Those first weeks after a baby is born can be super joyful — but they can also be overwhelming, whether it's your first baby or your fourth. Your hormones are fluctuating, your sleep is wacky at best and your role as the mother of a new baby can be difficult or downright hard to cope with. Many moms get mild (and temporary) baby blues, but some moms, instead of getting back to their old selves within a few weeks, develop postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression from mom's point of view
We chatted with a few moms who went through postpartum depression to find out, through their words, what it felt like and how they decided to get help. "After I had Gwen, I felt numb," said Jenna, mom of two. "There was no connection to her, just me going through the motions of being a mother, but not feeling like one. All I could think of was, 'I wonder what it would be like if I wasn't here right now. Life would go on just fine.' I couldn't even enjoy daily activities and you could just forget about work. I couldn't even go. I couldn't take it anymore."
Alisha, mother of three, experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her first child. "I would ignore Owen's cries," she told us. "I stopped breastfeeding because I thought it was too hard and honestly, I just didn't want to be touched by my baby. I had no happy feelings about having a child."
Vicki from Canada had a similar experience: "I realized I had a problem when my skin would crawl at the thought of touching my baby," she explained. "She'd cry and I'd fantasize about putting her in a box and leaving her on someone's doorstep. I hated her. I resented her."
It can be so hard to seek help for feeling this way. Alisha said, "When Owen was about 5-weeks-old, I told my doctor how I had been feeling and found out it was called postpartum depression. This was before I knew it had a name — I thought I was the worst mother on the planet. I thought someone should take my baby from me. I thought I was the only one who had experienced it."
Jo from Oregon dealt with postpartum depression silently through the birth of two children before she spoke up. "At my six week postpartum appointment with my OB, I just freaked and said I couldn't handle being a mom and wanted to run away. My doc said, 'Don't we all?' and wrote me a script for Lexapro. I sat outside the pharmacy for almost an hour before I decided to fill it and see what happened. I felt like a zombie wreck the first two weeks and then one morning woke up and realized I wasn't having a panic attack at the thought of getting out of bed and facing another day."
Treatment for postpartum varies. There are several different anti-depressants that are often prescribed, and your care provider may have you try one out to see if you notice improvement — and if you don't, you may have to try another. "My midwife totally wrote me off, so I saw a doctor and started a course of Fluoxetine at about 3 months postpartum," Vicki told us. "I'm still taking it, and I still very much need to. If I miss a dose, I'm very unpleasant to be around."
Kelly, mom of two, was diagnosed by a psychologist and had a different course of treatment. "I engaged in talk therapy, tried to eat better, get some exercise," she shared. "I did a lot of positive self talk. I would get really down and anxious at a certain time of day. I think it was just that I was tired, but it was around dinner time so I felt pressure to cook and it was all overwhelming. I started being more kind to myself, and [lower] the expectations I placed on myself and that helped a lot as well."
No one treatment is right for everyone. And though many of us aren't eager to get help for mental issues, we don't often hesitate to get treatment for physical maladies. Depression is a valid reason to seek help. If you feel like you're experiencing it, contact your doctor. They can help you. And you are definitely not alone.