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 think this is the month for Michael Jackson quotations. I mean, after all, he did pass away during the month of June.)
Where do I begin?
If you’re reading this after having recently commented on my last post, Heaven Can Wait, thank you. I always felt alone and as though I didn’t really matter in the world. Then came a storm of warrior moms (I can see why they call y’all warrior moms now!) to my rescue. They encouraged me that things will get better. That this too shall pass. That I am not alone.
The sun is beginning to peek through the overcast sky in my life. I’m feeling worlds better than Tuesday. And even better than when Saturday when I replied to many of your comments.
I am working with a therapist at the Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, PA and we have come up with a solution that can make me an even better mom: have someone else care for my son part-time. Whether that means part-time daycare or a part-time nanny, it will allow me the space and opportunity to take of myself while supporting my family. While I was pregnant, my husband and I decided that I should be a “full-time” stay-at-home mom and work part-time (I work at a library 2 to 3 days a week). Now, it’s looking as though I will be a “part-time” stay-at-home mom who also works part-time. Perhaps getting another caregiver to help me with my son is not me being a bad mom; it’s a way for me to keep my sanity, keep myself alive, and keep myself involved in my son’s life.
I have a call in to my psychiatrist to see him sooner than July 29. I had been doing so well…
I don’t know how many warrior moms are reading this, but I can’t say thank you enough to everyone for their encouragement. It means a lot to hear from other women who have been where I am and tell me to keep going.
Also, Postpartum Progress is a major resource that I’ve been able to use (and raise funds for!). I also want to send a shout-out to Lauren H. (@unxpctdblessing) who runs #PPDChat on Twitter. That group of women was there for me before I even got help.
I had hoped to participate in a local Climb Out of the Darkness in my area, but I don’t know if that will happen. In the meantime, here’s a video celebrating many of the warrior moms who have reclaimed their lives against perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I don’t really have anything special planned for this blog. Although I probably should.
In going through old posts written in May, I have never once blogged about mental health. I suppose I’ve been so consumed with my infertility struggle that mental health issues really fell to the wayside. It’s something I’d like to change, but when it comes to topics on mental health, my mind is blank now. What can I blog about on mental health that hasn’t already been covered in depression introspection?
I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal tendencies since 1994. I ended up in a behavioral hospital in Jamaica, Queens back in June 2000. In November 2006, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wrote a post about it. I briefly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a stay in a psych hospital. In May 2010, I wrote a post about trying to conceive with mental illness. Little did I know that was part of my path in my infertility journey. (And little did I know there would be many a “spell caster” ready and willing to help
spam solve my infertility problem.) In September 2011, I dealt with severe anxiety. Now it’s May 2014 and I’m receiving treatment for postpartum depression after giving birth in the beginning of February 2014. Since 2004, I have taken the following medications (on and off) to help manage my mood and anxiety disorders:
Not a whole lot of meds compared to some people but it’s a wide and varied history for me. For the most part, I’ve tried to maintain a consistent attitude that medication can have a proper place in treating someone who seriously needs it. Heck, I’m currently on an Abilify-Prozac cocktail currently. I take Ativan for anxiety when necessary. I am not anti-medication.
Another thing that I need to work on is being more positive. My postpartum therapist tells me to “be kinder to” myself and to “be patient with” myself. I am hard on myself, in every aspect of life possible: Jesus following, wifelihood, motherhood, daughterhood, livelihood. Nothing is ever good enough for me when it’s done by me. I guess the problem is that I don’t know what being kinder to myself looks like and what being patient with myself looks like. This is something I’ll have to muse on quite a bit.
Someone tell me: why is the official color for mental health month puke neon green? Hmm…
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.
This post isn’t exactly fun to write, but I am making it public in the hopes that it might help someone who may feel similarly. I’ve been seeing posts written by other women about the topic of postpartum adjustments and it feels important to add my voice to the mix. Read more…