I was robbed.
Money was not taken, nor materialistic things. And it was not a human that stole from me.
But, I was robbed.
My happiness, my motivation, the early days with my new baby, my relationship, my energy, my feelings of safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11-20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression. That means, in the United States alone, there are about 600,000 new women each year who struggle with this.
In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the COMBINED new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, lupus, and epilepsy.
Oh, and by the way, these statistics are based purely on reported cases, and we all know there are far more unreported.
And yet, there is still such a heavy stigma of shame and unacceptable. WHY?
And what’s worse, only about 15% of women with postpartum depression ever receive professional help.
Here’s why this matters. Research shows that women who remain untreated for PPD are less able to bond with their children, let alone care for themselves. They are prone to “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs. And, they may end up with lifelong chronic depression or anxiety. And by the way, this isn’t just affecting these women. It’s affecting their families, too.
Here’s the reality. When I found out I was pregnant, the absolute furthest thing from my mind was learning about PPD. No one I personally knew had ever talked about this with me. I never knew anyone who experienced this (or so I thought).
I know it’s a broken record, but for those who may not know, I will give you a little background. My pregnancy was a complete surprise. And although the situation wasn’t “ideal”, I was very, VERY blessed to have been surrounded with love and support. I also had an incredible man by my side, and easily our daughter is the best thing that could have happened to us.
I loved my pregnancy. People often talk about their love of the 2nd Trimester, and I fully support that. I felt so beautiful! I loved having a bump, and feeling my baby move. I was also mentally AMAZING. My relationship with my husband had never been stronger. I worked THREE jobs, and completed a semester of University. I created a nursery, kept a clean house, and read baby books constantly. I also got engaged, planned a wedding, and got married when I was 8.5 months pregnant! I love the person I was when I was pregnant. Of course, it wasn’t all easy, and the last few weeks of my pregnancy seemed like a lifetime, but it’s true what they say. You blink, and it’s over.
Going in to my labor, I really had worked on trusting my body. Saying and thinking positive mantras. Believing that I could bring my baby here safely. I researched a lot of information, dragged my husband to classes, and using natural supplements to “prime” my body for labor. I was young and healthy, my baby was healthy, I felt empowered. I felt strong.
That all shattered when the nurses told me that my baby’s heart rate was dropping when we arrived at the hospital. I felt betrayed by my own body. I honestly felt that the baby I loved and had cared for these past nine months could now die while entrapped inside me; I was terrified. I was sent into L&D and placed on Pitocin immediately.
You’ve probably heard this story from me already, so I’ll skip to the end. After almost laboring for close to 24 hours, I ended up with a C-Section. I believe that I never dilated past a seven and a half, and my baby was essentially in the pushing position, so she was stuck. And my body failed me. Well, that’s how I saw it, anyways.
Unless you’ve been through it yourself, I think a lot of people are unable to truly sympathize with the feelings surrounding this circumstance. But, a lot of women go through it. A lot of women face a C-Section and have difficult feelings towards it. And that’s why I talk about it. Because, when you are going through it, you feel very, very alone. It’s hard to end up with a perfect baby and somehow have feelings of trauma and sadness. There are plenty of women who lose their babies, so how ungrateful of you to feel this way. In all honesty, you are allowed to feel however you feel. And those around you should learn to accept that and understand. But, also, you need to understand that it is hard for your loved ones to know what to say or do. I’ll touch on that a bit later.
My husband got a new job right before the birth of our daughter, which was a great opportunity, and I was so proud of him. However, it required a lot of hours and he essentially had one day off of work after I had my daughter. I was in the hospital for four days.
Most probably aren’t super familiar with what happens during a C-Section, so I’ll brief you on it. Your arms are stretched out on boards so that your veins are easily accessible. They stretch a blue cloth up right past your shoulders. The operating room is purposely kept extremely cold- to keep the doctors and nurses from sweating and reduce the risk of sweat contaminating the operative field. I remember being insanely cold during my operation. They piled layers of blankets on me, but it didn’t really do anything. I shook the entire time.
