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Postpartum depression and anxiety. This is a heavy topic, and so many people are afraid to talk about it or acknowledge it. Thankfully, there is so much more awareness of these conditions out there than ever before. I think it’s safe to say that every one of us knows someone who has dealt with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety in some way. I am thankful that several of my family members and friends who have dealt with these have been open with me about their experiences- it is because of their sharing their hearts with me that I was able to realize that I myself was suffering with postpartum depression/anxiety.
Differences Between PPD and Regular Depression
Postpartum depression has many similarities to regular depression, but one very obvious difference is that PPD is related to childbirth. “PPD is usually diagnosed within a year after giving birth but can extend beyond that” (Baby Center). Here are other common characteristics specific to postpartum depression:
- transitioning to motherhood and dealing with the psychological adjustment
- hormonal unsteadiness
- experiencing worrisome thoughts about the baby or about one’s ability to be a good mother
- consumed with guilt and disappointment about what’s supposed to be the “best time of (your) life.”
Breastfeeding can also affect PPD. I have several friends who have told me that their depressive symptoms start to ease up immediately after weaning their baby.
When I Realized I Had Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
After I had my oldest son, I experienced elation (for the most part)! I loved everything about that little guy and I loved being a new mom. It helped that my oldest son was an “easy” baby: he slept well, he wasn’t fussy, he had a happy temperament, and he was independent (so I could leave him on the floor to play while I got things done). Even during a more stressful time, while we were figuring out my son’s eating (he didn’t have a good latch with breastfeeding, which eventually led to us needing to supplement with formula), I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Sure, I felt tired and frustrated at times, but my joy and excitement about everything always overshadowed any feelings of stress. This was a really happy time for me!
I totally expected my second time around to be exactly like my first! But it wasn’t. I STILL feel guilty as I write this, because I wish so badly that I could have experienced the same elation after my second son’s birth. But from the very beginning-from the time I got pregnant with my second- I felt anxious. Looking back, it really is strange. It’s like something about this son and his biology affected my biology in a completely unexpected way and caused my hormones to go all wacko! I remember having these worried thoughts that I wasn’t really pregnant, that the pregnancy tests were wrong…. That something bad would happen to the baby while I was pregnant…. And then, I discovered that being pregnant while taking care of a toddler was HARD! I was tired, and often cranky. The situation was exacerbated by these factors: my family moved states while I was pregnant; I was finishing college during this pregnancy (and had some of my hardest classes); and my husband started graduate school in the middle of this pregnancy. Oh, and it was hard on my psyche that I thought my second baby was a girl…. I was so confused when we found out we would be having a second boy! (Again, I’m feeling guilty for even writing these things, because I should have just been happy about having a healthy baby! The gender didn’t matter. But this factor was just another one of those weird things about my second pregnancy that made me feel like something was out of sorts inside me.)
Once my baby was born, I experienced the same elation and excitement as I experienced with my first-born! My second son’s birth was a wonderful experience for me. The delivery and recovery were much easier than the first time around, and for that I am grateful! My baby boy was amazing and so beautiful! I felt great for the first couple of months. And then, I started to feel those feelings I felt while I was pregnant. I started to have horrible, scary thoughts that made me think and feel that something was going to happen to my baby. I felt constantly worried about him. I had to check on him a bazillion times while he was sleeping. I had a hard time relaxing, because I thought there were always more things to do to help ensure my baby’s safety. My second baby was not super easy. He wasn’t colicky, but he did fight sleep a lot, and was hard to sleep train. He has a different temperament than his older brother, which means my husband and I already raise each boys a little bit differently. My second was and is a happy baby overall, but he is more sensitive, more clingy, and fussier. (We eventually figured out that he’s lactose intolerant, so cow’s milk was causing him tummy pain!) Anyway, I know that each baby is supposed to be different, but for some reason I started to feel overwhelmed.
This went on for several months, with bouts of ease followed by bouts of anxiety again. I honestly did not even put it together that I was not acting or thinking or feeling normally. That is, until my baby was about 10 months old. When I realized that I was not enjoying my baby as much as I could because I was too worried about him, the light finally clicked on inside of me. I talked to my husband about my realization, and I made an appointment with my midwife. It wasn’t after much discussion with me in person that she came to the conclusion that I indeed was struggling with postpartum depression. She decided that it was more postpartum anxiety, so this is what I call my diagnosis. 🙂
My process is an ongoing one, but I’m happy to say that I feel SO much better now! I was prescribed medication, and it has helped my symptoms tremendously. I am still learning techniques on how to deal with my anxiety, because I hope to not be on medication forever. I feel more confident at banishing irrational thoughts and inviting rational, peaceful, grateful thoughts into my mind. I’m working on dealing with the guilt I still feel for struggling to enjoy my baby in the first place. Mommy guilt is so real, and can be so strong. But I am letting myself remember (and I hope this sinks in) that I am trying my best to be the best mom I can be for my children. I love them with all my heart, and I want them to always know that. I am grateful for my weaknesses and struggles, because they help me learn humility, and they help me grow. I love talking with others about my experiences because talking and sharing helps me feel validated. And I don’t want to feel alone; so many people have helped me know that I am not alone, and I want to show this to others as well.
I am a religious person, so I often turn to scriptures, prayer, and words from church leaders when I need guidance. I just read this quote from an apostle (Elder Richard G. Scott), and it’s one of my new favorites: “(Jesus Christ) loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you.” This quote can be used in many situations, but for me it helps me remember that I don’t have to feel needless anxiety. This is a scripture that has brought me a lot of peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:17).