Postpartum Depression: The Serious and Unexpected Side Effects of Having a Kid
All I ever wanted to be is a mom. From as far back as I could remember. And when the day came when I found out I was going to be a mom I was ecstatic. When I held my son in my arms for the very first time I knew that my heart truly did live outside of my body and I was holding it in my arms. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could ever make me not love this precious miracle child.
I say miracle child because I was told that I wouldn't be able to have kids. That was a devastating blow to someone who always wanted one. Someone who knew, just knew, that if given the chance she would be the best possible mom. We all say that right? Despite our short comings, our obstacles, our issues... our children are a way for us to break a cycle, to start something new, to bring something fresh and optimistic into the world.
For me, postpartum was different. It wasn't a text book case, or something someone outside could look in and say, yes, thats what that is. That's how postpartum works sometimes. I was diagnosed with PTSD due to a trauma I went through during my military service, so from the moment I was pregnant to the moment my son was born, and after, I was closely monitored.
I don't know if people thought I would explode, or breakdown, or cry... My mom even took extra time off to be with me, to help me, and to watch me. Honestly their stress stressed me out more than anything. But nothing happened. Maybe it was because I had so much going on at the time. I was in the midsts of a court trial, I was going through a custody battle, plus dealing with a newborn with a tongue tie who wanted to breast feed, but it was painful to. There was a lot going on. I guess I could blame it on that.
See, my postpartum didn't present itself until after my son turned 1. At that point tensions between my ex and I had all but settled. We were getting along, and even planning a joint first birthday party for both families to meet and come together to celebrate Grayson. It was during this time that I began to notice the feelings creeping in.
What if my son doesn't need me anymore to protect him? Who am I without my son? When he's gone, what do I do? How do I do?
My symptoms of depression presented themselves in a different way. My son had become my whole identity. When he was gone, visiting his dad, I became completely lost. I was conflicted, because I knew it was good for him to be with his father, I wanted him to be with his father... but I needed him too. I became aimless. I would stay at home when he would be gone, avoiding his bedroom because I would cry at the thought of him not there. I would sleep all day and blame it on "catching up on sleep", but really, it was because I was at a loss as to what to do without my son. It took me weeks to realize and finally admit, I was depressed. Postpartum had found me.
I remember when I spoke to my therapist and she told me about postpartum I was in pure denial. Wasn't that something that happened soon after the baby was born?! Grayson was one now. How could I still be at risk..? This is when my therapist explained to me that postpartum happens at different times, in different ways, and sometimes not at all. It's different for everyone.
Some people loose interest in their child, or become emotionally detached from everything. How could you not feel intense love for a child YOU brought into the world? So squishy and soft...they smell so good...but you're just so tired. There's so mucho the stuff to do...?
In others, they may feel a jealousy or anger. The dramatic change from being self reliant, or the recipient of the love and adoration from your loved ones is now transferred to another. Do they not love me anymore? I'm STILL here! I wish the baby wasn't even here..
Others still, others like me, feel at loss when their child isn't there. Drifting aimlessly, so they latch on to their baby. And when the baby isn't there? Aim I still a mother even while my child is gone? Who am I without them? If they are doing well without me, do they even need me?
All of this, my therapist explained to me, is completely normal. And, with help, can be overcome. That's not to say that some woman don't pull themselves out of it alone. But most, like me, need help. And that's ok. Let me say that again:
Feeling this way is nothing to feel guilty about, or ashamed of. It does't make you any less of a woman, or mother for that matter. Recognizing and doing something about it? That is something that takes real courage. Be courageous, if not for yourself, for your little one. You're the one they'll look to, and it's ok to stumble and fall. It's ok to cry and get frustrated. It's ok to feel. You're human.
I encourage you, if you recognize anything in yourself in the above text, it's worth talking to someone about. To a friend, a family member, or a doctor. Nobody will try and take your child away because you asked for help. Being a single mother takes a special kind of strength that people don't often give enough credit to. Use that strength now.
Postpartum isn't a serious condition, but if left untreated and a topic of taboo conversation, it can become serious problem. If you know someone who may be going through or dealing with postpartum depression, reach out to them. Don't shame them or blame them. Lend a helping hand, and show some humanity. One act of kindness and understanding could make a world of difference to someone who needs it. Show love, give love, and be love..
X's & O's
** For more comic and articles like the ones used in this blog post check out the article by Caroline Bologna .