Momma on the verge: signs of Postpartum Depression, the journey through, & what you can do to help.

by heirtoblair on May 26, 2011

ppd1 Momma on the verge: signs of Postpartum Depression, the journey through, & what you can do to help.To the mommas that are on the verge, sorting through the muck, or stepping into the light – I know what you’re feeling.  I know how you’re hurting, I understand your  fears, but I have a story of hope.  You will be okay.  You will make it into the light.  You will be whole again.

To the family & friends witnessing her pain – you’re going to be okay, too.  This is a season.

So many questions I get revolve around the “stages” of postpartum depression – how I knew I had it, what my treatment was like, how I knew I was on the recovery, & what family & friends can do to help.

Before.

Postpartum depression can be such a nasty thing to diagnose, because the truth is that it looks different on everyone.  I thought that it meant tears – lots & lots of tears.  So when the tears didn’t come but I was angry & resentful of my fresh baby, I did not recognize it as a problem with depression – I thought it was a problem with me.

  • Anger
  • Frustration over the smallest tasks
  • Resentment of my husband & new baby
  • Feeling that I made a mistake
  • Detachment (aka feeling like he wasn’t my baby)
  • I thought about giving my son up for adoption.
  • Irrational thoughts about harming myself, my family, my baby.
  • Zero interest in food.
  • A fixation with keeping the house absolutely spotless at all times.
  • Inability to fall asleep & stay asleep.
  • Taking long showers. (this seems to be a common thread as a way to hide crying & escape responsibilities)
  • Constant complaints of exhaustion.

Do you know a new momma that feels this way?  Any of these?  Here’s the thing – you can help, even if you’re not a licensed therapist or OB/GYN.

  • Make that momma some good food.  When a friend dropped off a casserole that I just had to pop in the oven, it was bliss.  Especially if there was a frozen one to go along with it.  Tip:  Make something SIMPLE that she can recreate with no pressure.  Do not pull out the big gourmet guns because it may just make her feel more worthless that she can’t match your standard.
  • Keep her company.  Sit at her feet while she feeds the baby -my husband did this & I enjoyed the security of his presence in a situation where I felt vulnerable.
  • Don’t tell her that a clean house or a perfect nursery “don’t matter.”  They DO matter to her & it hurts to have someone brush it off.
  • Guys, leave her alone for sex.
  • When you ask her how she’s doing, more than likely she’ll lie & say “fine.”  Pay more attention to her reaction to the baby’s cries, her sleeping patterns, & whether she’s still “engaged” in life.
  • Simply state that you think she’s hurting & you hate to see it because she deserves better.  She deserves to love motherhood because she is so wonderful at it.
  • Remind her that they will not take her baby away from her.
  • Remind her of that again.
  • Then suggest that she seek help with her trusted OB/GYN.

During

This was the hardest part for me – the fight.  Believe me, any momma that is in the throes of postpartum depression is FIGHTING.  You’re fighting for motherhood, for love, & sometimes for your life.  It is exhausting.  It can really toll on a marriage.  It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel some days.  But it is so worth the fight.  For some, therapy alone can help pull the darkness away but for others (like me) it took a combination of medication & therapy.  For a smaller portion (like me again), it takes intense therapy that is usually done in a hospital setting.

Some options for treatment:

  • Talk therapy with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist.
  • Medication
    • Antidepressants
    • Antipsychotics
    • Anti-anxiety
    • Sleeping aids
  • Light therapy by solar lamp.
  • Exercise therapy.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • Meditation
  • Hospitalization.

As a spouse, family member, friend – you are her most important asset outside of her medical professional.  You see her every day.  You speak with her, watch her interact with her baby, watch her run her home.  You can make the difference between making it or breaking it.

  • Love her unconditionally.  Remember that above all, she is hurting all the way down in her soul.  So be gentle with her.
  • When she says she cannot do something, like change a diaper or feed the baby, do not force her.  Trust that she knows her limits.
  • Gently ask/remind her to take her medication in the morning (this one is for spouses or very close friends only)
  • Go with her to therapy sessions.  (spouses once again)
  • Remind her that this isn’t forever.  She will beat it.  She is strong enough.  She deserves happiness.
  • If she works outside of the home, remind her to tell her human resource department about her treatment.  She is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • How is she responding to treatment?  Is she responding?  Remember, there are all kinds of medications that react differently with different body chemistry.  Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor if doses or meds should be altered for better results.  Don’t be afraid to switch doctors/therapists, either.
  • Is she getting worse?  Are her symptoms exacerbating?  Is she showing new symptoms?  If so, tell her medical professional IMMEDIATELY.
  • Remember that there are good days & bad days.

