I would say that my postpartum depression story starts before I even got pregnant for the first time. Growing up, being positive and optimistic has never come easily to me. My thought process has always been: if you don’t expect anything good to happen, then you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t (I can tell you right now though, that this is so untrue). Throughout my life, I have struggled to make friends and have struggled with my self-worth. A lot of my self-esteem issues came to light in college when I was on my own away from my parents and family, when I was “finding myself,” to use a cliché phrase. When I was in college, I finally realized how much I struggled to love myself and to see myself as someone worthy to be loved by others.
My life changed dramatically when I met my husband, Mark. Mark finally was the person who loved me no matter what, no matter my flaws, no matter how much I struggled to love myself. He chose me above anyone else and chose to spend his life with me. He has always been my source of encouragement and has always told me how worthy I am. My self-esteem struggles have not gone away completely by any means, but since Mark came into my life, I have learned to love myself a little bit more.
Postpartum Depression: You Deserve To Be Happy
Anyway, where I am going with this story is that I think my self-esteem issues and struggles to be positive set the stage for postpartum depression. What sealed the deal was when my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I firmly believe now that I had postpartum depression after my miscarriage, but I dismissed it because I didn’t think it was bad enough. I wasn’t suicidal, so therefore I felt I didn’t have depression. Looking back now, I think it was pretty clear I was depressed. I kept a journal after my pregnancy loss, and the hurt and pain and crushing sadness leaped off the page. I may not have been suicidal, but I was not finding much (if any) joy in life either. All I could think about was how much I wanted a baby. I was a jobless housewife at the time, and I had no desire to fill my time with anything productive at all. All I wanted was to be a mom. So often the grief of my loss threatened to crush me.
About four months after my miscarriage we decided to try again for another baby. Finding out I was pregnant after a loss was one of the scariest times of my life. The day after I got my positive test, I experienced a small amount of brown spotting, and I was absolutely convinced that I was losing another baby. It was in that moment that I really felt like maybe life wasn’t worth living. My thoughts never got further than that, but it was terrifying to know I felt that I had nothing to live for.
The next few days were filled with the worst anxiety I had ever had. Even when it did not appear that I was miscarrying, I was constantly on edge. I searched for ways to distract myself and was able to relax a bit when I found a new OBGYN who eased my fears. With each ultrasound that passed where my baby was growing and looking healthy, I breathed a little easier. The whole pregnancy was still a time of high anxiety though. I always worried about whether I was feeling the baby move enough. Sometimes I would just sit there and count his movements and wait for him to move enough for me to feel satisfied that he was ok, especially in the middle of the night.
I am happy to say that the pregnancy passed without incident, and on February 19, 2013, I gave birth to my rainbow baby boy (a rainbow baby is a baby you have after a miscarriage or pregnancy loss). About 24 hours after his birth, though, I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying about everything. I struggled to breastfeed. I felt like I didn’t have any clue what I was doing. After less than a week I made the decision to bottle feed, and after 2 weeks when my hormones calmed down a bit, I started to feel better.
But not completely. There were still many times when I would feel down, when I questioned whether I was a good mom, even times when I felt like I just wanted to leave, to just go off somewhere for a while. I never had any real intention of acting on those thoughts, but now that I look back, I can clearly see how I had postpartum depression.
Finally, when my son was 8 months old, I decided I needed some help. Mark made the call to the doctor’s office for me because I just couldn’t come up with the courage to do it. The doctor put me on an antidepressant, and the change was immediate. I felt alive again. The negative thoughts were no longer overtaking me, and it was easier to stay positive and calm when little things went wrong.
After 6 months, I weaned off of the medication, and I got pregnant with my second son. After his birth, I again made the decision not to breastfeed so that I could resume the antidepressant that had done me so much good. Once again it was just what I needed, and I was able to wean off of it again before getting pregnant with my twins.
This time around I wanted to try pumping, so just in case I decided to try a different medication, which I was on for one week, but I couldn’t stand the anxiety. I had already decided not to pump and to use formula once again, so I went back to my regular medication.
Since then, I have had a few stressful life events that have forced me to increase the dosage of my meds and add a new one. I am happy to report that I am currently doing well on both medications and I am feeling overall happy and motivated.
Depression has been quite a struggle for me over the last few years, but I have overcome it with the help of medications and counseling. If you even think you might have postpartum depression, I really encourage you to seek help. Medications and counseling can do wonders, and it is worth it to feel like a good mom. A happy mom is a better mom, and you deserve to be happy. I am so thankful that I decided to stop living in a cycle of depression and to recognize when I needed help. Sure, I am not a perfect parent, and yes, the negative thoughts still creep in, but I am better able to manage those feelings, and the lows are not so low anymore. Treating my depression has helped me to have hope again.
Sarah Morel is a stay at home mom to four kiddos under six, including twin toddlers. When not taking her oldest to and from kindergarten or cleaning the house, she enjoys reading (especially Harry Potter), chatting with other parents on online forums, and writing. You can find more about her on her blog.