At first, I tried to keep the crying quiet. I didn’t want to wake my sleeping newborn or worry my sleep-deprived husband. When the sobs couldn’t be muffled by the bathroom door any longer, I told my husband it was just the baby blues. My ob/gyn had warned me about the baby blues. They were sure to pass.
But they didn’t pass. In fact, the crying got worse. I felt hopeless. I whispered “I’m sorry” over and over again as my tears splashed on my baby’s head. I sobbed apologies into my husband’s shoulder as he tried to comfort me while holding our newborn son. I knew I was making an already difficult situation harder, but I couldn’t stop.
I told my husband that I wished we hadn’t had a baby. This was just too hard. When people tried to convince me that I didn’t mean it, I knew they were wrong. I meant it. I wanted my old life back.
I had to admit things were bad when I looked at the bottle of morphine the hospital had sent home with me and wondered if it would be enough to kill me. But I didn’t know what to do about it. I was too tired to make any decisions. It took me days to call my mom for help. And it wasn’t until my son’s pediatrician told me I had to take care of myself that I dragged myself to the emergency room.
Lots of things contributed to my depression, including a miscarriage a year before, trouble conceiving and a personal history of depression. I was also experiencing trouble breastfeeding; I felt like I was failing my baby. Add to that hormonal changes and sleep deprivation and I was a mess.
Many more things and people contributed to my recovery. My husband’s steadfast support was most important. I am so grateful I live in a province with dedicated paternity leave. We also have good friends who let me text and call at all hours of the day. I kept needing reassurance because of my anxiety, and my friends patiently gave me that reassurance. They also made sure we had food and company. I remember one night in particular. I texted friends that the baby wouldn’t sleep, and I was losing my mind. At five in the morning, a good friend came to drive my crying baby and tired husband around so I could get a precious hour of sleep. That hour of sleep and quiet kept me from breaking, as did so many other kindnesses from friends and family.
I was also lucky enough to be working with a postpartum doula who not only reassured us that our baby was okay, but also helped us find a therapist who works with parents experiencing postpartum mood disorders.
Without the support of friends, family and experts, I don’t think that I’d be enjoying time with my little guy now. Medication also played an important role in my recovery. The first day I went without crying, I texted the same friends who had received all my middle of the night breakdowns. They were there to celebrate with me, just as they had been there when all I could do was talk obsessively about the baby’s weight and sleep.
Six weeks doesn’t sound like much time now, but it felt like forever and I would not go back there for anything. I was ashamed of what I saw as weakness and scared of the disturbing images that would flash through my mind. My psychiatrist and therapist helped normalise how I felt. They even reassured me that the images of my baby flying into a wall did not mean I was going to hurt him. I needed to hear that other mothers saw these things and didn’t hurt their babies.
Labour has nothing on the pain of post-partum depression. I’m not saying I’m fully recovered. I still have bad days. I often feel guilty for things that are outside my control. (When I learned baby acne was caused by the hormones in breast milk, I even blamed myself for this common, minor skin condition. Like I can control my hormones!) When we have a bad night’s sleep I worry that I could go back to the really dark place. Sometimes, I still feel overwhelmed by simple tasks, like doing the dishes. But I feel so much more like myself now than I did just a few months ago, and I try to celebrate the small accomplishments—like finally figuring out how to shower when it’s just me and the baby!
If you’re suffering, you’re not alone. And you’re not a bad mother. Moms deserve love too. We need to take care of ourselves and each other.
Amie M says
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This needs to be talked about more! And the fact that it’s not always sadness… I never recognized my PPD because I wasn’t THAT sad but, man, was I ever angry! I was filled with rage. I’m so happy that you are feeling better Amie. I’m 4 years and 2 kids into my struggle and there are still bad days but being able to talk about it makes it 100 times easier and, because of people like you speaking out, it keeps getting easier!
Melissa O says
Oh my gosh Amanda!! Mine was rage too! It wasn’t until a friend had a baby last year that I finally learned that rage is a symptom too.
Maeg K. says
That place of deep, dark honesty is hard to articulate and painful to admit to ourselves. You’ve not only been honest with yourself but with all of us too and that’s huge. Thanks for your vulnerability. Your story has and will continue to help so many families.