Surviving Postpartum Depression/Anxiety
Today, I am going to share something personal about my past. Something that is hard for me to talk about because it makes me feel exposed. Something that I did not inform my family/friends about until much later, even though they probably already knew. However, I felt it was time for me to open up and share my story. The more I read about other mothers’ similar experiences, the more I feel less ashamed about my own.
I am sharing my story in hopes that this will help someone, in hopes that nobody will repeat my mistake and in hopes that this will be viewed as normal, not crazy.
I am a Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety survivor.
I have always wanted to be a mother. I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant. In no time, Mr. Tropical and I had our baby list ready. We decorated the nursery. We searched for a perfect name. We talked for hours and hours about what we would do, about taking the baby places and just holding the baby in our arms. I was on Pinterest day and night, researching pregnancy tips, top-rated baby items, motherhood, parenting decisions, etc. We were so excited to bring our families much closer and create a strong bond between the families.
I had a pretty easy pregnancy aside from low blood pressure and fainting spells. My birth was a typical natural one (24 hours labor & 2 hours pushing). However, it was difficult for me because I had to have a lot of stitches done afterward. I fought through the pain because it was all worth it. I delivered a perfect tiny screaming baby girl, Coral.
Little did I know, nothing went the way I expected.
It was a drastically different experience from my pregnancy. My expectations went out the window when we got home. I had no control over anything. Breastfeeding was a struggle and I endured mastitis four times. I could barely sit up, let alone walk around. It took me roughly 10 weeks to recover from the birth.
Anxiety consumed me. I couldn’t sleep at night or take naps while Coral was sleeping. I often woke up in a panic, so sure that something happened to my baby. My heart was racing all the time. I was terrified that someone was going to kidnap Coral. I couldn’t rest and felt like I had to do something all the time. I always had a feeling of dread like something awful was going to happen. I needed my baby to be with me all the time. I pushed everyone else away.
I began having intrusive thoughts that frightened me.
What if I accidentally suffocated her with a wrapped blanket? What if we got in a bad car accident and she died? What if I fell down the stairs with her in my arms? You get the idea. It was energy draining trying to distract myself from those intrusive thoughts. I felt ashamed. My baby did not deserve me. She deserved to have a happy mother that was not obsessed with her baby being harmed.
I was sad. I was devastated. I was angry. I thought I would be truly happy being a mother. I thought I would fall in love with my baby and feel like she had given my life a purpose. Yet, I felt nothing except sadness and exhaustion. I felt empty and numb, just going through the motions every single day. I had a hard time bonding with her and I felt disconnected from the world. It was even harder when she was a colicky baby, crying all the time. The first few months were a blur. I barely remember anything from those first months. I was living in a fog. I was falling apart inside and out.
Our relationship with both families was tested. Halfway through the first year, I had enough. I was tired of taking care of everyone else to make them happy. I needed support and I expected more from loved ones. Some family members’ true colors came out and they believed their ‘wants’ should come first before my daughter’s ‘needs’.
I realized I needed to fight, if not for myself, then for my daughter.
I wanted to give her what she deserved and that was me being healthy and happy surrounded by loving/healthy people. I needed to take care of myself in order to take care of her.
The first thing I did… I did online research and found out about Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). I read the symptoms of PPD/PPA on Postpartum Progress. Postpartum Progress is an amazing website/community dedicated to helping pregnant women/new mothers suffering from PPD/PPA. At that moment, I finally realized that I wasn’t crazy, just sick with an illness from changes in hormones. I wasn’t alone in this. I was finally free from thinking I was an awful mother.
-I found out that having disturbing thoughts does not mean I wanted to act on them.
-I found out that having more stress postpartum can affect how quickly I recover from PPD/PPA.
-I found out that the depression side of me needed help but the anxiety side of me said I can’t trust anyone.
-I found out that it is common for new mothers. One out of seven new mothers went through PPD, PPA or both.
-I found out that my doctor was supposed to screen me at the six-week visit after birth to check if I was feeling depressed or anxious. He never did and I went home undiagnosed.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
“Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery.” – Medline Plus
What is Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)?
“Maybe you’re not feeling depressed, but instead very anxious. Postpartum anxiety symptoms include constant worries and fears. Maybe you can’t sleep or eat. Maybe you are worried all the time that something terrible is going to happen to you or someone you love. You could have postpartum anxiety.” – Postpartum Progress
I worked hard to overcome PPD/PPA. I said goodbye to toxic family members and that was one of the difficult decisions we, as a family had to make. I fought through mastitis and succeed. I finally was able to sleep at night. Well, not sleep through the night, because of the baby. I was able to bond with Coral and enjoy the little moments after the hormonal changes leveled down. I finally felt happy being a mother.
One of the biggest regrets of my life was not seeking help. I was afraid, ashamed and did not want to seem like I wasn’t happy with my baby. Please, do not repeat my mistake. Call your doctor ASAP.
Throughout all of this, the only thing I wanted was having my old self back. I am back, but I have changed. This experience changed me but it did not identify me. From time to time, I will hear or read things and they will trigger my depression/anxiety. However, they are manageable now because I have resources. I have support. I have a community.
If you are feeling depressed, anxious or obsessive as a new mother (up to a year after birth), just know that you are not alone. You are not a terrible mother. You deserve your baby. Most of all, it will get better and you will finally feel free.
Have you experienced PPD, PPA or both? What tips will you give to those experiencing it right now?
Please share this post with anyone you feel is experiencing this and needs help. Please help me spread awareness about PPD/PPA, so new mothers will not go through this alone.