My experience with Postpartum Mood Disorder
They said I would fall in love as soon as I set eyes on him, they said I would immediately bond, they said I would know what it meant to be a mother. They were wrong. I didn’t fall in love when I looked at him. I didn’t bond immediately either. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel like I expected to? All of those months waiting to see his face and fall in love and then nothing. For weeks I waited to feel that connection. For weeks I wondered why I didn’t “get it” like I was told I would?
But I’m not depressed
Fear, Guilt, and Worry? Yes. Depression? Not really.
I was too consumed with fear to allow myself to bond. Even when he slept I was awake making sure he didn’t stop breathing. My biggest fear was SIDS, or him aspirating on vomit. I couldn’t let me myself bond to someone who could be taken away at any time.
3 days after he was born I realized that he hadn’t really latched on properly or gotten much to eat and when I offered him a 2 oz. bottle of formula and he SUCKED DOWN the whole thing I thought, oh my God I have been starving my baby! I laid in bed sobbing because I should have known better. I should have somehow tapped into that “mother’s instinct” we all hear about.
I was racked with guilt that I had to leave him with my mom or my husband in the living room while I went into our bedroom to sleep because I was so tired. And couldn’t sleep anyway because I SHOULD be the one doing everything for him.
The biggest surprise of motherhood for me was the intense worry. ALL THE TIME. When my son was 3 weeks old I had a full blown panic attack because ONE DAY when he 16 he would be driving on the same roads as some drunk driver.
This was not what I expected. This was not what they told me I would feel as a mother. THEY SAID I would fall in love, they said I would “just know”.
But I can function fine
I finally bonded after the first few weeks and I always say he taught me how to truly love someone but at the same time I dealt with what I dubbed “postpartum paranoia”. My husband liked to tease that I was “nutty”. I didn’t disagree.
So many strangers at the store teased that they would “take him off my hands” or “bring him home” that I began to worry about people following me home from Wal-Mart to kidnap him so I blocked his window with his dresser so no one could sneak in his room at night. I knew that I was a little overkill with my protectiveness but it just seemed like no one else took the potential dangers seriously enough so I had to make up for it.
I thought that because I didn’t let my paranoia keep me locked up in the house and managed to lead a relatively normal life that it must not be something serious but if you could see in my head you would know it was serious. Checking and double checking and triple checking the backseat to make sure I didn’t forget him. Anticipating how I would get him out of car if we crashed into the river or off a bridge.
Postpartum Depression and/or Postpartum Mood Disorder vs. Baby Blues
I know now that I what I suffered from was is called “postpartum mood disorder” or PPMD. Many people simply call it postpartum depression or sometimes even the baby blues but it is so much more than that. Baby blues is a normal part of postpartum recovery that has more to do with your body adjusting to a fluctuation in hormones after giving birth. Postpartum depression and postpartum mood disorder are serious conditions and can present themselves with varying degrees of severity and many different symptoms. PPMD doesn’t always mean you are depressed. If you are like I was and have a serious paranoia or fear of harm coming to your baby then you may have PPMD.
Severe guilt over things out of my control, panic attacks and constant fear of the worst case scenario, the inability to trust even my husband with caring for our son, were all symptoms of PPMD that I COULD have gotten help for had I known such a diagnosis existed.
Common doesn’t mean Normal
I am very open and honest with everyone I meet about what I went through. Although I used to try to explain it away that I was just an overly protective first time mom I am not ashamed, embarrassed, or in any way afraid to talk about it now. If we are going to help women who are suffering with these diagnosis then they NEED to know what it is they are suffering from. There is a name for what they are feeling. They need to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of and is a very common occurrence in the postpartum period and it is okay to seek help.
As a postpartum doula I am trained to recognize what we call “the scope of normal”. This means that if I recognize the symptoms of PPD or PPMD and not the typical “baby blues” then I can help you identify the need to see your care provider and help find other resources like support groups or reading material. Sometimes my care simply means letting you know you are doing a good job. And if you have PPD or PPMD you are probably doing a good job, you just don’t know it. Just because it is common and nothing to be ashamed of doesn’t mean it is a normal part of birth or that you need to suffer alone. If you think you may have symptoms, contact your care provider. Reach out to your partner or a friend and let them know what you are going through. You deserve to feel great after having a baby no matter what they say.