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Severe Postpartum Depression and Recovery

PostPartum Depression

It has taken me a year to be able to tell this story, a year since my baby was born, a year since I lost my mind, a year since I began recovering from severe postpartum depression.

I’m going to talk about postpartum depression which will be healing and uncomfortable for me, but getting a dialogue started is so necessary.

I was prone to depression since my teens, but it was always mild and manageable. I never imagined the darkness that would descend after this perfect little miracle appeared. The first week home was magic; I was on such a high and in awe of how surreal life was. Slowly I became lonely, which was odd because there was now another little soul with me at all times. I had help, meals, well wishes, visitors, and a beautiful baby who happened to be a naturally great nurser.

I had everything and yet I felt empty.

I couldn’t understand this feeling, I kept blaming the hormones and hoped it would be over soon. I prayed it wouldn’t be long because the darkness was getting overwhelming and my milk production started to suffer which meant my baby was always eating, always hungry, and always crying. I would’ve given a limb for five minutes of sleep. All this time the darkness was taking over, enveloping me. I felt trapped and terrified.

I only told a few people, who assured me that by week three the hormones would even out and I would be fine. Even my obstetrician wasn’t concerned. Well, by week three I was not sleeping at all.

I would sit up and stare at my baby all night waiting for her to wake to eat, trying to calm myself enough to have a let-down, yet worrying that I wouldn’t and my baby would starve. I also found myself pumping so that I could have a quick glass — I mean bottle — of wine. Every. Night.

I cried all the time and by week four, I felt myself coming undone.

I know exactly when the turning point occurred.

In the middle of another sleepless night, I couldn’t see to work the buttons on the baby swing so I used the flashlight on my phone. I couldn’t work my phone and I was convinced I was never going to be the same and the anger rose up in me like a volcano.

I meant to throw the phone on the bed, but as it left my hand something went very wrong. It hit the wall clear across the room almost nailing my poor sleeping husband. I fell to the floor crying hysterically.

Tomorrow came and I was convinced I just needed to do better, that I was not doing motherhood right and that I only had to figure out a new way to live life and get some more sleep. I was a pretty good actor and smiled harder in front of others while I cried in the shower. All this time I slowly started to become consumed with thoughts that my family would be better off without me — yes definitely better off without me.

At every checkup after birth my doctor was only slightly concerned and did put me on the lowest dose of an anti-depressant, which I was convinced would work miracles. Yet I was devastated three weeks later when I still felt like dying would be better.

I was certain this was absolutely the right move because I didn’t want my family growing up with a sad excuse for a mother and wife holding them back.

Five minutes later, two friends and a police car were in my driveway. I was angry, thinking how dare they interrupt what I was trying to do for my family. The police officer asked where my baby was and if I hurt her and if I had taken any pills. I had not yet taken any and I had never (luckily) once thought of harming my child.

I ended up on my way to the hospital in the back of a police car sobbing my heart out as the cop blasted country music.

The rest of that day was a blur; I remember finally admitting I wanted to kill myself and signing a paper that consented my admission to a mental hospital. I was put in the back of a dark ambulance with no belongings, dressed in a hospital gown and driven 45 minutes away from home.

I slept the whole first day not wanting to interact with really crazy people because THAT would be scary. The second day I learned about the rules: no sleeping during the day, no shoe laces or plastic bags allowed, and I had to participate in group, individual therapy, and daily meetings with a psychiatrist to manage medications.

After about two days I finally felt safe, participating in group therapy was helpful, and my head was clearer than it had been in a long time.

I was one of the lucky ones; I was medicated with the right cocktail that produced no side effects and I went home to my family after five days. My support system was amazing and I was never made to feel ashamed about this very serious medical condition. I ended up with an amazing post acute psychiatrist and had very few relapses; none of them were nearly as bad as the initial occurrence.

For those who have recently given birth or those who love someone who has, please be aware of the following facts:

  • PPD is caused by a cluster of factors such as the immediate release of hormones after birth, physical exhaustion, anxiety about nursing and being a “good mom,” and physical pain from birth.
  • A supportive family is very helpful, but doesn’t give you immunity from PPD.
  • Please, please, please tell your doctor your true feelings even if you are horrified. Some women feel dead inside, some want to die, some try to die, and some want to hurt their children. Your doctor needs to know and if they do not take you seriously, talk to the baby’s pediatrician, talk to anyone who will listen.
  • It is very hard to not feel ashamed, but please understand you are not alone and your feelings are valid and mostly chemical based and do not mean you don’t love your baby.
  • About 80% of women experience mild depression (baby blues), but 10-16% of new mothers experience a much more serious case like mine.
  • The effects of PPD can last for a full year after the baby is born.
  • PPD is much more serious than “the baby blues.” Almost every new mom experiences some change in mood the first weeks after giving birth due to the severe drop of hormones in the system, lack of sleep, and the stress of caring for a new life.

If it seems no one will listen and you feel like hurting yourself, please call the suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255.

My baby is now 14 months old and I am still on medication. I feel amazing and I shudder to think what would’ve happened if my husband did not call 911 that day. As I think about someday having another baby, I do understand that I am at greater risk for PPD than a typical woman so when the time is right, my family and I will make the decision with much thought.

Please know there is hope and you won’t feel like this forever.


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Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing. I didn’t get help and I was miserable and angry and horrible for 15 months. Now I know (after talking to my doctor) that asking for help after #2 arrives won’t make me any less of a mom and I will still be able to breastfeed. THANK YOU!

