10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Postpartum Depression

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When I was eight months pregnant, a friend asked me if I was worried at all about postpartum depression. I quickly shot her down. "Oh, that would never happen to me," I said. "I’m so excited to be a mom." As far as I was concerned, I was going to give birth to my son the old-fashioned way, fall deeply in love with him, breastfeed him for months like a champion, transform into the DIY domestic goddess I was always meant to be, and take him with me everywhere I went. Instead, I was in labor for 24 hours, a process that led to two hours of pushing, followed by a C-section. Afterward, I found that I felt nothing toward my healthy new baby boy, became crippled by anxiety, quit breastfeeding after five days, decided I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mom, started taking antidepressants, and barely left the house for six months.

Maybe if I had received more education about postpartum depression, I would have been more aware of what was happening to me, less ashamed, and more prepared to seek help. There are so many things I wish I’d known about postpartum depression before I became a mom, and I want you to know them too.

1. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate.

Postpartum depression doesn’t care about your race, ethnicity, how much money or education you have, how excited you are about your baby, or what your support system looks like. I felt like I had lucked out with the ultimate new mom set-up: I have a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and couldn’t wait to be a mom. I even hired a baby nurse to help out the first two months… and I still got postpartum depression.

2. There are real risk factors.

I had so many risk factors and had no idea risk factors for postpartum depression even existed. Some of mine: having 30 family members in town on my due date, moving three months before my due date, an extremely long labor, and having a type-A personality. Although each mom’s risk factors will be different because postpartum depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness, I’d recommend checking out the list.

3. Postpartum depression doesn’t mean you want to harm your baby.

I always thought moms with postpartum depression were the ones I saw on television: the people on the news who hurt their babies and sometimes themselves too. I never had the desire to do either of those things, which left me feeling confused about what was happening to me. Most of those folks are actually suffering from a form of postpartum psychosis, the least common form of postpartum depression. (And although many people with postpartum psychosis have delusions, they’re not always destructive—and those harmful thoughts aren’t exactly brought on because the person wants them, either.)

4. Postpartum depression isn’t like other depressions.

I learned later from my therapist that postpartum depression often presents itself as more of an irritable, anxious depression. At first, I didn’t realize I was depressed because what I really felt was overwhelming anxiety. This also made it more difficult for others to notice that something was wrong. And because women just can’t catch a break (ever, really), postpartum anxiety is its own condition—one that doesn’t get as much attention but is definitely something to watch for.

5. Hundreds of thousands of women get postpartum depression each year.

For a while, I felt like the only one. I didn’t know any moms who had postpartum depression—or if I did, they weren’t talking about it. I just thought I sucked at motherhood and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so much better at it. I also felt ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know about any of the negative thoughts running through my head. If I had known that postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 new moms, I might have felt less alone.

6. Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mom.

When postpartum depression hit, I couldn’t understand why everyone else loved being a mom and had such an easy transition into motherhood. I couldn’t understand why everyone on my social media feeds posted pictures with captions like, "The best thing to ever happen to me," or "so in love" or "life is now complete."

I just thought I was a horrible mother because I couldn’t relate to any of that. The truth was I didn’t cause my depression or ask to get sick. I wasn’t a terrible mom. I had a real mental health issue that required treatment.

7. Taking medication isn't the end of the world.

I never thought I would begin motherhood by taking antidepressants, and I questioned what that said about me as a mom. Was I weak because I needed drugs to help me function? Would I be judged for trading breastfeeding for anti-anxiety pills? Taking medication turned out to be the best decision because it helped me get healthy and happy for my family. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t judged myself so harshly.

8. Not everyone in your life will be supportive.

I could barely leave the house, let alone have the will to return phone calls, texts, and emails, or explain what I was going through. I was too exhausted and often too embarrassed, but many of my friends understood and continued to send messages filled with love and support without expecting anything in return. However, some stopped reaching out when they didn’t hear back from me; they couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. They aren’t my friends today, and I’ve come to accept that that’s OK.

9. Finding the right therapist is everything.

The first therapist I met with spent our first session asking me to list ways I could be a good mom… which was not helpful at all when I was feeling like I didn’t even want to be a mom in the first place. I didn’t see the light until I met with a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and knew exactly how to talk to me about this issue. I could have saved myself some time and frustration if I knew seeing someone who specializes in maternal mental health is a must.

10. Motherhood is a team sport.

I now know that motherhood isn’t meant to be done in isolation, but when I became a mom, I thought I had to do it all on my own—and with a big smile on my face. I thought that’s what made someone a good mom. So when I got sick and couldn’t do anything without help, I felt like a failure; I didn’t know that all moms struggle and need help. Now, I openly share my struggles and always ask for help when I need it because motherhood becomes easier and more fun when we all do it together.

If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression, it’s OK to ask for help. Postpartum Support International is a great place to help you find local resources in your area.

