A mother speaks about her battle with post natal depression

Post partum depression is real and present in huge numbers. We rarely talk about it in India, however. This brave woman’s experience with the pain will give you hope and peace, if you’ve been facing the same. This story was first published on www.metroparentmagazine.com. Postpartum depression: One mom’s story of struggle and recovery Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of having my own baby. When finally, in my mid-30s, I learned that I was pregnant, my feet didn’t touch the ground for months. Our first baby arrived on a sunny afternoon in April. Though I was 35 weeks pregnant, I went into labor. My husband and I rushed to the hospital, and at 1:35 p.m., our son was born. After a week in NICU, we brought home a healthy, beautiful, much awaited baby. My husband and I had everything ready at home for our new son. No one I knew had wanted this baby more than we had. I had planned and dreamed of him, from the beautiful new crib with bedding in the theme of blue skies, to the dresser drawers filled with tiny newborn T-shirts and socks. I could not wait to bring this child home with us and start my new life as his mother. What I never expected was postpartum anxiety and depression would be part of our picture, too. Didn’t feel right The first weeks home with our baby were disorienting. He didn’t sleep and spent the days and nights either crying or nursing. Nothing consoled him, and I remember wondering how long a human could go without sleeping. By my son’s 4-week-old mark, I knew something didn’t feel right. My heart raced and thoughts ran through my head at night like a runaway train. My chest would pound and my breathing came fast and shallow though I had nothing to fear. It was impossible for me to relax and I felt like dread was hanging over my head. I was too wound up to even fall asleep for a short nap. In between nights without sleep and shaking like I had been plugged into an electric outlet, I was crying from seemingly no reason at all. I had no appetite, and mealtimes would find me pushing my food from one side of the plate to the other. I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror because of what I saw looking back: eyes that were sad and frantic, at the same time. I was trying to breastfeed my baby, and I knew I had to eat and sleep, but how was I supposed to do that when I could barely hold myself together one minute at a time? I sobbed in secret because I was too ashamed to confide in anyone. How could I ever confess that I couldn’t do this? How could I tell any of the happy moms that I knew that things were hard for me? I knew I would sound ungrateful for this beautiful baby in my arms. And I wasn’t ungrateful—so far from it. I loved my child deeply but I didn’t know what to do about the days and nights that I was drowning in. When I did find the energy to venture out with just my son, I searched for women like me. I listened in on conversations at the park and the library, hoping to hear that someone else felt as overcome and exhausted with a newborn as I did. But every mom around me seemed so happy, confident, serene. I had never felt more alone. Unraveling The stress of not understanding why I was feeling the way I was, was catching up to me. I was exhausted, confused and in a fog. More than anything, I sank into despair. I told myself I was a bad mother, because a good mother would never feel this way. The guilt from not being the mother I wanted to be for my son, the one I felt he deserved, gnawed at me and kept me from telling anyone what was happening. My friends and family all knew that this baby was my dream, and here I was, with a baby I loved more than anything, and so unhappy. How could I tell anyone of what I was feeling when I had this beautiful child? In that first month, the pressure from the baby books and parenting magazines that came in the mail, congratulating me and telling me how wonderful my world had just become, only made me feel more fragile and weak. The one thought that replayed over and over in my head, was that I was a failure. My life with a newborn had become something that happened to someone else, a story you read about other women in newspapers, but not me. This wasn’t supposed to be happening to me. I was someone who had read the books and taken the classes and was more than prepared and ready to be a mother. By the time of my son’s first month’s check, my life felt like it was all loose threads held together by one last stitch. I was unraveling and I knew I had to finally say something to someone. I had an appointment that Monday with my son’s pediatrician. While in his office, I saw a pamphlet marked, “The Baby Blues.” During the exam, I asked the doctor about it, and told him I wondered if that’s what I had. After I told him my symptoms, he said, “Oh, that’s baby blues. They usually peak at six weeks. You should feel better in two more weeks—things usually fade away by then—and you’ll be back to yourself again.” I sighed in relief, and though still shaky, I left my son’s appointment that day with a plan to just hang on for two more weeks and make it to six weeks. The thought of two weeks felt more like two years, but I at least now had the promise of light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of the next two weeks, I felt no better. My anxiety had increased to the point where I was breathing as if I had just run up a flight of stairs. I was scheduled for my own six week postpartum check, and the first thing I did when I saw my own doctor was to burst into tears. In between face-covered heaving sobs, I blurted about no sleep, not being able to eat, not able to laugh, smile, talk, and my fear that I was losing my mind. She listened for the three minutes that I gasped and stuttered, and then she immediately picked up the phone, arranging for me to see a mental health therapist that afternoon. My treatment, along with my hope and road back to recovery, began with that visit. Unfortunately, what my son’s pediatrician didn’t know was that some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum mood disorder. Road to recovery I began weekly talk therapy, together with a prescription for anxiety that was safe to take and allowed me to continue to breastfeed. My local hospital offered a postpartum support group, and I remember the comfort in meeting other moms who were going through what I was, too. Being with a group of women who shared my similar experience felt like someone had thrown me a lifesaver. The relief in being with others like me lifted the burden of shame that I had imposed on myself. But truthfully, even with the medical care and the help of the support group, it took a long time before I stopped blaming myself for my postpartum depression and anxiety. With more therapy, we worked on helping me understand there is no one cause to postpartum mood disorder. I was going to learn to stop telling myself that I wasn’t tough enough or made of the right stuff for motherhood. This is my postpartum depression and anxiety story. But it’s not one unique to me. Postpartum mood disorders affect an estimated 14 percent of women. Two 2013 studies found that 1 in 10 moms may develop postpartum anxiety—sometimes in combination with depression, as my symptoms were. When I was living through my postpartum depression and anxiety, I was desperate to find stories of recovery. I searched them out then clung to the stories of women who had seen their way through. That is why I keep sharing my story. No one is alone, and with medical care and support, those with postpartum mood disorders can get better again. Seek help Postpartum mood disorder isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. You don’t have to wait it out or suffer through it alone. The single most important action to take if you suspect you have any of the possible symptoms of postpartum illness is to seek prompt medical treatment. You can manage your symptoms with professional care and treatment. Postpartum illness is temporary and treatable. With medical attention, your mind and body will be healthy again. Others have made it through postpartum mood disorders, and you can too. Featured Image Source

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