It hasn't been until recently that I've been able to come to terms with my postpartum depression. I wrote my story down today on my blog and wanted to share it so that hopefully it can help someone or provide encouragement. (I call my son Little Bit for privacy sake) Here's the link to my blog post: http://justalittlebit.blogspot.com/2012/02/my-post-partum-struggle.html It's also copied/pasted below.
"This is something that I have been debating on whether or not to share. I have just recently been able to verbalize my post-partum struggle with a couple of close friends. It's a topic that tends to be a bit taboo and many people just write it off as "feeling blue" or being depressed. It is so much more than that. I really feel like I need to share my story. Some people, my family included, might have a hard time understanding or be upset by it. I am going to speak openly and honestly, because I am learning how many new moms have had the feelings I have had and are afraid to talk about them for fear that people will assume that they are a bad mom.
A little background first...when we found out we were pregnant, we had only been married 7 months. I had just turned 21 three months prior to that and I had two semesters left in college. My husband only had one left. We were both working full-time to support ourselves and going to school full-time. I had decided to go off of the birth control pill in October of 2009 due to my beliefs on birth control. We were still doing some natural family planning and practicing other methods. We found out in January 2010 that we were pregnant. Although, I had known the moment it happened...call it a mother's intuition. I took a test in the early morning before the 2nd day of classes that spring semester, and when it turned positive, I flipped out and not in a good way. I ran screaming into the bedroom saying, "We're pregnant! We're pregnant!" My husband, who had been asleep, rolled over and asked "Are you serious?" I started crying hysterically and telling him how I had ruined his life because he would never be able to go to graduate school and how our lives were over. He rubbed my back and told me I was being silly. I asked him what we were going to do and he said, "Well, I guess we're going to have a baby!" and smiled. He was excited. I wasn't. At all, and wouldn't be for several weeks after. I went to our college clinic and had blood work done to confirm. The next day, the nurse called me and asked me if I wanted to wait until I was with my husband (I was in a Professor's office talking before class) and I said no, just go ahead. She said, "Well you better knit some baby booties!" I said, "Oh, ok. Thanks. Bye" And she seemed taken aback and said I could come talk if needed. I hung up and looked at my professor and said, "Well, I guess I'm pregnant. See you in class." The nurse and my professor were more excited that I was. In the next few weeks, I found myself struggling with wanting this baby. I had one close family member that was not supportive and lectured me about not using birth control and how could I be so careless and how all of my dreams now had to be crushed and I would never make anything of myself now. It wasn't until I thought I was miscarrying that I realized I wanted this baby. It turned out to be normal early pregnancy spotting, but seeing as how I was so young and wasn't prepared for having a baby, I didn't know what it was. I struggled the next 8 months with being excited and being terrified and wishing it would all just go away. I loved my child, but I didn't like change and assumed that it would affect me and my marriage for the worse.
When I was in the hospital getting ready to have Little Bit (the birth story and leading up to that is another story for a different day), I remember thinking "What am I going to do? I'm not ready." The night before he was born, I remember crying hysterically and my husband just holding my hand and saying, "Everything is going to be ok." After Little Bit was born, he had difficulty nursing which added to my discomfort. I took it personally that it meant I was a terrible mom who couldn't even get her child to do something that is completely natural for him. He kept crying and finally, I had to send him to the nursery so we could get some sleep. I didn't want to, because I felt once again like a failure. I couldn't even get my child to stop crying so I passed him off to someone else. I remember the nurse coming in to get him to take him to the nursery and I was crying and told the nurse I was sorry. I was so upset that I couldn't sleep in the hospital bed. I crawled onto the sleeper couch with my husband just so I could have that comfort. I was nauseous and cried the whole night because I couldn't take care of my baby and I wouldn't have the nurses to pass him off to when I went home.
