Voices of PPD: Three Women Speak Out
Post-Partum Depression (PPD) affects 70-80% of mothers, and it is considered by many to be “just the baby blues”. PPD can have a wide range of effects on women, but it is often minimized or viewed as a passing issue. The stigma many women face surrounding motherhood and PPD makes it more difficult to reach out for help. So let us look this issue straight in the eye. Below are anonymous accounts of three women’s experiences.
*Names were changed in order to maintain anonymity.
1. What was your biggest struggle?
Lauren: “Being that I am disabled with Spina Bifida, I considered myself blessed to be able to actually conceive, after knowing that it would be a 50/50 chance because of my condition. My pregnancy was high risk but I had been extremely thankful and happy that overall my pregnancy went well and my baby girl was healthy. Soon after giving birth my emotions shifted from booming of happiness to trying to understand why I was I was going through all these crazy emotions and why I was all of the sudden in this poor mental state.”
Reyana: “My biggest struggle was wanting to be able to do everything and not being able to and being so hard on myself about everything.”
Maria: “I would say my biggest struggle was admitting to myself that I was dealing with PPD; it’s such a taboo subject and lots of women feel ashamed about it. I didn’t want to be “that mom”. Another huge struggle was finding motivation to keep up with school work, I’m projected to graduate with two associate degrees in May, so these last few classes I’m taking are crucial towards my degree.”
2. How did it affect your relationship with your children?
Lauren: “I suffered from postpartum depression after having my first baby, I felt like I was doing everything wrong, from the start I was having latching problems, then after being with my baby for 3 weeks, we had to take her to the ER for respiratory problems. During that time, I felt guilty for everything that my baby was going through, not being able to latch, then thinking that because I wasn’t breastfeeding she wasn’t receiving the necessary nutrients her body required. I pretty much felt like I was a failure as a mother and that my baby deserved a mom who was not disabled, who was able to go above and beyond for her health. I felt worthless.”
Reyana: “After having my first child I struggled with feeling a connection for at least 3 months. I knew that she was mine and I knew that I loved her but something was missing and that caused depression for me. When I had my 2nd child, and with them being so close in age (11 months apart), I felt like I was operating like a robot; I went in to auto pilot just to pass the time. I had one goal in the day and that was to get from the morning to the evening and from the evening to the morning; it made experiencing milestones and enjoying the moment impossible. I felt I couldn’t deal with my personal emotions because my kids needed a parent and dealing with myself would take time I thought I didn’t have.”
Maria: “I found myself being very impatient. My son was born in September, so he’s five months old now. That being said, we’ve had a few issues that has caused him to need a lot of comfort, so a lot of times as soon as I put him down he immediately starts fussing/crying, and being impatient caused me to get frustrated and have breakdowns because I just want to sit and relax for more than a few moments.”
3. [How] did it affect your relationship with your spouse?
Lauren: “As soon as I started feeling all these emotions I right away turned to my husband and tried my best to explain to him what I was going through and he took it upon himself to contact doctors and family members to seek help. I am grateful that he was understanding, and that he did whatever was in his power to help me go through my depression. I would say that he was my main support through all of that.”
Reyana: “While on auto pilot I didn’t communicate with my ex-husband the way I should have. I forgot that my best friend and spouse may be able to be help me with all that I was feeling. I wanted so much to be the perfect mother and wife that I became so numb and detached as a person. He felt very excluded from who I was becoming and that caused distance between us which further fueled my PPD.”
Maria: “The relationship between my son’s father and I has always been a little complicated, so me dealing with PPD and feeling like I couldn’t ask for help caused me to feel very resentful towards him, along with being impatient and insecure.”
4. How long did it last?
Lauren: “My PPD lasted 1 year, I feel it would’ve been longer if I didn’t recognize that I was going through depression and if I would’ve kept my feelings and fears to myself.”
Reyana: “My PPD lasted 2 years but I think that was because I had my children so close together.”
Maria: “Honestly, it’s something I still struggle with, but I have found that since being open and honest with not just myself but the people around me, in the last two months it’s been a lot easier.”
5. What support did you wish you had?
Lauren: “I feel that I had the best support I could receive because I actually opened up and didn’t keep my emotions or fears to myself. I questioned a lot of women in my family and friends who had kids and most of them for the first time told me they still struggled and that their depression was actually getting worse.”
Reyana: “I wish that I had reached out to more women but just like in most cases I was embarrassed and felt that it was easier to pretend that everything was fine rather than admitting that I was struggling with my mental health.”
Maria: “I wish I had been more open and honest from the beginning so I could’ve gone to therapy right away, and had more support from friends and family.”
6. What helped you?
Lauren: “I prayed, prayed and prayed. I kept communicating with my husband, my sister and other family members who were in daily contact with me. I gave myself pep-talks daily, telling myself that my baby loved me no matter what, and that I wasn’t supposed to be perfect, God blessed me because He knew I could be the best mother my baby could have.”
Reyana: “I think my turning point was when I noticed how far I was from being myself; I looked in the mirror and you could see the PPD, I couldn’t hide it anymore. I looked exhausted I looked like I just didn’t care anymore. So I started to deal with myself, I turned to prayer and reading and started to invest in myself again.”
