Dealing with Postpartum Depression


It's easy to fake a smile when you know things are going wrong, but they will get better.  But what if you don't know?  Yesterday I had a serious freak out.  But before I get to that, I want to share a topic that somebody wrote into one of my favorite advice columns about (Dear Prudence with Emily Yoffe @ SLATE .com)  That topic is Postpartum depression/anxiety.  Here is the article:

(Source quoted is from: / Dear Prudence with Emily Yoffe)

Q. Sister's Untreated Postpartum Depression: I visited my sister for the first time since she gave birth in April. I spent a week with her, and I came away with the impression that she has serious postpartum depression. She struggled to get out of bed, she would cry for hours, and she sometimes expressed the wish that she had died during birth. She also berated herself for not being a happier, healthier mom. When I expressed my concerns to her husband, he told me to mind my own business. My family lives on the opposite coast as my sister, and she gets her main support from her husband and his family, who live near them. I know from past conversations that my sister's husband does not believe in antidepressants or depression. He has said things like, "Everyone has bad days," and, "People need to be accountable and solve their problems on their own." I worry that my sister is not getting and will not get the support she needs to work through her depression. What can/should I do to help her?
A: Oh, great, she's married to an idiot, one who is potentially endangering the life of his wife and their child. You have plenty of evidence your sister has suicidal thoughts. I think you need to tell her you've been very concerned about her since your visit and if she won't discuss her psychological state with her doctor, you are going to call and alert her obstetrician. (Make sure you have the doctor's name before you let her know this.) If she begs you not to do this, say hearing her in this state is alarming to you, and only confirms she needs professional help. Tell her, if she were bleeding dangerously, you'd call 911, no matter if she begged you not to. I know you are far away, but you, or other family members, might just need to show up to make sure your sister is getting the professional attention she needs. Becoming a mother can be overwhelming, but thinking you should have died in childbirth is a medical emergency.
First of all, upon reading this and not understanding Postpartum depression/anxiety, you might think that this person's sister is being overly dramatic.  Let me assure you, she's not.  Postpartum Depression is something that many many women including myself have dealt with after having a baby.  It is scary because often times, it can go misunderstood or even ignored.  The guilt you build up in feeling like you "should" be happy or you "should" be grateful is ravenous to your well being. The guilt you feel about having a beautiful baby and somehow not being able to enjoy or even like the experience can cause women to suffer so much stress and heartache.  It does not help that there are moms and mom groups out there that glorify having a baby as the end all of accomplishments.
 Let me stop... I am not saying having kids is easy, not is it something you shouldn't be proud of, but why all the over zealous pretending and smugness of overly emphasized mommy perfection?  Is that realistic?  No. And its damaging, and it isolates the women that do feel unsure about this whole thing.  After my son was born I got sad, then more apathetic...  At first I was blue, then weepy, then I missed my old life and on top of being tired, my husband simply didn't get it.  He would say things like "snap out of it, we have so much to be thankful for, just look at our son..."  Of course I knew that but when he said those things it made me feel worse, like somehow the way I was feeling made me a selfish, bad and horrible parent.  I let this go on for 8 months, the crying episodes, the explosive temper at my husband for not understanding, loathing the same routine day in and day out, wanting to run out the door and be at work as soon as I could just to take my mind off it and not have to really face it.  I tried a few "mommy groups" to no avail.  These women stayed home and ate, slept and breathed mommy bliss.  It made me sick.  I was not like them.  They came off as liars.  I thought "how could these women be so full of shit?, Aren't they bored?  Don't they have any hobbies that separate them as individuals aside from being mothers?"  It was discouraging.  They would hand grind their own baby food, brag about saving the environment by using cloth diapers (call me lazy but good luck with that), lecture about BPA's in bottles and why you should not give your children anything but organic this and that.  Whatever.  The point is, clearly, the mommies and I were not living on the same planet.  I am the type of person who still likes to do things, aside from defining myself in one bubble, I circulate to many.  I like going to rock shows, I enjoy micro-brews, hell I might even get a tattoo at the ripe old age of 30, I still have life to live and I want my life with my son to be integrated, not separated from who I was "pre kid".  Of course I have to modify, but I am still me, and I refuse to be defined simply as "mom".  That was hard because I had no place to fit.  All my friends did not have kids and weren't married, so they disappeared after Luke was born, which left me lonely, and sad.  After 8 months, I finally went to see a counselor.  It helped a lot.  I even started taking an anti anxiety med (generic lexapro) after my son was about a year old.  I started feeling so much better.  Balanced, happy, active and actually starting to take an active role in being a parent.  I made friends that had kids that still had lives, we clicked and things were going great.  The best advice I can give to somebody dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety is this:
Get help.  Get it ASAP.  There is no shame in asking for it or needing it.  You will start to feel human again after just talking to somebody about how you are feeling and what you are dealing with.  I promise.  Ignoring it will make it worse, and trust me, after 8 months, I wished I'd have gone in after a week of knowing I didn't feel normal.
Volunteer.  If you are a stay at home mom, volunteer somewhere that interests you.  Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center and help others who might need somebody to understand them, serve soup in a shelter, DO SOMETHING TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.
Make friends.  You probably already have them, but you will need to make at least one or two friends that have kids.  They will understand what you are dealing with, they will uplift you and you can help uplift them too.  I have one friend with a little boy younger than mine and we take our strollers and go walking to all the thrift stores by my house.  It's so much fun.  We drink coffee and exercise, get out and the boys are happy too.  Find friends with kids that are a good fit for your life :)
Do not be afraid to try medication if you think it might help.  I was freaked out at the thought of trying it but it did help me a lot, and the dose was very small.  Talk to your counselor or doctor and they can help you find the right fit.
Talk through these things with your spouse, but do it at an acceptable time (i.e. have the in laws watch the baby) go out to dinner and take one on one time to discuss, uninterrupted your feelings and then both of you come up with a supportive game plan to tackle your postpartum together.  If necessary, make time where your spouse can talk to your counselor with you or your doctor so that they understand what you are dealing with from a professional perspective.  Have the counselor give your spouse information and ask them questions if they need to.  
Don't try to be supermom.  This means setting small goals for every day that you can accomplish to build yourself back up into somebody who feels healthy, not overwhelmed.
Make YOU time.  It's okay.  You're allowed.  Being a mom does not mean that you don't get a break.  Sometimes you need that hour for a cup of coffee, a pedicure or even some retail therapy, just to feel like yourself again.  It's okay!  You are still a good mom!
Make a date night with your spouse.  Whatever you can do: A night away one a month, a dinner, a movie, anything.  Make time for each other to enjoy your marriage and re-charge your relationship.  plus it will give you something special to look forward to and even look sexy for!!  Nothing is sexier than a woman who can flip the switch from mama to hot mama with a little lipstick and a little black dress ;)
Create a PINTEREST Board.  Now that you have more time at home, try something new, you can set little goals.  It sounds silly but it helps.  I decided to find a few simple PINTEREST projects/recipes to try out.  I would make a plan like: Today I will go get the supplies, tomorrow I will paint, the next day I will....OR you can try to master that Kahlua cupcake recipe you've been dying to try out but never had enough motivation to try.  Being at home and trying new things can really inspire some creativity.  I have been doing this and I am enjoying the results ;)
The bottom line, though, is that is you are struggling with postpartum, talk to somebody.  You can feel better, and you can feel like a good mom/person/wife etc.  I did and i'm glad I finally took the initiative to help myself out of my postpartum rut.  




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