Sharing My Secret: One Mom’s Journey with Postpartum Depression

The response and feedback I received from my post last week about postpartum depression, Share Your Secret, was amazing. I loved seeing how much support is out in the world and how women can come together for one another.

I mentioned in many of my responses that this week I would share my story; my experience with postpartum depression. It’s a hard experience to share, but it was even harder when I had to ask for help during those difficult moments.

A baby bump picture - 30 weeks

A baby bump picture – 30 weeks

Many of you know from reading my blog, that in the states I was a medical social worker who specialized in pediatrics and maternal child health (labor & delivery, NICU, newborn nursery, etc). I worked with women every day; educating them about many things, but also about postpartum depression, screening them for early signs, providing them with referrals for support. I worked with a great team of nurses and obstetricians who would share their own stories and experiences with postpartum depression. And do you know that I probably didn’t realize that I was experiencing it for myself until my son was around 4 months old? It was only after I returned to work from my maternity leave and began helping others and listening to others that I noticed these situations/feelings within myself.

On our way home from the hospital

On our way home from the hospital

Looking back, I can see it so much more clearly now. I didn’t experience depression, but instead, had a great deal of anxiety. I felt it almost right away, but shrugged it off to being a new parent. And to some degree, I am sure that was true. This was my first child and with that comes the natural instinct to worry, be protective and have some anxiety in relation to caring for this new precious creature. Things went smoothly for a while. I struggled with letting him be alone in his car seat in the backseat so I would sit back there with him, but I still let us leave the house. This is important to note because as I have said before, it is when it starts interfering with your daily functioning that it has become more than just “baby blues” or “new parent anxiety”.

Then came that period of extreme fussiness at around 5 weeks. (I mentioned it briefly before here.) It was like nothing I had ever experienced. He was already a mostly fussy baby, but this was pure hell. Although he would sleep during the night, only waking once for a feeding, he refused to nap during the day. He would be up for 16 hours straight and if he wasn’t eating he was crying. I would do everything possible to try to get him to sleep and if I was lucky, he would nap for about 15-20 minutes. During that time, I had become so anxious, I couldn’t even rest for that few minutes. I literally sat on the edge of the couch waiting for him to start crying. I didn’t eat very well and I definitely didn’t rest. It was a feeling of constant restlessness for me which I would later realize was extreme anxiety. This situation was obviously causing me stress and worry, but what I didn’t realize is that it was only exacerbating my anxiety driven postpartum depression.

M was still working during this time and many days he would be gone for 10-12 hours. He did his best to come home early when he could and he always took care of our son when he was home to give me a break. However, working those hours didn’t allow for much time on the days he had to work so I was left with the baby, alone. And that is exactly how I felt. It felt so isolating, so lonely, so scary. I would actually become sick to my stomach when M was about to leave for work. I remember thinking to myself daily, please don’t leave me here. And just as soon as I’d have that thought, I’d feel guilty. How could a mother feel this way about being alone with her son? Why was I not happy? Why was this so hard?

I began to grow more and more anxious about being alone. I really felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I would try inviting people over, but obviously they work and have lives too. I had found that if I was with someone, I could cope better.

It came to a head one day. He was crying and crying. He just could not be soothed. It was in the evening and I knew I still had about five more hours before M would be home. I tried telling myself I could make it, but I couldn’t. I laid my son down on the couch next to me and just stared at him. I had become numb to his crying. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t want to soothe him. I didn’t want to hold him. I didn’t want to see if he needed to be changed. Nothing.

This scared the hell out of me. There is no better way to explain it.

I called a good friend and texted M. I told them both the truth, that I thought I was having some sort of break down and I couldn’t care for my son. My friend came straight over and knowing she was on her way, M got permission to leave work early in the next couple of hours. When I opened the door to my friend, I handed her my son and just cried. I cried and cried and told her I was so embarrassed for being such a terrible mom. I told her I knew I was failing and how could I be so awful. She held my son, who was still crying and soothed him. She held him and stayed with me until M got home. She talked it all out with me and I just shared everything I was feeling. She made me feel better about it all. She supported me and listened without judgement. She held and soothed my crying baby and gave him to daddy when he got home. When M walked in, he thanked her, she hugged us all and left. M put the baby to bed and came back and just held me.

