What I Wish I Knew about Postpartum Anxiety and Depression
When I reached out to a friend who recently had a baby, the conversation got real when she said she was experiencing the “Baby Blues”, she said she felt weepy on a daily basis with waves of sadness that she couldn’t explain. This was the first time I was able to actually speak with someone who was going through it “real time” and share my experience with her as well. I let her know she was not alone and it was something that many women go through and it means nothing about our parenting.
After having my first son a similar emotion took over me and I couldn’t explain it at the time. My son was also incredibly fussy and colicky for the first 7 months, nothing I did would comfort him but swaddling him up and bouncing myself on a yoga ball while holding him over my shoulder. It was crazy, my legs and back hurt, I spent hours and days on that ball, which had no exercise or weight loss benefit at all.
He would go ballistic in the car seat, the stroller, his swing, the baby Bjorn… he also wouldn’t sleep long periods of time. Not to mention we moved to a brand new town when my son was just 6 weeks old for my husband’s job where he worked late hours. His intensity and the situation propelled me into feeling depressed with major anxiety.
After speaking with my friend and as someone who provides support to other moms, I further researched the topic and found a wonderful blog post on the topic by Jen Schwartz of The Medicated Mommy : 10 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Postpartum Depression
1. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate.
Postpartum depression doesn’t care about your race, ethnicity, how much money or education you have, how excited you are about your baby, or what your support system looks like. I felt like I had lucked out with the ultimate new mom set-up: I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and couldn’t wait to be a mom. I even hired a baby nurse to help out the first two months… and I still got postpartum depression.
2. There are real risk factors.
I had so many risk factors and had no idea risk factors for postpartum depression even existed. Some of mine: having 30 family members in town on my due date, moving three months before my due date, an extremely long labor, and having a type-A personality. Although each mom’s risk factors will be different because postpartum depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness, I’d recommend checking out the list.
3. Postpartum depression doesn’t mean you want to harm your baby.
I always thought moms with postpartum depression were the ones I saw on television: the people on the news who hurt their babies and sometimes themselves too. I never had the desire to do either of those things, which left me feeling confused about what was happening to me. Most of those folks are actually suffering from a form of postpartum psychosis, the least common form of postpartum depression. (And although many people with postpartum psychosis have delusions, they’re not always destructive—and those harmful thoughts aren’t exactly brought on because the person wants them, either.)
4. Postpartum depression isn’t like other depressions.
I learned later from my therapist that postpartum depression often presents itself as more of an irritable, anxious depression. At first, I didn’t realize I was depressed because what I really felt was overwhelming anxiety. This also made it more difficult for others to notice that something was wrong. And because women just can’t catch a break (ever, really), postpartum anxiety is its own condition—one that doesn’t get as much attention but is definitely something to watch for.
5. Hundreds of thousands of women get postpartum depression each year.
For a while, I felt like the only one. I didn’t know any moms who had postpartum depression—or if I did, they weren’t talking about it. I just thought I sucked at motherhood and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so much better at it. I also felt ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know about any of the negative thoughts running through my head. If I had known that postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 new moms, I might have felt less alone.
6. Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mom.
When postpartum depression hit, I couldn’t understand why everyone else loved being a mom and had such an easy transition into motherhood. I couldn’t understand why everyone on my social media feeds posted pictures with captions like, “The best thing to ever happen to me,” or “so in love” or “life is now complete.”
I just thought I was a horrible mother because I couldn’t relate to any of that. The truth was I didn’t cause my depression or ask to get sick. I wasn’t a terrible mom. I had a real mental health issue that required treatment.
7. Taking medication isn’t the end of the world.
I never thought I would begin motherhood by taking antidepressants, and I questioned what that said about me as a mom. Was I weak because I needed drugs to help me function? Would I be judged for trading breastfeeding for anti-anxiety pills? Taking medication turned out to be the best decision because it helped me get healthy and happy for my family. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t judged myself so harshly.
8. Not everyone in your life will be supportive.
I could barely leave the house, let alone have the will to return phone calls, texts, and emails, or explain what I was going through. I was too exhausted and often too embarrassed, but many of my friends understood and continued to send messages filled with love and support without expecting anything in return. However, some stopped reaching out when they didn’t hear back from me; they couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. They aren’t my friends today, and I’ve come to accept that that’s OK.