Most people don’t think of postpartum mood issues (in short, PPD) in relation to infertility. I sure didn’t.
I’ve written numerous times (here, here, and here) over the years about my struggle with infertility. It was a struggle of 4+ years and I dreamed that once I had my child, all would be right with the world. The dream I had desired for so long would come true and I would get to hold my baby in my arms and love him immediately.
Because I have struggled with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues in the past, I was a prime candidate for suffering from PPD. But I tried to remain optimistic. A baby is what I had long wanted. I would get it; PPD be damned.
Often, you hear the stories about how women overcome infertility and their dream of having a child comes true. And it’s the best thing ever. They instantly fall in love with the baby of their dreams and everything seems wonderful except for that darned newborn period when you don’t get sleep. (But that’s pretty much everybody, right?)
What about the stories of women who struggle with infertility and then get PPD? No one talks about them. We feel guilty because for so long we wanted a child and now that we’ve received one, we don’t feel a bond. We don’t feel a connection. We worry too much about hurting the dream we had so longed for. We lose touch with reality and nearly harm our child or even ourselves. Panic attacks over losing our baby or taking care of our baby are a daily occurrence. Or we simply cannot get out of bed, too depressed to care for this human being who is completely and totally dependent on us.
Then there’s the added guilt of knowing that there are mothers—tons of other mothers—who are silently suffering the loss of what could be. Many mothers grieving month after month over not having a child. And here we are, finally over that hurdle. And we feel horrible. We don’t want this child. We don’t care for it. Take it away. I don’t want to see it. I’m a bad mother; I can’t care for this kid. But there are so many women who want a baby just like I have one. I have to love this kid—for them.
But those who suffer from PPD after infertility should know they are not alone. The internal pressure we give ourselves to be happy during (what should be) a joyous occasion can often be a tight cord around our neck. It’s OK to admit that after your years-long struggle that you’re not exactly overjoyed to be holding that “bundle of joy” in your arms. What’s NOT OK is pretending that everything is fine and trying to suck it up. This isn’t the time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This is the time to seek help. And there is no shame in admitting that you’re feeling sad, anxious, or worried about your mental health.
Reading this and don’t know where to turn? Here are a few resources:
- Postpartum Progress – Katherine Stone runs this advocacy organization to help raise awareness about postpartum issues among mothers, clinicians, and the general population. You can also discover great information via the Postpartum Progress blog.
- Postpartum Support International – Another organization that helps guide women through the changes surrounding them during the postpartum period. It offers resources, such as a toll-free hotline specifically catering to those with postpartum mental health needs.
- Postpartum Stress Center – This center provides professional support to women suffering from postpartum mood issues. It’s worth noting that PPD tends to be a catch-all abbreviation for conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and psychosis, to name a few. The Stress Center tends to serve residents in the eastern PA area but will help those outside of the region find a local resource.
Remember, PPD can affect anyone, infertile or not. Don’t be afraid to seek help as soon as you recognize that something isn’t right. The sooner you get help (even if you think it’s just the baby blues), chances are, you’ll recover more quickly. Get your life back. Get help today.
I bought this mug from knockknockstuff.com, which was originally intended to be a gift mug for Mother’s Day (to another mom). (The back says “Just look how I turned out.”) But I bought this mug for myself, placed it squarely in view on my desk to tell myself each and every day, “Damn, you’re a good mother.”
I have to admit, however, that almost every time I look at the mug, I want to grab it and hurl it against the wall because I don’t believe it. This is my lame attempt to speak truth into my life. And my heart can’t accept it and won’t allow it. Because in my mind, I am not a good mother. I bordered on postpartum psychosis the first time I held my son, dealt with severe postpartum depression for months, and lost time with him for about 20 months. That’s time that I’ll never get back. How could I have been a good mother? A better mother even?
I could run down a list of shortcomings:
- Full-time working mom with many late nights
- Previously hands off on his care (eg, creating meals for him, diaper changes, watching him by myself)
- Daycare (instead of me) teaches him most everything he knows
The only plus in my column toward being a good mother? He can say “George” and “Paul” from my Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band t-shirt. (We’re working on John and Ringo.) I think that makes me a serious kick-ass mom. That’s how I justify my terrible shortcomings.
It’s the “damn” part that gets me, I suppose. The idea that I’m so awesome and so amazing, it warrants the use of an (OK, mild) expletive. Perhaps I could tolerate “You’re a good mother.” But “Damn, you’re a good mother” says “Look at me! I’m so awesome that I’m kicking ass at this mothering thing!” Like a black dude looks at another black woman and says, “Damn, you fine!” This mug looks at me and says in a similar tone, “Damn, you’re a good mother.” I’m glad the mug has a period. An exclamation point would probably have been overkill for me.
So, here I am, stumbling and fumbling through this mothering thing, feeling inadequate while I have this mug that tries to tell me otherwise. I can pretend my son gave it to me. The back—”Just look at how I turned out”—speaks volumes. My son is healthy and simply the happiest kid on earth. Sure, he’s a toddler with his whiny, crying phases but he’s the happiest kid in his classroom and the teachers all insist that he doesn’t give them any problems.
