Guest Post by Diana
The thing I learned about PPD is that PPD can come in many forms and it can come months after baby is born. Even for the same person, symptoms can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. It isn’t always easy to recognize what’s going and if you don’t recognize that there is a problem, it’s very hard to get help. With my first daughter I had a lot of anxiety and baby blues when she was born. The first couple weeks I had ridiculous nightmares.
I really wish someone had warned me about the anxiety-fueled nightmares that were in my future.
Of all the information I got regarding having my first baby, nightmares were not on the list. After we came home from the hospital, I had a hard time falling asleep at night and when I finally did I would wake up in a panic because I dreamt that a monster kidnapped my baby. When I was awake I only felt calm when I could see her. I had a lot of anxiety if she was out of sight for even a moment. I would tear up and felt restless. Even if Husband just took her into the bedroom for a diaper change. Those first couple of weeks I was also in pain still from the delivery. My back was killing me at the site of the epidural and sitting upright by the end of the day was excruciating. I was also somewhat traumatized by the birth and I had a lot of unprocessed feelings and guilt over it. Being sleep deprived, emotional and in pain can definitely do a number on your mind. As the time went on and I was starting to feel better physically and more confident in this motherhood thing, those symptoms were also improving. I recognized that I likely had baby blues and since I heard that something like 80% of women experience it I wasn’t too concerned. After about the first month I was doing much better. I feel somewhat lucky that the baby blues didn’t turn into full fledged PPD. I now tell every expectant first-time mom about these symptoms, especially the nightmares because after I experienced them and told a couple of friends about it I heard the “oh yeah, that’s normal”.
Fast forward to baby number two. I felt much better about my labour and her birth this time. My pain levels were also much better this time around. I had some anxiety of course but not nearly as much as the first time. I didn’t really experience the nightmares either and was feeling overall much better about the whole thing. I felt like I dodged a bullet with PPD when I didn’t even have baby blues. It wasn’t until months later when my second baby was around 6 months that I started noticing that something was wrong. My biggest symptom was anger. I was often quick to get angry and fly off the handle. I overreacted to things and I took situations much too personally. Even when I was calm I felt like I was full of rage just below the surface and could explode anytime. Postpartum Rage (as I call it) reminded me a lot of PMS. Except that instead of lasting a couple days, it was going on a few weeks. Minor annoyances became huge issues. I also often felt like I was on my own. Whenever Husband or the kid did anything “wrong” a barrage of
“I always have to do everything around here. Can’t ever get any help from anyone. Just once I wish someone was around to take care of me…”
went through my mind and fueled the anger even more. Some days I woke up already angry at the world. Sometimes when I did yell or berate one of them I would experience these moments of clarity where in the back of my mind I could tell that I am overreacting and
I would think to myself “why are you so angry? It’s not even a big deal” but I still couldn’t stop being angry.
At this point the baby wasn’t sleeping well, she was still waking every 3 hours and the sleep deprivation was catching up with me. I felt tired and burned out and chalked it up to that. One evening my husband, very gently (so as not to unleash my wrath) brought it up that he thinks I should talk to someone because I’m very unapproachable and things have been tense. For all my self pity I didn’t even notice how I was affecting everyone else. Initially I was defensive but over the next few days I started consciously checking in with myself and became much more aware that maybe there’s more going on than just being tired. Anger, irritability and impatience are common symptoms of depression and PPD.
Of course most parents will experience these symptoms sometimes, we’re only human. The key to recognizing PPD versus a regular bad day lies in whether these things are interfering with your life. If you have more bad days than good, if you find your apathy levels mean that the house is neglected, if your partner or children seem to stay clear of you, if you find yourself waking up angry at the world days on end, that’s when you should consider getting help. I did get help and even just the act of becoming more self aware did wonders for me. I regularly take the time to check in with my own feelings. I also started taking more time to myself to recharge and relax. Writing about my experiences has been very cathartic and helps me work through my own feelings. My husband is my biggest supporter and I’m really glad he said something and nudged me in the right direction. Baby number two is almost a year old now and I’m starting to feel like my old self again. I still have bad days but I’m not finding it nearly as difficult to muster up some patience for my family.
About the Author:
Diana is a busy mama to two wonderful bumble bees. She currently lives in Silicon Valley in California with her family, where they moved from Toronto, ON. She loves exploring with her family and sharing her journey as an expat mom figuring things out on the go. She is the voice behind Go Wander Bee Happy (www.beehappy.ca) where you can read more about her journey. You can also follow her on Facebook where you can find updates on posts and other interesting tidbits at https://www.facebook.com/beehappy.ca
Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.