I Didn’t Think Postpartum Depression Could Happen to Me
Postpartum depression (I’m including all postpartum mood disorders that fall under its umbrella) doesn’t discriminate. No new mom is exempt. It doesn’t care about your skin color, ethnicity, religion, economic status, how amazing your husband might be or how much of your family’s love and support you have when the baby comes. It can happen to anyone.
It happened to me.
At eight months into my pregnancy, a close friend (already a new mom) asked me if I was worried about any “postpartum depression stuff” after I gave birth. I quickly replied, “Of course not. That would never happen to me.” Conversation over. I never gave it another thought.
I don’t think I even realized what postpartum depression was at that time. The subject never even came up in the maternity classes I took at the hospital. The joke was on me because at day two of being home from the hospital, it came to greet me like a Category 5 hurricane.
I was lucky to recognize obsessively wanting to get sick or injured so I could return to the hospital, where I didn’t have to take care of my baby but others could take care of me, meant something was wrong. I was lucky enough to have a husband, who upon immediately noticing something was off with his wife and the new mother of his child, had already said something to my mother.
This was just as I was about to approach her with the following sad and shocking news: I had made a terrible mistake. I didn’t want to be a mom. I didn’t want to take care of a baby. I wanted my old life back. I never wanted to get out of bed again. I couldn’t stop crying. I wished to sleep forever, if only the intense anxiety weighing down my chest would ever subside.
I was lucky that, although not experienced in postpartum depression, my mom was a therapist and knew to call my OB right away. She knew I needed to find a therapist, psychiatrist and probably consider the possibility of medicine, too. It wasn’t easy. I had to fight, but I did and eventually got better with treatment. Weekly sessions with a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and the right combination of antidepressants helped me immensely.
It was an uphill battle that took almost a year, but I got through it. My son is almost 4 now and we are both thriving. I love being his mommy. Not everyone is as lucky as I was.
What we really need to start understanding about postpartum depression is that it can happen to anyone. It often goes untreated and unacknowledged. Women feel ashamed or guilty for not falling in love with their babies and motherhood immediately. New moms think there is something wrong with them, and they don’t want to admit these negative feelings. They worry about being judged as an unfit mother and losing their babies, but postpartum depression needs to be defined as a real illness and treated accordingly, whether it comes in the form of a deep anxiousness and irritability or the more serious postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or psychosis.
None of us would ever judge you for seeking treatment for another illness. Postpartum depression needs to be viewed the same way by those who have it and by those who do not.
The first step to changing our perspective on something that happens to so many women is by talking about it openly. Moms who have experienced any form of this illness should be able to share their battles without being shamed. Medical professionals including OBs, pediatricians, even NICU and maternity wing nurses need to get educated about the risk factors, where to refer patients and how to make their new moms feel they can admit how they are truly feeling in a safe, judgment free environment.
Postpartum depression doesn’t just happen to those moms you hear about on the news who harm their babies. It’s not just moms in abusive relationships with their husbands, single moms with no family support or new parents who struggle financially. I don’t fit into any of those categories.
I had a loving and supportive husband and family during and after pregnancy. We are financially comfortable. I had a nurse in place when my son was born, family all around me and part-time help. I consider myself to be an intelligent and fairly put-together woman (a former teacher), and I still got postpartum depression. Again, it can happen to anyone.
But they aren’t coming forward. They aren’t asking for the help they need. They worry someone will take their babies away if they admit how they feel (because it will be assumed they will harm them). They don’t know where to get the help they need. They might not even understand what is happening to them because they too think, “Well, I don’t want to harm my baby. So it’s not postpartum depression.” I never wanted to harm my son, but I was still sick and needed the right help to get healthy again.
Think about how many moms could live happier, healthy lives if they received the the help they needed.
I’m living proof that you can get better, but it can’t be done alone.
You can read more about my postpartum depression journey at The Medicated Mommy.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
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