Once an incision is made into the first layer of your skin, the doctor cuts through all the layers of fat and then through a thick layer called the fascia. Then, another layer is cut called the peritoneum, this is the sac that holds all your organs. Your bladder sits right on top of the uterus, and has to be moved so that the doctor can cut into the uterus. Once the doctor has a clear view of the uterus, it is cut into and the amniotic sac is ruptured. From here, the baby can be pulled out and is officially born! At this time, most moms are able to hold and meet their baby, and get to be carried away together after Mom gets stitched up. Because my baby and labor had so many complications, she was immediately taken into the NICU before I got to hold her. She had to get her lungs sucked out, and checked out by the specialist team. Again, this was really hard for me to process later on.
The reason I am telling you all this, is really to educate others. Cesareans are a major surgery, as you can probably comprehend by how many internal incision are made and later sewn up. In my case, my recovery was particularly difficult because my body had labored for so long before my surgery. The first few days were really, really hard. Even with the best medicine in the world, I was in immense amounts of pain. I remained in bed the majority of my stay in the hospital. Even sitting up literally made me feel like my incision would burst open in searing pain. Anytime I wanted to hold my baby, I had to ask someone to help me. I couldn’t stand up and change her diapers. There were 24 hours in which she had to remain in an incubator for Jaundice. And on top of that, my husband did have to leave us for work. I hope with me sharing this, maybe you can understand where my feelings stand.
Coming home was hard, too. Like I said, my husband had to work, so I was left alone sometimes for 12 hours or more a day. It took me AT LEAST six weeks to feel somewhat normal again- as in being able to walk or sit up without pain. I also couldn’t drive during this time. So, I developed a lot of emotions during this period. My baby, in all honesty, was perfect. She was such a good baby. And I definitely developed a bond with her. However, it was a lot different than I imagined. It was a lot harder than I imagined. A lot of days, the most I could do was simply keep us two alive. I think probably the first week I survived on nothing more than protein shakes. It was tough.
One of the biggest points I want to make here, is that I didn’t know how to ask for help. And from here, my PPD really developed. And I knew it was bad because it got worse even after I physically healed. I remember previously just wishing for the day that I could walk and take care of my baby. And then, oddly enough, I was physically healed, but my mentality was broken.
A lot of people think PPD, or depression in general, is just someone crying a lot or feeling sad. I honestly never really knew what it was… Until it was happening to me.
The biggest emotions I experienced were an utter lack of motivation for anything. I woke up, took care of the baby, and when she slept, I laid in bed. (But rarely slept). I didn’t take care of myself. Most days I didn’t shower and my eating was really, really rare. I had a lot of postpartum bleeding, and had to stay in diapers for over four weeks. People would call me or text me and I would ignore it. Our house was a disaster. My husband would come home from a long, long day at work, and we would have no food. I developed a serious anxiety about leaving the house. I was terrified of even going to the grocery store. It was really hard on my husband to see me like this, and he really couldn’t understand why it was happening. And I, I couldn’t explain it.
I mean, it sounds so simple. I would sit there often and be so confused about why I felt this way. I mean, I could just snap out of it? Force my way through this? And I tried, I tried to “bring myself out of it”, but you guys, what I didn’t know, is that you can’t. Because I sought a lot of answers on this, I have spent a lot of time researching this topic. I want to share something with you. And I wish, I wish SO bad that someone would have shared this with me.
You guys, I have researched and found many, many images similar to the one above. And they all share the same thing. Depression, true, prolonged depression (also referred to as MDD or major depressive disorder) is an actual brain disease. And please note, this is different than being upset about something in your day or feeling disappointed about something.
Depression affects three major areas of the brain- the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. I won’t go in-depth here, but essentially issues here lead to disturbed sleep and activities, irregular hormones and chemicals in your body, negative effects on your emotional responses, decision making issues, memory problems… it goes on.
I hear so many moms realize they may be dealing with PPD (or anyone with depression), and still be so afraid to say anything to their doctors or even talk about it with their loved ones. It is the equivalent (literally) of having a brain disorder, and feeling that it’s your fault, and that you can just “snap out of it”.
