After my daughter was born, I experienced all of the usual signs of the "baby blues." However, after some time, those "signs" intensified. I started to notice other, scarier symptoms start popping up and, after many months of suffering in silence, sought treatment for and was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). I faced a lot back then, and realized that some of the toughest decisions you'll make as a mom with PPD aren't limited to yourself and your depression. I had a partner and, more importantly, a new baby to care for, too.
The Mayo Clinic describes PPD as a "long-lasting form of depression" commonly found in new moms. It's a disease that reaches far beyond "baby blues" and can be diagnosed when a mother suffers from anxiety, sadness, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings. These things typically disappear within a couple weeks. With PPD, however, everything is more intense and lasts quite a bit longer if left untreated. I ignored my symptoms for months, thinking they'd just go away on its own. I was wrong. Not only did I not get better, I spiraled into such a deep depression that I became suicidal. It was a terrifying part of my life I hope to never experience again.
After I began a detailed treatment plan (thanks to a caring doctor), it wasn't long before all the intense emotions of being a new mother with PPD passed. Still, because I'd waited so long, it took awhile for my depression to completely dissipate. I had to make a lot of important and daily decisions about my baby, my relationship, and my life, while also navigating and caring for my own mental health. When you're depressed, indecision runs rampant and even if you settle on something, you'll second-guess yourself a millions times over. At least, that's how it was for me, and I can safely say that making the following decisions wasn't my idea of a "good time." I did the best I could but, looking back, I wish I'd had another mother (who'd gone through it as well) to talk to about everything that I was feeling and how those feelings affected the following decisions:
Deciding Whether Or Not To Continue Breastfeeding
When I had my daughter, I tried to breastfeed. In fact, the decision to nurse was made long before I gave birth, because I wanted to give her the best start possible. What I quickly realized, unfortunately, was that breastfeeding isn't for everyone. When you're suffering through PPD, all the anxiety makes it nearly impossible to get through latching or milk supply issues or whatever else ends up ailing you while you're trying to sustain another human life with your body.
I gave breastfeeding my all, until the depression was too much. Something had to give. My daughter and I had a difficult time bonding thanks to my PPD, so a decision had to be made. Ultimately, I gave up on my dream to breastfeed and, in the end, we were better for it.
Deciding Whether To Stay Home Or Go To Work
At the time of my delivery, I wasn't working thanks to my difficult pregnancy. I'd always planned to return at some point, but didn't know when. Being a writer means I could essentially work from anywhere (as long as it pays well enough) but those jobs were few and far between for a very long time. When finances were tight, and my partner and I struggled to pay the bills, I had to decide — even through my depression — if we could survive long enough for me to seek treatment or if I'd have to push through it. I'm so grateful for a supportive partner who urged me to take care of my mental health before even considering returning to work. In the end, I think it helped me get ahead in the long run.
Deciding Which Battles Are Worth Fighting
With PPD, it's often hard to see outside of your own darkness. Any decision becomes so monumental, it doesn't feel like there is a right answer. That's where the anxiety eats away at your insides. I had to start making actual lists of things that needed my attention, so I could choose what was worth my time and energy (my mental health and my baby), and what wasn't (everything else).
Deciding Where And How The Baby Will Sleep
The whole sleep training thing with a newborn is its own special kind of hell. If you've never done it before and you have postpartum depression, that hell only intensifies. We were very fortunate to have a baby that seemed ready to get on a solid schedule and in her own crib, so that we could devote more effort into strengthening those patterns instead of flip-flopping between co-sleeping and/or scheduling. At the time, it all felt like too much because I was exhausted. There were times my daughter would lay on my chest so we could both rest, and that was the only decision I could manage on those difficult days.
Deciding What Activities And Events You're Able To Be Part Of
When you have a newborn, everyone wants to see the baby. I get it, I really do. However, when I had postpartum depression I didn't really want to see anyone, let alone leave the house. I wanted to hide and not pretend I was feeling better than I actually was. This meant I had to pick and choose what to be part of, or what events we'd attend.
Deciding Who Can Care For Your Baby
I had major trust issues when I was suffering through PPD. I didn't trust anyone to look after my baby as well as I could (which is ironic, considering I struggled caring for myself). I know it doesn't make sense and, if anything, everyone else was more capable than I was at the time. However, in my mind I was the only one who could do it. She needed me. I'm thankful my partner took the reigns and showed me he'd be just fine taking care of the family so I could have the break I desperately needed.
Deciding When It's Time To Ask For Help
By far, the hardest decision I had to make while enduring PPD was when to ask for help. I didn't know how bad it was while I was going through it. Actually, it wasn't until my doctor noticed and asked some very necessary questions that I realized how dark my world had become. Knowing what I know now, I'd have tapped into my feelings and dismantled them sooner, if only so that I could've received the help I needed faster.
Regardless of what decisions I had to make during a really tough emotional time, I'm lucky to still be here and even luckier my baby doesn't remember any of it. Now, I'm focused on re-building all PPD stripped away from me, so that I can be the mother I was meant to be and the mother my kids deserve.