I know I’m not alone in this. I know the statistics, I have lots of Mommy friends who’ve experienced the same thing and I’m sure that you, sitting there reading at home, will be nodding your head in agreement at some point of this post.
Yet, even with that knowledge, this topic is still hard to talk about. It feels wrong and shameful and selfish in so many ways. And that is what is so fucked up about it. The taboo. The unknown X-factor that is super scary. The knowledge that it can go from manageable to a mental shit show in the blink of an eye. Postpartum depression is real, it really happens and I am still completely terrified by it.
I’ve heard people refer to postpartum as “the baby blues”. Nothing pisses me off more. It sounds so trivial, so minimized. Like it could even be the name of a chord progression in a song. I realize that some people are too stupid to understand medical terminology…. so “the baby blues” sounds perfectly fine to them. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman, who’s fought with the demon that is postpartum, refer to it that way.
My youngest son is almost 3 months old. So it seems to me that I have dodged the bullet this time around. Which is probably the only reason I’m even venturing into writing about it. Because otherwise I’d be in the bathroom crying right now.
Here’s a disclaimer that I feel I need to point out. I am not a parenting or mental health authority, by any means. I’m just a gal with a computer, a big mouth, too many kids and a shit-load of thoughts running through her head. If you need help, ask for it. Call a doctor, or a friend, hell, you can even send me a message, I’ll point you in the right direction.
After my first son was born I was a fucking wreck. I’d never stayed at home before, I’d always held a job. A job where I was able to use my brain on a daily basis, and interact with other adults. Now, I’d given birth and became a stay-at-home housewife overnight. Rote behavior was my new best friend. Wash laundry, fold laundry put away laundry. I imagined this is what postal workers must feel like… and knew the madness behind the repetition. I was so ashamed this was happening to me. People kept asking if I was alright and I kept lying through my teeth. Completely sure it was all my fault with a smile on my face and a lie in my eyes. And my son, this beautiful, perfect child whom I felt I didn’t deserve. I couldn’t stop staring at him, convinced that my husband was the only reason I had been so fortunate. Looking back I can’t believe the tricks my brain played on me. I ended up self-medicating, trying to get that inner voice to shut the hell up. It was awful, and it got really ugly before it got better. Embarrassing ugly. I’m not proud of my behavior. I alienated friends and family. Although I never endangered my son, I endangered myself. If it wasn’t for my husband’s determination, things would have been very different. I owe him my life.
When I got pregnant the second time I was petrified. I had a glorious pregnancy and vowed to myself I wouldn’t let my brain get the best of me. But that isn’t how postpartum works, unfortunately. You can’t will yourself into good mental health. There is no recipe for what causes it. Sometimes it just is. And after number 2 was born, I found myself falling down the rabbit hole again. Scared shitless that I was powerless.
This time around I consulted my Doctor. I wasn’t embarrassed like I’d been the first time around but I was worried. Really worried. I couldn’t go back to the person I was before, I wouldn’t. My Doctor put me on an antidepressant and it did help. But the thing about antidepressants is that while you don’t feel sad, you don’t really feel… anything. I’m a pretty passionate person, so this was a real shock. No ups, no downs, not to mention no orgasms. You’re just… kinda numb.
But the antidepressants were a very good call. After about 6 months my Doctor and I weaned myself off and my hormones had regulated themselves back to normal levels. I felt really good. Great even. But the time on the medication had helped me to put on some weight that I had a very hard time taking off. Still, I would have done it again in a heartbeat.
You can just imagine my fear when we decided to have a third baby. Beyond fear…. real, true, fucking panic.
But here I am. Another awesome pregnancy under my belt (and thighs, and boobs). A beautiful baby boy smiling in my face and that postpartum monster is nowhere to be found. I have no idea why?
Believe me, I’m just too busy being thankful (and making lunches and washing dishes and folding laundry).
If you are lost in the sea of postpartum depression please know you aren’t alone. And you shouldn’t be ashamed.
And it will get better.