We’ve all heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But what about when life gives you postpartum depression? What do you make with that?
August of last year I gave birth to my 3rd baby and I dealt with postpartum depression after all 3 children were born. With the birth of my first child, my life was a bit hectic. I had only been married for a year and was still trying to figure out how to be someone’s wife let alone a mother. I had preeclampsia during my pregnancy and had to be induced 3 weeks early. There were complications during the birth, but thankfully I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. But now what? I had no idea what to do with this baby. I wanted to nurse but at that time I was so young and couldn’t deal with the pain of nursing. I literally cried every time he would latch on. He was also extremely jaundice at birth so I was told that I would need to supplement him with formula until they cleared him. The formula they gave me at the hospital severely upset his stomach so our first night at home he literally screamed his head off the entire night. I remember feeling helpless, exhausted, and like a failure. I was his mom and I couldn’t fix it. Everyday seemed to get darker and darker from there. I loved my baby and finally got a formula that he could tolerate, but I was still so down. A large part of this was extreme fatigue. But I also found that I had no patience for adults at all. People breathing just irritated me to no end. Everyone wanted to come hold the baby or look at the baby. No one seemed to be interested in how I was doing or feeling. No one was asking if I needed help with anything. I was drowning in laundry and bottle washing and all anyone wanted to do was see the baby. I didn’t know much about postpartum depression or “baby blues” at the time. I just knew that I couldn’t tolerate being around people and I felt completely alone.
With the birth of my second son I was older and experienced at this mom thing. I thought I would be ok this time. Unfortunately, postpartum depression is not the type of thing you can control. I will say that communication is a big help. Years after the birth of our first son, I told my husband exactly what I was going through during that time. He had no idea how bad it was, I wore that mask well. He remembered what we’d discussed and made sure to be in constant communication with me about my feelings this time around. He was such a great support system for me, which is crucial in dealing with postpartum depression. We were also apart of a new church and they had truly become family. They brought meals over so I didn’t have to worry about dinners for the first few weeks, which was amazing. My older son has some great friends with some great moms that checked on me and came over to help out. I was also honest with my doctor about my feelings as well. Again, I loved my baby and never had negative feelings toward him. It was everyone else that I couldn’t tolerate. And the wave of emotions were completely crazy this time. I remember standing in the aisle at my local grocery store looking at rice and tears were streaming down my face. I didn’t know why I was crying but I felt such a deep sadness in that moment. I felt stupid for crying, especially in public but I could not stop. I hated feeling out of control. I stayed home for 12 weeks with my son. The first day I went back to work, I literally sobbed the entire day. I missed my baby, I missed my older son and everything around me was an irritant. I began to feel more like myself after about a month or 2 after that.
My daughter was born 15 months ago and I was completely prepared…so I thought. I will say, I did not feel as bad as I did the first two times. But that impatience reared its ugly head as it had done both times before. Also my middle child, then 21 months old, was now going to be staying at home with me and the new baby as I have transitioned to being a stay at home mom. Let’s just say he was less than thrilled about this little girl coming into our home and stealing his shine. He began to regress, waking up at night crying and wanting to nurse all the time. Again, thank God for my husband. He was such a huge help. He would get up with me and I’d take one child and he’d take the other. Our church and friends were also there to help as well. I didn’t cry in the grocery store, but I have had crazy emotions and that helpless overwhelmed feeling. Fortunately, my now 3 year old had adjusted to our new normal and adores his baby sister but that transition period was hard for both of us.
So to answer my initial question, what do you do when life gives you postpartum depression? I’m not an expert but I would say you get honest and get help. Don’t be embarrassed by your feelings. You are not alone and you don’t have to be. Find a support system, people you trust. Whether it’s your spouse, friend, church…tell someone! Make sure your OBGYN is aware of your feelings as well, especially if you have had thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Postpartum depression can be a dark road but you don’t have to go at it alone. There’s light at the end of that tunnel momma, just hold on!