So, I really didn’t want to write this post. I’ve been struggling with the idea of it for some time. Most of my posts are general in nature and don’t deal much with my personal experience, but I truly believe God has been laying this on my heart. If you are reading this blog, you probably have friends with new babies, you have a new baby, or you work with children whose moms have new babies. I have been silent about my experience for six years, but I believe God is calling me to share. Maybe this “Spirited Sunday” post will reach someone who is struggling! If you or someone you know is dealing with postpartum depression, feel free to share this. Here’s a small part of my story…
I had heard about women who struggled with postpartum depression, but I never expected to be one of them. And yet, looking back, all the risk factors were there. I had an amazing amount of stress in my life: my dad died (at age 49) when I was five months pregnant, I had to quit my job, my husband finished school and started a new job, we moved to a new town, and then I had my first baby. She was almost two weeks overdue and born after ten hours of induced labor via emergency c-section. After my mom saw her, she remarked, “I’ve never seen a newborn so alert.” What an understatement! My description of her was hyper-alert. At her two week appointment, I remember sobbing and sobbing because I thought she didn’t seem like other newborns. Weren’t “normal” newborns supposed to sleep a little? She spent all her time crying. I remember taking her to my mom’s house when she was three weeks old. It was an agonizing three hour drive — she cried for almost all of it.
And so the depression began. I couldn’t see an end to the baby’s crying (she was quite colicky until about four months). I barely slept, and the sleep I did get was so fragmented it was almost worthless. I had thoughts of sending her away until she was older. I would get in the car and imagine myself driving off the road and wrecking, so I wouldn’t have to hear any more crying. There were terrible moments of panic and fear. I really thought I was losing my mind. In the middle of all the night wakings, I would scream and curse (if you know me at all, you know this isn’t me and doesn’t really fit my personality). It was so agonizing. I could not shake it, and I couldn’t seem to change it. I kept crying out to God, but I was in the darkest night of my soul I had ever experienced. (Writing it down now sounds so terrible, but I promised myself I would be honest. I believe there is someone out there going through this right now who needs to know someone else has been there.) Everything was fuzzy, and I really didn’t believe I would make it through. I knew I needed help, but I felt powerless to find it. I was way too embarrassed. I mean, I had a beautiful baby — shouldn’t I be happy?
The extremely sad part is I never did get the help I needed, and I suffered through it for almost a year. We wanted more children, but I was absolutely terrified at the thought of going through that again. But by the time our oldest was 17 months old, I was pregnant again. You would think I would’ve learned, but I suffered silently again. The depression with my second one wasn’t nearly as intense as before. I had a little better support system, and it didn’t last as long. I was back to myself (well, as “back to myself” as I could be with two little children) when our second child was six months old. And then guess what? I found myself expecting again when she was just eight months old. I was in shock, but I was determined to get help this time.
I was very proactive even before the baby was born. I was not going to go through it again. I really think if I had suffered through it a third time, I would’ve tried to end my life. It was incredibly devastating for me. Plus, having three children ages three and under was difficult enough without adding postpartum depression to the mix! With my third pregnancy, I took a non-conventional approach. I found an amazing book called A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock. I followed a lot of the nutritional advice. I also had my hormone levels tested and took bio-identical hormones after the baby was born. After the test, my doctor told me I “had the hormone levels of an 80 year old woman. No wonder you feel terrible.” (If that’s what I’ll feel like when I’m 80, I’m not convinced I want to get there!) Anyway, it made all the difference in the world. I know it is a “controversial” approach, but I truly believe it worked for me.
Postpartum depression has a way of sucking all the life out of you. I look back with deep regret. I didn’t even get to enjoy my first two babies. All those sweet little moments I had with Sunshine (my third baby), I don’t remember having with my oldest ones. It makes me wistful, but it also makes me angry. I can’t get those wasted days back, but maybe God can use me to help someone else avoid or make it safely through postpartum depression. No one should have to suffer silently.