I had a beautiful baby girl, a husband who was ecstatic to be a dad, and all of my physical needs met. I should have been so happy.
But I just wanted to run.
I couldn’t be comfortable in the same room with my baby. Nursing was extremely difficult. She cried incessantly. I struggled to bond with my baby. I thought it was just the “baby blues” that most women experience within the first two weeks after delivery. But as time went on, I continued to feel despair and inadequacy.
What is PPD?
As I quickly learned, Post-partum Depression (PPD) is no joke. New motherhood is itself an emotional roller coaster, but one out of seven new mothers also experience PPD. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth and is significantly underdiagnosed. And PPD can affect any postpartum mom, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.
You may feel like the early, blissful moments you anticipated with your sweet new baby have been stolen away. That was my experience, and this is my story.
I thought maybe I could fix it myself, but the heavy cloud of hopelessness lingered well after the “baby blues” period. I tried exercising daily to lighten my moods. I took violin lessons thinking it might bring me happiness. I tried positive thinking and expressing gratitude, but none of these tactics were very effective. I thought maybe it was something marriage and family counselling could resolve. That was unsuccessful too. I couldn’t think of anything else. I was stuck.
A Relieving Solution
Approximately three months postpartum, I realized that this “haze” might be PPD. I remembered what I learned in my birthing class about PPD – that there were resources at my obstetrician’s office to get help. I set an appointment and met with the clinic’s PPD specialist for a screening. She was so understanding and nonjudgmental as I voiced my struggle. She reassured me, prescribed me medication, and kick-started my healing.
After a few weeks of treatment, I was able to build a stronger bond with my baby. I felt more energized and motivated to take care of myself, my baby, and everything else. I was finally able to feel the joy of motherhood! I loved her all along, yes, but I now had a weight lifted off of my shoulders.
Self-Love: An Added Bonus
In the months that followed, I focused on loving myself, particularly my changed body. It’s all too easy to get caught up in society’s expectations and influences to “get your body back,” and I found myself buying into it.
I had to change my perspective, or else I would never love and accept my newly abundant stretch marks and six-inch C-section scar. It was a challenge, but ultimately, I realized that I sacrificed my body to create a human life. My imperfections are proof of it, a beautiful reminder of that miracle.
My husband often reassures me how much he loves this new version of me, which definitely helps. However, I still have to actively put forth the effort to love myself, regardless of what other people think. I need my own love more than anyone else’s (sorry to break it to you, hubby 😉). I’ve come to understand that, yes, it is essential to be comfortable in my own skin, but my worth does not derive from my appearance or the amount of space I fill.
My journey of self-love has only just begun, but it has been an important component of getting to where I am today – 13 months postpartum. I now feel capable of becoming the best version of myself because I got the treatment I needed and have been cultivating self-love.
Normalizing Postpartum Depression
Having PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s simply a chemical imbalance that is treatable, thanks to modern medicine. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s something that many moms experience. So know that you are not alone! This is not your fault, nor are you to blame.
If you are struggling in the same way that I was, there is no shame in taking care of yourself. Get help! If your symptoms linger past two weeks postpartum or returns anytime within one year after delivery, consider seeking medical attention.
Treating PPD may look a little different for each person. My choice of treatment doesn’t have to be yours. So explore your options!
Why PPD Matters to Everyone
If PPD has never been your issue but you have a loved one in the postpartum period, genuinely ask them how they are doing. Be a safe person for them to talk to. Help them seek treatment if necessary.
If nothing else, I hope sharing my story will foster increased compassion and understanding for the many women who experience PPD.
You deserve happiness as much as anyone else. I’m no expert, but I truly believe that PPD and bliss can coexist, because I’m experiencing it.
Let’s normalize PPD, seek and embrace healing, and end the stigma.
Elise Blaser has a Bachelor of Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has a wonderful husband, Zach, and a beautiful one-year-old daughter, Violet. Before becoming a mom, she was a Program Developer for FIELDS, a nonprofit organization for Native American education and economic development, where she created and implemented a values-based, life-skills curriculum for underserved youth. She is passionate about health and wellness and sharing her life experiences to help uplift others.
I don’t wish to offend, which is why I am starting with disclaimers. Don’t skip over them and then say “How dare he!” 🙂
I went to graduate school to be a therapist, and after about a year and a half of studying marriage and family therapy I found something I enjoyed even more: teaching. So I am not a practicing therapist and don’t claim to be. (I do, however, study and teach about parenting and child development and have a Ph.D. in the field.)
