Two weeks after my daughter was born, I spiraled down into a nasty-ass depression that lasted for 3 (very) long months. The cocktail of hormones, sleep deprivation, and sheer New Mama terror proved almost deadly, and for a very tense few weeks, I had this fantasy of slitting my wrists – “down the street, not across the road” – and taking a bath in my own blood and freshly squeezed breast milk. The only thing that kept me from doing this was the knowledge that I couldn’t pump enough breast milk to freeze for my daughter, and – God Forbid – she had to have formula. Over my dead body!
But the thing is, everyone kept telling me that I was supposed to be happy. I had a beautiful little girl who the doctors said was healthy, although I couldn’t shake the foreboding sense that there was “something wrong with her,” and that I was keeping her alive through sheer force of will and terror. This meant that I couldn’t sleep. At all. But still, each morning I got up and put on a smile that never quite reached my eyes, and I faked a new mama glow the way porn stars fake orgasms.
But when I started weeping midway through my postpartum exam – yes, while my legs were in the stirrups – my doctor gently brought up the topic of Postpartum Depression.
“No, I’m fiinneeeeeeeeeeeee,” I blubbered, using the corner of the drape covering my Lady Business to furtively wipe the snot dripping from my nose. “I just have a case of the Baby Blues. I’ll be ok if I can just get some sleep”
Um, yeah. Only Tom Cruise and his lackeys would believe I didn’t need meds.
My doctor smiled gently and explained that sometimes the Baby Blues can be more serious. Postpartum depression has many faces — overwhelming sadness, unrelenting anxiety, and unexplained anger can all be symptoms. And sure, while hormones almost always go a little haywire after you have a baby, if it lasts more than a few weeks, and seems to be getting worse, then you need more than a good night’s sleep to make it go away. So, he referred me to a shrink, who referred me to antidepressants that were ok to take while breastfeeding, and we all lived happily ever after. The End
Ok, so it wasn’t quite that simple, but things did get better. My daughter started to become more like a baby and less like the bastard child of Lord Voldemort and a plucked chicken. I was too exhausted to wake up every hour to check to see if she was breathing, so I managed to actually sleep when she slept. And then, the meds kicked in, and at last, my feelings started to make more sense — I was anxious and sad only with good reason, and I began to feel the emotions I had almost forgotten: Happiness and hope.
Four years later, I am grateful that I listened to my doctor. And I am grateful that I started on a regimen that not only saved my life but allowed me to enjoy my life.
Postpartum Depression is very serious. If you or someone you love is experiencing Postpartum Depression, please talk to your doctor as soon as possible.