Postpartum Depression Affects 15% of Women
I Tried to End My Life
I tried to end my life a few times. I used sleeping pills and alcohol. Obviously, it didn’t work. Some days I feel so lucky that it didn’t work. Some days I wish it had. Depression has a grip on my brain in ways that are unexplainable, even to those that also suffer from mental health issues.
In recent years it has become less and less “embarrassing” to discuss mental health. We have become a society that is more empathetic. On any given day there is someone on my newsfeed that is talking about their own mental health or concern over someone else’s mental health. There are numerous resources, many of them free, to help those suffering. There are even phone numbers to call and speak with counselors anonymously.
Post Partum Depression
However, there is one mental health issue that is hardly ever discussed. Bringing it up is frowned up on. There are times when even talking about it amongst others suffering from it, seems, well, wrong. I suffered from it. I have multiple friends who suffered from it. I felt ashamed to talk about it. That needs to change. I’m talking about Postpartum Depression.
Some form of Postpartum Depression happens to approximately 70-80% of women. This is according to Postpartumdepression.org. So why are we not allowed to talk about it yet? Why are we ashamed to admit it affects us?
Expectations of Motherhood
Women are expected to bounce right back after giving birth. Most women are in and out of the hospital in 1-2 days after giving birth. We’re thrust into this role as ultimate care giver, and don’t even have time to breathe for ourselves. Every waking moment is dedicated to keeping this living, breathing creature, alive. Never mind that some of us have had extremely traumatic experiences and still haven’t had time to let our bodies heal or our minds relax.
I was told throughout my pregnancy that all my pain was “just normal pregnancy pain”. I was told that because so many other women dealt with it, I would have to as well. I ended up in the hospital twice while I was pregnant. Had to stay more than a night each time. It wasn’t fun. I had infections and the pain caused me to have multiple issues with my diabetes. So no, my pain wasn’t normal. Not to mention I had only had spinal fusion surgery 10 months prior to getting pregnant. I wasn’t healed and the pregnancy was causing me to have many more back problems.
Yet, through the pregnancy I kept telling myself “it’s ok. This is the ultimate test. All this pain will be worth it when you see your little girl. You went through 11 years of hell to get pregnant. Just deal with it. The pain will go away when she is here.”
On June 9, 2016, after 48 hours of labor and 72 hours in the hospital because of numerous health issues, I gave birth to a perfect little girl. She was very healthy and had no issues other than a little jaundice. She also had a rash on her butt that the Doctor said may have been from me needing so many pain meds the last couple weeks I was pregnant. I don’t remember much about those first few hours of her life. I remember them putting her on my chest and me saying “Dave take her. I can’t. Don’t let a stranger be the first to hold her.” Then I kept hearing a voice saying “don’t close your eyes. Whatever you do don’t close them. You’ll never open them again.” Turns out I was losing too much blood. I nearly died.
My first memory after that is waking up in extreme pain. Not just the pain from the c-section, but back pain, as well. CJ wanted to eat. I wanted to breast feed. CJ was perfect. She latched right on. Nothing happened. Not enough to keep her fed.
My pain was unbearable. I kept being told that it was normal. I told them there is no way my pain was normal. I felt like someone was stabbing me all over my back while setting it on fire and throwing rocks at it. I was told it was normal. I was given Percocet and told to rest.
Being a “Good Mother”
The lactation coach came in and told me I had to breast feed if I wanted to be a good mother. I’m sure this couldn’t have been legal, but I was far too weak, and far too drugged up to fight. I wanted to breast feed. It was one of my main goals. I knew I needed to. I couldn’t pump. My back hurt too bad to even try and breastfeed. I could barely hold my baby, let alone a bottle. It was awful.
At this point, while still in the hospital, I felt the darkness creeping in. That voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, was back. That voice that told me, I wasn’t smart, wasn’t good, wasn’t funny, wasn’t pretty, wasn’t strong, was back. This time with full on anger. “What do you mean you can’t breast feed? You can’t walk? Your back doesn’t hurt that bad. There are women who have been through worse. You’re just weak.”
The Darkness that Followed
I ignored it. I cried at night and just felt awful — psychically, mentally, emotionally, absolutely awful. We were able to go home after a very long six days in the hospital. I told myself the darkness would go away when I was home.
It didn’t. I spent the first few months of my daughter’s life in extreme pain. My back muscles felt like they were being ripped from my body. I couldn’t take a deep breath without crying. I was popping three times as many pills as were prescribed because of my tolerance for meds. I could barely hold the baby. I couldn’t eat. I lost 45lbs the first three weeks after I gave birth, including the weight I lost at the hospital.
I started going to physical therapy and my back got stronger. It hurt less. I could carry the baby for longer periods. I was starting to feel better but was never able to breast feed. This one thing stayed with me and still haunts me. I just can’t wrap my head around not being strong enough to do it.
Despite my back feeling as normal as it possibly could, I was still struggling. Some days I would wake up, and this is the hardest thing to admit, and I didn’t want to be a mom. I regretted being a mom. I felt bad that I brought this human into the world that I knew I couldn’t take care of. I just wanted to run away and never look back. I didn’t want to hurt her, and I didn’t want to hurt myself. I didn’t want to keep going either. I could feel all my bad thoughts coming to a boil and exploding in my brain.
The Break Down
I had a major break down and told my husband I didn’t want to live anymore. I told him I was dying. I knew my depression was taking over again. I’d been diagnosed with depression before and had been on many different drug combos. None of the meds helped and a couple even made me have more suicidal thoughts. He reached out to some friends of ours and that’s when my “therapy” started. Sure, it wasn’t me seeing a professional, (Though one of my friends is an amazing counselor by profession. Shout out to you, Sara), but talking to my friends and telling them everything, really did help. All my issues I was having with being a mom. All my issues I was having in my marriage since the baby came along. All my pains. Being able to just get it off my chest helped a lot.
We Aren’t Alone
The thing that helped the most though, was realizing I wasn’t “crazy”. I wasn’t alone either. So many other women I talked to, told me they had major depression after giving birth. Some women had never had depression before and had no idea what was wrong with them.
Then I read horror story after horror story about women suffering from postpartum depression who took their lives. Women who sometimes harmed their children and themselves. These women who probably didn’t have an Alison or a Sara or a Casey to help them through. These are the women I leaned on. I turned to. I confided in. Other women aren’t this lucky.
Make Your Voice Heard
There are resources out there for women with Postpartum Depression. There are doctors, and hotlines, and community services to help you through. It’s not enough though.
If we continue to push this issue under the rug and turn our noses up at it, then all the services in the world won’t do any good. We need to stop being ashamed of the supposed “baby blues”. We need to understand we are never alone. Women need to talk to other women about it.
I hope the women in my life know they can come to me. I’ll always be willing to listen. We all have different struggles. So, I’ll never compare your heartache and mental health to my own.
We need to make this common problem a common topic of conversation. Find your people. Find your crew. Talk about it. I guarantee you know more women who have suffered or are currently suffering from PPD, than you think you do.
Remember “I am woman! Hear me roar!”
Note: If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, please know that no one is alone. Talk to a friend or loved one. If you are in crisis, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
Author: Alexandra Leonardis
Alexandra is a clumsy, funny stay at home mom to a beautiful 4-year-old. She is currently the Moderator for Cool Moms of Northern NJ.