What they don’t tell you; Pregnancy and Depression.
Welcome to Anonymously Yours Unwrapped.
In today’s popular use of social media it’s hard not miss the buzz around pregnancy, expecting mothers, and the glamourous world of celebrities who are able to do it all. It’s even harder to not look at the social media pages and feel a twinge when you realize, that’s just not me and may never will be. You compare yourself to these glam fam mother’s, thinking that you will never be able to do it all while wearing make-up and keeping your whites white. But the truth is, real mother hood isn’t like that and anyone who ever tells you otherwise, or posts to social media, is lying to you. But with society telling to be that Mother, the one who can do it all, what happens when you’re faced with motherhood for the first time and post partum depression?
In this post we’re joined by a contributor who experienced just this, and shares her story with us in this post – The Post Partum Dream.
Let’s start with some background. You give some of it in your own personal blog post (and feel free to double up on that), but can you talk about the realization that occurred when you became pregnant? You make a comment about how it wasn’t your intent to be a mom, so with your husband were you happy and elated? You said you went off the Zoloft before that voluntarily, what made you go off of it, and did your Husband know/agree with the decision?
When I first became pregnant my husband and I were very happy. I actually had a miscarriage previously, right after getting married, at the 8 week mark. We had just gotten married and I didn’t expect to get pregnant so quickly. When I became pregnant again we had been trying, which is why I had gone off the Zoloft.
You talk a bit about the experience of actually being pregnant. Can you go into that in a little bit more depth? What was the high point for you of the pregnancy if there was one?
During pregnancy I remember feeling fantastic – excited, glowing, and happy, and like I was special. In hindsight, however, I can say there were times during pregnancy that I did feel overwhelmed and stressed. I was working and commuting on the bus and it was hard. Also I remember feeling angry at my husband for no reason. I would get so angry I’d start shaking. However I didn’t seriously consider having issues after the baby was born – it was just something that never occurred to me.
Continuing a bit with that, as you mention in the post that you didn’t have the support network, or felt like you didn’t, afterwards. Did you have that support network of expecting mothers during pregnancy? Did you find that the expecting part of the pregnancy easier to connect with mothers?
I had no mom friends, and I was the first of my group of friends to be pregnant. Growing up I was the youngest of two, and I had zero experience with babies. I had no idea what I was getting into. The expecting part of pregnancy was definitely easier to connect with people, because everyone loves to touch your belly and give you cutesy baby gifts. After the baby I felt completely isolated. I was ashamed and guilty at how I was feeling, and super scared, yet afraid to share that with anyone.
You said that during the birth you were going to do natural and then at the last minute choose to do an epidural but felt like you would have been judged for it if you told your family. Was this something that when you spoke about later to other mothers and friends, you still felt the same about, even after you moved through the PPD?
Yes I still feel guilty about this, even though I’ve talked to other mothers now and I know there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an epidural. I’ve even had people tell me “omg get the epidural, don’t even consider not getting it” yet I somehow felt weak for getting it, like I was less of a woman.
You talk about being in a fog after the birth of your daughter, can you describe that for us again, walk us through a day in the life of you at that time.
I would wake up after a fitful, dream filled sleep, and for a split second forget that I had anxiety. Then after that half second passed, all the feelings would rush back. It’s almost like I could feel the rush of chemicals in my brain. My heart would constrict and it would take massive amounts of energy to pull myself out of bed. Showers and teeth brushing were non existent. The minutes would literally drag. Small things like going for a stroller walk were all I could look forward to. The minute the baby started crying I’d panic. I would wear sunglasses everywhere, for fear of getting a migraine. Also I felt like there was a fog around my head and I had no peripheral vision. The worst part was not even being able to look forward to sleep at night because the nights did not guarantee sleep.
You mention that you didn’t have the support of people around you at that time, or felt like you didn’t, can you tell us about that? Maybe discuss the lack of support groups that exist for women with PPD.
Finding help was horrible. I could barely focus and take care of myself and my daughter let alone go through the effort of seeking help. My mother in law was close by and did what she could, but I felt too guilty to share my real struggles with her. My own mother came up to help for a few weeks but again I felt guilty having her around because I was such a mess. After about two months I talked to my gynecologist about my struggles, then was referred to a mental hospital (outpatient). After another few weeks I had my first appointment. During this time I was also googling trying to find support groups, but could find only one; and they were just starting up and never had a set meeting, so it was very disappointing. I really felt alone.
When did your doctor and/or you realize what was happening and how did the next steps to come out of it come about?
At my postpartum checking (about 6 or 8 weeks after baby) I told my doctor I was having problems. He gave me a phone number of an affiliated mental hospital (outpatient). I called and made an appointment. My issue with everything was how long it took. I didn’t actually get to speak to a psychiatrist until about a month later. I needed help now! Turns out she was amazing, but I wish everything wasn’t such a process because the last thing I needed to deal with at that time was paperwork and scheduling. Don’t even get me started on the paperwork associated with my leave from work. I had to fill out massive amounts of paperwork in the days after baby was born to start on FMLA.
How do you feel that your PPD defined you as a new mom? Do you think you’ve moved away from that definition of being a new mom with PPD into now a mother of two who is happy about being a mom?
I think I will always feel sad for my daughter that she had such an ill mother the first years of her life. I can never get that time back, and although I know it was not my fault but rather a chemical imbalance in the brain, I can’t help the guilt. I was so afraid to have another and go through the same thing again, and now that I’ve successfully had baby #2 with no popstartum I am on cloud nine. Although I still struggle with guilt and parenting in general, I finally feel like I thought I “should have” the first time.
Can you talk a little bit about what you see society labeling moms as, how we underprepare them for motherhood, and what you would like to see the future bring about in regards to the conversation of PPD and motherhood?
This is the best question. I think society sees moms in very two dimensional terms. We are either working moms or stay at home moms. Soccer moms or hippie moms. Breastfeeding moms or bottle moms. Good moms or bad moms. Our role models are celebrities who have nannies and access to many support resources. Social media has created this idea of “super mom” who does crafts, makes organic gluten free baby food, potty trains their toddler in two days, and has all the answers. THIS IS NOT REAL. I want to see less social media moms and more real moms. I want to stop labeling each other and just accept that we are each individuals doing the best we can. I want to shatter this idea of the perfect mom. Social media is just a highlight reel!
Lastly, what would you tell those who have depression, are on medication but want to become moms? What advice would you give to new mothers in general?
I can only speak from my personal experience. Medicine or not, I think the most helpful piece of advice to prepare for motherhood is be realistic. I didn’t have any clue what I was getting into, and I think that was part of the problem. Self-care is important. Get hired help if you need it (or budget for it in advance). Don’t look at social media if it’s going to upset you. And don’t be afraid to talk about how you are feeling. I know it’s cliche, but there are others out there feeling the exact same way and you truly are not alone. I stayed on Zoloft during my second pregnancy, with my doctor’s approval, and my son was born healthy. Do what you need to do for you. A healthy mom is the most important gift you can give your child – not toys, not organic homemade food, but you.