I’ve never shied away from talking about my struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety. In fact, while I was pregnant with my first child, Ari (now 4.5), I had a sneaking suspicion that I would be one of the 600,000 women in the United States each year to develop Postpartum Depression (PPD). I felt… prepared. Because, well, I had acknowledged is likelihood.
But, honestly, nothing can prepare a new mother for the darkness of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
With Ari, it developed swiftly. I knew something was off shortly after he was born. I just didn’t feel that connection you’re supposed to have with your newborn baby. Couple that with being attached to the breast pump every 2.5-3 hours and then bottle-feeding? It felt like torture.
I ended up crying in my OBGYN’s office just a few weeks postpartum. He offered me alternatives — therapy, supplements, the works. But eventually we settled on going on an antidepressant. I just really needed to function again.
And for me? It worked. I settled into a routine; we adjusted; and my hormones eventually evened out.
Fast forward a few years. (Note: I stayed on the anti-depressants because, for me, I have always suffered with some pretty crippling anxiety; and this particular medicine helped to keep me from having panic attacks.)
I ended up pregnant and having daily panic attacks. Severe panic attacks. So I went back on my medicine. And things went okay the rest of the pregnancy in that regard.
But my postpartum experience with Remy Bea was much different. I immediately felt that extreme love and bond this time around; she latched and I ditched the pump; and I declined visitors for the first few weeks. I was doing everything right, right?? Well, yes. But that means nothing.
Oh, and she wouldn’t take a bottle. So I wasn’t even able to hand her off to my husband for a small break. It was a nightmare. No medicine could help this situation. I was in a pit of despair and depression unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before.
I found myself frantically calling my mom and friends at all hours of the night, telling them how ashamed I was to be screaming obscenities at my baby because she wouldn’t stop screaming and crying. It was the darkest time of my life.
And it lasted for the better part of her first year of life. About 10 months to be exact. The longest ten months of my life.
One day, when Remy Bea was about 11 months old, I woke up and just… well, felt, human again. The only thing that had changed was that Remy Bea was no longer screaming nonstop and she was sleeping a bit more than 2 hours a night (waking only about 3 times per night at 11 months was a huge improvement from being awake all night).
My daily goal was just to survive and keep my children alive. Most days this felt nearly impossible. And I wouldn’t have made it without an army of people surrounding me, both near and far. An army, for which, I will forever be grateful.
If someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, here’s what you should absolutely NOT do:
- Do not say “It gets better.”
- Do not say “But you have a beautiful baby. How can you be so sad?”
- Do not tell the person that they should be grateful because things could be worse.
- Do not come over to visit without bringing a meal and being prepared to clean/fold laundry.
- Do not give unsolicited advice. It makes things worse. I promise. You are not being helpful.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, here’s a list of things you can do to help:
- Be there, day or night, to listen. Listen through screams; listen through tears; and just to be on the other end of the phone.
- Ask for help. Ask for someone to come bring you coffee (or wine).
- Focus on making it through the hours. Then focus on making it through the day.
- Allow yourself to say “No.” Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Whether it be with work, with your personal life, or social obligations.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness. Thousands of women are going through this exact same thing. You are not alone.
Have you suffered from PPD and Anxiety? What tips would you give a new mom?
*Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this is not medical advice. It is simply a compilation of thoughts based on my personal experience with postpartum depression and anxiety.**