My Experience with Postpartum Depression

I can remember the day and most of the details of the delivery of both my first and second child. Motherhood has been simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. It was particularly challenging when I first became a mother. However, no one quite prepared me for what awaited me during maternity leave. During the months leading up to my maternity leave I nested, and looked forward to having what seemed like an expanse of time to simply enjoy my new baby and being home with him. I would quickly realize that I was extremely unprepared for taking care of my newborn, and the physical and emotional toll it would take on me as a mother. No one told me what to do and I literally didn’t even know how to properly dress the baby on the first night home after being discharged from the hospital, at bedtime. I remember my husband had to come in and take off some of the clothes that I put him in because he was sweating. I even put a hat on him thinking he needed to be bundled up and very warm.  I have since learned that in actuality babies should sleep a bit cool and the room should not be too warm.  However, I write this to demonstrate just how unprepared I was for the responsibility of caring for my first born. For me, motherhood went against anything that I would have known or experienced previously and at times was contrary to my own intuition or best judgement. There was definitely a steep learning curve for me which I now understand is common for most new mothers. I had been an aunt since the age of 13 but being from a family with many siblings, I never had sole responsibility for the care of my nephew or niece when she was born a few years later. 

I quickly learned that being a mom required a constant amount of care and attention, especially when they were newborns. As a breastfeeding mom, I was responsible for my baby in some capacity, 24 hours per day and 7 days a week, as the feedings would happen around the clock. After the first few nights of my newborn waking up to a nurse throughout the night, I began to experience anxiety leading to bedtime. I became stressed out anticipating another night full of sleep interruptions. I literally recall a feeling of dread developing as I would power through a day caring for my baby, and anticipate the sleepless night that awaited me. I felt like the “lone ranger” because my husband wasn’t breastfeeding and so I was left to feed, change and care for the baby throughout the night. Luckily my son would typically nurse and fall right back to sleep, but the interruptions were still exhausting for me.

During the day I found myself feeling almost zombie like. I loved caring for my son but on many days during maternity leave I did little else but sit around feeding, changing, and holding my son. I felt a lack of energy and motivation for much else. I was also extremely worried about his well-being all of the time. It was very difficult for me to let my guard down, even for my husband, to care for him so that I could get even the shortest of breaks. Although, I was so filled with love and natural maternal adoration for my son, it was an extremely sad and lonely time for me. It was a complete shock to my system, and felt like I lost all of my freedom. I felt very overwhelmed by all that motherhood had required of me during this time.

It wasn’t until my son was a little older and people started talking about post-partum depression, that I considered the possibility that I have suffered from this condition following the birth of my son. This realization compared with having a very different type of experience after having my second baby girl, made me think that this was likely the case. I was more active with my second child and got things done even while home with her during maternity leave which was a stark contrast to the first maternity leave where I could literally barely move off of the couch. These overwhelming feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety lasted for several months after the birth of my son. After having my daughter, I enjoyed her more and didn’t feel much anxiety or those feelings of being overwhelmed.

Post-partum depression does not have a sole cause. It can be related to the hormonal changes following childbirth including the quick drop of estrogen and progesterone in the woman’s body following childbirth. These hormonal changes can cause “mood swings” and lead to post-partum depression in some cases. Also the severe sleep deprivation that woman experience can be linked to several mental health conditions and symptoms, one of which is post-partum depression. Some common symptoms of post-partum depression include: feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed. Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason. Worrying or feeling overly anxious. Feeling moody, irritable, or restless. Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep.

If you feel that you may be experiencing post-partum depression it is important to get help. Contact your primary care provider to talk about it and be prescribed for psychotropic medication to help manage symptoms. Also, it is recommended that you seek out a counselor or therapist for additional support. Being a mother is difficult and I believe that most mothers would agree it is the toughest of jobs. Remember that you have to take care of yourself so that you can be the best mother that you can be. If you are having a tough time, realize that there are people trained to help and support you through the challenges of being a new mom. Don’t blame yourself or think that you are not good enough. As a mom that is one of the most dangerous things that you can do because the reality is in the case of post-partum depression, the symptoms or the way that you feel is out of your control. However, you do have control over what you do afterward and the resources you seek for support. Remember, you are absolutely able to care for your baby and if you are struggling, you are not alone.