Me and handsome at 4 weeks old

Me and handsome at 4 weeks old

I wish I could say that it was easier after that, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t in the sense that the anxiety was still there, but I felt a huge burden lifted just by sharing how I felt. I would return to work soon and even then I would still feel anxious upon coming home.

Around four months old, our son was no longer “colicky” and was sleeping through the night. Things were beginning to ease up and with that, so had my anxiety; however, it shifted to something else. I had become so worried about SIDS that I had trouble putting my son to bed at night. I usually worked evenings, so for the most part, I didn’t have to worry about it. He would be in bed by the time I got home from work. On the days I was home, however, I used to ask M to put him to bed. This time, I shared how I was feeling right away and let M help me work through it. After a couple of months, I was able to put my son to bed on my own. It took a lot of support from my husband. He would let me just talk; sometimes before laying the boy down, sometimes right after and sometimes when we laid down to go to sleep I would just panic about it. M would just talk me through it.

My amazing husband with his sleepy little boy - 4 months old

My amazing husband with his sleepy little boy – 4 months old

I have an amazing husband. He never made me feel crazy or like a failure. I never felt ashamed. Some days we would laugh about it. :-) I knew some things I felt were irrational so of course, we laughed. But even knowing they were irrational, didn’t stop me from feeling that way. Feelings aren’t always within your control, especially when they are a result of something else going on in your body such as the hormones that surge up and down after pregnancy.

Asking for help and talking about it made the difference for me. Sharing it more with others made me realize I was not alone. It normalized these irrational thoughts and feelings. Once you realize that others out there had the same or similar thoughts/feelings, you stop being so hard on yourself.

I mentioned earlier that I was a mental health professional because this actually played a role in me being even harder on myself. I felt like I should have seen the signs sooner. I felt like I should have been able to work through it on my own using the coping skills I would have given to a patient. I held myself to a higher expectation. To be honest, I don’t know why. I just know I did and it was the wrong thing to do.

My sweet friend and the boy at 8 months old

My sweet friend and the boy at 8 months old

I will never, NEVER, forget my sweet friend who came over that night. She dropped everything and was at my house in a flash. She praised me for reaching out and reminded me that it was the right thing to do. That moment could have gone differently; it could have gone tragically. Many people don’t have someone to call. Many people get too deep into their depression or anxiety and without a support system, it does become one of the tragic stories we read about. Postpartum depression is serious. It is not something to be ashamed of and it is nothing, absolutely nothing you have done. It just happens. So please, please talk to someone. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know, find a therapist or even an online forum. Many online forums have 24/7 hotlines.

Me and my handsome boy - 17 months old

Me and my handsome boy – 17 months old

I am a SAHM now and never once have I felt the way I did then. I was able to get through it and am better for it. My son and I are healthy and happy (most of the time). :-) I am able to look back on those dark days and see just how much I was really affected. I wish I could go back and be kinder to that woman who was punishing herself daily for feelings out her control. I can see how hard she struggled within herself. I wish I could tell her what it took her so long to figure out; what I hope you take away from this story.

Just breathe. Just share.

You will be surprised how much weight lifts just by acknowledging your own feelings and hearing someone tell you, “It’s ok”.

 

I was featured on The Mommy Monday Blog Hop

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About Deanna H

Successful toddler chaser. Avid wine lover. Aspiring writer. Maybe or maybe not in that order.
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25 Responses to Sharing My Secret: One Mom’s Journey with Postpartum Depression

  1. Ace says:

    Oh, Deanna, can’t tell you how this made me feel while reading it. I’m so glad you shared your story because it’s so important for people to be aware and to know it’s okay to tell someone what they’re feeling.

