Dealing with Postpartum Depression: One Woman's Story
After my third child was born I developed what I thought was postpartum depression. I was in a stressful second marriage and noticed that all during this pregnancy (following so quickly on the heels of my second child's birth) I was more emotionally volatile, insecure, and weepy. I needed a lot of support that my husband did not know how to give me.
Descent into Rage and Weeping
After the birth, things really started to change. I would get bursts of energy and then I would crash into pitiful helplessness, barely able to crawl out of bed. I was so frustrated with my husband for not understanding that something radical was happening to me that I would throw our lawn furniture around.
I'm from a fiery Mediterranean background, so it was not totally out of the question for me to throw things out of frustration. A pot maybe, or a plate to get someone's attention. But I was feeling very out of control. I would go quickly from rage into heartsick weeping. I was unable to cope. Of course I blamed myself and decided I was just a terrible mother and an overall worthless person.
What was also frightening was that I had very dark thoughts. I would look at my baby and worry about the most horrible things happening. It is perfectly normal to worry about your newborn. It is a sign of a possible problem when you become obsessed and immobilized by irrational fears.
Dealing with Depression
My experience wasn't unique, as I quickly learned. My husband and I went to a support group where we talked to couples who were experiencing postpartum depression, and got some good ideas of how we could better cope. They encouraged us to make sure we stuck to a bedtime schedule for the children, and for ourselves. They also suggested other ways to reduce stress in our daily lives, and one of the support group members told me of her experiences with temporary medication for her postpartum depression.
All these alternatives are worth checking into if you're dealing with dramatic emotional and mood-swing problems after childbirth. For many mothers, as for me, the idea of medication poses immediate problems—drugs are not the best choice when you're nursing your newborn. But there were lots of helpful tips to learn at that support group.
For example, I examined my diet and consulted with a macrobiotics counselor. I tried alternative remedies from the health food store and consulted with all kinds of people to help me get a grip on what was happening. Thank goodness I had friends who were able to help me with the babies, because I was a wreck.
Bottoming Out and Breaking Through
When you suffer from postpartum depression you can suffer some of the lowest of emotional lows. In my case, I finally felt so out of control and frightened that I prayed for help. I couldn't deal with my agitated, angry moods because I could blame my husband or my circumstances and explain it away.
What finally opened my eyes to the seriousness of my condition was that I became suicidal. I would sit on the floor in the bathroom with the door locked and cry. I found myself contemplating the easiest way a person could kill herself. Then I would think about my children, cry some more, and talk myself out of falling into what I can only describe as an elevator shaft. I talked to God a lot and said, “God, I may be an angry person, I may have low self-esteem at times, but I love life and I especially love my children. What is wrong with me?”
This is what can happen to you when you have some forms of postpartum depression. It is as though your mind is attacking you from the inside. Your moods go wacky and your thoughts are not what they would be under normal circumstances. It is important for you to understand that this is a biochemical response and should not be ignored, and it is not something to be ashamed of. It is not your fault if you become ill after childbirth. It is your choice whether you take it seriously enough to get help.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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