This article originally appeared at Greatist

Words That Are Basically A Mom Hug

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Four years ago, when my son was born, and I battled severe postpartum depression, I felt so alone. I wanted—no—I desperately craved meeting another mom like me. Another mom who would put her hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and say, “I’ve been there. I get it.”

I didn’t find these moms until I got better almost a year later when I started sharing my journey from postpartum depression to healthy, happy mommy. And most of them I met virtually. I was amazed by how many moms would respond to my story with those powerful words, “I’ve been there. I get it.” Where were these moms when I was suffering? Most likely, they were also suffering and too ashamed to come forward just like I was.

It was then I realized the power of those two little sentences and their importance and necessity when it comes to the struggles of motherhood. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, body image, relationship issues or something else, we all struggle as moms and we want to know we aren’t the only ones. We don’t always want advice. We want to feel normal. We want to know there are others out there who get it. Who get us. 

These two sentences are so powerful because they are loaded with empathy. They mean, I know what you’re feeling. They mean, I’ve walked in your shoes. They mean, you’re not alone in your fears. They mean, I see you. They mean, you don’t have to pretend anymore.

Six months ago, I met another mom, Brooke, through Instagram. We connected over the shared experience of surviving postpartum depression. She reached out to me after reading something I wrote for Motherlucker about my own postpartum depression journey. I became that mom for her. The one I had been searching for when I was sick. The one who, with her words, could say, "You're not alone."

As we talked more we wondered about how many moms could benefit from hearing those same words. We decided become two moms on a mission to help other moms feel less alone in their struggles and more empowered to be real as they continue on their journey to raise tiny humans.

Motherhood today comes with the pressure to be perfect. Facebook posts that only show the best pictures. Instagram memes that simply joke about the worst and absurd parts of our days. But these images on social media don’t tell the whole story. What’s missing from them are connection, empathy, support and understanding.

I don’t want any mom to ever feel as alone as I did when I battled postpartum depression. I want to help build a tribe of moms that lift each other up and help each other rise. I want to change the dialogue of motherhood to one grounded in empathy and sisterhood. I want to empower moms to be honest about the messy, scary stuff that no one likes to talk about.

And that's what Brooke and I are doing everyday, over at MOTHERHOOD | UNDERSTOOD. Come hang out with us!

Mom Code

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We all know it’s hard AF to be a mom. Sometimes, it’s even harder to tell the truth as one. In a world filled with opinions and judgments, we don’t always want to wear our truth on our spit-up or yogurt-stained sleeves.

I’ve accepted that not everyone will embrace calling her kid an asshole after multiple tantrums over not being allowed to have a second piece of candy. Or wanting every playdate (post-noon of course) to be accompanied by a glass of Pinot. Motherhood isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Over the past five years as a parent, I have learned that telling the truth makes motherhood easier. Pretending takes so much energy, something we moms are always running out of. Ask me anything about surviving postpartum depression and I will tell you. I’m an open book about having to take medication. I won’t lie and tell you I miss my family so much it hurts when I leave for a girl’s weekend. And I’m going to tell you that what I feel for my child doesn’t resemble appreciation or magic when he shows up at the side of my bed at three in the morning to ask me what he was dreaming about. 

But, there are still times when the truth isn’t the first thing to leave my mouth. Many times, it’s directed at my son (if you’re not lying to your kids, are you really a parent?). Others, towards my husband or friends in passing and usually because I’m just too damn tired to say much at all. Moms can’t be unicorns all the time! That’s why mom language is filled with hidden meanings, even when we consider ourselves to be some of the more real and honest ones.

Here are just a few examples. 

I’ll be there in a minute. Or, I’m coming.

I’m going to try to stretch this out for as long as humanly possible, so I don’t have to actually do what you want me to do and pray you forget. 

Because I Said So

I got nothing. I have no legit explanation or reason for why I am telling you what I am telling you to do. And for me to find the reason, I would have to ask around or do some research and I’m just not going to put that kind of effort in today. Mommy is just TOO tired! Welcome to childhood buddy. My parents said the same thing to me and now I’m saying it to you. I’m the adult. You’re the child. SO JUST DO IT! 

Things are great! Busy but great! 

I’m drowning with how much I have going on – growing a business, keeping up with deadlines, blogging, raising a needy, tiny human, and fighting daily exhaustion and what I’ve labeled as situational depression.

I’m too tired honey.

It’s great that you got to spend all day bossing around other people who actually HAVE to listen to you, followed by lunch with people who don’t throw food on the floor, at each other, or yell at you that they don’t eat foods that are green. And while you were in your office, alone, I got elbowed in the boobs, jumped on top of and kneed in the boobs, and pulled by my clothes as if they were a leash, all by a tiny human who also felt the need to climb on top of my head when we sat down on the couch to watch Boss Baby for the eighty second time. The LAST thing I want is to be touched right now. 

 

This article originally appeared at Motherlucker.