Postpartum Depression: How Do We Know?

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Preparing for Baby

Being a mom is, hands down, the most important job I have ever done. This is also the job I question myself on the most and was hired at when I was very under-qualified. 

Let’s start with a true story. I had lived the majority of my life excited to have a family. I also have lived a majority of my life with a fire inside of me to follow my own path, dream big, and do what I want; not what society believes my age can accomplish. (Which has gotten me in trouble many times, as you can imagine. )

I was 24 when I first became pregnant. My husband and I planned to get pregnant (we actually did fertility treatments with our first), but still were in utter shock and scared out of our minds when we found out we were actually having a baby. 

We did all the things we were supposed to do; I took prenatal vitamins, ate (mostly) healthy, exercised, went to Lamaze class, watched video after video of how to nurse, and had our bags packed weeks before our due date. 

I remember feeling so ready when it was time for our daughter to be born. Actually, I was MORE than ready. I couldn’t wait to be less uncomfortable while sleeping and to “have my body back.” I was truly ready.

The reality of it all

Once our daughter was born, I quickly realized I had no idea how to be a mom. Okay, I knew the basics of how to change a diaper, when the baby cries you tend to her, babies need a lot of love and attention, and so on. But what I didn’t know was how little confidence I had in myself and my mothering skills. I had no idea what to do with myself, our time together, or our little girl. I didn’t know what to do in our relationship; what is a marriage supposed to look like after a baby? What am I supposed to do with the baby in-between feeds? Do I read to her? Is it okay for her to sit in the little bouncy thing while I listen to music and do the dishes? Is it normal to want to sleep all day?

Things are changing

I remember one evening, I was rocking our daughter in the middle of the night. This wasn’t a precious “middle of the night” rocking. This was a “been up too many times to count, angry I wasn’t able to sleep, wanted to throw a pillow at my sleeping husband, would give my left big toe to have some quiet and comfort in my warm bed” kind of rocking. At that moment, I questioned everything. I remember having thoughts like,

“What did we get ourselves into?”

“Are we really prepared to do this for the next 18 years of our life?”

“How did someone think it was okay to hand us a baby?”

“I want to give up.”

What is wrong with me?

Thinking back to Lamaze class, I remembered when the nurse talked about hormones after delivery and that it was normal to feel emotional after the baby is born because our hormones are getting back to normal. In other words, the “baby blues” are common. I can still hear her saying, “If you start having bad thoughts you might have postpartum depression.” This moment came back to me as I sat in the rocking chair that night.

Are these thought those “bad thoughts?”

After that night, things went downhill. Anger crept in. I was looking for any opportunity to pretend for a moment I wasn’t a mom. I was longing for a Target trip alone and dreaming of being able to lay in my comfy bed all day long in silence. I wanted to hide these feelings from the world. Presenting my best self was so important to me, so I did my best to look happy and show the opposite of depression.

I did my best to hide the truth.

If anyone found out how I was really feeling, would they label me as a bad mom? Deem me unfit to care for my child? I felt scared my husband would question who he married, and felt terrible that my daughter was stuck with an imperfect mom. I was questioning my core self and everything I stood for.

I knew something wasn’t right. 

Postpartum Depression

1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads struggle with Postpartum Depression, according to the Postpartum Support International. According to the National Institute of Health, “After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.” 

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression, from the National Institute of Health are:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
  • Frequent crying or an increase in crying
  • Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking about harming herself or her baby.

Resources

Mamas, if you relate to several of these symptoms or to my story, please know there are so many resources out there right now. Here is a list of resources that may be helpful:

Online Services

  • These online-based services can help.

You are not alone, and with help you will be well!

 

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Brittany Schank
Brittany is a deep believer that we need less fixing and more loving, less perfection and more appreciation for who we are, and less criticism and more encouragement around us. She is mama to Paityn Truley (5) and Behron Dehn (2) and wife to Landon Schank. She was born and raised in the Fargo/Moorhead area. She is a brand new business owner of Solace Counseling, where she provides mental health therapy to mamas in the thick of mommyhood, sexual assault survivors, professionals in the community, and many others. She is also the author of "Narrating Audiobooks: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started." She has been enlisted in the North Dakota Air National Guard for 13 years. In her me time, when she isn’t chasing her kiddos around, she loves to spend time at the lake catching the biggest fish of the group, sipping on iced coffee, and listening to self-help audiobooks.

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