Maria: “Talking to friends and family, talking about it through social media so I could reach out and connect with other struggling moms, and being a part of mom groups on facebook. Also, focusing on myself. I realized that I don’t need to put my son first 24/7, and that it’s okay to be selfish occasionally. So I started eating healthier, doing things that made me still feel like the old me just by simply getting ready for the day, self care like face masks, getting my hair and nails done, etc.”
7. Prepartum depression-[how] is this time different?
Lauren: “Soon after my daughter was a year old, we decided to try for a second baby and our last baby no matter what the gender was. Again, although I was considered high risk, my pregnancy went well and I had my son. All was well, until he was about 4-5 months old I started feeling a certain way again and I feared my depression was back but this time it was anxiety that was hitting me hard…till this day I still get anxiety attacks, and I’ve learned to help control them and not kick my own butt for things that are not under my control.”
Reyana: “Prepartum depression is different because for me it’s not constant. It’s been 6 years since my I last gave birth and being a mother all that time has better prepared me for certain things that may have triggered depression before, like image issues and feeling overwhelmed with preparation items and working. But I still have my moments of feeling incapable or discouraged, I am just no longer afraid to be honest about those feelings.”
Maria: “This is my first baby, so this is my first time dealing with PPD.”
8. What external problems made this experience worse (society, blame, etc)?
Lauren: “Blaming myself and my disability for not being the best mom I could’ve been if I had not been disabled or if I didn’t have a physical disadvantage.”
Reyana: “I think every woman goes through moments where they want to blame someone or something for their painful moments but I try not to (key word try). If I find myself blaming my spouse or social media I quickly check myself, I am the one that chooses to compare myself to others and my spouse is not responsible for every ounce of my joy. We have to pour back into ourselves as women and sow good seeds into ourselves and omit those items that make us feel negatively.”
Maria: “The biggest trigger for my PPD was seeing other women’s beautiful labor and delivery stories. I had developed severe preeclampsia and had to be induced and had a traumatizing experience before and after birth. I didn’t get that “instant connection” most moms get with their babies and it made me feel so horrible about myself. Another trigger was also seeing other women’s breastfeeding journey. I was only able to breastfeed for a month before I lost my supply due to stress, and it broke my heart. The thing made me feel closest to my baby was breastfeeding, it was the one thing I could give him that no one else could and it was taken away from me. Also, seeing a lot of moms who had their bodies “bounce back” right after birth made me very insecure with myself making my ppd even worse. I’ve always struggled with body positivity and being confident about my looks, and pregnancy had me gain a lot of weight.”
9. How can those improve?
Lauren: “I feel like everyone’s external problems are different. In my case I just kept meditating on all the greatness I have already achieved while being disabled and with a physical disadvantage. It gave me the strength to know that I was stronger than what I felt at the time of my depression.”
Reyana: “Just being more present will improve our quality of life. Taking time away from our phones and the pressures our phones and media and doing things that are investments in ourselves, like slowing down and reading a book and playing card games with my kids. There is nothing that can really be done when it comes to media but we can definitely choose when and how much of it we pay attention to.”
Maria: “Instead of comparing my experiences to those of other women, I started celebrating them instead and being kinder to myself. Yes, I had a traumatizing experience before and after birth, but I was able to avoid a cesarean section which some women who develop preeclampsia don’t get to do. Yes, I was only able to breastfeed for one month, but some women don’t get to breastfeed at all. One month of breastfeeding is a big accomplishment for someone who’s supply started diminishing almost as soon as it started coming in. Yes, I gained a lot of weight from pregnancy, but my body gave me the greatest gift I’ve even had, and that’s my son. My body created, protected, and nurtured a beautiful, healthy, and happy baby boy. Being kinder to myself has let me be kinder towards other moms, and because of what I have experienced I’ve been able to reach out and help support other moms who struggle, and that starts a chain reaction of moms supporting other moms. I think as a society moms feel like they have to compete with other moms, to be a “better mom” than the next. Instead of competing and comparing, we should be uplifting and supporting one another.”
10. What do you wish people around you were aware of during this experience?
Lauren: “Like I mentioned, I feel like I had a great support system during my PPD, my husband did what he could, my family was constantly in contact and ready to help in what they could but I feel like they thought I wasn’t doing enough to get over it as quick as “they” wanted me to get over it. I feel that someone who is going through PPD should have a support system who is patient and allows them time to heal, process and gain their confidence back without asking more of them.”
Reyana: “That while pregnant woman are emotional and are carrying a lot, that it is not a disability, I think being counted out or excluded causes us to feel like there is something wrong with us and we start to feel inadequate, although we are pregnant or just had a baby, we are still women first and being able to have get togethers that are family friendly are a necessity for us to not just feeling like parents all the time but also feeling like people.”
Maria: “PPD doesn’t show itself as simply being sad, it’s so much more than that. I think people hear the word “depression” and associate it with being sad and crying all the time, but that’s not the case. It shows itself as lack of motivation to do even the simplest of tasks, lack of appetite or overindulging in food, sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, having a huge whirlwind of emotions all the time, feeling inadequate and like no matter what you do your failing yourself and your family, and/or feeling all alone. It’s hard to admit to yourself, let alone your loved ones, that you’re struggling and need help. Simply being understanding can go a long way. Offer help, even for something as simple as watching the baby/child(ren) so mom can take a relaxing shower without being interrupted. Remind her she’s doing an amazing job, because she may forget from time to time how much she does for her family. Be there for her when she has her moments of her emotions taking over her.”