Postpartum depression (PPD) is a challenging experience, to say the least. Not only do you have to deal with the burden of those overwhelming feelings (which can be nothing short of relentless), but you have to do so while recovering from the physical trauma of giving birth, being sleep-deprived, taking care of a new life and adjusting to a change as drastic as parenthood. That's why it's so important to understand all the reasons why PPD doesn't make you a bad mom.
Despite those of us who are fighting the stigma (we like to call ourselves Warrior Moms), the myth that new mothers should only be joyful (tired, sure, but still joyful) continues to be endlessly perpetuated. Not only do you have hormonally-driven depression to deal with, you simultaneously have the guilt of feeling like you aren't living up to society's bullsh*t standard of what it means to be a new mom, or how you should feel now that you are a new mom. It's the perfect storm, really, and one that you can easily lose yourself in.
I feel pretty lucky, as far as my experience with PPD goes. My midwife was able identify the signs of prenatal depression and anxiety early enough to get me into a treatment program while I was still pregnant. We weren't entirely sure whether I'd develop PPD once my son was born, but I knew I was at higher risk, given my prenatal depression. When the PPD did hit, I was placed in a support group with six other women, and my social worker and psychiatrist spoke with me extensively about whether or not I should go on medication. During this entire process, I experienced numerous moments when I was overcome with guilt, thinking I wasn't the mother I imagined I would be. With time and treatment, though, I was able to understand that I wasn't a bad mom for suffering from this disease.
I'm not sure if I would have believed someone telling me that without my treatment, but I think it's worth repeating, regardless: you're not a bad mother if you suffer from PPD, and here are just a few reasons why:
You Can Suffer From PPD And Still Love Your Kids
When I had my second baby, I remember experiencing a rush of relief when I felt that instant connection with him. I had suffered from prenatal depression, and my biggest fear was the inevitably inability for me to be bond with my son, once he was born. That fear faded, as it took no more than a split second to realize I loved him to pieces. My PPD developed anyway, about four to six weeks later, but that PPD didn't keep me from loving my son. Nope, the two are very much mutually exclusive and in no-way related.
You Can Have Trouble Bonding With Your New Baby And Still Be A Good Mom
On the other side of things, being emotionally present for your 6-day-old baby isn't actually absolutely necessary, as guilty as you may feel for not being able to. Clearly, we all want is to be able to bond with our babies, but as long as you're providing the necessities of life in the beginning, and others in your life can help you, your baby will be just fine.
You Can Have PPD And Still Make Sure Your Kids Are Properly Cared For
Most of the time, PPD doesn't completely incapacitate you. The vast majority of the women I know who have suffered from PPD were still providing their babies with the necessities of life, while simultaneously working through their depression.
You Are Not Your Depression
I think this is one of the hardest pieces to really get when you're suffering from PPD (or any kind of depression, for that matter). Like I said before, depression lies to you. It tells you that you're a terrible mother and it tells you that you're failing and it tells you that you can't be a decent parent, but it's definitely lying. You. Are. Not. Your. Disease.
PPD Is Triggered By Hormonal Changes, Not The Love You Have For Your Kids
According to the Mayo Clinic, the huge drop in your body's estrogen and progesterone levels that takes place after giving birth is a contributing factor to the onset of PPD. And really, if 15% of all new mothers experience some kind of postpartum mood disorder (at minimum), you have to know that there most definitely is a physical component of the disease that is completely out of your control.
Those Thoughts Of Your Baby Getting Hurt Don't Mean You're Going To Hurt Your Baby
Intrusive thoughts are extremely common for the majority of new mothers, according to a Mayo Clinic study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings. They can be absolutely debilitating, especially when they're coupled with PPD. It's important to realize that having that flash of dropping your baby on the pavement as you're trying to put them into their car seat, doesn't mean you're actually going to do it. And yes, I give that example because it was the one I was obsessed with after my baby was born.
PPD Is Far More Common Than You Think
Postpartum Progress, a well-known website that advocates and provides information for those suffering from postpartum mood disorders, argues that the total number of women who suffer from PPD is actually far higher than the 15% the CDC reports. In fact, it maybe as high as 25%. That's one in four new moms, so you are far from alone.
You Thinking You're A Terrible Mom Is The Depression Talking
Depression is a liar. It tells you that you aren't good enough, that you don't deserve the things you have, that you are horrible at what you do (whatever that is). It's no different when you're a new mom suffering from PPD. The depression will tell you that you don't deserve to be a mom, but you do. You will get through this, trust me.
You Will Eventually Bond With Your New Baby
All of the moms I know who had trouble bonding with their babies initially, are now as attached to them as any other mom I know. If this is something you're struggling with, or beating yourself up over, please know that it won't last forever. If you aren't already in treatment for your PPD, get help. A professional who tells you that what you are going through is normal can make all the difference in the world, especially when you're struggling in the darkness. Believe me.