Every woman’s experience with postpartum depression is unique. While most women experience some form of the baby blues, one in ten women struggle with moderate to severe postpartum depression.
I, unfortunately, fall into the latter category.
There were the overwhelming and irrational fears: thoughts that I would somehow put her in the dryer while I was doing the laundry – even if she was asleep in the other room. Or, that I would by some far-fetched chance poison her with my own milk. I was terrified that I would forget that she was laying on the bed and sit down on top of her.
The worst thought, by far, would occur when, on a beautiful warm day, I would nurse Marlo outside on our balcony and I was convinced that a bird was bound to swoop down at any moment and startle me so suddenly that I would accidentally toss her over the railing. I was also terrified of walking up and down the stairs for fear that we would fall.
Fear paralyzed me. Fear took those minor, silly, and common new-mom fears and amplified them so that they raced through my mind every minute of every day. They monopolized every moment of that precious time which should have been filled with joy instead of panic. It was overwhelming, uncontrollable, and absolutely exhausting.
There were also the bouts of uncontrollable sobbing. Her tears were legitimate; she was a newborn, after all. My tears poured out of me in a constant stream not only because of the doubt and fear which I was experiencing, but also because of the physical pain from my birth experience, physical and emotional exhaustion, and the anxiety that manifested itself physically. I was convinced that I was going to somehow harm my child.
When my daughter, Marlo, was three weeks old, what I call stage two of my PPD, the detachment stage, began. One early evening, my sister-in-law arrived to our apartment and found me awaiting her arrival at the elevator door with Marlo in my arms, sobbing.
Being a mother herself, she thought little of it. She simply assumed I was just overwhelmed like any other new mother and probably experiencing some mild baby blues. She gently took Marlo from my trembling arms and told me to go take a long hot shower and to catch up on some rest.
The truth was too painful to admit- to her and, mostly, to myself. The truth was that I was sobbing because just a few hours earlier, I looked into my baby girl’s eyes and felt as though I was staring at a stranger. I was convinced that I hadn’t just given birth to her because I didn’t even recognize her.
I began the emotionally draining and painful process of questioning if something was wrong with me. Was I a horrible mother because I didn’t feel all of the things they say you should feel? Or, was something really wrong?
Something was very, very wrong. At my six week postpartum check-up with my OB, I broke down in tears. Luckily, I had an extremely compassionate and empathetic doctor who carefully selected the words to tell me that I was most likely suffering from postpartum depression. Although it was a blow, hearing someone tell me that my suffering wasn’t my fault – or just my own mind getting the best of me – made me feel so much better.
For more information on recognizing postpartum depression you can visit WhatToExpect.com and also read Heidi Murkoff covering the postpartum-depression topic.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing with you my treatment method, the seemingly very long road to recovery, and how the experience affected the way I view motherhood.
Did you feel any of the anxiety or irrational fears as a new mom? How did you tune them out? Who- if anyone- did you talk to about what you were experiencing and how did they react?