I’m cleaning out my car the other day and finding the odd little things moms find in their cars – a pair of shoes, one sock, three My Little Ponies and a monster truck. These make me smile because at one point in my car all that was there was Chick-fil-a trash, which also makes me smile, but for different reasons. I love finding toys here and there, reminding me how lucky I am that I have two beautiful, clever children who love me.
But to be honest, after giving birth to them my depression worsened. My hormones and brain chemistry were altered and I went down dark roads I never imagined existed. Do I regret having babies? No way. Will I have more? No way. But I do want to discuss Postpartum Depression and Post Weaning Depression.
During my first pregnancy, I was happy a lot, albeit anxious, even though my family was facing terrible times – my husband’s dad died and there was chaos within the family. But my hormones wouldn’t let me be sad a whole lot during these times. After giving birth to a girl, I breastfed her for 8 months. I felt the depression creeping back in and I no longer had the protection of pregnancy hormones to keep me happy. I stopped breastfeeding cold turkey, without so much as talking to a lactation consultant or my doctor. I just wanted to get back on meds (at this time I was told by my now former psychiatrist that I would not be able to be on meds and breastfeed, which is not true).
The pain in my breasts was nothing compared to the waves of depression that crashed down on me over and over. I was suicidal. My husband and mom didn’t understand what was happening. My doctors didn’t know what to do so they recommended I go to the local psychiatric hospital, which I didn’t want to do and I found inadequate. I felt my whole postpartum care was inadequate, except for my OB’s care. Once I was on meds, and then more meds, the darkness began to let up. The suicidal thoughts receded.
I was on meds on top of meds and it was then I was labeled “treatment resistant.” I felt brushed off my psychiatrist. This was what it was going to be like forever? When my daughter was about 16 or 17 months old, my husband and I decided I would get off my meds and try for another baby. Secretly I was hoping to feel the happiness I had felt with my first pregnancy but no such luck. I felt anxious and moody, but I could go several weeks without a migraine, so there’s that. It was a difficult pregnancy – I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 20 weeks followed by polyhydraminos which led me to give birth to my son at 37 weeks. So I was relieved when it was over and I was prepared for the PPD, asking for Zoloft as soon as I could get it. My OB understood. Nobody wanted a repeat of last time.
And even though I was prepared and on medication, it still hit. It was more than the “baby blues.” I was sad all the time, I didn’t think anyone else could take care of the baby the way I could which led to exhaustion, which led to more anxiety and irritability. I constantly checked on the baby and worried. I was weepy. And worst case scenarios always popped through my head. Plus, I had a toddler to take care of. Whether you have help is irrelevant. You feel so alone and scared. It’s like someone has taken over your body and brain. When it gets really bad, you have suicidal thoughts. If that happens, you need to tell someone and seek help immediately by going to the ER or calling 911.
The “baby blues” affects up to 80% of births, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), but those symptoms are mild and usually go away after about two weeks. The NIMH also says that PPD affects almost 15% of births – that sounds awfully low to me – symptoms are severe and can began between a week to a month after delivery. Because of the severity of PPD’s symptoms, women may have trouble taking care of themselves and the baby, so it’s really important to take note of your symptoms – how long they stick around and just how bad they get.
Postpartum depression is no joke and I had never heard of Post Weaning Depression after breastfeeding before I experienced it. People are starting to learn more about PPD and Post Weaning Depression but it’s still something that needs to discussed. It’s not just a “women’s problem” that should be discussed behind closed doors. Forget that. It really does take a village.