After

Coming through the storm can feel like a big sigh of relief – you see that light & you just want to race, race, race towards it.  Freedom!  Relief!  Wholeness!  Life!!  Beating postpartum depression has been my greatest achievement, past growing & sustaining another human life.  I am so proud of my hard work, so thankful for my family & friends, so absolutely humbled to simply be alive after falling into hell.

How I knew I was whole:

  • When my son cried, I wanted to respond.  I wanted to make him happy & care for his needs.
  • I was waking up refreshed after sleeping the entire night.
  • I enjoyed the “small things” in life again – sunshine coming through the windows in the morning, a good movie, making cinnamon rolls with my boys on Sundays.
  • I started performing well at work again.
  • I felt like he was my son – I began enjoying that he had the same eyes that I did & I began realizing that he reached for me first.
  • When emergencies/stressful situations occurred, I was able to face them.  I don’t always handle them with the most grace, but I do not crawl under the covers & pretend it’s not happening anymore.
  • I could go eight weeks between therapy sessions easily.

So many folks wonder what they can do to help speed up the process & “get back” their wife, daughter, friend….but the best thing you can do is let her take things at her own pace.

  • Be willing to listen as she sorts through what happened -the truth is, she’s been through something traumatic that has changed the way she views life & motherhood & it is a lot to process.
  • Understand post traumatic stress.  She may have recurring nightmares, or irrational fears about certain tasks or events.
  • She may have a bad day here & there where the PPD seems like it’s coming back.  It’s okay & normal.  Remind her that tomorrow is another day.
  • Make sure she’s taking time for herself – as she heals, the guilt may make her feel like she cannot be away from her baby.  Get her out the door by herself at least an hour per week.
  • When she says she can handle it, trust her.  That can be a huge leap of faith for those that love her, as they’ve been pulling her through the recovery, but it is important for her to take her life back fully.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey May 26, 2011 at 9:35 am

This was such a fascinating read. Thank you for sharing such a personal chapter in your family’s lives. You will most certainly help others with this!

Reply

molly May 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

I read this yesterday and I meant to say that I think it’s a great post not only for PPD but for plenty of other mental disorders as well. Awesome, as always.

Reply

Dana M. May 26, 2011 at 9:47 am

THANK YOU for posting things like this and telling momma’s that we will be okay. I see the sunshine again and love my kid and without you, I would have felt more alone during this process. You are amazing for talking openly about PPD and cheering on those of us going through our own struggles. THANK YOU BA. You helped me talk about this with my husband without the fear of judgement.

Reply

Nicole at Mommy Moxie May 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

This is amazing…really amazing. I’ve got it bookmarked just in case I or someone close to me needs to refer back to it. <3

Reply

ann @ my life as prose. May 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

thanks, BA, for sharing your wisdom. you are beautiful and wonderful, and not only a great mom and wife, but a fantastic mentor of women.

Reply

Amanda @ The Meyer Twins May 26, 2011 at 10:47 am

Thank you so much for sharing. I still have my bouts with PPD and it’s a neverending battle…. I sometimes wonder if it will ever be completely gone.

Reply

mama marchand May 26, 2011 at 10:58 am

Great post, BA. Shared it on Facebook because I have several friends who I suspect are struggling with PPD and hope that they read it. Thanks for being so honest!

Reply

Ann M May 26, 2011 at 11:32 am

Thank you so much for this. We lost a beautiful young mother, spec ed teacher Mother’s Day ’10 to ppd. I pray this post will help many who suffer and those who watch them suffer.

Reply

Dre May 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

Thank you for this. I only wish my husband and his mother (who was watching my 2 year old right after my c/s) had read this. He was horrible, kept telling me I was crazy, needed more crazy pills, and should be locked up in a hospital. And not in a nice way. She wasn’t much better, supposed to be helping, but would just make everything worse and make snide comments about me and my behavior. Thankfully, medication and therapy have helped me. My little one will be two next week, and sometimes I still struggle. Not sure if it is ppd/ppa still, just garden variety depression/anxiety or just being a working momma of two boys with a crappy support system. But I love your honest posts and (I know I have said it before) it makes me feel less lonely and “crazy” that others suffered the same thing I did.

Reply

Ashley May 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I did not have PPD but I am so thankful to have read this post. Sometimes even when we are trying to help, we can do things that hurt even with the best of intentions. I totally would have been one to bring over some amazing meal that I slaved over to show that I love and care about my friend, but your post totally makes sense in that a gesture like that may only make her feel worse. Thank you for the chance to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

Reply

Anita May 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I recently had a miscarriage, and I think many of the PPD symptoms/warning signs are similar to what I feel like I am expericing post-miscarriage. Not to minimize or pretend that I understand – because I don’t fully understand – but there are similarities that I think I see in myself. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Call Sign Mommy May 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for posting this. I’ve been through it twice to two different degrees and you hit on so many of the issues that were so hard to articulate during that time in my life.

