I have always read about women who do terrible things to their children, and when they go to trial, they are let off due to being diagnosed with postpartum depression. These stories have always made me angry, because I felt that women were just making excuses for terrible actions that are inexcusable. While I do feel these actions are without excuse, I never dreamed that I would be one to suffer from postpartum depression. I would like to tell my story to shed some light on this medical condition, and perhaps encourage others to get help before they do something they will regret.
After almost two years of happy marriage, I wanted to have a baby in the worst way. There were days when all I did was dream about being a mom. When we found out we were pregnant, we were excited, but not surprised. We had always planned on trying to conceive starting on our second wedding anniversary, and we got pregnant the first month of trying. The pregnancy was uneventful for the first two trimesters. My husband loved watching my belly grow, and we were having fun getting everything ready for our new baby. I wanted a boy, he wouldn’t say what he wanted, but I had a feeling he wanted a girl.
Six months into my pregnancy, I started to swell considerably. This was just a normal part of pregnancy, everyone told me, but I had a feeling something was not right. At each subsequent prenatal visit my blood pressure continued to steadily climb. Finally, at 33 weeks, my blood pressure spiked to dangerous levels and I was sent to the hospital. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a condition where a mother’s blood pressure spikes, she experiences tremendous swelling, and her kidneys start dumping proteins into her urine. They kept the baby in until 34 weeks 1 day, and then they decided I was too sick to stay pregnant, and my daughter was born six weeks early. I was only able to hold her for a few moments before she was wisked away to the neo-natal intensive care unit to be evaluated and stabilized. It was not until a full day after her birth that I was allowed to really hold my daughter. It was totally understandable that I was sad in the first days after birth.
My daughter stayed in the hospital for thirteen days. These thirteen days were the most emotional days of my life. It killed me that someone else was taking care of my baby. I felt like a failure as a mom because I was the one that got sick and caused her to be born early. I had always planned on breastfeeding my children, and had a mental image of it being a blissful time of bonding with mother and child. All those dreams came crashing down. Preemies have an extremely difficult time nursing, and my daughter did not take to the breast well. All my dreams about the first days of parenthood were crushed. I went into survival mode, traveling back and forth to the hospital to be with her, all the while trying to recover myself. The understandable sadness deepened
When she finally came home, I just new everything was going to be fine. But it wasn’t. She had some lingering health problems and cried all the time due to stomach pain. I felt like a failure again because I thought it was my milk that was making her tummy hurt. When I didn’t know what to do to help her when she was crying, I felt like the worst mother on earth. I cried constantly. After several sleepless nights, I began to wish I had never become a mother. Then we discovered that she was suffering from acid reflux disease. She got on medication, and suddenly became the happy baby I had always dreamed of. I knew I was finally going to enjoy being a mom.
But I didn’t enjoy motherhood; In fact, I hated it! People would ask me, “Isn’t being a mom wonderful?” Each time the question was asked, I wanted to scream or cry. These feelings added to my feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As the medical bills started coming in, all I could think about was how we were going to pay for them. I became obsessed with thinking about money. I started having attacks where I couldn’t breath and my heart would start racing. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep. I cried for no reason. I felt like the worst mother on earth, and everything I did was wrong.
Then I stopped wanting to care for my daughter. I took care of her because I knew I was supposed to, but I had no desire to care for her. Then I started having crazy thoughts. I pictured myself hurting my daughter, and one day when driving to my in-laws, I pictured myself driving off the side of the overpass and ending it all. I felt like my daughter would be better off if we put her up for adoption and started over. In my mind, I knew my husband and daughter would be better off without me. I blamed myself for our financial difficulties. While none of the thoughts were logical, they were extremely real to me. I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.
I had been taught that depression medications were dangerous and addictive. I felt that I should be able to control my emotions, and I thought the feelings would eventually go away. It took me a three weeks to admit that something was wrong, and it was my mother who finally convinced me to get help. I kept looking back on the events surrounding the birth of my daughter, and I felt that there were logical reasons for me to be sad. But after starting to have suicidal thoughts, and calling my mom daily for three weeks in tears, I finally realized these feelings were not something I could control. I was suffering from postpartum depression, and it was getting worse, not better.
I went to my obstetrician and she prescribed anti depressants. She said that I needed to seek counseling from my pastor. She explained that the depression worked like a cold. The medication does not heal the problem, but it keeps the symptoms at bay while the inside has time to heal. I started taking the medication, and it made me feel even worse for the first week. Then, almost overnight, I started feeling better. It was wonderful! I was enjoying my daughter for the first time, and motherhood began to be the joy I had dreamed of.
My pastor warned me that the depression would come back, but I didn’t believe him. I was having so much fun, and I just knew I was completely better. Then about three days after I started feeling relief, I came crashing down again. Out of the blue I started crying, overwhelmed with feelings of despair and sadness. But gradually I began to feel better. As I came out of my stupor, I realized that I was not a terrible mom, and we started enjoying life together as a family.
My daughter is now four and a half months old. I love every minute I spend with her, and I would not trade being a mom for anything. I am still getting counsel and taking medication. I know I could have a setback, but I have hope that I will finally get better.
Postpartum depression is a very real problem. The feelings I experienced were so overwhelming, that if I did not have a caring, supportive husband who supported me through the dark days, I probably would not be here today. I am telling my story so that other women will know that feeling this way does not make them a bad person. Postpartum depression is a medical condition and it can and should be treated as such. Motherhood is a wonderful blessing, and I would like to urge women who are experiencing postpartum depression to seek help-it is definitely worth it!