I’ve been very hands off this mothering thing until recently. I don’t know whether I’m doing a good job. But I’m in his life and he’s made it almost 22 months so far, so I guess I’m a damn good mother.
Feeling hopeless. Like a disappointment. Like a failure.
Having someone take care of my son part-time feels like a failure on my part. Like I can’t hack this mom thing.
Oh, and I just got my yearly reminder in the mail: I have a frozen embryo on tap. What do I want to do with it?
I want to discard it. Because I can’t imagine that I can be a good mother a second time around. I’m having a hard time being a good mom THIS time around.
But I won’t. My morals (belief in the value of life and all that jazz) won’t let me do that.
Postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD—all of it—has taken a hold of my soul and won’t let go. I have cried several times this week. More times than I’ve cried since the sixth week of my son’s life.
The screechy crying. It’s like the wail of a dying baby. It never ceases to freak me out. I feel like such a horrible mom for strapping him into the car seat while he’s crying and then the high-pitched wail reverberates through the car sending figurative splinters under my nails.
I still have thoughts of suicide but little impulse to act upon it. Right now.
I’m still here.
A lot on my mind and heart so let’s get to it. Read more…
I’m a mother now. After nearly 5 years of waiting, a dream has come true. But I’m afraid. So many women become moms and their identity is swallowed up in their children. They forget they are individuals with likes and dislikes and revolve their worlds around their kids.
I don’t want that to be me. I want to continue being the Kass I was before I got pregnant without the incessant melancholy over infertility. However, I do want to pursue my own interests and take time to care for myself and feed my soul. I want to expand my interests and seek new horizons.
- I still want to be a part of the battle for others to overcome infertility.
- I want to champion awareness of mental illness: PPD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, and many other mood disorders.
- I want to expand my horizons professionally and attend conferences that will challenge me, engage me, and help me grow.
- I want to expand my horizons personally by connection with supportive women online and offline.
- I want to support non-profit organizations wholeheartedly, e.g., Postpartum Progress, Food for the Hungry, International Justice Mission, and Amnesty International.
- I want to educate the wider Christian community about fertility options and treatments.
- I want to enjoy my work as a library assistant.
- I want to enjoy my work as a freelance editor.
- I want to be a loving, supportive wife.
- I want to be able to splurge (occasionally) on myself.
I don’t want my identity to revolve around my son (as cute as he is).
I know, I know, I’m a Christian so my identity should be based on Christ. Perhaps it’s better to say that I don’t want my personality to be swallowed up by motherhood. The following is a list of things I plan to do for me—to remind myself life isn’t just about my son:
- I plan on treating a friend (and myself) to a massage for relaxation.
- I plan on registering for the Warrior Mom conference that takes place in 2015.
- I plan on being in a wedding in August.
- I plan on attending another friend’s wedding in August
- I plan on going to an editorial conference in September.
- I plan on attending an editor’s conference in March 2015.
I hope to enjoy life more. I want to blog more. A lot of people would add travel to that list. Nope, not me; I’m a happy homebody. I’ll see the Eiffel Tower on the Internet and not deal with turbulence on an airplane over the ATLANTIC OCEAN, kthxbai.
I want to see Justin Timberlake in concert again but not by myself. Alas, some dreams aren’t meant to be realized.
My postpartum depression (PPD) was instant. The day my son was born—after my placenta was taken out—my pregnancy hormones plummeted and my emotions went off a cliff.
I cried nearly every day for the first 5 weeks of my son’s life. What should have been a happy, joyous time in my life was filled with overwhelming sadness and hopelessness. I felt guilty about everything:
- I didn’t know how to take care of this being who was so completely dependent upon me
- I had waited so long for him but was unable to enjoy him
- I was failing not only as a mother but also a wife
The characteristics of PPD? You name it, I had it.
- Constant crying
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Scary thoughts
- Trouble bonding
- Suicidal thoughts
And very many other things.
People encouraged me to have confidence as a mother but I now recognize that confidence is something that develops over time. I’m more confident with my son 9 weeks postpartum but I’ll probably feel ever better 19 weeks postpartum.
I like to think I’m out of the woods with PPD. Feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness have gone away. Scary thoughts have mostly disappeared. Panic attacks, which used to be frequent, have become rare. But I’m not out of the woods yet. I’m still adjusting to this motherhood thing. I’m still afraid of hurting my son. Sometimes I’m afraid that I made the biggest mistake of my life—one that I can never undo.
I frequently don’t feel up to the challenge of being a mother. Even though it requires very little from me (eg, changing diapers, bottle feeding), it feels as though I have to give the world.
I want to enjoy motherhood—fully and completely. Although I have glimmers and moments, I’m still very scared to be alone with my son. I am highly dependent upon others to help me take care of him.
In one sense, that’s great—I have a supportive and loving community. On the other hand, I feel like a complete and utter loser.
I’m still in the middle of my PPD journey. Nine weeks postpartum and I’ve made some progress. But I have a long way to go.
The following post recounts how my son was born. It gets detailed at times in terms of body language but that’s just par for the course in describing these kinds of stories. Buckle in; it’s a long read. Read more…