February 20, 2013

My experience with postpartum depression

Hmmmm...just writing that title was scary. So here goes nothing.
I don't know really where to start exactly. I just really felt it was important to be honest about this scary & sad subject.
We love looking at photos from those first few months when we had Felix....how tiny he was (how sleepy!) etc... Felix has actually been LOVING watching videos of himself and photos flash by the computer screen, he could literally sit still for an hour and watch himself :)
Looking back at these photos, you would never know that we were going through the hardest time (thus far) for us. The photos look idyllic...warm, vibrant, colourful, happy, smiling, new family.
The detachment I felt started for me instantly really. I gave birth on a Friday afternoon and we left the hospital on the Monday afternoon. I didn't change a diaper or his clothes during those days, I was scared to touch him, that I would hurt him. I had no idea what I was doing.
I think, looking back, I was so overwhelmed with everything. I definitely take longer than most people to absorb new things. I need to do it on my own. Take my time with it. Really think it out. You don't get to do that in this situation ;) I was handed this tiny human and was told I had a son. It didn't click in my brain.
I had already felt like the world's worst mother during my pregnancy. Everyone always says that women fall in love and feel like mothers as soon as they see the positive pregnancy test, and men follow suit once the baby is handed to them. I never felt that during my pregnancy. I loved being pregnant etc... but I could not connect that way. It made me feel terrible. We had tried so hard to get pregnant for two years, and against odds we finally got pregnant. This little baby was so wanted, what was wrong with me? So I thought it would happen at birth. Once I saw this beautiful (ok, wrinkly and squished) little baby, I would instantly connect. I didn't. I thought it was due to just having pushed a baby out of my body, lack of sleep, lack of food, etc....everything would be normal once we got home from the hospital. Funny enough, while we were at the hospital a lady came around with pamphlets regarding postpartum depression and signs to look out for, numbers to call etc... We assured her we knew all about it...Justin has degrees in psychology and counseling...we told her not to worry, that we were very in tune with ourselves and aware of these things. Silly know-it-all's we were ;)
I think because we only ever hear about the extreme cases of postpartum depression....the ones that end in violence...there is such a horrible stigma attached to it. You instantly feel ashamed and guilty. I was too afraid to tell anyone because in my warped head I was afraid that I would be pumped full of pills and that Felix would be taken away from me. I realize that some cases, where depression is severe, mother's need medicine to help them cope and the child(ren) need to be safe. But I think the less severe cases need to be talked about too. I had the less severe case of postpartum depression, which by no means, made it seem "easy". Less severe in my eyes, means that I never wanted to harm my child or myself. I did want to throw the baby monitor against the wall countless times (but didn't....it was damn expensive).
Things only got harder when we got home. Not a day went by in the first four months that I did not cry (several times). Justin was my rock (still is). I would not have survived without him by my side. He took over feedings, diaper changes, got up in the middle of the night several times.....every night. Every. Single. Night. That man got up for feedings and diaper changes. I would get panic attacks and could not sleep at night because I was constantly waiting for Felix to wake up...I was always watching that stupid monitor. Justin took over nights so I could try to sleep.
We took a huge financial fall during that first year. Justin stayed home a lot from work because of everything that was going on with me. I would just sit and cry. I felt dead inside...as dramatic as that sounds. All I felt was sadness and anger. I just remember getting angry at the drop of a hat. It was so instant. It was so out of character. About a month in, we knew what it was. I think it helped Justin somewhat to know that it wasn't him. That he wasn't doing anything to make me this sad and angry. It wasn't Felix either. We dealt with it the best we knew how. I started taking some prenatal vitamins again along with some fish oil (and something else I can't remember), to get my hormones to even out again. We had read that a lot of women "crash" after birth, so many vitamins and hormones are entering the body while pregnant and then after birth it gets nothing anymore, which can be very hard on it. Maybe it was all in my head, but this helped a bit. I also stopped breastfeeding all together at three months. I was pumping a lot at that point and not breastfeeding him much at all anymore, we also had been supplementing with formula since he was two weeks old. I needed my body back for my own well being. This also helped me a bit. Having Justin there to help was my saving grace. After the first four months, things slowly improved. At the year mark, things were good.
I try not to feel guilty. I try not to feel like a terrible mother for that first year. I worry sometimes that I wrecked the bonding process with Felix (when he runs to his papa when he his hurt instead of me). I have to remind myself that it was no ones fault. It can happen to anyone. I love my son. I loved him from the moment I saw him, my head just needed time to catch up with my heart.
I think some of the factors that added to our experience were that we had no support system whatsoever. We lived in a different province from the rest of our family. We had no one to take Felix for a few hours to give us a break. It was Winter which can always be a bit depressing after a while ;). I don't drive and we had no buses in our area, so I was stuck at home. We had no friends...we had recently moved to NB and were just starting to get to know a couple of couples (both of which had no kids)....so no support system there either.
Our experience still has residual effects for us even now, two years later. Justin is just now, getting use to giving me more responsibility with Felix (not carrying most of the workload on his own or taking over automatically when Felix gets difficult to handle) and when we talk about the possibility of another baby down the line, the likelihood of re-occurrence worries us.
This is just my experience. I don't recommend or not recommend (does that make sense?) anything that we did, it worked for us at the time. If we ever have another baby, we plan to talk about our experience with the midwife. We plan on having a postpartum doula as extra support. We will try to have a support system in place. And I know this might sound strange, but I plan on having my placenta encapsulated...I think it will help balance my hormones after birth.
I had postpartum depression...and I am not ashamed.

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