When I was pregnant, I was very aware of the signs of postpartum depression. Depression runs in my family, so I wanted to be absolutely sure that I paid attention to my mental health during pregnancy and after. Despite moving two weeks after our son was born and dealing with all the turmoil that caused, I honestly felt pretty healthy, from a mental perspective. (My physical being at that time was a bit of a different story, but you can read about my postpartum journey here.) My sweet husband was checking in with me regularly throughout each day to see how I was feeling and doing. Despite being sleep-deprived and having my life uprooted, I felt so over the moon happy and in love with our son.
Once we arrived and got settled in Philadelphia, I continued to feel pretty normal and generally happy. (Please know that I definitely struggled and had moments when I lacked patience, argued with my husband, and felt lonely. But these feeling weren’t overwhelming and didn’t persist. If you want to learn more about postpartum depression, this article has a lot of information.)
Slowly but surely, my husband got busier with his PhD program and I felt lonelier and lonelier. The process was subtle and slow. Nothing really stood out as being significantly different and I didn’t necessarily feel like I was struggling with depression. Then, one night around the time I was four months postpartum, I asked my husband if he was ready for bed and he snapped (super mildly) at me that he needed to keep working. For some reason, this just sent me spinning. I went to bed without talking to my husband again after this and had nightmares that we were going to get divorced, that he was going to leave me for another woman, and that he was going to tragically die. (It was an awful night of sleep.) I woke up the next day and felt horrifically sad and sure that our marriage was ending. I went for a walk with our son and cried almost the whole way. I cut it short, mostly because our little guy was ready for a nap, and came home. Once our little man was sound asleep, I called my mom. I didn’t even know what to say, but I knew I needed to talk to her. (If you are struggling with postpartum depression or are worried that you might at some point, PLEASE identify a “safe” person to call if you need to. This can be a friend, mom, sister, whoever. If you have no one you feel comfortable calling, consider finding a trusted therapist to have available if you need one.)
As soon as my mom answered, I’m pretty sure I started crying again. I told her what had happened the night before with my husband (which was basically nothing major at all), and that I feared that our marriage wasn’t going to survive. My mom, being the incredible support system that she is, loved me through this, heard me as I shared my concerns, and encouraged me. She also shared that at about four months postpartum, it is common that your hormones basically tank…for lack of a better explanation. (She reads this blog, so hopefully she can explain further!) Regardless, I had not realized that postpartum depression was even an issue or concern at this stage of my postpartum journey. No one was asking me about my mental health even more, my doctor hadn’t mentioned it (although my PA doctor was not super great, so I imagine that was a factor), and none of my mom articles mentioned this at all. But is made so much sense. As soon as my mom said this, it was like something clicked for me and I got out of my funk.
I still had a tough conversation with my husband after this to let him know where my head was at and what I was struggling with. (In case you are wondering, I’m married to an amazing guy.) He was understanding, supportive, and eternally optimistic in our ability to get through this. But it still took awhile. I am now eight months postpartum and I would say that I just recently felt back to normal with my mental health. I think it is hard to remember that pregnancy, giving birth, and introducing a newborn into your family is a lot to handle no matter how much support you have. If you are not 100% or are struggling more significantly, that is okay. Honor that. Recognize where you are. If you need to seek professional help, do it. I didn’t for this particular scenario, but I have in the past and it was very worth it. It is NOT a sign of weakness to need help, whether that is seeing a therapist or calling your mom in a fit of tears. If I can encourage you to do anything, it would be to educate yourself, identify your “safe” person, and keep tabs on your mental health throughout the first year (or more if you need to!). You are worth it!
Did you have an experience with postpartum depression? How did you overcome this challenge?