Where Does Postpartum End and Crazy Begin?

When I had my first daughter Elby almost four years ago I came down with the dreaded post partum depression. Like most women, I had no idea what happened to me. One day I was a serene, glowing hugely pregnant woman at her baby shower ripping the wrapping paper off her new Diaper Genie with more gusto than I would open a little blue box from Tiffany; a few weeks later I was a fat, constantly crying, new mother. For me, there was no rush of hormones to that made me feel swept up in love – I think I used them all up in my pregnancy. Instead there was just crushing anxiety and constant questioning inner monologue: “Is she breathing? Is she sleeping too much? Is she going to die of SIDS if I don’t watch her sleep every second? Why didn’t I take that fucking breast feeding class?” To be perfectly honest, I don’t recall any moment where I felt happy to have a baby and that made me feel even worse.

 

When I told my doctor what I was feeling he blew me off. “You just had a baby, it’s a big responsibility.” Eventually I stopped crying through eighteen boxes of Kleenex everyday and began adjusting to life with an infant but the anxiety remained. I was never really the poster child for mental health anyway – prone to obsessive thoughts, seasonal depression and raging self doubt, so feeling extra emotionally unhinged just became my new normal.

 

I wasn’t diagnosed with PPD until well over a year after having Elby. She’d been hospitalized and it just so happened that my husband was out of town and couldn’t be there to support me. It was an insanely stressful few days of ER visits and a two day stay in the PICU. She ended up being fine but though she immediately went back to her happy-go-lucky self, I was barely functioning which brought me to a shrink. I was immediately put on Zoloft and Clonopin and suddenly, okay not suddenly, but only a few weeks of dry mouth later, a crack appeared and the light started shining in to my world again. It’s almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it but I started seeing my daughter – really seeing her - her gorgeous smile, her silliness, her total awesomeness. I stopped crying at every Lifetime Movie and started going to the gym.

 

But after awhile it hit me that I’d never felt this balanced before. It wasn’t that I had a brand spankin’ new personality - one who just loves to scrapbook and bake pumpkin bread from scratch – a mom who never ever runs out of Sunny-D! No I still had edge but I wasn’t feeling edgy all the time. That’s when I started wondering if I’d always been needlessly living with anxiety and it took having a baby and the ensuing PPD to make me get the help I needed. I don’t know the answer to that.

 

tracy121574
11.18.08

i've been in a funk since my son was born 7 months ago. thank you for putting a "real" spin on it. i have been afraid/embarassed to talk to anyone professional about, but this gives me hope and courage! thank you.

penn_girl
11.11.08

Four months after my son was born, I was facing the prospect of returning to work and I just couldn't stop crying...I would literally have tears leaking from my eyes all day. It took a week of convincing myself, and another two weeks of convincing my husband that this wasn't normal baby blues, or a normal reaction to "having" to return to work...it was PPD. And still, in the 21st century when many women, from doctors to celebraties, have openly acknowledged their PPD, I had a terrible time fighting the stigma that I felt both internally AND from my husband about going to a psychiatrist for help. But I'm so glad I did. After therapy and anti-depressants, I was able to enjoy my life again, get prespective and eventually (and successfully!) return to work. I think the more we share about our PPD experiences, the more that women will seek medical assistance early and not suffer without help for months, even years because they think their "emotions" are not worthy of treatment. It is a sickness. There are ways to get better.

christys
11.10.08

It took me 2 children, almost 18 months after my 2nd to realize things were not getting better. One day, I almost hit them, not a swat on the bottom, but a full-of-rage hit and I high-tailed to the therapist who convinced me (since I was completely against medicating myself) to try medication to help lift the horrible fog of PPD. It's been 2 years on Cymbalta now and I'm happy and healthy (not perfect by any means) and slowly learning coping techniques for the really hard times. I don't see an end in sight and I'm OK with it, but I spread the word to all my pregnant friends about it, without embarrassment, I hope no one gets as far I had before realizing it and I'm excited to hear more women talking about it and how to get help. Thank you for sharing!

cenamarie
11.04.08

i got it too. with both of my kids. now that #3 is on the way, i'm a little nervous but it's always comforting to know that you're not alone............ great article!

jenni
11.04.08

Oh, I "got it". PPD that is! I was just telling my therapist last week that having PPD may be the best thing that every happened to me. At least in the sense that, as you wrote, it allowed me to get the help I needed to live and deal with anxeity and other minor emotional issues that seemed to fully explode after I became a mother. My boys are 3yrs, and 9mos and it wasn't until six months after the birth of my second that I realized the seriousness of PPD. I've been on Zoloft for two months now and am experiencing the light at the end of this tunnel. Thanks for the article. Best wishes to you and your girls!!!

Writermom
11.04.08

Glad I could help. People haven't been there tend not to "get it."

stresso
11.04.08

thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your PPD experience. I had it too and I almost decided not to have any more babies it was so bad. We're still working out the kinks for baby #2, but thanks to Prozac, I am a better Mom who can function and not just cry all the time.