When we did go home, Little Bit continued to struggle with nursing. Our first night home, I had a breakdown and my husband called my best friend and asked her to come over and help me and he went to her house to watch her kids. She came over and tried to help Little Bit latch on but he would just scream bloody murder. The whole first week, he and I spent the majority of our days crying because he wouldn't nurse. I remember trying to breastfeed him and him screaming and I just laid him on my lap and cried while he did, and my husband came and took the baby away from me. I curled up in a fetal position on the couch and cried for awhile. I didn't want to bottlefeed, but the pediatrician I saw recommended supplementing because he had lost a pound since birth which is a no-no and was severely jaundiced. I have my own personal views on that now because I have done some research, but again that is another story for another day. I did begin supplementing because I was afraid I was killing my child. but my friend recommended not doing that because it would affect my milk supply and would not help Little Bit learn to nurse. So I quit and trusted God. The first week home, I lost almost 30 lbs partly from birth and partly because I wasn't able to eat. my dad and stepmom came to visit and said that I just seemed so tense and jumpy.
I know that the nursing issues only added to my post-partum depression. Little Bit finally got the hang of it after about 2-3 weeks, but my depression stayed. I remember my mom taking me to one of Little Bit's many check-ups in the first couple of weeks, and I told her, "I don't want him. I wish I could give him back and it could go back to just me and my husband." I cried constantly. Every Sunday night for at least the first month, I would cry because I knew my husband would have to go back to work the next day and I'd be alone again. Weekends were my relief because he was home. I would literally sit on the couch and watch the clock tick until it was time for him to come home. I did begin eating again and gained 30 lbs over the next few months due to my depression. I think one of the hardest things for me was the overwhelming sense of failure I felt. I was failing as a mom and as a wife. I couldn't fill either of those roles well because I was just focusing on trying to make it the next hour without a panic attack or emotional breakdown. My mom was down everyday the first three months because I didn't want to be alone with Little Bit because I was afraid I wouldn't know how to care for him. I couldn't even find the strength or will to care for myself. I couldn't even shower and get dressed for the day unless we had a doctor's appointment. I would stay in my PJs on the couch the whole day and my husband had to encourage me to take care of myself and my hygiene. I just didn't see the point to it. Inside I felt like an ugly person, so I let my outside match it cosmetically. My husband was an awesome support for me and loved me and Little Bit enough for the both of us through that time.
The thing that upsets me the most now is how I reacted when Little Bit wouldn't stop crying. This is the part where people may get angry with me, but please know that I am sharing something that a lot of women experience but are too ashamed to talk about. He would cry and I would find myself screaming and yelling at him to stop. I remember on a couple of those awful nights, I realized how easy it would be to make him go away, if you understand what I am saying. I know myself, and know those thoughts would never come to fruition, but they were still there and I was ashamed of myself for even thinking them. On those nights, I would pray, "Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy..." over and over and over until we both calmed down. My guilt from thinking those awful things added to my depression and I found myself slipping even further into it.
I loved my son, but sometimes I didn't like him and therefore felt distant from him. People would say that he was so cute and I would just half-smile because I didn't really care. No one knew what it was like behind closed doors. He was an extremely difficult baby for the first 3-4 months and I was shadow of myself through this time. I didn't even like going out of the house because I was afraid people would see what an awful mother I was and judge me. I felt like I shouldn't be having this depression; I was a new mom and babies bring joy. So why couldn't I just put my big girl panties on and deal with it? Also going on during this time, we were in the middle of some family issues and were in the process of becoming Orthodox. We were baptized when Little Bit was three months which was a stressful time. Tensions were high with our family due to those issues and them not understanding and/or supporting us becoming Orthodox which only added to my overwhelming post-partum depression. After that, Little Bit started getting easier to handle and I felt the dark cloud that had followed me those past few months beginning to lift by the grace of God.
I think that post-partum depression is a serious issue that needs to be less taboo and should be talked about without judging the mothers. I read this article yesterday which prompted me to write this. My only hope with writing this post is to shed light on post-partum depression and share my struggle with it. It does get better; it does sometimes require medication and it does require time. Seek help. Reach out to someone, even to me, and don't go through it alone.
I still have difficult moments being a new mother and realize that our lives would be a lot easier and with a lot more freedom if we didn't have him, but I know that our lives wouldn't be fulfilled. God gave us Little Bit in His perfect timing and I love being his mommy and wouldn't change it for the world. Being parents has affected mine and my husband's relationship, but for the better. We love seeing each other in our new roles and enjoy seeing the fruition of our love for one another in this tiny human being. We are closer than ever and Little Bit made us want to be better people for his sake. Every decision we make now is for him. He is the light of our lives and we love loving and being loved by him. Every smile, every laugh makes us fall more in love with him and with each other."