A Personal Story About Postpartum Depression
This is a difficult subject to speak about because I am still in the middle of what I would consider onset postpartum depression. Let me begin by explaining the situation leading up to the birth of my child.
Leading Up To The Birth
My husband was working as an English teacher and was teaching a professor of veterinary medicine. This woman was in her mid-forties, yet vibrant and youthful.
When I was roughly five months pregnant, she started warning my husband about the possibility, and likelihood, of postpartum depression.
She explained to him (and he informed me) that these feelings are not exclusive to human beings. That animals also experience them to some degree.
She had experience with dogs who began showing signs of laziness, changed behavior, and enhanced aggression after giving birth for the first time.
Beyond the experience she had with dogs, she also related her personal experiences as the mother of two boys (14 and ten). She spoke about how for the year after the birth of her first son, and the six-month period after the birth of her second, she was hit hard with postpartum depression.
Of course, she told my husband and me that she was highly emotional during her pregnancy and understood that her hormonal changes led to mood swings and altered perception.
As a doctor who is married to another doctor, she was able to recount these experiences vividly. However, she said that these feelings were nothing compared to the emotional outbursts and changed mood she experienced during the post-birth period.
What struck her the most was the feeling that she would not be a good enough mother to her sons. She was constantly worried. Sometimes to the point of severe insomnia, that her motherly skills and economic station did not make her an adequate mother, nor did she have the tools to provide for her children.
She’d also spoke about crying at all times. Sometimes when looking at her babies, and other times when she was alone and trying to rest. She would scream into the pillow and pound away at her bed. Hoping for some sort of return to her previous stoic mentality and an understanding that things would be alright.
Luckily, she said her feelings passed and she was then able to shift her focus towards being the best mother she could be.
It Wouldn’t Happen To Me
Why did I recall this tale? Because when she first spoke about her experiences to my husband, who later recalled them to me, I laughed it off.
When we were invited to her house for dinner and she spoke about these topics again, I told her that I would be strong enough to handle the post-birth period. I had been there for the birth of my nephew and experienced my sister’s change first-hand.
My sister had not been depressed, or so I thought. So I figured our closeness of blood and of age (we are only one year apart) would delegate me to the same fate. Oh, how I was wrong.
So, during my birth period, I now see that I was an emotional mess. I could not leave the bed or the couch and was privy to emotional fits at even the smallest of external stimuli.
I was prepared for my ability to handle certain smells and tastes changing and ready to give up foods in my personal favorite diet (such as coffee, oh how I missed coffee).
However, being prepared for something by having the prior knowledge and experiencing them first-hand are two completely different beasts. My husband’s cologne drove me nuts.
His smoking made me angry without recluse. Even his brewing of my beloved coffee in the morning was enough to drive me up a wall.
As my due date approached, I was direly anticipating being able to tuck those feelings away in the closet and move on to a new page (with my baby daughter and a cup of coffee!).
After I Gave Birth
Then, I gave birth and I remembered what my husband’s student had told us. Remembered is a wrong word; I experienced it all.
Looking at my baby daughter was enough to fill me with such pride and happiness to fill an entire planet, of course. However, each time I looked at her, I felt that I was not giving her all that she needed.
I was worried that my breast milk wasn’t enough. That the clothes she wore didn’t keep her warm enough, and that her bed wasn’t giving her enough comfort.
I felt that I could never handle such a heavy task without my mother’s guiding hand to soothe me. This postpartum depression hit home.
More than the above feelings and the emotions my husband’s student told us, my worries took me to a whole new plateau. I would always envision terrible things happening to my child, and also to myself and my husband.
Some of these thoughts were completely insane, I’ll admit, such as me constantly thinking that our roof would collapse or that the floor would give way and we would tumble into nothingness.
Others were very real. I would always worry that my daughter was choking at night. So I could not sleep a wink for fear that she would suffocate and I’d sleep through it. I would constantly check up on her, move her around, and even wake her up to make sure she was still alive.
Another fear that I always had was that she would drown in her bath. I took extra care to put her into the water and remove her gently.
I would not allow my husband to hold our new daughter for extended periods of time, for fear that he would fall and injure her in some way. All of these fears are making their exit from me. But I still experience them to a small degree in my sixth month after pregnancy.
Worse than my ever-present fears, though, was my emotional mood swings. I would become enraged from the smallest criticism of anything that I did or said.
Anything my husband said would make me angry, even if it was gentle advice with a soft tone. I’m sorry for this, but I know it was outside of my control.
Although I laughed off the advice of my husband’s student in the beginning, I was glad that she confided in us.
This gave me comfort of having a woman nearby who I could speak to when things got out of control.