Being a mom to one child is difficult – so imagine having two kids without a husband; this is why I joined the 2018 Singlemom Conference. I had to learn more about how to raise my kids since they are multi-racial, one of the many topics in the conference.
My first pregnancy was an unplanned one, and we were both in shock to learn that I was already on the way. We were planning to have a baby after three years, but it seemed God had another plan for giving us the baby early.
I recently gave birth to my only baby boy, and I somehow felt everything change after that. Instead of feeling excited and happy about the life ahead, I immediately felt extreme sadness, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Though my doctor told me that it was normal to have baby blues, I‘m entirely sure it wasn’t like that because the emotional dilemma took longer than expected. There’s something about my condition that told me that my depression wasn’t going anywhere.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Science explains postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, as a condition that comes from hormonal changes, fatigue, and psychological adjustment that relates to motherhood. It gives new moms like me low energy that causes a long-term type of depression. The symptoms of the mental condition include feeling sad, tearful, worried, anxious, and stressed.
How PPD Affected Me
Postpartum depression affected me in a way that I found myself having trouble connecting with my newborn child. It was not that I didn’t want to be with him or anything. It just felt like I have this guilt of not going to be a good mom. I am sure I was ready to experience motherhood, but the emotional and psychological states I have right now tells me it was different. Though I was informed that postpartum depression could potentially escalate into something like suicide or have thoughts of hurting my baby, I’m pretty sure I haven’t reached that stage either.
After birth, primary care is mostly focused on the baby’s health. Well infant visits are more frequent than a mother’s postpartum visit to the obstetrician. To address this gap, Maria Muzik, MD, MSC, and co-authors emphasized the role of the pediatrician in screening postpartum depression: “Implementing a standard PPD screening using EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen) is very feasible in a busy pediatric primary care practice if local and online resources are identified and a clinic workflow is established ahead of implementation.”
How PPD Affects My Relationship
After I gave birth, I felt like I was also losing the relationship I had with my husband because he didn’t seem to understand my situation. There was this one time that he told me to snap out of it, but how was I supposed to? I would want to get out of this condition as much as he wanted me to, but I couldn’t. Our relationship was drifting apart, and all I can think of was getting divorced. It was the most straining times of our marriage because there was anger, confusion, guilt, arguments, and uncertainties. Due to my irrational thoughts, I also lost my interest in intimacy. It was not just about sex, but rather all those small connections we had such as touch, hugs, and kisses.
How My Husband Assisted Me With My PPD
After I went to seek help from a therapist, my husband and I fully understood what postpartum depression was all about. Due to the diagnosis, my relationship experienced a drastic change, and my husband became so considerate of my situation. He started to avoid putting additional pressure on my emotional and psychological condition. He avoided giving unsolicited advice and managed to gather the right things to say. He became so gentle in delivering his words and maintained calm actions. It was an inspiring moment that I encouraged myself to get better, not only for my husband but my newborn baby as well.
Even men are at risk of postpartum depression. Janice H. Goodman, PhD, RN, CS, finds that a “strong correlation of paternal postpartum depression with maternal postpartum depression has important implications for family health and well‐being.”
A study by Dr. O’Hara, Gorman, PhD, and co-authors suggest that “IPT is an efficacious treatment for postpartum depression. Interpersonal psychotherapy reduced depressive symptoms and improved social adjustment, and represents an alternative to pharmacotherapy, particularly for women who are breastfeeding.”
My mental condition was a traumatic experience where I came to the point of giving up. But with the love and understanding that my husband gave me, I managed to flip the other side of its story.
I did not lie, I just choose not to talk about it, but I never thought that it would haunt me.
It was the best day of my life, the day I gave birth to Aleya. I never thought that my nightmares would start haunting me that very same day. I began to feel fearful and suspicious people around me, even with my own husband at times. I thought it was just typical for a new mom to worry about her firstborn. I never thought that what I was experiencing was paranoia.
“There’s so much stigma about postpartum depression,” says Susan Hatters Friedman, MD, a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “As a society, we expect it to be the happiest time of a woman’s life. A lot of women don’t report if they’re having symptoms.”
Marriage for me is a serious thing, so it was never an easy decision to make when I decided to marry someone with bipolar illness.
Problems pile up when a mental health condition tries to steal the scene. The idea that it is a lifelong condition and a life-threatening one at that is undoubtedly overwhelming and poses a severe threat to any relationship.
Motherhood brings a lot of happiness and a ton of pressure. You start to worry about much stuff, such as the baby should always be in perfect shape, the sweats, the diapers, the milk, the smell – everything should have to be perfect. Trying to be the perfect mom makes motherhood a crazy journey.
My mother had a history of bipolar illness, that is the reason why my doctor advised me to undergo therapy to be able to handle the possibility of having mood swings right after or weeks after giving birth.
Every trial is God’s priceless gift to me that He patiently wrapped in fears and miseries, boxed in anxiety, tied with a plain-colored ribbon, with a card on top saying, “You can do it, my precious daughter, I am with you!”
My Millennium Bug
Seventeen years ago, as everybody was fearing the millennium that was approaching because of the threat of the Y2K bug, I never thought that it would hit me earlier than expected.
My husband out of nowhere packed his things and left us without a word, and my youngest son who was very close to him got depressed and fell ill.
I distinctly remember how I listened to every tick of my watch, stared at the wall of the hospital, walked to and fro the hallway hoping for good news, and then the doctor came out breaking the news no one wanted to hear. The inevitable had happened. I will no longer see my son go to school because I had to walk him to his grave, the most painful phase of my motherhood journey.
I thought that was all, but no, God was not done yet. Another surprise came a month after, another sad news. My mom had a heart attack and was declared DOA.
At that time, I was a single mom of three kids, and since my mom passed away, I also got to take care of my sick dad.
Anxiety And Depression Kicks In
Months passed, and still, I got these sleepless nights. Every night was just the same as all the others. I just tossed and turned on my bed trying to catch that elusive sleep, but all my efforts were of no use. I couldn’t go on that way, so I went to my doctor who gave me some sedatives. I avoided my caffeine and took herbal alternatives, which were supposed to induce sleep but all to no avail. The best they provided me was 2 to 3 hours of sleep.
Is this stress? I hope so.
I turned to read my Bible as I lay awake in the middle of the night, listened to gospel songs because they comfort me, and prayed that whatever I was going through, I hoped God will cure me.
Sleepless nights were then followed by hot and cold flashes and night sweats. I felt afraid and, in panic, I just cried and cried. My doctor finally told me that it was anxiety disorder combined with depression. “Anxiety is a kind of looking to the future, seeing dangerous things that might happen in the next hour, day or weeks. Depression is all that with the addition of ‘I really don’t think I’m going to be able to cope with this, maybe I’ll just give up.’ It’s shutdown marked by mental, cognitive or behavioral slowing,” said David Barlow, PhD, director of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
It explained the sleepless nights. According to Katie Hurley, LCSW, “People struggling with depression are likely to have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.” My doctor then gave me some more medications and said that we should be able to identify the triggers to address the problem adequately.
Acceptance Is Never Easy
For someone who often looks down on mental health issues, this is nothing easy to take. It was another blow, but I needed to accept and embrace my doctor’s suggestions for it’s the only path I know that would help me get on the road to recovery finally.
Julian Humphreys, PhD, PCC, wrote, “[T]he more open and accepting we are about what’s really going on with us, the more likely it is that we will find healthy defenses that contribute in sustainable ways to our own and others’ long-term growth and development.” I needed to be healed because I’m a mother, a daughter, and I had a small business to run.