Postpartum Depression: Don’t Suffer in Silence
I can’t remember much about the birth of my twins, nor can I remember much about the first three years of their lives. Unfortunately, some of the things I can remember are the negative thoughts and pure exhaustion I experienced. I told no one but my husband and my dad, who was a physician, but I did not get counseling or go on medication. Looking back, that was not the right decision. I suffered in the silence with postpartum depression for close to a year.
It was 2001 and I had a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old when my twin babies arrived. If you were not counting, that is five children under the age of 6—more than anyone could manage. Unfortunately for me, postpartum depression wasn’t really talked about much back then. At least, my physicians did not discuss it with me or check on me to see if an intervention was needed.
I remember crying a lot. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted beyond anything I can explain. I remember having suicidal thoughts, and thoughts of hurting the babies. I somehow was able to separate these thoughts and talk myself out of them, but it was scary and not me. I didn’t go out much, partly because it was too hard to get five children out the door, and partly because I was so depressed and anxious.
My husband was as supportive as he could be while working full time, but I don’t think he understood how much I was suffering. To this day, I am not certain he really knows what I went through. Part of me still doesn’t want to share some of the dark thoughts I had. I am sure if he did know, he would have made sure I got mental health help. My father thought it might be a thyroid problem and so he tested my thyroid, which was low, and put me on thyroid medication. It may have helped some, but it didn’t make enough of an impact for me to really remember a change.
I know part of the issue was probably that I didn’t have much help when I had my twins. We couldn’t afford to hire anyone. My husband had just finished graduate school and we had just purchased a home. I didn’t know there was such thing as a postpartum doula, but oh, would I have loved to have one to come and help. I am certain that would have made a difference in my ability to cope.
As a mom that experienced postpartum depression, I knew I wanted to help other moms going through similar experiences. When all my children started school full time, I decided to become a postpartum doula, so I could do just that. Through studying more about postpartum depression, it has amazed me at the percentage of women that struggle with it. It has given me a new understanding and taken away the shame I felt from when I experienced it. I now recognize that I did nothing wrong.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, have a family history of PPD, or have a personal mental health history that makes you more susceptible to PPD, here is my advice:
Seek medical help at the first sign.
There’s no need for you to suffer in silence. If possible, prepare your partner or other family members to monitor you in the first weeks and months after the baby arrives. It’s not always easy to recognize depression in yourself.
Hire a postpartum doula, or ask family to come stay with you for a while. Enlist your friends to come over and relieve you, even if just for an hour or two while you sleep, shower, or eat. We seem to have the misconception as mothers that we can or should do all of it on our own, and feel apologetic when asking for help. Don’t. You were never meant to do this solo.
Communicate with your spouse.
Make sure your spouse knows what you are going through and ask them to help as much as they can.
Exercise – it is the key to better physical, and in turn better mental health.
Hire a housekeeper (if you can afford to).
I did a few times, and it sure lifted my spirits.
See your friends.
Continue to cultivate your friendships. Have something fun planned so you have something to look forward to.
Find a support group.
Connect with Baby Blues Connection: www.babybluesconnection.org They offer one-on-one support and group support, along with recommendations for psychiatric physicians.
There really is no reason to suffer in silence like I did. Things have changed and this is far more recognized than it was even 15 years ago when I went through this. Some of my greatest rewards as a postpartum doula have been helping a mother through postpartum depression. Help is available. All you have to do is call.
Baby Bonds is a Boise-based company that serves mothers with lactation support, postpartum doula care, and teaches infant massage. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find our contact information here.