- Extreme irritability or anger
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Fear of not being a good mother
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Severe anxiety or panic attacks
- Fear of hurting the baby
- Thoughts of death or suicide
My postpartum depression showed itself mostly as debilitating indecisiveness, with exhaustion, feelings of guilt, lack of interest, and panic attacks. My husband would probably chime in and say mood swings and irritability were also present.
At first, I didn’t think that panic attacks were a symptom of PPD. When my boys cried and I froze and couldn’t see (which I now know was tunnel vision), I blamed myself for being too weak to handle motherhood. I was confused by my indecision. Why was deciding what to pack for the baby for a 1-hour car ride so difficult?
But one day, as I lay on the floor unable to move while the baby cried and the toddler pulled at my arm, I remembered that my mom had suffered from PPD after I was born. And I began to wonder if my hopelessness, indecision, and panic attacks were symptoms of postpartum depression. A while later, and after a little googling and a lot of voicemails, I had made an appointment to see a therapist. The relief was indescribable.
I was prepared for postpartum depression (PPD). My midwives advised me due to a few bouts of depression in my 20’s and 30’s, that I was at higher risk. It was in my last trimester that I started therapy and hired a doula who specialized in it, just in case.
Even though I had a colic baby with reflux and sleep was not something we frequently did, I didn’t start my new adventure into motherhood with PPD. It happened for me after I went back to work, almost a year after I gave birth to my son. Lugging my breast pump everywhere, working crazy hours, I started getting very overwhelmed, constantly asking myself “How am I going to do all this?” Then the nightmares started. I dreamed of a home invasion and woke up paralyzed with fear. I was scared of everything.
On the exterior, everything looked great. I was out all day with the baby, going to mommy and me classes, running around being social. But it was all anxiety. “Maybe if I sit next to a Mom on the subway, she would recognize my anxiety, my suffering, and offer help,” I thought.
I became pretty vocal about my debilitating fears and anxieties. I spoke to my pediatrician, my yoga teachers, and my therapist. So clearly, I remember seeing my therapist and telling her I was thinking of taking my son and just going to Bellevue to relax. She reminded me that Bellevue was not a spa and finally found me the proper help. I thought I was beyond prepared for the “depression” of PPD that I was familiar with. But that’s not what came. It was the anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed that made me realize there are more symptoms than I was ready for.
I will never forget the feeling I had in the month after my third child was born. Obsessive thoughts filled my head like accidentally spilling my hot tea on her as she breastfed, or dropping the tv remote on her head as I tried to lay it on the table behind her. I held onto that remote for dear life. This incredible fear of hurting the baby came and went, but when I was in it, I couldn’t help but play the scenarios over and over and over in my head.
On her month birthday, my 40th birthday actually, my older daughter was holding her on the chair, helping me feed her. I wasn’t more than two feet away, but between my exhaustion of the new routine and motherly multi-tasking, my reflexes were not on par that day. Her little six pound body slipped, almost in slow motion, from my daughters lap and I heard a thud on the floor in front of her as I reached out to try and catch her. Hyperventilating while crying and holding the equally crying baby, I called the doctor while my oldest was frozen and crying in the chair.
The doctor checked her and I monitored her, like a hawk, for 24 hours. She was fine. No bruises, no bumps. From that point on, my anxiety of the little things that could hurt her waned. A mother’s anxiety never fully goes away, though. On a daily basis, I cringe when they fall off their bikes. But I learned that babies are more resilient than we think, and I am too.
What to do When you Have Postpartum Depression
If you think you are suffering from PPD, we encourage you to reach out for help. A good place to start is with the Support Information on our Resources page for links and phone numbers.
In an emergency, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.