Post-Weaning Blues: Late-Onset Postpartum Depression
Several months ago, I stopped nursing baby C for a number of reasons, but primarily because it was growing increasingly difficult and stressful to try to fit my pumping schedule into my full-time work schedule. I was able to breastfeed C through his first 10 months of life and it’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments thus far, but the weaning process brought with it some unexpectedly dark days.
For months, I had been eagerly anticipating all of the wonderful things that could happen once I finally stopped breastfeeding: No longer having to drag myself out of bed at 2:00 AM to pump, the freedom of being able to eat meals without referring to the food guide pyramid taped to my fridge, finally being able to indulge in a glass of Riesling at dinner, and of course, reuniting with my beloved Keurig and enjoying guilt-free sips of Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee each and every morning. Woo-hoo! I simply could.not.wait!
I was totally unprepared for the adverse effect that weaning would have on my emotional well-being which I attribute to my temporary hormonal imbalance. Although I don’t believe that I actually suffered from full-blown Postpartum Depression (PPD), almost a year after my child was born, I experienced many of the symptoms of late onset PPD, including a sudden sense of emptiness, chronic low-level anxiety that I had never felt before, and persistent feelings of guilt and regret. I became very critical of decisions that I had made in the past (things that I now see as inconsequential) and worried that they might have detrimental effects on my son’s future. In general, I grew intensely worried about the baby. I am an overprotective mama by nature so this just brought me to an extreme. I felt like I had to protect him from every little person, place, or thing that we encountered.
Many of the medical professionals that you see right after childbirth, from your OB to your child’s pediatrician, inquire in one way or another about whether you are experiencing any symptoms of PPD. All eyes seem to be on you watching like a hawk for any possible signs. But after several months postpartum, assuming you show no signs of distress, everyone seems to stop asking about it.
In general, there seems to be very little awareness about late onset PPD and very little information available to the parenting community about the possibility of developing it after weaning. I chat with some of my most experienced mommy friends on a daily basis and have never heard any of them talk about this going through this before. I read about eight pregnancy books when I was expecting (yes, I tend to overdo it) and don’t recall reading about this once. Surprisingly, even a Google search doesn’t yield much information from reliable sources on the topic.
For me, just being able to identify and have a label for what was going on in my body/brain was enormously helpful. I talked about how I was feeling with my hubby so that he could lend extra support, and I felt comfortable confiding in my very best friend who I knew would never pass judgment. I made a concerted effort to try to occupy my mind with exciting short-term projects such as planning C’s birthday party and work-related events. After a few months, my hormones seemed to have leveled themselves out and thankfully things have gone back to normal.
In writing about this, I’m not hoping to gain sympathy, attention, or anything of the sort. I’m just hoping that perhaps someday this post might be informative or helpful to another new mama going through a similar experience.
Has anyone else dealt with symptoms of late onset postpartum depression after weaning?
Photo Credit: gibsonselectric.