I just experienced the greatest gift in life by giving birth to a healthy baby girl after a 2nd-trimester loss with my first-born. I should be on cloud 9 savoring every moment with my newborn after all that heartache and overcoming my high-risk pregnancy due to IC (incompetent cervix).
Seeing my daughter made my heart so happy it skipped a beat but my mind was clouded with doubt, intrusive thoughts of hurting my baby girl, and the fear of losing her.
The recurring image of stumbling down the stairs with my newborn in hand kept playing in my mind. The simple guilt of feeling like this made me feel even worse that spiraled into a major depression that only fed into my anxiety a mental illness that I struggled for years.
It was a never-ending cycle of fear that I had for weeks, I felt alone caged in the four walls of my overpriced one bedroom downtown apartment, as I observed my one-month-old daughter resting peacefully in her swing like a little angel, that image was soon followed with an intruding thought of me going batshit crazy and having a psychotic episode and stabbing her.
I was in my early 20’s, what did I know about post-partum depression? This was never discussed amongst the women in my family, all my tias (aunts) was to chismar de fulanita de tal (gossip about somebody).
I was afraid to reach out for help because I didn’t want to be judged plus I’m a strong Latina: I can’t show that vulnerability, let alone show that I may be crazy too.
“How can I reach out to my husband? He’s going to be afraid of leaving me alone with the baby. If we go to the doctors, they are going to take my daughter away from me, then there I go with a straight jacket to a mental institute. How will we pay our bills?” These were my thoughts; all this went through my mind, it was plain torture until I summoned the courage and did reach out to my husband. He immediately made an appointment and I was seen the next day.
It took months of mental rehabilitation with my PPD that involved medication, therapy and lots of support from family and friends. After that I was able to finally enjoy motherhood, of course, I had my rough days because come on ladies being a mother is not an easy task.
Per Mayo Clinic there’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.
- Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.
- Emotional issues. When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression. Did you know that postpartum depression tends to go undetected and untreated in minority group members? These women are less likely to undergo PPD screening, and if they do experience PPD symptoms, they tend to minimize them or disregard them because of shame, perceived stigma, and/or cultural beliefs. In one study, researchers found that when low-income women were diagnosed with PPD, they were half as likely as their white counterparts to utilize available mental health services.
Learn the difference between PPD and “baby blues” although symptoms might be similar which affects 80 percent of mothers, postpartum is different. “Baby blues” symptoms are lethargy, uncontrolled crying, and insecurity which goes away briefly. It lasts a few days or weeks while postpartum lingers for more than a few weeks and the cases are more severe.
The common symptoms a woman may experience with PPD include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed.
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason.
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious.
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless.
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep.
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
- Experiencing anger or rage.
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable.
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain.
- Eating too little or too much.
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family.
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby.
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby.
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
Queens, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and to seek treatment and most importantly, continue your treatment. You are not alone there are so many resources available for you, If you are embarrassed to share this with your family and friends, by all means, don’t share it. However, who knows if you don’t share your story, you’ll never know if any woman in your family went through the same struggle years ago. They may have also been afraid and ashamed to share her struggle.
After the birth of my son I was struck of fear of my PPD returning, thankfully I’ve only had the “baby blues”, my son is so needy ya’ll but I love every moment. I wanted to be an advocate for my self-care so I joined different supportive groups on Facebook one of them is The Postpartum Stress Center, Karen Kleiman, MSW is the founder and Director of this group. She is also the author of several books on PPD and anxiety including, “Therapy and the Postpartum Woman”, which is on my reading list.
A new movement has also risen, that brings awareness to PPD called “speak the secret”. You can hashtag it on IG and you will see different animations that are relatable to PPD many quoting “Scary-thoughts”, definitely check it out.
Postpartum depression can happen to the best of us, it doesn’t make us any weaker or a bad mother and screw those that judge us.
Remember your body was a vessel to new life and with that came many changes on a physical, mental & spiritual level. Education and support are key to overcome this obstacle in your life and yes it’s only momentarily with the right access to self-care.If you have a close loved one or a friend that recently had a baby or has a little one, please ask how her mental health is and if she needs help, trust me she will appreciate that.
I’ll leave you with this quote queens,
“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure – so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” – Maya Angelou
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking about suicide, get help quickly.
- Call your doctor.
- Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).