Postpartum depression is like watching your life go by but not being allowed to be a part of it. Other people get to live it but you are denied the pleasure of enjoying it. It is kept just out of your reach, unattainable, but so close.
When my fourth son was born, it was like someone handed me one of those dolls that cry, only my doll had a broken on/off switch. The switch on my baby was stuck in the “ON” position.
He cried all the time. I could feel myself spiraling as I sat in my home and cried along with him. Our pediatrician diagnosed him with reflux and a possible milk allergy. He was given a special formula, but the crying never stopped.
I knew that he was growing and healthy, but mothers are supposed to be able to soothe and calm their babies. I felt like I had failed him somehow. That’s where the guilt entered. I began to question every decision that I made. Why was this happening to my baby? What was I doing wrong? What if…?
Grasping at hope
There were some breathtakingly beautiful moments when he smiled at me or slept peacefully. I tried to grasp those moments and allow them to be my anchor. I’m sure I did enjoy some of them, but a dark cloud overshadowed everything.
Taking care of my son while in this emotional and distracted state of mind was mentally and physically exhausting. I was suffering from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression or baby blues?
Postpartum depression isn’t just sadness or tiredness. All parents find themselves feeding their newborn a bottle of warm water because they forgot to add the formula. They have that moment of harsh reality when they try to diaper the baby’s head in the middle of the night and burst into tears about it.
Mostly sad and bad
70-80% of new parents are affected by baby blues, but only 10-20% experience postpartum depression. It reaches far beyond realizing that parenting is way out of your league. Parenting is out of everyone’s league!
Postpartum depression is that feeling that your world is mostly sad and bad. You look at the faces of your husband and kids and you know that you should be happy and grateful, but the feelings just never come.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
The symptoms of postpartum depression last for weeks, not days, and include:
- Obsessive fear and guilt
- Distraction from life
- Emotional instability
- Constant crying
- More sadness than joy
- Withdrawing from normal activities
There is a continuous loop playing in your head telling you that you are not a good parent.
Reach out to find hope
The one thing that you need is often the one thing that you deny yourself: support. Shame isolates you and keeps you from reaching out to those who can help.
In one brave and vulnerable moment, I cautiously reached out to my family. They saved me. They helped me to realize that what I was going through was real and it was tough. They talked about it and didn’t try to sugar coat it or try to fix it. They helped me to realize that I wasn’t crazy or a terrible parent. They just offered hope and helped me to stay positive.
I talked to my doctor as well and I gradually began to accept that life isn’t always what we expect, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. I caught a glimpse of my life and saw it for what it was. And it was good.
Remembering who you are
Sure, my baby cried a lot but he smiled, too. There it was! That light that I had so desperately been searching for.
Suddenly, I saw my other kids as if for the first time in weeks. I held them and kissed them. I remembered who I was once more. I was a good mom, and that’s all that mattered.
If you think that you might be suffering from postpartum depression, don’t go it alone. Reaching out to others doesn’t make you weaker. It makes you stronger.
Postpartum depression is not your fault
Postpartum depression may come upon you for no reason at all. Many women who have healthy babies and positive birthing experiences still have symptoms. Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect women either. 1 in 10 men experience symptoms as well.
Parents with postpartum depression need the support of those who have been there and who understand what they are going through. There are people who won’t be surprised by your crazy thoughts, but who will simply say those powerful words that you need to hear:
Don’t let postpartum depression deny you the experience of living your own life. There is a light in all of that darkness and you can, with help, begin living your story again.
Looking for more encouragement and information that you can trust? Be sure to share your stories with us of your experiences of postpartum depression. We would love to hear your story.