Approximately 10-15% of women suffer from Post Partum Depression. That is a statistic you will find all over the internet. What that percentage doesn’t account for are the many women who keep their depression a secret. Normal women who, under pressure from others or themselves, tuck the feelings away for fear that they will be seen as weak or worse- unfit. Well, I am a normal woman. I suffered from PPD. I hid it and my life was rocked by it.
It all began on the day I gave birth to my son and let me preface this by saying, my OBGYN was a cruel human and his staff was equally sadistic.
My son was born into a room of misery. I was ignored through my entire C-section. My OB discussed sports with his partner shortly after discussing who was getting what cut of the money I would be paying for my child to be brought into this world (obviously I was paying cash or this couldn’t have been a conversation). My body shook, as a result of the spinal block, for the entire thing. I was terrified that it was going to effect the outcome of the surgery. I asked the anesthesiologist, “Is this normal?”, he walked away. I begged the anesthesiology student to tell me if it was going to be an issue and she said, “No.” That’s all. My husband was next to my while this went on, I think he was in shock over it all. He held my head and did the best he could to calm me. Shortly after I held my boy, my husband was whisked away with our son to the nursery.
I laid alone on a table while they stitched me up. Once I was done, I was subjected to a barrage of comments about my weight. How many people would it take to lift me? You better get at least five people in here to help! I just laid there crying and numb. It was like a normal thing to see a new mother cry and not to even acknowledge it.
I was wheeled to recovery to sit in a dark room alone. I begged to see my son, nope, hospital policy that he should stay in the nursery for an hour. I cried in the dark until finally my husband came in. I was hysterical at this point. He went and got my mother who held me while I was inconsolable. I felt like I was drowning- I just couldn’t breathe. I kept thinking, this is not how it should feel!
I was finally taken to my room and they brought my son to me. I nursed him and felt a small bit of relief from the terrible sadness that was consuming me. Holding my first born was incredible! I didn’t want to let him go, I barely gave anyone else any time to hold him.( I cried most of the time but when I look back I think those tears were from the all encompassing love and happiness I felt having brought this child into the world.)
It was time for them to take him to the nursery to check him out- again. My husband followed closely and didn’t let him out of his sight. The nurses checked my son’s sugar and in what seemed like a calculated event the nurses threatened my husband and scared him. Our son’s blood sugar was too low and if he didn’t allow them to give formula right at that very moment, then they would put our son in the NICU so we wouldn’t have a say. My poor husband had to come back and tell me this. I cried. What else could possibly go wrong?
I discharged from the hospital early, I refused to stay any longer. My son was healthy and I would be better to heal at home in a loving environment. I couldn’t shake these feelings of extreme sadness and fear, and unfortunately didn’t for a very long time.
A week after his birth, I went to have my staples removed. I told my OB that I was having serious issues. I was crying constantly and couldn’t get myself out of the house. I was having some strange thoughts and couldn’t control my emotions at all. I was told, of course that’s all normal! After birth emotions run high. That was it. He sent me on his way, perhaps he had an important golf game that day.
Time went on. My life got harder. My husband and I had some personal changes (starting a business) and we moved a couple of times in the first few months of parenthood. Money became a stress that I had never known before. We started fighting non stop, partly because I had developed a fear of my husband and because I had started keeping financial things from him due to my irrational fear. My thoughts and emotions became darker as I retreated back into myself. Soon a fight erupted between my husband and I at my mothers house. It was catastrophic. There was something wrong here. We all acknowledged it finally. I cried. The depression had taken me hostage, I had been keeping so many secrets at this point there was no turning back. We started to delve into our issues and try to figure things out but before we could really get things together, I was pregnant again.
My second pregnancy was hard. Even though I had a doctor/midwife team that understood me and monitored me, I was struggling. My marriage was now tainted and if you walked into a room with both of us in it, the tension was palpable. We fought over secrets I had kept and the stress of a new business did not help our situation. We tried hard to keep it together even though I could barely function and he didn’t understand.
Shortly after our daughter was born I went to my OB and told her how I was feeling and how it was affecting my life. She sat with my while I cried to her, she put her hand on my knee and said that it was time to get some outside help. She wrote me a prescription for an antidepressant and said,”I’m writing this for you. What you decide to do with it is your choice.” I left her office and didn’t know what to do with it and I was so confused about what my next step should be.
It took me two weeks to make my decision. I filled the prescription and made my first appointment with a counselor. A 6 month cocktail of therapy and medication and I could finally see the light. My husband and I stopped fighting and started working together to fix the things in our marriage and our everyday life that needed fixing. We made it to the other side.
When I became pregnant with my third, I was scared. I didn’t want to sink into that abyss again. As soon as I had my first appointment with my new doctor, I told him my history. He told me that he would monitor me and we would stay on top of it. I had a wonderful pregnancy and an absolutely beautiful and healing birth with my third. I kept waiting for the beast to rear its ugly head again, but it never did.
It’s been two years since I had my third. Life is normal and sometimes boring. My relationship weathered a terrible storm and made it out stronger. PPD is serious and it is not discussed openly and honestly enough. Sometimes we need help, sometimes we need medication, we ALWAYS need support from those closest to us. The number one thing I have learned is that we, as women, as patients, as mothers, as people, NEED to advocate for ourselves. You know when something is wrong. Trust your gut.