Dear New Mom,
I have gone through the dark, rocky tunnel that is postpartum depression twice now. I guess you could call me a veteran and a survivor. The first round, in 2006, was long, winding and possessed many deep caverns. It is like that Godfather movie quote, "Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!" That was PPD for me. I found myself incredibly violent and not towards my child but towards complete strangers. There was the time I checked a coworker into an office hallway wall. Or how about the day i inexplicably yelled out the words, "Shit, FUCK! Mustang and whore!" during a meeting. I still wonder what the hell that was about. I saw my doctor. I saw a counselor. I journaled and had many conversations with my husband and mother, a PPD sufferer herself. I took my meds and tried to keep from crying while brushing my teeth or drying my hair each morning. It lasted almost a year. There were many highs and lows. It was pure unaltered misery and something I would never wish on anyone. I still sometimes feel robbed of the first year of my daughter's life because of PPD. I got through it though ad felt stronger than before. I put it all behind me.
When I became pregnant for the second time, something I was hesitant to do because of my postpartum diagnosis from my first pregnancy, I lived with a bit of fear that entire pregnancy. It was like there was a monster under my bed or a phantom menace always lurking just out of my sight. Would it resurface? How would I care for a toddler and an infant if I had PPD again? For a few weeks after the birth of my second daughter all seemed right with the world. I was a more confident mother, had more of a support system and I knew what the signs of PPD were. Both my husband and I were on the lookout for it. Then, the minute we thought we were through the window it came crashing down in a sea of splintering glass. PPD had struck again. New meds, ones that would not make me homicidal (yes, really) and a new counselor was found. I saw my doctors regularly, had even more support from friends and family and I sailed through it. Looking back now, it was nothing like the first time. It was as if my ship just hit a stormy patch instead of being hit by a typhoon. I really believe it was because we knew the signs and I had so much support. I never stopped communicating either.
I am almost five months pregnant now with my third child. Again, I worry that postpartum depression will strike. It is not just me that it hits either. It affects my husband, my children and anyone else with whom I have a relationship. I have had numerous discussions with my midwife. We are vigilant and we know that sleep, support and proper nutrition will assist in making the post-birth easier. I admit that I am still afraid. A case of "what ifs" combined with fear is what it is really all about. However, I have my support group already in check and by walking this through during the pregnancy and after the birth I know that I will get through it if it strikes again. Knowing the symptoms of postpartum depression, knowing that no one will judge me and having support really do make all the difference. Each and every time, if needed.
VictoriaMason blogs daily about motherhood, pregnancy, PPD and every day life at The Mummy Chronicles. She believes that being vocal about being a PPD survivor helps to reduce the stigma and raise awareness each and every time she does it.