On Being Honest with Doctors about PPD Symptoms

Congratulations! You’ve had a baby! It is such a wonderful time in your life!

These are a few of the things relatives and friends and even strangers will coo around you, like a bee hive; buzzing about every little thing you feel is normal.

We all have a hormonal shift after birth. Don’t worry it’s normal. We all have pain down there after birth. Don’t worry it’s normal. Breastfeeding is hard for everyone at the beginning. Don’t worry it’s normal.

You continuously hear that everything is normal so much, that everything you sense going wrong with you postpartum must be normal and you should not complain.

After weeks of this physical and mental separation, you head back to your OB for your six week check up. Your doctor will ask you how you are feeling. They will ask you if you have any pain. They will ask you if you having any issues with depression. They will ask you how breastfeeding is going. They will ask if you are getting enough sleep.

This is the part where we should wave our little white flags in that office. “No, I am not okay. There are things going on that I have tried to fix for six weeks and they are not getting better. I feel no attachment with my baby. I cannot stop crying. I want to leave. I want to take her back to the hospital.”

But that’s a very dramatic and scary thing to admit to ourselves, isn’t it? After holding this baby inside of you, growing it for nine months and then admitting that you are not up for the task is a sort of embarrassment that is hard enough to admit to yourself, let alone a stranger.

So, what most women will say is, “We are doing fine.”

We are doing fine.

I am doing fine.

Everything is fine.

Women will leave that doctor’s office, with their newborn in tow and sit in their cars after, sobbing. They will grip the steering wheel with white knuckles and feel as if their one chance for relief was just wasted. They will look at themselves in their rear view mirror, black bags under their blood shot eyes and not recognize the person looking back at them.

Is this what fine looks like? Is this what everyone goes through? Sitting in a parked car, with a screaming newborn in the back seat and feeling so far away from your body that you cannot fathom how to even comfort yourself, let alone your new baby.

These women will drive home, to their empty houses, and put the baby in the swing, because that’s the only way you can get them to stop screaming. The will lay down on the couch across the room and watch the newborn swing back and forth; closer to them and suddenly far away, like the pendulum of a clock.

“I can’t have postpartum depression,” they will say to themselves; you will say to yourself.

“I was so happy before. I was so happy while pregnant. I wanted this baby more than anything.”

We are doing fine.

I am doing fine.

Everything is fine.

“It’s just the hormones,” you will repeat to yourself. “They’ll level off soon.”

But, how long is too long to wait for “what is normal” to cross over into “I am not okay”?

Perhaps you will reach the end of your rope. Perhaps you have put your screaming infant safely in their crib, closed the door, and hide in your bathroom, sobbing with your hands over your ears. “This is too much. This is not normal. This is not fine,” you will finally admit to yourself.

But admitting one thing to yourself and saying the words out loud are two different things. As you pick up your phone and call your OB’s office, you simply ask for an appointment. The receptionist will ask if this is an emergency. You might freeze up. Do you really want to be a nuisance? Do you really want to make people drop what they are doing just to listen to how you are a failure as a mother?

This, however, is your second chance that you wanted ever so badly back when you were first sitting in that exam room saying that you felt fine. You are being given a second change to wave your white flag an let everyone know that you are not fine and this is not normal.

“Yes, it is an emergency. I am having symptoms of postpartum depression.”

You may flinch as you finally say the words out loud but what you don’t know is that this receptionist on the other end of your phone call has heard this before. She believes you and doesn’t question whether or not what you are feeling is normal.

She believes you.

It is once you get past that initial fear of admitting to the world that you need help, that you can begin to realize you deserve to be helped, healed, happy.

But man-oh-man, was it easy to just say you were fine.