    • Ace says:

      Oops, didn’t finish my thought there…
      I love what you say about your professional background and being harder on yourself but ultimately realizing it can happen to anyone. There are so many factors that can contribute to PPD that no one is immune from it, and as one of the comments said last week, even if you experience it just a week or two, reaching out to anybody is better than keeping it in. This is a wonderful follow up to last week’s post. Thank you. =)

      • Thanks Ace. It was hard to write and even harder to publish! It’s a scary thing to admit those feelings. And that was an important point I wanted to make. I think when you’re a health care professional you think you should have all the answers sometimes but you don’t. I also think that sometimes people who seek out counseling assume that their therapist has never needed therapy when many times that’s not true. I wanted to humanize therapists, so to speak, so maybe someone will be more inclined to seek help. Hope that makes sense! :-)

  2. Expat Eye says:

    Very brave of you. Sounds like a horrible experience.

  3. Josh says:

    Wow, what an amazing story you shared here. That must have not only been difficult to deal with but also re-live as you wrote about it. I give you so much respect for being able to put those emotions into words, that is very moving and powerful and you probably are saying the words and thoughts of many other mothers out there.

    Now, I, of course, cannot relate personally to this situation but enjoyed reading it nonetheless. Your emotions were captured in this post and were very raw and real. I think probably more often than not many mothers feel this way and don’t know why they are feeling it, wondering if they are “bad” mothers among other thoughts. I think the simple miracle that a mother was able to take care of and protect an innocent life, go through child birth and deal with all of the emotions attached before, during and after the birth is nothing less than amazing. I give women like you so much credit, the credit that you deserve.

    I can only imagine how difficult it must be sometimes to not be able to console your child and to wonder if you are “doing it all wrong”. I can assure you, women are much stronger than men in their abilities to be loving even when the other person is being impossibly difficult, when times seem at their darkest and hope seems lost. Women like you are strong, caring, loving and bold.

    Thank you very much for sharing your emotions with us, it was an experience to read! I will most likely experience these things from a father’s point of view one day but women deserve much more credit than they receive and should never think they aren’t good at being a mom since there is no manual, no guide book, no hints or secrets, it just takes love, patience and understanding. Although I haven’t ever met you in person, Deanna, you seem to hold these qualities and I am very sure your son feels how much you love him even at the most difficult of times.

    • I don’t know what to say Josh. You have me speechless. I can say that I very much appreciate you taking the time to read this and then share your perspective. It’s interesting and wonderful to receive a man’s point of view on this subject.

      It was very difficult to write. I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears while doing so. I can also say that I can’t stop hugging and kissing my son today. I’m so thankful he’s here and I love my family so much. And I think you are right in that many moms will feel this way and begin thinking they are just a bad mom. I did. I thought it was all my fault and that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom.

      I know that’s not true but I couldn’t have done it without my good friends and my husband. I hope your wife doesn’t have to go through it, but if she does, I know she will be lucky like me, having a strong, supportive and loving man by her side.

      Thank you for reading and for such kind words. Your comment was very touching.

  4. Thanks for sharing Deanna. I think it’s important for women to share. I think women stay silent because they are ashamed and afraid they will be thought badly of. I remember being in a pregnancy group, and a member stated that she only wanted good things said, because she felt like the negative inpeeded on her positive space. In some respects I understood, however, if women don’t have the space to share good and bad, how is anyone able to understand normal? There are very broad definitions of normal (for woman and baby). If everyone thinks that babies are supposed to sleep during the day and be up at night – well, then when your baby doesn’t do that, there is either something wrong with them or something wrong with you.

    Same goes with breastfeeding.

    You do the best you can do to deal with the situation you are in.