Mental disorders are real — as real as the flu or a broken bone. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as dismissing the entire field of mental health. We as a society have made great strides in understanding and accepting mental health challenges…but there is still much to do.
Medication is a great blessing when it is not used to replace therapy and/or an individual’s ability to act for oneself.
My family of origin and my extended family is riddled with mental health challenges. I have had my own struggles with anxiety and although I have learned much from studying psychopathology, I have learned even more by my own experience.
Everybody’s a Therapist
All that being said, I worry that with all the strides we have made in recent years that we may have over-corrected out of a skid. We often over-diagnose and misdiagnose. If we have a few bad days in a row we may begin to wonder if we have clinical depression. If a child in our classroom is more boisterous and active than the others, we may assume ADHD.
When my son, Carter, was about 3 years old we had invited some friends over for dinner. After watching my son bounce off the walls and shout with jubilation (like many 3-year-old boys do), one our friends asked, “Does Carter have ADHD?”
I wanted to respond: “Yes! Yes he does. And so does every other 3-year-old who is compared to the energy and attention span of adults.”
But I simply attributed it to age and temperament and dropped it.
More recently I have spoken with other good friends who said they plan to take their son to a psychologist to have him examined for mental health problems. I was stunned. I know this child quite well and see very little evidence for their claims. Granted, I don’t live with this child day in and day out, but I have seen him in many different settings. I believe that they are trying to do what is best for the family as he is prone to anger outbursts at home. (But so is my 7-year-old, Naomi. Seriously. You should see when she loses it. She can turn into the Hulk.)
Stories such as those that I just mentioned are far too common. May I be so bold to say that often the problem is not the child but the perception of the child. The child may not have a clinical disorder but perhaps a personality that is different from yours or other children you’re accustomed to.
Medication as theonly Solution
To make matters worse, we not only over-diagnose at times, but we tend to use medication as the only solution. (Now I just opened a bigger can of worms, I know.) Consider what happened to Jacob in the first 6 minutes and 30 seconds of Frontline’s documentary: “The Medicated Child”
No wonder the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has reported a 42% increase in the number of reported cases of ADHD since 2003. I have to wonder how Jacob’s life would have been different if his parents were given this type of therapy that might include effective parenting strategies and skill building that help them adapt their family dynamic to Jacob’s personality.
Unfortunately, Jacob’s story is the story of thousands of children who have personalities and temperaments that need tailored guidance and teaching.
Sir Ken Robinson gives a powerful example of what can happen if we go about this the right way. Here is a clip from his TED Talk below:
Please understand that mental health professionals and psychoactive drugs can and should be a blessing in the lives of those who need them. We should realize that the mind can get sick just like the body.
Even so, the quick and easy strategy for the mother and the therapist mentioned in the TED Talk would have been to medicate. Kudos to the therapist for seeing the girl’s movement for what it was–a gift. Maybe drugs alone are easier for professionals and their clients than the longer, more difficult process of other kinds of therapy and education. Surely insurance companies prefer the medicated approach. Or maybe it demands too much of us as teachers and parents to work harder to help meet a child’s needs.
So, if you are a parent concerned about your child’s behavior, please keep the following in mind:
Be Your Child’s Advocate
Get as much info about the child as you can. Does your child have this behavioral problem at school, with friends, and at home? If not, then perhaps it is the environment (home or school) that needs to adapt to the child’s needs. If a teacher tells you your son has ADHD, watch him in the classroom if possible. Is the teacher incredibly strict? Boring? Is your son different or similar to how he acts at home? Most classrooms are not conducive to a diversity of personalities and learning styles.
Not All Therapists are Created Equal
If you do take your child to a clinician, understand that they vary in quality and specialty. Meaning, you want to find someone who is trusted and has a broader vocabulary than only medication. It’s also okay to get a second and third opinion.
If your child needs or is currently using medication, be sure that both your family and the child are employing other approaches as well. Another question to ponder:
Do the side effects from the meds make things harder on my child than they were before the meds?
See Strength and Develop it
Dr. Robert Jergen tells of his own experience with ADHD. He decided to see it not as a weakness, but as a “super-ability” that he could learn to channel…and he did. Try to see the strengths that can come with your child’s unique personality.
So before you assume your energetic child needs medication, take a look at all the factors. How does he or she behave in various environments? Does your child have a unique temperament or personality to be catered to? While medical help can be needed at times, make sure you don’t take short-cuts with your child for a quick-fix. You’ll be glad you took the time, and so will your child!
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