I spent the first six months of my twins lives sad, overwhelmed and exhausted. I questioned everything. We spent more time in doctor’s offices than at home. I was convinced I was a terrible mother. I had Postpartum Depression. I didn’t know it and no one asked me about how I was feeling. I would have told them that I didn’t think I could do this. I felt that these two brand-new lives would be better off with a mother that knew what they needed, could soothe them when they cried and would rock them gently to sleep instead of sobbing over their bassinets begging them to sleep.
I was a trailblazer. Twins. Double the blessing, double the work. It was so much more than that. My hormones were raging a war inside my body but I didn’t realize it through the sleep deprivation and diapers. I thought this was motherhood. These are the sacrifices we make to keep our babies alive. Sad and lonely, I cried as much as my colicky babies did. This was my new normal and it would be another three months before I realized that something was wrong with me. This internal war that was being fought wasn’t my fault and the thoughts of despair weren’t a normal reaction to being a new mother. It was Postpartum Depression. I needed help. I let go of all the pride I had and talked to my husband and my family. I went to my doctor and was given a prescription and a referral to a counselor. I started to feel the life re-enter my body again and was finally able to bond with my babies.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
Postpartum Depression is simply a complication of giving birth. It is not as simple as the ‘baby blues’. Described as a mood disorder, it can manifest itself as sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, and the feeling of hopelessness. Our levels of hormones including estrogen and progesterone, drop quickly after birth. Those chemical changes in the brain can trigger the feelings of Postpartum Depression. Combined with the sleepless nights and newly demanding days, many mothers will suffer from it even mildly. Physically, our bodies are still trying to heal from the trauma of birth and our brains are just trying to keep up. This is not something to be ashamed of or hide from. This is a chemical problem, not an emotional one.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
There is no set list of symptoms of Postpartum Depression however, there are some common symptoms many women suffer from.
• Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
• Crying more and/or for no apparent reason
• Oversleeping, or not sleeping at all.
• Lack of concentration, focus, or memory loss.
• Experiencing anger or rage. (I threatened my husband with a fork.)
• Not having the desire to enjoy things and activities you once did.
• Suffering physically. Persistent headaches, aches and pains through the body unrelated to child birth.
• Eating too much or not eating enough.
• Becoming withdrawn from friends and family. Avoiding common places.
• Not being able to bond with you babies. Not wanting to bond with them.
• The feeling that you aren’t good enough for your babies. Thinking you are failing them.
• Thoughts of harming your babies.
The more dangerous “friend” to Postpartum Depression is Postpartum Psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a rare disease. It most commonly happens within the first three weeks after giving birth. If you have any of the following symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately. Left untreated, Postpartum Psychosis can result in your baby being harmed.
- Confusion beyond being sleep deprived.
- Hallucinations and delusions.
- Major sleep issues.
- Severe paranoia
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby. This is most important if you find yourself having fantasies about harming yourself or your baby seek immediate medical attention.
The good news about Postpartum Depression is that more and more doctors are better at asking the right questions and listening more closely to your answers. What was once dismissed as simple “baby blues” is now being treated as the real medical condition it is.
There are effective treatments for postpartum depression. Your doctor can help you choose the best treatment, which can include:
Counseling: Talking one-on-one with a mental health professional (a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker) can be a great tool to relieve the weight off your shoulders. The two most effective types of counseling are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Which helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts and behaviors. (This is what my therapist used)
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): Helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships.
Medication: Antidepressant medications act on the brain chemicals that are involved in mood regulation. Many antidepressants take a few weeks to be most effective. Many of these medications are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.
A few of my favorite resources are right online and helped me navigate my feelings after my twins were born. I liked having a community of mothers that understood my feelings and didn’t judge me.
• Postpartum Progress is an amazing website that connects real women and shares their stories. They have a Facebook page as well.
• MentalHealth.Gov has articles on everything from coping with loss to resources to seek help. They also have a Spanish version.
• National Institute of Mental Health does its research through clinical trials. They are the lead federal agency on mental health research.
Remember the best thing you can do for your babies is to practice self-care. A happy mommy almost always equals happy babies.
**The preceding article should be taken as Mom-to-Mom advice. This article and any other article on Twiniversity should not be considered medical advice.
Laura Birks is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives in New Jersey with her twin boys, a dog, a couple of cat and a husband. When she’s not doling out medicine or cleaning up vomit, she is writing. Her house is in a constant state of disarray and the laundry is never put away. She likes to pretend she is superwoman but the truth is, she is a mere mortal with a messy house. Find her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. For articles by Laura on Twiniversity, click here.
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