What I Wish I Could Tell My Doctors After Experiencing Postpartum Depression
On June 18, 2015, I gave birth to my daughter. Nine days later, I was home breastfeeding when my brain began to bleed. I was rushed to the hospital; I was suffering a stroke. I woke later in the ICU without my newborn, without the ability to breastfeed and without any hope of a normal life after this event.
Seven years prior, after the delivery of my first son, I went septic and spent the first month of his life in the hospital.
After physical recovery from both traumas I was left with insidious postpartum
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I remember my first checkup in both instances. They screened me for postpartum depression after giving me a half-hearted, barley empathetic assurance that in pregnancy “things can go wrong sometimes.” After it was confirmed I did have postpartum depression, they handed me a pamphlet and sent me on my merry way out the door.
I was left with a pamphlet on depression and my own devices. It was like they were not even phased by my plight. I felt shut out by those who saw me in my most vulnerable state. It felt like the doctors who I trusted most during my nine months of pregnancy were turning their backs on me. Nevertheless, I was determined, for my children and myself, to make a full recovery and return back to the woman I was without the trauma.
Now, standing firm and strong with the confidence of my own personal journey toward healing, I have a few things I would like to say to the doctors who saw me.
1. Take more time to talk to me.
I know you do this every day; your office is packed with big bellies anxiously awaiting your reassurance. But I wait 45 minutes past my appointment time for you to take five minutes to give me a once over? You checked my urine, you found some proteins, you tell me to drink more water, give me a pamphlet on depression and then send me on my way.
Sometimes I felt like you were too busy for me while I was in my most vulnerable state. You seem to have forgotten that.
2. Don’t sugar coat pregnancy.
Yes, you have years of schooling and I don’t, but if you explain to me what’s going on I will understand. In fact, because I suffered two birth traumas, I’m relatively well versed on your medical terminology. Tell me the truth from the beginning; do not sugar coat pregnancy. The biggest thing we need from you is to be present with us on our journey.
3. Put yourself in my shoes.
Living with my trauma alone was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. But
here I am lying in the ICU, unable to see my child, and you wipe your hands with sanitizer, shrug your shoulders and tell me sometimes these things happen? Do you have children? Do you have a wife? How would you feel if you were lying here, breasts drained due to medication, unable to see your child, fearful of the future? Would you be able to just move on? Please be sensitive to my trauma. I do not expect you to fix it, but your reaction can set me on the course towards healing or hopelessness.
4. Explain the pamphlet.
Now that you’ve screened me for postpartum depression, please don’t hand me a pamphlet and walk out the door. Please do not have the nurse tuck it in my discharge papers. I’m a ball of hormones, emotions and fear; please talk to me. Tell me what my hormones are doing. Tell me what my body is going to go through. Tell me the names of a few good therapists that specialize in postpartum mood disorders. Do not throw Zoloft at me. Send me to the right person to get me on the right meds for my personal situation. Everyone is different.
5. Tell us we’re not alone.
It was not until I joined a few postpartum support groups, began writing blogs and reaching out to people that I realized I wasn’t the only woman going through this. Although postpartum depression varies in degrees, it’s not uncommon. Why are we lead to believe it’s taboo? ?
Postpartum trauma, depression and mood disorders are something no one seems to talk about. It took me six months of therapy, support groups, Facebook forums, education and exercise to begin my journey of healing. I’ve heard from so many women along the way that they did not seek help right away, and chose to stay in the shadows in fear they would be judged. We need the medical community to tell new mothers we’re not alone, and that we don’t have to battle this in secret. We need resources and we need to know it’s OK to reach out. .
And the encouragement and empathy needs to start the minute the doctor walks in the door.
If you are struggling, you can find help at Postpartum Support International.