And that adds to the difficulty of living with a mental disorder. You don’t understand it. You can’t fix it on your own. It’s hard to explain it to those around you. You feel immense amounts of guilt about it. It is constant. You can’t call your boss and say, “Hey, my depression and anxiety are really bad today and I can’t make it into work.”
If you’re dealing with depression, or someone you love is, or you simply want to understand, I highly recommend watching the TED talk by Kevin Breel. He. Is. Amazing. Check this out. I will quote this part because he expresses this idea so perfectly,
“That’s the stigma, because, unfortunately, we live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed, everyone runs the other way. That’s the stigma. We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brains. And that’s ignorance. That’s pure ignorance. And that ignorance has created a world that doesn’t understand depression, that doesn’t understand mental health. And that’s ironic to me because depression is one of the best-documented problems we have in the world, yet it’s one of the least discussed.”
You guys, I was robbed.
I wasted a lot of days in the beginning of my baby’s life not truly being the woman and mother that I can be. I spent a lot of time just wasting hours in bed. I spent a lot of time living in fear. I spent a lot of time avoiding others. And I also spent a lot of time blaming myself, or avoiding treatment. I have spent a lot of time feeling hopelessly alone, and not understanding why.
And if you personally have never gone through this, I am tremendously happy for you. Seriously. Because it is incredibly terrible and life-wrecking, and hard on you and those around you. But I beg, if you haven’t gone through it, please be sensitive to those that have/are.
I saw this on Pinterest, and knew that I needed to add it to this blog post. It is so, SO important.
It’s a cruel injustice that when you are suffering, you feel alone, and overall this resorts to those around you avoiding you even more. If you think someone around you is dealing with this, be accepting of their feelings and give them gentle opportunities to open up to you.
PPD is not a choice. So, do not talk to someone as if it is. As if someone would choose to endure the misery that is depression. It’s all too often that we may hear, “You have so many great things in life! Why would you be depressed?” And that certainly does more harm than good. It creates blame and increases guilt on this individual, which, you guessed it, is not going to help ANYONE with depression.
Someone with depression doesn’t need shame or to be told that they are weak. No one really understands what someone else is going through. Two individuals could go through very similar events, and end up with very different mentalities or life changes. Because you were able to conquer life’s challenges without developing a serious form of depression (again, seriously, that is amazing and we are all happy for you) does not give you permission to put down anyone who is different.
I personally felt a lot of shame and guilt once I had taken my SSRI’s for a few months. I mean, I was 6 months PP. I’m sure I should be “over” it, right? I didn’t really talk about it with anyone, because, again, #Stigma. So, I just decided one day that I wouldn’t continue my SSRI treatment. I was “fine”.
Please, please, please don’t do what I did. What followed, unknowingly, easily led to one of the most difficult times in my Postpartum journey. My relationship struggled. My energy was entirely gone. My motivation to do most things had zeroed out. I retreated to ignoring people once again, and wishing I could just lock the door in my room and never come out. My relationship with my child suffered. Again, I was robbed. But this time, I should have known better.
I am seven and a half months postpartum and I am still seeking treatment for my depression and anxiety. That may make some of you embarrassed for me or make you feel uncomfortable, but, it’s the truth. Postpartum depression does not have an expiration date. I also know many women who don’t really develop it until several months or even a year after they gave birth. Pay attention to your body. And not only that, but be accepting if you know that you need help.
Being aware and educated in my own struggles has brought me a great amount of peace and also sympathy towards others. I really, truly wish that this article helps even one person. If that’s with seeking treatment for yourself, helping someone you love, or simply being aware.
J.K. Rowling said it best, “I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s there to be ashamed of? I went through a really hard tough time and I’m quite proud I got out of that.”
Thanks for reading this novel. If you have any questions or need someone to listen, you can always DM me on my Instagram @baybayruth (I try my best to read everything!) If you are suffering with this, please, please know that you absolutely not alone.