Postpartum depression (PPD) made my life pretty unbearable. At a time when I was supposed to be over the moon about my new baby, I was anything but. Fortunately, there were quite a few helpful things my friends did when I had PPD that made all the difference.
Despite all of the excitement of having a new baby, after my second child was born I felt so alone and isolated. My now ex-husband was not supportive at all. The first days were full of challenges: difficulty breastfeeding, newborn jaundice, and no sleep for mama. I was left alone to recover from childbirth and care for a new baby and a 3-year-old toddler, while my husband went on a road trip with a buddy. I was sad and anxious all of the time and unable to sleep, even when the kids were asleep. I would cry for hours, worrying about my kids, all while convinced that I was a bad mom for feeling the way I did.
Then one day, I told someone. Not only did she not judge me, she said some magical words to me, that changed everything. "Me, too." She told me that she had PPD and that a combination of medication and therapy made a huge difference. She told me I wasn't alone. She encouraged me to tell my midwife and get some help, and said that if they wouldn't listen, she would call them and give them a piece of her mind. I brought up my concerns at my postpartum appointment, got help, and now share my experiences every chance I get.
Anytime I hear that a new mom is feeling depressed or anxious, I try to do the things my friends did for me to help me through PPD, that made all the difference:
They Encouraged Me To Get Help
Asking for help is really, really difficult for me. Our culture prizes independence and the bullsh*t idea that if you work really hard, you'll always succeed. Asking for help feels like an admission that you are not good enough.
It took a friend who would not accept my excuses, and who has a special brand of encouragement, to get me to admit to my midwife that everything wasn't perfect on the home front. My midwife did a postpartum depression screening with me and told me that she was considering admitting me to the hospital. Holy sh*t. Sometimes the best friends are the ones who don't let you get away with ignoring your problems.
They Told Me Medication Wasn't The Enemy
Before I was diagnosed with PPD, I had never taken an anti-depressant before. I was so ashamed. I felt like I had failed. However, when I finally opened up to my group of friends (including other moms and successful professionals) about my PPD and they started listing off the medications that had worked for them, I was floored.
I remember one friend saying, "If you had diabetes and your doctor prescribed insulin, you would take it, right?" Of course. Mental illnesses can and do require medications, too.
They Shared Their Experiences
The resounding chorus in my circle of friends was, "Me, too," and hearing their stories made me feel less alone. Now, I share my story all the time. I am not ashamed. I got help for PPD, and you can, too.
They Made Me Food
My PPD made me unmotivated to do much more than get out of bed, and some days I didn't even do that. I didn't have energy to leave the house, and just wanted to snuggle with my baby and watch Top Chef. (Not that there's anything wrong with snuggling with your baby and watching Top Chef, because duh.).
However, when my lack of motivation meant that I didn't eat, my friends stepped in and made sure that I knew that if I didn't practice good self care, they were there with homemade cookies and nachos.
They Helped Me With My Kids
Some days I just needed someone to hold the baby so I could shower or play with my 3-year-old toddler or so I could sleep. My friends took shifts making sure that I had an extra set of hands and that I didn't have to entertain them when they came over.
I even had a few friends drive my daughter to and from daycare, and take her to birthday parties and playdates. In other words, I have the best friends.
They Made Me Leave The House, And Wouldn't Take No For An Answer
Some wallowing is normal, but after a few too many days of not leaving the house I started to wilt like a sunflower with no sun. My friends made sure that I was always invited to girls' night out or Saturday morning pedicures, and occasionally, they came and took me along for the ride, anyway.
They Came Over When I Couldn't Bear Going Out
Then, of course, there were days when I hadn't slept, showered, or changed out of my pajamas and literally felt panicked at the thought of going out. My friends came over, cleaned my house, made popcorn, and put on Mean Girls or Drop Dead Gorgeous, so I could laugh.
They Listened Without Judgement
For the longest time, I was so scared to tell anyone that I was suffering from postpartum depression. I was sure no one wanted to hear about how I was failing at my seemingly "perfect" life.
I will tell you a secret: no one's life is perfect, even if it seems that way on Facebook and Instagram. My real friends listened without judgement, even if they had made different parenting choices than I had. One friend was the most supportive cheerleader I had for combo feeding my son, even though she was the biggest breastfeeding advocate I knew. I learned so much from her about friendship and parenting during those first few months.
They Checked In
When I didn't emerge from my bear den for a few days, my friends would check in and make sure I was OK, and that I knew I wasn't alone. I still have some of those notes and texts four years later, and read them when I want to ugly cry.
They Stayed My Friends, Even When I Was Horrible
I wasn't always accepting of help and friendly advice. Some days I didn't answer the phone calls, texts, or invitations to hang out. My real friends stuck with me, even when I wasn't a great friend. They brought me my favorite wine and pie for my birthday, even after I had completely spaced on theirs. They knew that depression was the b*tch, not me.
When I finally emerged from my cocoon, I was there for them. Real friends stick together and help one another, especially when the enemy is as strong as PPD.