Today we continue our series–”After Baby Comes: Postpartum Recovery Tips & Blessings for New Moms.” I’m blessed to have a full line-up of very talented guest posters, so I can recovery and enjoy my new sweet baby! Today, Sara Elizabeth is giving us a glimpse into her journey through postpartum depression. Her story is strikingly similar to mine–down to it being with my second baby and after my first natural birth! I hope to share more later in this series, but you can read about my PPD issues here and here. Please pay Sara Elizabeth’s site a visit!
Guest post by Sara Elizabeth from A Mama’s Story
Standing in my garage, I reached out to feel the warm rain, hoping no one would see me like this. My face was sticky from the tears that wouldn’t stop, even though I knew I didn’t have a reason to cry.
It was supposed to be a joyful day, at least according to all the birthday wishes posted on my Facebook wall. I felt I was drowning. Not drowning because of motherhood, but because of something else—something that I couldn’t control or pinpoint. A cloud hovered over me and I couldn’t shake it.
My husband had our one vehicle, my four older children were watching a movie, and my three-week-old baby was peacefully sleeping. How I longed for sleep, too. I was tired. I wasn’t thinking rationally. I couldn’t string thoughts together.
While feeling the rain felt good, too much tactile stimuli felt overwhelming, so the closest I could get to going outside was to stand at the edge of my garage. I felt trapped, even though I loved my children and was grateful to have this precious new baby.
“Baby Blues” affects up to 80% of new moms and eases with time. But what I experienced after the birth of our second child was far worse. It was dark. Very dark. And I wasn’t prepared.
His was my first all-natural childbirth experience. I had a good pregnancy, a healthy baby, and loved being a mom of two!
Soon I noticed I had to force myself to get up in the mornings and if I hadn’t had my oldest to take care of, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. While “Baby Blues” can cause irrational thinking, having Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a different story altogether.
PPD can strike any time during the first year after birth. Symptoms include:
- feelings of shame,
- intense irritability,
- thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, etc.
With PPD, the simple statement of, “Wow! Your son looks just like his Daddy. I don’t see any of you in either of your children,” somehow translated in my head that God intended to take me out of the picture, that He would bring a new mom into my children’s lives, and if they didn’t see me in them, they’d have an easier transition.
While my experience with “baby blues” eased gradually, my PPD symptoms became worse, intensified, and consumed me. At my postpartum follow-up, I told the doctor that I was struggling. And as we worked to get things under control, I started feeling better.
With the help of counseling and a naturopathic doctor, who tackled the issue from a different angle by using nutritional/herbal supplements and natural lifestyle modifications, I was able to wean off the antidepressants.
We take the risk of PPD very seriously and have a safety net in place to prevent recurrences.
Fortunately, I haven’t suffered with it since the birth of my second child.
- We enlist a postpartum doula or my husband stays home the first two weeks after birth. If you have family or friends willing to help, use them!
- I throw the clock and schedule out the window and sleep whenever possible, regardless of the time of day.
- Grab-and-go healthy snacks are kept within my reach, including vitamins and supplements.
- I try to get outside each day.
- We limit or eliminate outside-the-home obligations—and this may continue throughout the first year. My husband is great at enforcing this and guarding me.
- I share my thoughts, regardless of how silly or scary they may be, with my husband, who can contact my midwife, naturopath, or doctor for advice.
When I asked the ladies on my Facebook page what they’d like to be addressed in this post, I was surprised not only by the number of responses, but by the e-mails I received, voicing embarrassment, shame, and guilt from feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, and isolation.
Some women even questioned their spiritual state, as they believed a true Christian shouldn’t feel depressed. Most pastors, Christian counselors, and other leaders with whom I’ve spoken, recognize PPD as a physical problem, not a Spiritual one.
If you’re struggling, don’t feel embarrassed. You’re not a failure and you’re not the only woman who has dealt with these scary feelings and thoughts. Don’t be afraid to speak to your care provider, husband, or a trusted friend. The sooner you can address the underlying issue, the sooner you can recover. In the meantime, The Mayo Clinic site has great information explaining symptoms of PPD, as well as Baby Blues and Postpartum Psychosis.
