Today is a very special day; it’s my daughter’s seventh birthday. We have a very fun day planned with her favourite dinner topping it all off. As I wander down memory lane I am overcome with such love and gratitude that I can’t find the words to express all I am thankful for, because when I feel like the world is closing in and I can’t keep my head above water, I look back at what I have accomplished and I know without a doubt that I am going to be okay.
The little one was a colicky baby and her sister, just a couple weeks shy of two years old, wanted every second of my attention. I was running on about two hours of sleep a day and the girls’ dad was in flight school three hours away. I was a stubborn woman who thought that if I accepted help from anyone I was admitting failure as a parent. I cannot stress enough that this is a lie that a lot of mothers’ post baby brains tell them, and a very selfish and cruel lie at that. According to The American Psychological Institution, 9-16% of women will experience Postpartum Depression. Among women who have already experienced PPD following a previous pregnancy, some prevalence increases to an estimated 41%.
I had a diagnosis of PPD and was prescribed an SSRI to help me through. Now as many of you may or may not know, SSRIs are not always a great choice for certain people living with a diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar disorder, which I am. The combination of the severe lack of sleep and the meds had me skyrocketing into a state of mania the likes I had never seen before. I had to be hospitalized against my will while I had a toddler and a newborn at home that needed me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I needed to be well in order to take care of my children.
For me there was a lot of guilt. I saw this beautiful little baby girl who I didn’t want to pick up. I didn’t particularly want to spend any time with her or my oldest, I wanted to sleep and stop crying all of the time. I drifted through motions without any emotion other than complete engulfing sadness. At one point I thought I was poisoning my daughter with my breast milk so I refused to feed her, prompting a swift trip to the pharmacist and baby store from my mother-in-law to stock up on bottles, formula and vitamin D. I had terrible thoughts; awful gut wrenching thoughts that I can’t believe a mind could come up with, and about my own baby.
Postpartum depression does not mean that you are a bad mother. I’m going to say that again for those of you in the back who may not have heard that, POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE A BAD MOTHER, and it is not your fault if you are living with it. We talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness all the time, but there isn’t enough talk about the stigma surrounding mothers who live with PPD. It is hard enough to not measure up to people’s standards of what the perfect mother should look like, and a lot of those standards we place on ourselves. There is no perfect mother, but there is the perfect mother for your children, and that’s you, even if you’re going through the sea of sludge, you can pull out.
Signs and Symptoms of PPD
- Lack of interest in your baby
- Worrying about hurting your baby
- Negative feelings toward your baby
- Lack of concern for yourself
- Lack of energy or motivation
The web is filed with resources for mothers, parents and support for PPD, but always talk to your doctor. If you are unwell chances are your baby is not getting the best care that you can provide. Again it’s NOT YOUR FAULT, but you must ask for help and accept it. These feelings will pass with help and support, I promise you. The fact that you were afflicted with PPD says nothing about what an amazing mother you truly are, nothing. There is hope and there is help.
This is an amazing Psych Central article about PPD, busting the myths and how to get help. I have had the pleasure and privilege of crossing paths with one of the leading experts in perinatal research. Dr. Walker Karraa is absolutely brilliant and has done so much for the mental health community as a whole, but her work with Mothers and mental health is outstanding. Please check out her website which has links to all sorts of help and resources.
I refuse to entertain the thoughts about where I would be right now if I hadn’t accepted the help when I so desperately needed it. My children are happy, healthy and loved beyond measure. The bond between Mother and Daughter is unbreakable and they enrich my life every single day. I am grateful to them for completing my family and being a catalyst on my way to balance.
Oh, and Happy Birthday Little Darling.