It was awful. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. In fact, I was astonished at the thoughts that came to my mind. How could I want to hurt this little miracle that I just carried for 37 weeks and was pried open to bring into this world?
Postpartum depression is a real thing. It turns everything you know upside down. And until I experienced it myself, it was a foreign disorder that never touched my life. I was part of the "lucky" small percentage of women who fought this fight during what was supposed to be one of the happiest times in a mother's life . . . yet felt like hell.
It's not uncommon for new moms to experience what's called the "baby blues." Mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping, and crying are not uncommon symptoms, but when these powerful emotions start to interfere with the ability to care for one's self and the new baby, it can become very dangerous.
Let me list just a few of the glorious side effects from the Mayo Clinic website that I encountered . . .
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Withdrawing from family and friends
Loss of appetite
Inability to sleep (insomnia)
Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Fear that you're not a good mother
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Confusion and disorientation
This is definitely NOT a club anyone would want to join!!! Our society sometimes categorizes depression as a personal flaw or weakness, but I can attest to the fact that it definitely is not self-imposed. Once my health was in shape, I could look back and actually recognize the first sign of the depression while still in the hospital recovering from the C-section. I was confused, worried, and anxious that my child was not in my room. I knew it didn't make sense because he was safely being taken care of by nurses yet I couldn't control the feelings. I chalked it up to being exhausted and not until I soon got home did I realize something was not right.
They say that it's best to sleep when you're baby is resting yet I couldn't catch a break . . . not even a short nap. Nothing tasted good and my appetite was non-existent. I didn't feel like myself mentally, physically, or emotionally and it was an overwhelming awful place to be in life. Here I was . . . a brand new mother but one that couldn't enjoy any moment of it.
I remember when family came by the house to hold Camden for the first time and I was so anxious that I left the room. I didn't want anyone to be there. I didn't want them to hold my child. I didn't want really anything to be happening. What?!?!?
The climax moment came when my in-laws suddenly showed up at the door and my husband explained that they were going to take my newborn son to their house for a few days so I could get healthy. Again, not the picturesque experience for motherhood! I wasn't strong enough to even care for the baby who I nearly died giving birth two days prior. My husband didn't tell me ahead of time of their plans - smart choice. But I didn't fight the idea once it happened either.
Ultimately, my doctor prescribed a medication that turned my life right-side-up almost immediately. I visited Camden at my in-laws house each night which was a 45 minute one-way drive and eventually brought him back to his own home after a few days.
Surprised I had a second child after this story? Me too! In fact, pregnancy and baby #2 could not have been much more different than this crazy experience. After the fact, I can honestly say that it was all worth it and I would do it over again for my son. I would give my life for my children.
Despite the pain that I experienced, I am thankful to have a better understanding of those that not only have postpartum depression, but depression in general. I can't walk in everyone's shoes to understand their personal pain, but I have taken a similar path to not only sympathize but also empathize with them.
If you're experiencing depression, don't give up! Talk to a friend . . . a doctor. If you've never felt this pain, don't judge. Be there and offer support. And if you take medication (like I did), don't be ashamed. Because although Tom Cruise said Brooke Shields was irresponsible for taking medication to help with her postpartum depression . . . until he carries a kindergartener in his belly for nine months and pushes it out one of the smallest openings on his body with a smile on his face, he has no room to speak.
The responsible thing to do is to reach out. Ask for help. Lend a listening ear. Offer a shoulder to cry on.
Depression is not Mission Impossible!