*Note from Erin: At the beginning of this post, I linked to a couple posts I have written about my experience with PPD and thyroid issues. Sara Elizabeth also had thyroid issues, and many of the PPD/thyroid disease symptoms overlap. Read more about her thyroid issues here. Neither Sara Elizabeth nor I are trained medical professionals. We are just moms who like to research. :)Please consult your trusted healthcare provider before self-diagnosing or starting any kind of treatment. This blog is for entertainment purposes only.*
Sara Elizabeth enjoys writing about her family as they discover the joys of homeschooling, natural living, and strengthening their home through Biblical principles. Learn more by visiting her blog, A Mama’s Story, to see how her family is “creating culture and breaking tradition.” Join discussions regarding the blog’s topics by liking A Mama’s Story’s page on Facebook.
Come check out our other “After Baby Comes: Postpartum Recovery Tips & Blessings for New Moms” posts all month long!
My worst experience with PPD was after my 4th baby, but nothing like a friend of mine who ended up hospitalized with it. It was so bad that she couldn’t be left alone with her own children unsupervised for fear that she would harm them. The really sad part is that she’s a very loving mother. It took her almost 6 months before she started getting back to normal and able to left alone with her children for even a short time. Her children are now school age and this nightmare is long past, but the severity of what PPD can develop into is frightening.
Vikki, thanks for sharing yours and your friend’s experience. I’m glad to hear that this is in the past for her and that she was able to recover.
I know that cloud, too.
After my fifth child came, born in the dead of winter in upstate NY (where winter is very long), I not only struggled to “make it” through the days, but didn’t even have enough milk to keep her satisfied.
Only after 3 more years and two more babies did I realize it was my thyroid.
Love what you said about PPD being a physical problem, not a spiritual one. That is a message that truly aids freedom, instead of piling on more guilt and prolonging the problem.
Beautiful post! Blessings! (Found you thru time-warp wife)
Jacqueline @ deeprootsathome.com
This is not something I have experienced, other than studying it in nursing school. It is helpful to understand it in case we ever have a friend who can talk about it. We can be looking for the symptoms. Excellent post!
Nikki @ Christian Mommy Blogger
Thanks for linking up with Fellowship Friday 🙂 I struggled with “Baby Blues” but fortunately it didn’t last for too long. Once we were in a routine and I felt more comfortable with the new responsibility, I started feeling better! Oh, and lots of prayer helped!
I too suffered from PPD after my 4th child (and my last since experiencing it was something I do not ever want to go through again )
I was sick for 6 months before it started to let up!
I was so alone. My husband worked like 12pm till 3 am every day. I had three other children. My daughter was a preemie and so when she finally came home I fussed over her a lot.
I had some physical pain
and I was on thyroid medications with her (hadn’t been on them with the rest but did suffer the blues with all three previous.. nothing like this)
I also had PP anxiety. I was consumed by it.
I never wanted to hurt myself or anyone but I was so so so lost feeling. I felt like something bad was going to happen (these thoughts consumed me… death, ect ect)
I had no one who understood me.
I went to someone whom I trusted. I woman who loved the Lord and me .. she told me that I wasn’t truly thankful for what God had given me if I was feeling like this.
People have little to no understanding about this unless they have been through it.
What made you want more after experiencing that? I am so sad that I fear having more because of it but, I can’t help it. My daughter is now 3 and I still feel that way!
No, it’s not a good place to be because you know your depression is irrational. I remember wanting to hide in my room with the door closed and just sit and cry for no reason. I knew it there was nothing to cry about, but I was powerless to do anything about it and that only made it worse. It was like in my heart I knew all of it was unfounded but my emotions weren’t mine to control. I could see why someone who didn’t understand what was happened could get to the point of suicide. It didn’t last more than a few weeks, but it would resurface in all it’s glory every month like clock work according to my monthly cycle for several years.
My neighbor, who lived behind me was going through the same thing having given birth shortly after I did and she too would have a resurgence every month. The good part was that we were on opposite cycles, so we could support to each other. I remember one morning getting a phone call from her, hysterically crying, because the garbage truck had come past the house and she didn’t get her trash out in time and now it was going to have to sit there for another week! It’s so frustrating because you know it’s irrational but yet uncontrollable.
“It was supposed to be a joyful day, at least according to all the birthday wishes posted on my Facebook wall.”
Exactly my birthday experience yesterday with my 3-week old. Thanks for the encouraging words.
I had pretty bad PPD after the birth of my first (it didn’t help that he was born via emergency c-section). With my second I REALLY didn’t go down that path again, and I had heard that consuming the placenta could help. In my case, it really did! Sometimes I could feel darkness coming, but just taking a couple of placenta pills really helped. I would never want to give birth without saving my placenta again.