Most people think that becoming a mom is the happiest times of a woman’s life. Babies are cute- tiny fingers and toes, those cute cooing sounds, the adorable clothes. Sometimes people forget the other not so cute side of having a baby- the hormonal changes, being tired from lack of sleep, the visual changes in a woman’s body.
These things and more can lead to Post-Partum Depression (PPD). This can happen after the birth of a first child or fourth, it doesn’t matter. There is a larger possibility if the mom has had issues with PPD after a previous pregnancy, or has mental health issues such as depression and/or anxiety. Moms place a lot of expectations on themselves-caring for a newborn, other children, keeping the home clean, going back to work (if that’s their choice), etc. Caring for themselves, at least psychologically, sometimes falls to the bottom of the list.
I have three children, and they are each 18 months apart. They are 12, 11 and 9. I experienced PPD after the birth of my second child, my younger son, Julian. He was an adorable baby (and is a very cute 11 year old) but I couldn’t bond with him. I cried constantly, barely slept, had no belief that I could take care of him and/or his 1 ½ year old brother, Cameron, on my own, and the housework went to crap. Unless I was feeding Julian or getting him to sleep, I barely held him.
I knew this wasn’t right. I knew something was wrong. I have a history of anxiety and depression, so I went to my OB/GYN. I told her what was going on, and she prescribed me some anti-depressants. They helped greatly, and I began to bond with Julian and was better within months. I did not have the same issue 18 months later when my third child, Lily, was born. I was worried about this, however, but I got very lucky.
Post-Partum Depression is a very hard thing to deal with. It doesn’t just go away. It sits there until you deal with it. It is not anything to be ashamed of, millions of parents deal with it. Yes, dads do too. It’s just not discussed as much among men. They’re not as likely to talk about it because of the mental health stigma that still exists. There are groups you can attend for support, in many locations or online. The best place to start is with your physician, OB/GYN or therapist. They can help guide you to what may work best, whether that is medication or other treatments.
SIGNS OF PPD
Changes in sleep. When we are depressed, we tend to sleep too much or not at all. Everyone is different in this category.
Changes in eating. When we are depressed, we also tend to eat too much or not at all. Sometimes this takes the form of binge eating, or starving. This can be a result of anxiety.
Not wanting anything to do with the baby. This is probably the hardest to deal with. It broke my heart to not want to do anything with Julian, but I just couldn’t bring myself to play or cuddle with him. (This changed greatly later, though.)
Not taking care of yourself, meaning the essentials. Not bathing, changing clothes, cleaning up after yourself or others, attending doctor appointments, etc.
Excessive crying, thoughts of harming yourself or others, including the baby and/or other children. Please seek emergency care if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, you are worth the help.
There are other signs, but these are the ones I call the “big five”. If you see yourself in these signs, and are a new mom, even up to a year after you’ve had a baby, please see someone. You are worth the help and there is sunshine on the other side of the darkness. If you need a book to read to get a better idea of what it is like to have PPD, please consider Brooke Shields’ “Down Came the Rain”. It’s an incredible first-hand account.
Thanks for reading!
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