Postpartum depression (PPD) arrives at different times for different people. For some it’s simply a continuation of prenatal depression, while others notice symptoms shortly after birth and as their hormones start to shift. Some moms don’t notice something is "off" until weeks, or even months, after giving birth, and some moms don't realize they have postpartum depression at all. That’s why it’s so important that we all listen when moms share when they knew they had postpartum depression.
My postpartum depression was difficult for me to pinpoint. I experienced some prenatal depression and anxiety, but all of it was related to my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from previous birth traumas. So when I experienced a second traumatic birth, it wasn't easy for me to figure out what was what in the mental health department. Looking back, though, I think I had postpartum depression when I was finally able to visit my son in the hospital. I went back to my hotel room (I got a room closer to his hospital so I could see him easily and frequently) and could not stop crying. My heart was heavy. I knew I needed to pump, wanted to pump, but couldn’t bring myself to actually pump. And this feeling of defeat continued, with highs and lows, for months. I had days where I didn’t know if I could connect with my son for various reasons; days I just imagined getting in my car and driving away from everyone forever, or worse, getting into an accident so I wouldn’t have to deal with these overwhelming feelings anymore.
Eventually, and thankfully, I did get better. I had enough of a support system around me to keep me going, and at one point I was able to seek out some counseling. I was lucky. I knew what would work for me, how to deal, and how to get the type of help I needed. I know not everyone is that lucky. With that in mind, here are a few brave moms willing to share their stories of postpartum depression and when they knew they had it. We are not all the same, but when we use our voices to speak our truth, we let other people know they're not alone. You are not alone.
“I had postpartum anxiety after my first baby, so when I noticed I was experiencing rage after the birth of my second baby, I didn't know that was a symptom of postpartum depression Fortunately, I have a wise and loving group of mama friends and a very supportive partner who were able to gently reflect to me that it was time to ask for help.”
“When I told my certified nurse midwife that I hadn't slept in five days, she asked me a set of questions that I didn't know were a screening tool. I answered yes to every question. I am so grateful for understanding providers and science (yay, Zoloft!) for helping me make it through.”
“My mom noticed I had it about a week or so after I had my first child. It was postpartum anxiety, and it went well beyond depression. It was terrifying and debilitating. I didn't treat it soon enough and ended up having a breakdown when [my son] was a few months old. I immediately sought professional help. It was much easier to manage after having my second child. We were all hyper-aware of the possibility, so there was a lot of proactive planning. It made a world of difference.”
Mary Helen, 36
“When I thought to myself, ‘He'd be better off without me.’ I knew that thought wasn't real... wasn't my own. It was my wake up call.”
“I didn't realize I had it until much later. That was with my second child and it almost ended my marriage. It may have even lead to my later diagnosis of clinical depression.”
“It took me 18 months to finally own up to the fact that I had postpartum depression. I thought that postpartum depression meant that you were sad all the time, and anxious about the health and safety of your child. I didn't realize that it could manifest itself in anger and lack of patience. My son fighting his nap would send me into an angry and frustrated tailspin. I felt that no one loved me or wanted to be around me, including my husband. I truly faced facts when I found myself face down in my mattress thinking that it might not be so bad if I suffocated. Within a week, I was in my doctor's office getting a prescription for an SSRI. My postpartum depression wasn't allowing me to be my normal self. I no longer felt optimistic about my life, career, and relationships. Once I got help, I began to feel normal again. Life had an ease to it that I had forgotten that existed.”
“I had severe anxiety and obsessive thoughts about my newborn dying (with my second child — I didn't experience it with my first so I was thrown for a loop. My mother-in-law is a nurse and gently said I needed to be seen). Ended up with a postpartum depression/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) diagnosis and Zoloft for real saved my life. I couldn't leave my house for weeks. I couldn't stop crying. Zoloft helped me sleep and leave the house, and the crying stopped. I could laugh again and enjoy my kids. It was amazing.”
“I knew I had PPD/PTSD when I started having panic attacks and flashbacks about being in the hospital. I would break down in hysterics whenever I would think about my birth. It took me months of therapy and about a year and a half of antidepressants to get to where I could talk about my birth without breaking down.”
“My husband noticed as I spent most of the time blubbing when I fed my boy. And blubbing when anyone held him other then me... I wasn't bonding, I was resenting him for needing milk (big issues breastfeeding over here). Once we decided on full-time formula, I slowly got better.”
If you struggle with depression or feelings of self-harm, please seek professional help or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.