Having a baby is meant to be the highlight of your life. Sometimes months or years of anticipation for that positive test, sometimes many many dollars as well. 9 months of pregnancy, morning sickness, aches and pains, a million questions that make you feel really silly asking (Oh, that wasn’t my waters breaking, I just peed myself, in the middle of Walmart? Grrrrrreat). Then the ultimate test – labouring and delivery.
No matter how your little one comes into this world it is an exhausting and amazing experience, surrounded by a team of professionals who have cheered you on and are super excited to be part of the birth of another little person. It’s the same with being in recovery. The nurses are there at your beck and call and are more than willing to hold your bubs while you go pee. But going home you lose most of that support. Putting you at risk of something we all heard about. Post Partum Depression – or more accurately Post Partum Mood Disorder (PPMD), since it encompasses the entire spectrum of possible disorders which include depression, anxiety, rage, OCD, and sometimes if it becomes severe and untreated psychosis.
Depending on who and when you get information the exact statistics change, some say 1 in 5 women, others say 1 in 3, some say even as many as 1 in 2 women will struggle with some kind of PPMD. I am one of those women. In fact I am the second generation in my family to be formerly diagnosed with a PPMD. Back 20 years ago there was little known about this issue and most women were brushed off, like my mother. Which created a crusade for better treatment, and stop the cycle of women having to fight to have their issues taken seriously while they are already fighting with their own minds. This lead to the eventual formation of the PPD support group at the Guelph CHC. A resource that many women in our community have used and benefited from, and one I am presently part of.
I’m Dara, I have a son who is 8.5 months old and the absolute light of my life.
But creating and caring for this little life almost burned out my own light.
Between a seriously high risk pregnancy, where it was a fight every day to eat, drink, and keep it down, and treatment for a blood clotting issue that came out of nowhere with no explanation (even 8 months after I gave birth, over a year since the first instance, we have no answers), and then complications personally in my recovery in the 8 weeks after giving birth I started to struggle. I’d be alone all night after my husband went back to work 2 weeks after we had our boy, it was the most time he could take off without any repercussions, and he worked the night shift, so from about 10pm until 8am I would be alone with a newborn.
Breastfeeding, changing diapers, soothing tears, and trying to get some sleep all while completely isolated in the middle of the dark late fall nights. My mind would race at the smallest sound outside of our room. Clearly there was an intruder, we would die, but not before they stole all our possessions, tortured and killed my son in front of me, before turning to me to torture and kill and leaving our bodies for my husband to find. I couldn’t stop freaking out every night. Many nights this turned into bouncing between trying to care for my baby, and having anxiety attacks bad enough I was throwing up in the bathroom. Lights needed to stay on at all times, and I became exhausted because of not properly sleeping. A vicious cycle that only creates worse PPMD symptoms.
I still remember the text message conversation with my husband the night before my son’s 2 month appointment. His appointment was December 22nd, so the conversation happened overnight on the 21st. It had been 3 hours since my husband left for work, the baby had been asleep for an hour since his most recent feed and I couldn’t stop thinking. I had to get up and check the door locks, and the window locks, make sure the washer and dryer were off (can’t have a flood or a fire!) made sure the elements on our stove were off and all appliances were powered down for fear of something happening.
I texted him and said I wasn’t okay, we needed to say something to the doctor tomorrow, this wasn’t normal. And I wanted him to come home because I couldn’t handle it. Sadly he was unable to leave work but he kept in contact all night. Immediately upon mentioning these feelings my doctor sprung into action and suggested all the available options – talk therapy, medications, or natural remedies, or any combination of the above. I am one of the lucky ones. A family who was aware and active in looking out for me and a doctor well versed in PPMD issues. More often than not new mom’s aren’t taken seriously when it comes to these issues, or get brushed off because it’s not depression but rather one of the other manifestations of PPMD.
I’ve learned a large amount about myself and the supports available in the community. I’ve learned that we as moms need to band together and be supportive, those of us who are suffering need to learn to reach out to anyone who will listen and to not give up until someone takes you seriously. Medication is okay, and more importantly there are breastfeeding safe medications available – multiple in fact!
Most importantly I learned a new motto that I live by every day – “I’m not okay today. And that’s okay.”