    I had a baby similar to yours. It was my first. He would feed 24 hours a day, literally. He would be on the boob – no kidding. I wouldn’t even have a break to take a shower. You know, how you are supposed to feed every two hours – starting from when you start the feeding? Well, I would start, feed two hours and then it would be time to feed again. I couldn’t put him down. I couldn’t give him to anyone else, including his Dad. He would cry hyersterically if I wasn’t holding him. I couldn’t even eat. i remember his grammy holding him and he was screaming and I was trying to stuff food down fast – just o the screaming would stop. I could hardly stand it. It was a lonely time.

    I never did many momma groups because I felt like they were super competitive. We really just need to support each other – really. Forget the cliques and the mess. Moms are so busy comparing kids, and cars, and schools and work – they forget that we need support – every day. That’s the type of community we need to build. Your experience is proof of this. If another mom would have just stepped in – so you could have taken a shower. I’m sure it would have been so helpful.

    Have a wonderful week, and thank you for sharing at the Mommy Monday Blog Hop!

    • Hi Lisa! Yes I agree. I don’t know why, as women, we are so competitive with one another instead of supportive. It is in our nature to be loving and kind and yet many of us only help to further isolate someone else. Maybe it is because they are struggling. Who knows. I just wish it would change. And yes, I can’t imagine how wonderful it would have been to have someone just come over. We didn’t have family where we were living and weren’t lucky enough to experience any kind of help after having our son. It was hard, but I know there is always someone who has it harder. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. What a touching story!!! I can’t imagine how difficult that would have been to share, but you just went one giant step further in reinforcing everything you said in the post – share the feelings. No one is equipped to take on the world by themselves, and the more we learn to let down the walls we build, the more we can connect with people during times of joy, times of sorrow, and times of hardship and struggle. Good on you for sharing this extremely personal experience!! Big hugs to you guys!! :)

  6. Good for you for sharing your heart! Our country really doesn’t value women as mothers or give us time to process the totally overwhelming and new change in our lives. We are expected to go back to who and what we were. There isn’t nearly enough post partum care for new mothers, either. :( You are so right…that acknowledging your feelings is so important. I wrote a post not too long ago about my PPD and would love for you to check it out, too! -Andrea http://www.handandtheheart.com/2013/09/not-just-baby-blues.html

    • Hi Andrea! I completely agree! It’s also sad that there is such a stigma with mental health. There should be more education and awareness so people don’t feel ashamed by what they are feeling and experiencing and this is a blanket statement to include everything not just PPD. I will definitely check out your post. Thanks for sharing it with me!

  7. Hannah Teej says:

    Really beautiful!

    I can’t relate to postpartum but I can relate to depression and anxiety. Working in the mental health field made me feel embarrassed for experiencing less than optimal mental health. Surely I should know better?

    I am so happy that you had the support and love to help you through it. I can only imagine the time and dedication that took.

    All the best,

    Hannah
    http://www.thelemonhive.com

  8. Deanna, thanks so much for sharing your story. I know how hard it is to put it all out there but I think sharing vulnerable and real things like your experience with postpartum makes other people feel stronger, and less alone. While I haven’t had a child, I have had many friends who struggled with post partum. Having an open conversation like this is great because I can see just a peek into what it is like so I can relate a little better to my friends. Also, I feel like it’s not something that’s openly talked about but should be, especially to prep people who are thinking about having children about signs to look for post-baby, and how to get help!

  9. Jennie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I really enjoyed reading it.
    I have a giveaway going on, would love for you to check it out, today’s the last day to enter! http://thediaryofarealhousewife.blogspot.com

  10. Wow, Deanna, thank you for sharing such a personal story. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to write this, let alone to experience this. Stories like yours make it real for all mama’s out there, struggling or not. So happy everything settled down in the end and that you and Monster found each other in the end.

  11. I feel you darling. I had postpartum… twice. First time was harder than the second time around. But I am here if you need someone!

  12. Wow! I really appreciate you sharing this. I don’t have children, but I think it’s so helpful for people to share honestly about what the process is like. A new parent might not know what’s going on! Thanks so much, and I know it is a blessing to others!

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