  2. Avatar

    I also struggled with postpartum depression. I had dealt with anxiety in the past and wasn’t even thinking about it’s possible return upon the birth of my son. Unfortunately my “natural” birth turned into a painful and terrifying c-section. For the next 4 weeks I cried and cried and couldn’t figure out why I felt dead inside. I seriously considered getting in my car and driving as far away as possible. I was convinced that I just wasn’t cut out to be a mother. Thankfully, soon after, my doctor prescribed me Zoloft and I’ve never felt better. I also switched to formula which eased a lot of my anxiety as well. A happy mother=a happy baby. I’m so grateful for people speaking out about this issue. I read an article on Postpartum Progress that helped me not feel so alone and helped me to get rid of the guilt (of not breast feeding, of not having a natural birth, of my baby getting colic from my breast milk…the list goes on). No mother should feel guilty for things out of her control and for making the best decision for herself and her baby.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for this. I’m currently going through my second bout of PPD and it’s not any more fun than the first time. And you’re absolutely right—sometimes it’s even tough/embarrassing to tell your DOCTOR (who has heard it all) about the things you’re feeling. But luckily, when I do open up, all I get from her is praise and affirmation—and from my husband, too. So I know I will get better. Again, thank you for being so open and honest here. It really helped me.

  4. Avatar

    I can’t even see as I type right now, the tears just keep coming. I have been like a total spazz asking any and everyone WHY nobody talks about PPD like they should. Thank you. I’m in the middle of trying to claw my way out as we speak.

  5. Avatar

    Thanks so much for sharing this! My PPD hit me about 13 weeks after having my twins. I took 12 weeks off of work after the birth of my babies, and my mom came to stay with us that whole time. When she returned home (which is 4 hrs away) the weekend before I started back to work, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn’t able to breast feed because my milk never came in- so there was guilt over that. I had a c-section because both babies were breach, and recovery was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My baby boy cried a lot and didn’t sleep restfully. Later, we found out he has a milk allergy and switching to the right formula worked miracles! During this time, I thought that the babies would be better off with someone else. We had issues with infertility and tried for about 7 years before finally being able to have our babies. And now I wanted to give them away. After a week and a half of being back to work, not sleeping at night, and being completely exhausted, I broke down crying (totally not like me) and couldn’t stop crying. I called my parents and they left immediately. I called my doctor, and she called in a prescription for anti-anxiety meds and a sedative, and instructed me to take them and go to bed as soon as my parents arrived. I slept the rest of that day and the entire next day. On Monday, I went in to see my doc, and she put me on antidepressants. She also found out through lab work that my thyroid was shutting down and my vitamin d was very very low. Now, I’m doing so much better! I look forward to picking our babies up from daycare instead of dreading it. The babies are sleeping better, and I am getting more restful sleep. And my parents come every weekend to help with the babies (their only grandchildren). I’m still on meds and will be for a while, but they are working and I’m feeling back to normal. Thank goodness!

  6. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your story. It took me 5 months to finally admit I needed help and I still struggle from time to time. I can resonate with many of the things you mentioned and it is a horrible, terrifying thing to go through. Thank you for your bravery in sharing

  7. Avatar

    Thank you so much for this post. I really needed it!! My son is almost 9 months and I started therapy 2 weeks ago. I am strongly considering medication. I am tried of feeling miserable, incompetent and angry. I want to be happy and feel whole again.

  8. Avatar

    Thank you so very much for sharing – which, I’m sure, was not an easy thing to do. I didn’t realize I was suffering from PPD until my son (our 2nd child) was 5 months old. With my older child (now 2 years old) I had no depressive symptoms, but I also didn’t have the rocky nursing relationship and struggle to balance taking care of two young children that came this time around. As I have begun to heal through therapy and commitment to self care, I am learning more and more how common PPD is and yet, how few women are willing to share about their experiences. I think that community, openness, and support are so vital to healing, and my heart lifts a little every time I read a story like yours as it gives me hope for my own continued recovery. All the best to you and your little one!

  9. Avatar

    I am in tears reading your story. At my 6 week pp check up I broke down in tears. My ob didn’t hesitate and knew I needed some help. After taking Zoloft for 6 months, I’m feeling like a capable mother and that its ok to not be Super Mom. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

  10. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing. Some of your feelings were similar to mine – that I just needed to figure out how to “do motherhood” better, and that my family would be better off without me. I didn’t reach out for help until my son was 10 months old, and didn’t start medication until 3 months after that. My son is almost 2.5 years old now and I’m doing much better, but still on medication. The shame is hard for me to deal with. But asking for help was the best thing I ever did, for myself and my family. I’m glad you are doing better.

  11. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing. Its so important that we all share our PPD experiences..women and men both need to understand the true importance to getting help. Thank you for highlighting your timeline… PPD can come on heavy even 3, 6 months ++ after birth, its not like you are in the clear if you make it to month three ok. Worth mentioning… there are antidepressants that you can take and still nurse on and also take and not gain weight! Even just talking through it can help.

  12. Avatar

    Your story is so extremely similar to mine, it’s scary! The only difference is I ended up doing an outpatient program for about a month instead of being admitted, which I probably should have been. I had to stop breastfeeding to start on medication and that was the most difficult part for me. My plan was to breastfeed until my baby was 9 months old, and I felt like a failure of a mother for switching him to formula. I did learn in my outpatient program though, that it is healthier for a baby to be formula fed and have a sane mother, than be breastfed and havea mother who wants to die. PPD is such a serious and real thing. It is so hush hush and ignored that too many women go untreated. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to get the word out there 🙂

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