By fellow mother and blog-reader, Danyelle Trexler Ditmer, she shares her own personal experience with postpartum depression. Thank you, Danyelle, for your honesty and strength.
1. How old was your child when you experienced postpartum depression (PPD)?
Day two I began to experience symptoms but at first the doctor thought it was Baby Blues -- when it didn't subside after the first week, he knew it was PPD.
2. What feeling words would you use to describe what postpartum depression was like for you?
Drowning in darkness, dullness
3. Why do you think you experienced PPD?
I'm not sure, but I do think a c-section with wound infection (plus 3 weeks of home health for treatment) had to play some role.
4. What helped when you were experiencing PPD?
Support from my church family and husband; I'm a pastor and usually care for others, but at that time my congregation cared for me and never judged -- I will never forget their love.
5. How would you describe PPD to somebody who has not experienced it?
Drowning in a dark well
6. What did NOT help when you were going through PPD?
Comments like "pray harder" or "God's will" -- that's crap and I have the degree from Duke to back it up!
7. What resources - books, people, counselors, Web sites, etc. - did you find particularly helpful while dealing with PPD?
Prosac. ;) [;)] I worked with a therapist who is also a spiritual director which really helped guide me through the shame and guilt I felt.
8. What HELPED you get through or over PPD?
Medication and therapy. My symptoms were severe. I couldn't be left alone with my son. My husband tells me stories, at my request, about those weeks and it's scary. I got the help I needed and the light came back.
Thank you, Danyelle, for this honest account about how real PPD is and that there IS help.
My Hormonal Experience by Angela Avery
I experienced what I thought could have been PPD for the first 5 days of my son's life when I was in the hospital. I imagined that is what it was because I had no other answer for why I felt so crazy during that first few days. However, now after reading Brooke Shields' book Down Came the Rain I think I did not have baby blues or PPD, but rather was strongly affected by hormones and lack of sleep (I did not sleep more than 2 hours the entire 5 days I was in the hospital...). Still, what I felt was so different than what many people tell me they felt the first few days of the baby's life, that I always felt ashamed and like I could not talk to people about it. I know now that people who have real and sometimes severe PPD feel this way also - like they are supposed to be on cloud 9 after the birth of their child and if they aren't in some way it's a bad thing and they are a bad mother.
This picture below is of me when we brought our son home from the hospital. Every time I see this picture I recall how I felt at that moment - relieved to be home and with hope that if I could just get a tiny bit of sleep and being on our own, away from pressures of people and lactation specialists, we could feed our child and be OK. I just look exhausted in this picture... not sleeping for days will do that to a woman!
For the first 5 days in the hospital with my son I was instantly attached to him, loved him dearly, was truly happy and on cloud 9 with my baby and the idea of being a mother. However, because I was not sleeping I was a wreck (I had an intense fear that if I fell asleep something would happen to my son and I would not wake up to help him, and I refused to send him to the nurse's station because I thought it would make me a bad mother or they'd lose my baby and mix him up with someone else's - again irrational...). The hormones played a huge part also, as well as trying to recover physically from a major surgery C-section. Breastfeeding did not work so that caused some stress between my husband and I as we were trying to come together to figure out what to do to feed our screaming child. It was overall a horrible hospital stay, very stressful period. I cried a lot, was not myself, felt alone and pressured about nursing, felt like we were strange, my husband and I, for not being all lovey dovey like so many other couples seem to be.
I realize this is not even close to what people experience with PPD, but I share it here to say that WHATEVER you feel in the hospital or after taking home a baby is OK. It's normal. And there is help. Even if that help is simply talking to a friend, being honest about how difficult it really is to have this drastic change take place in your body and in your life.
TALK IT OUT
I encourage you to talk to your friends and family, your partner, your doctor, etc. if you are experiencing anything related to PPD or baby blues or even just the hormonal craziness like I felt that first week. It's ALL OK, normal and expected after your body and mind go through such a huge transition.
For the rest of you, when visiting a friend who has just had a baby, don't just focus on the baby. Ask HER how she is doing. Ask her, "really, tell me, I am hear to listen." Let her know you won't judge her. Offer to just sit with the baby for an hour while she sleeps or goes on Facebook or makes a phone call. Those things can help a new mom feel supported even if she isn't ready to talk about how she's feeling.