10 Things I Needed When I Had Postpartum Depression But Was Afraid To Ask For
Personally, trying to cope with postpartum depression (PPD) was pretty unbearable. I honestly have no idea how I survived. At a time when I was supposed to be happy about my new baby, I felt like I wanted to die. And even though I needed it, one of the hardest things for me to do was ask for help. In fact, there were so many things I was afraid to ask for when I had postpartum depression. Pretty much everything I needed to heal, in fact. Figures, right?
Most people who know me would probably be surprised to learn that I had a hard time talking about my PPD. Most of the time I have no trouble communicating. In fact, I probably overshare. But somehow admitting I wasn't OK after having my babies felt like admitting I wasn't a good mom, and I thought if I ignored those overwhelming feelings they would magically go away on their own. Unfortunately, depression just doesn't work that way, and the longer I kept my mouth shut the harder it was to say something.
After three pregnancies and three experiences with postpartum depression, I've learned that sometimes the only way to get what you need is to ask for help. Most of the time my worst fears about people judging me, my doctor not taking me seriously, or my husband not loving me were really just in my head. Depression really is such a lying b*tch. There were so many things I needed during that difficult period of time in my life, I was just too afraid to ask. It shouldn't be that way. For anyone.
Postpartum showers are the best, but it was so hard for me to ask my husband, mom, or friend to take my baby so I could actually have one. I thought that if I set down the baby to shower people would think I didn't love her. It's so strange how your mind works when you have depression. I logically knew that I didn't have to touch my baby every second of every day to bond with her, but depression is irrational.
Sleep deprivation and new motherhood seem to go hand in hand. I mean everyone knows that new moms don't get much sleep. So, it can seem more than a little embarrassing to admit that you feel like you are literally dying from lack of sleep, because you are sure somebody is going to make a joke about it. The trouble is, while a little lost sleep is normal, it's not normal to not be able to sleep at all. I am so glad my midwife asked me if I was sleeping, because there was no way I would have brought it up if she hadn't.
Help With The Baby
Even the best moms need help sometimes. Especially, when they are recovering from childbirth and feel like their world is crashing down around them (hell, even on them). I was so afraid that asking for help with my baby would make people think I couldn't cut it as a parent.
People generally suck at empathy. You can only take so many responses that start with, "If you think you have it bad, let me tell you about my life," before you simply stop talking about how bad you feel. Life is not a contest. Literally the only things you should say to a parent with postpartum depression is, "That sounds so hard," or, "How can I help?"
All parents need a break once in a while. Especially parents who are trying to heal from childbirth, learn how to be someone's parent, and cope with depression simultaneously and without a single moment of reprieve. I wish I had asked for a break more often, but I was afraid that people would judge me for not being able to "do it all."
Good postpartum sex honestly made me feel like a human being again, even when I had postpartum depression. Unfortunately, depression told me that my partner didn't want me and that he might say no. Initiating sex when you are scared to be turned down is so hard.
Going to the doctor is hard, especially when you have a newborn. Once you get there, while telling the doctor that your body is sick is no big deal, for me, saying the words, "I'm depressed" is so freaking hard.
Something To Eat
I literally went days without eating much at all after my second child was born. Postpartum depression took away my appetite, and I was too exhausted to cook for anyone else, including myself. It might sound trivial or even ridiculous, but when I was in the trenches of PPD I was afraid to ask my husband to make me something to eat.
Depression can feel so lonely, but it can also feel overwhelming to have to entertain people, get dressed, or clean up. How do you ask someone to come over and sit next to you, but not expect you to talk or put on a bra?
I grew up in a small Midwestern town where no one ever talked about mental illness or admitted to taking medication for mental health conditions. In fact, taking medicine for something that didn't have to do with physical pain (like a broken leg, for example) was something people only did in books and movies, and generally those characters were chastised. That is not OK. I was so afraid to bring up meds with my midwife, so when she brought them up I was nothing short of relieved.
Turns out, my anti-depressant brought sunshine into my world. It was like the clouds had lifted, and I was me again and able to finally enjoy motherhood. I wish I hadn't been afraid to ask for medication sooner, because it made a huge difference.