For up to 80 percent of moms, mild sadness, crying, or anxiety that usually wears off a week or two after delivery is normal. But for up to 15 percent of new moms, these emotions spiral into postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can represent as trouble bonding with your baby, fear that you are not a good mother, severe anxiety or anger, and even thoughts of harming yourself of your baby.
Here is the story of Rivke, a mom who went through postpartum depression and how she got through it.
My Experience with Postpartum Depression: A Rose in the Dark Forest
The most challenging part was not my difficult pregnancy.
My most challenging part of birth with my second girl was not the first few weeks of bleeding and thinking it’s a miscarriage every time. Or extreme nausea that caused me to remain in the bathroom most days or get admitted to the hospital for drips because I couldn’t eat. Or even the last month of no sleep and panic attacks. The most difficult was the few weeks after she came into the world.
I read my pregnancy book religiously, but I always skipped the postpartum pages.
Not wanting to even think about postpartum depression. I never understood how a mom can be depressed after being blessed with a little baby and feel no joy when holding them. They are called a bundle of joy, after all.
Avery Rose arrived.
We were so happy with a healthy little girl. A sister for our 3-year-old daughter. I had a few hours of sleep in the hospital, probably due to the pain medication from my C-Section. Coupled with not having slept in the last month, I was pretty exhausted. I remember keeping my room door open as my panic attacks weren’t going away. I was afraid something would happen to me if I dozed off. Avery was here, and I loved her as I did when we first found out we were pregnant again. She is beautiful, and my husband looks so handsome holding her.
Everything would be fine and go back to normal when I get home. I would at least get a few hours of sleep. So I thought.
I felt nothing.
At home a few days later, I stared at my new baby girl, watching her sister play, my husband and my mom talking. I felt…nothing. Nothing but a feeling of failure.
I had difficulty breastfeeding. Guilt number one.
Avery had low blood sugar in her first days. The doctors had to prick for blood constantly. Those teeny tiny feet were purple by the time we went home. She also had Jaundice. All turned out well, and we got to go home. Not all parents get to take their babies home after 3 days. Friends of mine had twins, and they had to be kept in the NICU as they were born prematurely. How can I be in this dark hole of not feeling happy when I got to take my baby girl home? Maybe it’s the lack of sleep messing with my mind.
I would sit wide awake while everyone was in dreamland. Even my newborn. I couldn’t sleep!
Avery was a week old when I begged to go to the emergency room one night. Surely, they could help? But even when I said it out loud, it sounded crazy. Hi, Dr. I am not sleeping. I just had a baby a week ago. Of course, you aren’t sleeping; he is probably thinking. This was not normal, new parent sleep deprivation, I thought to myself. If I slept for thirty minutes a day, it was a lot. How long can one go without sleep? Will my body and mind give in?
I can’t take care of my own baby.
I forgot how to change a nappy. I couldn’t change her clothes. The next few days felt like a blur as friends and family moved around me, taking care of my baby.
I couldn’t even hold her.
I didn’t even shower every day.
I had no energy. I didn’t want to do anything.
I only looked at her and cried.
Harmful thoughts invaded my mind.
One night I grabbed onto my 3-year-old girl desperately trying to feel love, calm, and happiness. Hoping it will make me doze off, sleep a few hours and be myself again. It didn’t work. After an hour of lying still, I got up and walked around the house. Crying, looking at my family, sitting on the couch with them and not even concentrating at what program was on. I was a zombie.
My husband was scared for me, but supportive.
I was unable to focus, scatterbrained, not even falling asleep in my husband’s arms while crying. My safe place. He was scared for me and kept reassuring me all will be fine, but I felt hopeless.
I admitted to him I had thoughts of harming myself. Even though surrounded by loved ones I felt judged and that at any moment, they would admit me to the psych ward. It was a good day if I got up to shower and get dressed. Yes, I had help. Thank goodness for our nanny. She looked after our firstborn too when I went back to work. I trusted her.
My thoughts centered on how I am not needed.
Everyone was okay and looked after. They don’t need me anymore. Not in this state.
My husband had to go to work, although he would check in with me regularly. I needed him with me. I felt safer with him. He wouldn’t let me hurt myself. It got worse when he had to work out of town. My heart would start racing as the sunset. I knew I would be alone when everyone in the house slept.
I went to see so many Doctors.
Even one who tried a visualization walk down memory lane about my childhood. Hesitantly, they gave me sleeping tablets and anxiety medication. My gynae gave me a script for depression medication after hearing my symptoms. I have to say I felt they should have met with me rather than just mailing a script. All of them said the same thing. It’s normal.
So many moms go through this. Then why did I feel so lonely? A few days went by. Tough days.
I felt as if everyone could see my dark thoughts.
I received so many messages from people asking how the baby is. Sending congratulations. I deleted them. I was petrified of going out of the house and walking into someone I know. I did. It was horrible. I felt they could see my dark thoughts, and it took all I had to fake a smile.
I started engaging with my world.
One morning I woke up after sleeping for a few hours…without sleeping pills! I felt amazing! I had hope. I sat thinking that I have no control over this. But I have the power to move. I made the decision every day to shower. Get dressed. Be more involved with my family.
More days went by, and I found myself being able to do more. Bathing my baby. Changing her into cute clothes. Feeding her. Taking pics. I didn’t even take photos of her for days following her birth. I was just numb and uninvolved. But as I look at my little Avery Rose now I feel love and adoration. I am so proud being a mom of two amazing girls.
Moms, there is no shame in going through this.
It takes a village to raise a child. It also helps tremendously to have that village supporting you as a mom and as a person. There are so many different symptoms, and not everyone goes through the same. I had panic attacks, insomnia, suicidal depression. Feelings of total sadness. Feeling like a complete failure. Blurry vision/dizziness. Forgetfulness.
What you can do when you spot the symptoms
Talk to someone.
Ask for help.
Go on the right medication.
Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, and take care of yourself.
Take care of your family.
Feel. Love. Live.
Thank you to my husband. My Mom. My two beautiful little girls for loving me unconditionally. Our Nanny. My 3 best friends. Someone close to me who went through a similar experience. Without the above, I might not have made it through the dark and scary forest.
Thank you Rivke, for being brave and sharing your story.
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