I have struggled with depression on and off, especially during those turbulent teen years, since as far back as I can remember. However, my mood during my first pregnancy was great, probably the most calm and happy I had ever felt. PPD and anxiety hit very suddenly shortly after giving birth in 2005. I thought it must be a number of things: lack of sleep, long labor, trouble nursing, being a new mom, and/or a very traumatic delivery with excessive blood loss and injury. But I could not shake the depression and panic attacks. I could not eat, drink, or sleep. I had to go to the ER for dehydration. I would just stand over my son Logan’s crib and cry at night. During the day, I would just hold him and cry. I had a stomach ache all the time, was extremely anxious, was suicidal, and felt very detached. I had a friend come over during the first few days and ask, “Are you enjoying this yet?” I said, “No.” It felt terrible to say that, but I did not feel any happiness, just depression. I didn’t want PPD. I thought it was just a celebrity thing. The whole publicity around Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise and their experiences with PPD was happening around this time, and I couldn’t imagine I was really depressed. I loved my baby and wanted my baby and I felt like that HAD to be enough to get me through.
I found the information that helped me from the hospital. I called Baby Blues Connection when Logan was 1-week-old and was referred to a support group. That was wonderful. I went to the meetings on and off for 4 months and I could not believe how all these different women were saying all the things I was feeling. Nobody in my life understood what I was going through. At the time, it felt like BBC volunteers and group members were the only people on the face of the planet that understood me. They helped with the isolation, shame, and guilt that I felt. Around the 4-month mark, I decided to try medication, Zoloft, and that really was a big turning point for me. When that kicked in, I finally felt that I started to truly bond with him. We moved when Logan was 5-months-old and I was too far away to go to the group, but simply knowing BBC existed helped me to feel peace. It was a very rough road, but the veil of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts started to lift about one year after my son’s birth, and I was able to wean off of medication.
I became pregnant with my second child shortly after weaning from Zoloft. The second pregnancy was rougher emotionally and I was crankier and overwhelmed. However, the labor and delivery were quite short and smooth and the physical recovery went very well. I asked to be put on Zoloft right away. In the weeks it took to start working, I cried a lot, felt very emotional, and had panic attacks. However, this time I expected these symptoms and knew how to take better care of myself mentally and physically. My children’s doctor (who is also my doctor) always checked in with me, and I forced myself to be honest when I wasn’t doing well. I weaned off of medication at about 18 months postpartum, and it was a good timing to do so.
My third child was an unplanned pregnancy and couldn’t have come at a worse time for us financially. I was in and out of the hospital a lot with early labor, high blood pressure, and H1N1. It was a rough pregnancy emotionally and physically, but I expected these things and knew when I should reach out for help. The labor and delivery went fairly well and although the birth injuries were similar to the first, I knew how to do better self-care. I also received Zoloft within hours of delivering. I cried a lot after the third birth and got panic attacks, but (like before) expected this and tried to stay as calm as possible. I developed post-partum thyroiditis after the second and third births, which manifested by my thyroid enlarging when each were about 6 months old, being extremely tired, and having my panic attacks return. In each instance, my Zoloft was increased, and I used coping mechanisms (mainly deep breathing and exercise) to get through the panic attacks. My thyroid returned to normal. I weaned off of Zoloft when the third child was eight months old due because I lost my health insurance. This ended up being fine, and emotionally I was able to handle it.
PPD and anxiety were probably the worst experiences I have ever had in my life, especially after the first birth. Not only did I feel absolutely horrible inside, I felt like I was ruining my child’s life. Feeling suicidal and feeling like nobody understood or cared and yet so badly wanting to be a good mom was the absolute lowest point in my life. I couldn’t logically make sense of what was happening. I was so grateful for each of my children yet I was so depressed and I didn’t feel bonded. That absolutely tore me apart. Now I know there is HOPE. It DOES get better, and I am incredibly bonded with my children. BBC gives moms hope, reduces isolation and shame, and kept me alive. I feel forever indebted to BBC and I am extremely grateful I can now help.