This is my story, of the journey I have been on and continue to ride through, beginning during my pregnancy up to now with my now 2yr old baby girl, Arielle. I am telling my story because not enough people do, because my story is not one of pure bliss and happiness and everything-is-wonderful when you have a baby in your life, beyond the usual newborn difficulties. My story is one of Post Partum depression, PPD, also known as simple Post Partum Mood Disorder. Even though nearly 25% of mothers experience this phenomenon, and we do see some literature about it being passed around at your pre-birth classes and Dr’s offices, it can be hard to truly read and have expectations or understanding of what you may be experiencing should you have PPD.
The Pre-Birth Scenario: During my pregnancy, I tried to do all the right things. I ate well, I kept up with my workouts and just modified as needed, I would run outside 3 days a week for the exercise as well as the fresh and mood-improving air and sun/rain, and I kept myself busy and happy and focused on myself, my family, and building/renovating my home to be ready for baby. I hoped and thought I was setting myself up for success in the rest of pregnancy and recovery afterwards. At 36 weeks I went into pre-term labor, and all that prep and calm demeanor just went out the window. I panicked, I stressed out while they told me that they were able to stop the contractions and everything would be fine, and continued to feel that way for another 4.5 weeks until she actually made her debut in the world.
Birth and First Weeks: My birth story is one that many may be jealous of, but I believe that the way it went down may have had some cause for the onset of my PPD. I had contractions for about 12hrs before birth, but the super strong ones didn’t occur until about 4 hrs before. I went in once and was turned away, labored at home a couple more hours, then returned to the hospital by 2pm in terrible pain, they checked me, assumed I had another dozen hours, but once I got to my room, they had to yell for my OB to return as baby’s head was already crowning, ie. I went from 4cm to fully dilated in under 45 mins and delivered her at 3:35pm. It had all happened so fast and my body was not happy about that, I was shaking uncontrollably and felt very very out of it. So when it came time for them to present me with my new baby I could barely register the moment let alone feel elated about seeing her for the first time. Breastfeeding did not go very well for me that first day, nor in the days afterwards. I had family visit and I was too overtired and spaced out to be able to voice the real things I needed, the space and the alone time I wanted. I truly felt like my only purpose was to keep my baby alive and keep visitors happy. I did too much. I ventured out after day 3, had to try nursing in public with a newborn whose latch was awful and painful, and in the heat with family members who thought they knew better than me. The build up of all of those things including the typical lack of sleep were too much, I started to spiral downward. How I Felt (signs of PPD): I was uninterested in life, bitter, angry at anything, sad, exhausted, setting impossible expectations of myself, and disliking being THE one who was always doing all the “caring”.
After a Few Months: I was very much on a mood rollercoaster. Some days I felt like the old me, the one who could feel a fire of inspiration and then get out and do something about it. But more times, I felt helpless, alone, and angry or sad. I also started having thoughts of what would really become of my friends and family if I were to go, by leaving or by removing myself from this earth. It took me a few weeks of these thoughts to actually step back and notice myself having them and realize, uh oh, there is something wrong with me. This cannot be typical new mom feelings and side effects, this can’t be what everyone “just deals with” after giving birth and having a newborn thrust into their lives. So on one of my clearer days I looked into things to do, ways I could get out and join others and possibly also get some physical activity back into my regular routine, because seeing my body in such a flabby state was adding to my daily sadness. I stumbled upon the Fit4Mom website and found a local class and seeing their schedule actually had one a few days later at the park just down the street, I told myself I would have to go. Erin was amazing, my baby cried most of the class but she made efforts to rock her in the stroller so that I could do my workout. I felt like this was the beginning of something great. All the moms were approachable and kind, and when I said I was 7 weeks pp, they cheered me for coming out to join and try a workout. How I felt (signs of PPD & Solutions taken): trapped, unable to find relief, thoughts of hurting myself so I could go to a hospital and stay overnight and rest or be alone. But I jumped on the moments of clarity and mentioned in passing to my husband that I was having a hard time adjusting, and then signing up and securing a membership with Stroller Strides of Bellevue.
Months Later (4-9mths post partum): I was now able to have some good times in my week, and was gaining strength both physically and emotionally, but it was still on the mend. I finally did some research, and admitted to myself that this had to be a problem and not just me or not just how everyone feels after giving birth and having a newborn. So I researched a bit about Post Partum Depression. I forced myself to do an online test (found here: http://psychology-tools.com/epds/ ) which confirmed my suspicions. I then called the nurse hotline at my hospital and was able to finally say the words, I think I have post partum depression, and a lovely woman on the other end talked me through my tears, my emotions and promised she would call me back daily to check in. She also offered other solutions, as ways to get out of the house, meet other moms and remove that big feeling like what I was experiencing was something that others shared in part and perhaps hearing about it or spending time with them to learn solutions in dealing with baby could help. They also set me up with a therapist who specialized in this type of depression or mood disorder. So I did it all. I pushed myself like never before to try out all of these things in order to save myself, improve my relationship with my child and my husband and get the ME back that I knew was just squashed under all the sadness and loneliness.
None of those steps were easy, but they were necessary. I believe if I hadn’t, many many things would have gone wrong. But a few months later, things improved, I was attending a weekly moms & babies group at the hospital where we all expressed our woes – but I made some amazing mommy friends who are still with me 2 years later. I was getting time outside and a workout with another group of moms at Stroller Strides (Fit4Mom) of Bellevue – who I am also very close with and even working for because I owe them the world for helping to make me ME again. And I spoke out and asked my husband, a therapist and close family for help and to listen and understand what I had been undergoing.
I strongly urge anyone who feels the same, or knows a friend who feels or experiences these thoughts and emotions to try the steps I did, to do the test, ask for help and get out and join moms’ groups in order to help them to feel part of a happy village, a strong village with happy, strong and dedicated moms. Being a mom is extremely tough work with great rewards, but even the best jobs and best people need to know their limits and when to help themselves. Fit4Mom helped me on the road to achieving all of those things.