Reply

Erica May 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm

As somebody who moonlights as a licensed therapist, two enthusiastic thumbs up. I’d like to think that I could add some kind of helpful suggestion, since I’m supposed to be smart about this kind of thing, but you covered it!

You wouldn’t expect somebody who broke their leg to run a marathon the next week. PPD can be like a broken leg. Time, support, expert help- they’re all important. And it’s important to be patient and forgiving of yourself and others who are going through it. (But I don’t have to tell you that!)
I remember that picture of you in the snow and thinking you were/are a survivor. I think you’ve helped a lot of people by sharing your experience.

Reply

Suz May 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Great post. Ill plan to revisit once Im pregnant & with friends.
So proud of you that you’ve made it out far enough & that your strong enough to pen this.

Reply

rubyspikes May 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm

This was so informative. Thank you so much for sharing.

Reply

OurGrowingGarden May 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Great information. I could have really used this several months ago. I am glad to say these past few months, I have gotten back to my normal self- even improved I’d say. But to anyone out there, if you are in that dark place, please know that IT WILL BE OKAY and do NOT be embarrassed to ask for help.

Our Growing Garden

Reply

michelle y May 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Thank you….just thank you

Reply

maggie May 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Excellent post !

Reply

Gwen May 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Well said. Perfect. Excellent advice. Posts like this one DO make a difference for others.

Also, lots of this advice can be applied to mothers who don’t have PPD. We all need to be heard, to be seen, to be encouraged, to be loved, and to be taken care of. Thank you for clearly outlining the help that is required,

Reply

Emily @ Two Little Monkeys May 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Thank you for posting this. Even though it is very common it’s still hard not to feel ashamed and alone when you are experiencing PPD. I had it with both of my boys and it’s a scary thing. I did not seek treatment the first time — when I was looking into firestations that you could drop your baby off at. Ugh. Thankfully this last time I did get treatment.
This was great advice for helping someone with PPD. Thanks for getting the word out about this.

Reply

Meredith May 28, 2011 at 8:57 am

Thanks for posting this. My son is turning one today and I still feel like the ‘during’ every day, even the days when I put one foot in front of the other and pretend I’m ok all day long. It feels like it will never end ,and maybe it won’t for me, but it is good to know that it does for some. Hope exists.

Reply

Izabela May 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

You absolutely rock! I’m printing this post out for myself, my family, and some friends.

Reply

Patti May 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I was wondering if I could request a follow up post? I would love to hear what you have to say about future pregnancies and babies. You must be terrified of going through this again, but you mention wanting more kids. Is it just a matter of knowing how and when to seek treatment that much quicker next time? Is your PPD likely to be as severe next time? I can’t imagine how hard it must be to want more kids, but know you might face walking through that shit again.

Thanks!

Reply

heirtoblair May 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

yes ma’am, I will absolutely follow up on it!

Reply

Snarky Mom May 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

Thank you. Just thank you. My youngest is 8 months old and my ppd came on with a vengeance in December. It’s my third battle with ppd. And my worst. This time it literally almost killed me. I wanted to die, to just not exist anymore. Because ppd presented itself so differently this time compared to the last two times, I didn’t realize that’s what I was dealing with. It came on fast and spiraled before I knew what hit me. Marital issues made it 100 times worse because I felt like I had nobody. Medication is helping but I still don’t see much light at the end of this tunnel, but at least I’m not in the shower with a razor in my hand anymore.

So thank you for this post. And for being so honest during your fight through ppd. It does give other moms hope at a time when we need it most.

Reply

Lindsay May 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Thank you for this. With my history of clinical depression, I know I’m at risk for PPD. I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference, praying it won’t be needed but relieved it’s there.
You amaze me with your honesty and bravery. I’m not a mother yet, and the thought of motherhood is daunting, but your blog is a source of hope that, no matter what, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Reply

eva May 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

Thank you so much for sharing this, and for being so honest about the whole things. I’m sure it will be helpful to many people.

Reply

c November 13, 2011 at 12:07 am

thank you for posting this. i have a six month old and i thought i couldn’t have PPD because it would have happened sooner than this. just reading that you now want to help your child when he cries brought tears to my eyes and made me realize i NEED to call my doctor.

Reply

Melissa L October 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I’m so glad people are talking about PPD. Thank you for writing this blog post. I had this when my son was born and it’s a lonely road. I lost friends and my relationship ended. But I feel like a new person now and my relationship with my son is so rewarding.

Reply

Petra May 29, 2013 at 11:28 pm

It’s amazing for me to have a web page, which is helpful designed for my know-how. thanks admin

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: