So, you are generally a happy person. You have a healthy relationship with your partner and you definitely wanted this child.
You think it is practically impossible for you to suffer from postpartum depression.
You have heard the term in passing, but you never gave it much thought.
“It’s not for me.”
Well, think again!
Are you a woman?
Are you going to have a baby?
If you said yes, then WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!
Postpartum Depression versus Baby Blues
Where every one in two women suffer from what’s called “Baby Blues” and for many (every one woman out of ten) the baby blues can worsen into a condition called “Postpartum Depression”.
While baby blues are common, and can subside within a few days or 1 to 2 weeks, postpartum depression does not come with an expiry date. It can even continue for up to a year and even beyond that!
I was one of the unfortunate ones, whose baby blues never disappeared magically.
I had to practically fight through months of severe depression, when all I did was cry. Excessively.
And all this crying that I mention, was done in the dead of night while I was nursing my little baby daughter. I never told a soul about what I was going through.
Facing Postpartum Depression
Not even my husband, who has always supported me through everything.
And not even to my mom, who flew across continents just to help me out with the baby.
I was strong. I had to appear strong.
“This is nothing!” I kept telling myself!
I didn’t tell my mom, because, let’s face it: I have always been the one to advise my mom.
It cannot be the other way round.
And though my mum helped me in all the household chores and taking care of the baby, I never confided in her what I was going through.
And I didn’t tell my husband because in reality, I secretly resented him all that time.
I thought that he had gotten it easy.
He didn’t have to change a thing. He was going to work. He was able to sleep. He had his life!
While mine was turned upside down in a single night.
I didn’t think it was fair. And so, I resented him.
When I think about it now, I feel that it wasn’t a fair judgement. His life had changed too but at the time I was too busy wallowing in self pity to give his life any consideration at all.
My Postpartum Depression Got Worse Before It Got Better
The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was going for a vacation to my homeland in 3 months, to attend a family member’s wedding. The thought of being able to see everyone, my friends especially, kept me going on.
It was like the light at the end of a tunnel.
It guided me and it kept me sane.
But what came as even more of a shock was that even that trip didn’t cure me completely.
I admit, it helped. But not completely.
I was still depressed beyond measure. I was still crying all night. I was still overthinking entirely stupid and totally made up thoughts that kept me up at night.
Needless to say, I didn’t have the energy to do anything. But when I got back to bed, I couldn’t sleep either. So, I was over tired. over-worked and insomniac.
On top of other things, I had started resembling a drug addict with dark circles and a gaunt like face.
You will remember that the thought of going to my country (Pakistan) had kept me sane.
But now that I was here, all I wanted was to go back home (Australia).
This vacation was 3 months long. So when I got back to Australia, my daughter was now 6 months old.
This, you would think, was plenty of time for me to get better. But I wasn’t getting any better. If anything, I was getting worse.
That is when I decided to do something about it. I told myself that this was not normal at all.
Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression
I went to my local GP and told her that I was so tired all the time that I couldn’t even stand up after sitting for a while.
She suspected a lot of things and recommended a full body check.
When the blood test results came in, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism which was actually the root cause of my fatigue and my depression too.
When I started the meds, I saw a drastic change in myself.
I could sleep now and, consequently, be able to get up and work in the morning.
I started feeling happy again. I felt that everything was going to be alright finally. It was around this time that I decided to confide in my husband and my close friends too.
The depression was going away bit by bit.
I realized my own stupidity and came to my senses. Started acting myself again. And all was well in my own little world.
After I was able to throw off my depression completely, I began analyzing. Because never. NEVER. Do I. Want. To. Go. Through. That phase. Ever. Again. Period!!
In the next section, I will describe my analysis in great detail– my mistakes and what I learned.
What I should’ve done and what I didn’t.
I share this in the hope that if you are reading this while pregnant, then you may be able to avoid or at least recognize it for what it is and, if you are reading this after the birth of your little one, then you may be able to relate, realize and fight it off!
5 Mistakes That Led Me to Postpartum Depression
1. Stressing Too Much About Labor
Okay, you are a first time mom. You are worried about labor.
A real live baby is going to push himself/herself out of your body.
It’s natural to get stressed about labor. But know that labor is not the only thing.
When the baby comes into this world, you are going to have to hold, clothe, bathe, breastfeed and care about the tiny little human that depends only upon you for their livelihood.
This is not to be taken lightly. Taking classes for how you are actually going to care for your baby is far more important than preparing for labor.
Labor is just a day. Your baby is going to be with you for life.
Giving appropriate attention to every aspect of having a baby is important.
2. Not Talking About What is Going On
Talk, talk, talk and then talk some more…
You are not alone. Most likely your family, and many of your friends have gone through the same things as you.
Talking to them gives you a sense of connection.
A feeling that you are NOT alone in what you are going through.
If you feel like all happiness has been sucked out of you, its time to get your family and friends on board. No one is judging you. No one thinks you are weak.
Asking for help is not weakness. It is strength.
It means that you are strong enough to ask for what you want.
If you feel over powering fatigue even after the initial six weeks, then get some professional help. Go to a doctor.
If nothing is physically wrong, then talk to a psychiatrist. It’s strange how sometimes opening up to a stranger is easier than opening up with friends.
Join support groups. There are plenty of those online and guess they are completely free.
They help you connect with people who are going through the exact same things.
3. Thinking the Pain and Depression is Never Going to End
However depressed you may feel, know that it is going to go away. It may be some time before you actually start feeling better, but YOU WILL BE HAPPY AGAIN!
This is not the end of the world. Think about something that you really want to do. Set a time for it.
For example: You decide, “We will go on a European tour, when baby turns 1.” Then you start saving money for it, planning for it.
This takes your mind off your current predicament. This was just an example.
Focusing on a goal naturally makes us happy and gives us something to look forward to.
When you are depressed, every little thing counts. I believe focusing on something positive, a goal of any kind, will help you fight the depression and maybe even get rid of it sooner than normal.
4. Not Finding the Right Balance
You brought a baby into this world. Your body is weak. You can’t expect to do everything yourself.
Don’t expect too much from yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Let things go a little. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect all the time.
But at the same time, don’t let go of yourself completely. You are important too. Your baby should be your first priority, but that doesn’t mean that you have to forget all about yourself.
It’s okay to hire help or ask someone to take care of the baby for a few hours when you have to go out and unwind.
Learn about expressing milk or supplementing with formula milk, if you have to leave your baby with someone else for a few hours.
5. Thinking Crying Will Hurt My Baby
This is THE single most important advice that I once read, and I give it to all of my friends. It is really okay to let the baby cry sometimes. Really. It won’t hurt them.
I myself felt like I had to nurse or carry my daughter around every time she cried. This meant hours and hours of just roaming around, and breastfeeding.
Sometimes I felt like she was simply comfort feeding. But I just couldn’t let her cry. Don’t EVER do this.
I am not saying let them cry all night, or all day.
But, when you feel completely exhausted and overwhelmed, and you feel like they are crying for no reason (i.e: they are well fed and don’t need a diaper change), then put them in the cot and go make yourself some tea/coffee and sit down for a while.
Crying WILL NOT hurt them. Give yourself a break. You deserve it.
Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help
These were the few mistakes that I made myself.
You will probably make different ones. After all, we aren’t perfect. You need to remember that.
But the most important thing to remember is that you can suffer from postpartum depression, and you need to arm yourself against it by having enough courage to ask for help any time that you need it.
Remember, asking is the key. If you asked for something, you already took the first step forward in the right direction!