My Postpartum Depression Journey
Seeing that May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, I thought it was appropriate to post my personal postpartum entry.
As if getting through the pregnancy, labor & birth wasn’t enough, postpartum depression is yet another part of the journey some don’t really like to discuss. If you’ve been following my blog since pregnancy, you know about my depression & anxiety issues resurfacing & causing me some issues. I’m honestly not sure how chances are ‘measured’ but the Social worker I started talking to & the Psychiatrist I was told I needed to see both told me I was a prime candidate for Postpartum Depression (due to dealing with Momma’s passing, a miscarriage, previous depression & anxiety issues, etc..)
I did my due diligence & read everything I could on it.
I lined up visits with my Drs.
I had numerous conversations with Matt about what could possibly follow.
There’s no ‘getting ready’ but I was getting ready.
Here I am 5 months PP & have been fortunate to not (really) experience my slippery slope, however, I still want to talk about it. Whether you can relate to my experiences, have some of your own or am anticipating this possibility – I think it needs to be talked about!
My first breakdown was 4 days after bringing J home. I was still learning the ins & outs of breastfeeding (which meant my latch was awful), my boobs were ALWAYS engorged, I was afraid to pump, I hadn’t slept since the hospital stay & was just overall drained! I remember putting J down in the MamaRoo for his next 30 min nap, walked into his nursery where Auntie Barbara was, sat down beside her & started bawling. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel & wanted to quit it all. THANKFULLY she calmed me down, had me pump a little to take the edge off (& so she could bottle feed him) & told me to go take a nap – BLESS HER!
Since then, I’ve had a few more breakdowns (closer to now than then) & they’ve ALL stemmed from some relation to Momma. Noticing a Momma’s love for her son, a parent passing, a grandma’s love for her grandchild, etc.. Damn This Is Ustriggered the last one when Randall had to tell the mailman about his Dad’s passing. I had to do that many times when I moved to Charleston to be with Dad & it put me RIGHT back in my feels. Naturally, I’m holding Jackson, looking at him like “you’re living in a world where you will never know my Momma & I don’t know how that’s possible.” My eyes were immediately shrink wrapped, my chest felt like it was caving in & I held J tighter to my chest. I called Auntie Barbara as I slid down the wall to sit on the floor & once again, like she always did, brought me back. This time, she even made me laugh with a great story of her & Momma LOL.
What I’m trying to get to is the way PostPartum depression affects us. IT IS NOT THE SAME FOR EVERYONE. Just recently, I learned that even some Dad’s are hit with it same, if not worse, as the Momma’s. For some, it hits hardest in the first couple weeks with your new bundle (Baby Blues) – when the schedules hit the fan, you’re just trying to make it until the next nap or through the next painful nursing session & you feel like you’re just not meant to be a Momma. Maybe it’s a few months in when teething begins, the schedule you’ve just become accustomed to is changing yet again & your body still hasn’t ‘bounced back’. Or it’s further down the road & you can’t fathom being away from you baby for more than a few hours. It hits in different ways & different times. It’s not fair to compare someone else’s to yours.
WAYS I HELPED MYSELF
For years, I’ve ‘taken notes’ in my phone or on scraps of paper only to collect in the bottom of purses or pockets only to get lost in the wash. Before J, I discovered bullet journaling & realized how it would help me in different ways – 1. Help organize the 1000’s of thoughts & To Do Lists in my head, & 2. Allow me to get my creative juices flowing again on paper. I’ve found what works best for me is writing down the night before or as the day goes everything I need to do tomorrow (whether it be complete, touch base with something, make another list, etc..). I guess I could make a separate entry on my style of journalling? If you’ve been to my house since J was born, you’ve seen in! I’ve successfully written in it every day (knock on wood) so here’s hoping it continues!
The reason it helped: I’m a visual person. Seeing on paper what needed to be done & physically checking/crossing them off not only felt accomplished but reminded me that I was actually getting shit done.
I’m not talking about a monthly meeting where I talk about the saddening struggles of being a new Momma or basically anything that would end in me in tears. Also not talking about a monthly meeting where the other women are extremely clicky, judging & just all around dread going to. (No judgment if that’s your thing. It’s just not mine). I’m talking about a monthly meeting where I get to openly talk about a general topic, receive advice & also mingle with other Mommas. For me, that is my La Leche meeting every first Wednesday of the month. I’m BEYOND thankful KristiAnn pointed me to their direction while I was pregnant & I’ve continued going since – I’m actually a member now (paid my dues & everything )
The reason it helped: There was enough distance between each meeting that it didn’t feel overwhelming to try to make it to each one (even though I did). Also, the purpose of the meeting was relaxing because I knew I’d be surrounded by other Mommas & Mommas To Be so there would be so much support should I feel overwhelmed or nervous.
So I definitely came to terms with this one later than expected but everyone’s learning, right? Also, have you met my robot of a husband? Emotions are not a thing (love you, Handsome <3). I’ve realized, I’m a personal crier – I’ll reach out to one person (family) to cry-vent to then that’s it. I don’t need to work through why I’m crying. It just needs to come out & I don’t feel people need to know. However, I’ve learned those close to me DO need to know. I can just tell Matt that I had a bad day or had a breakdown. Not that I need to be catered to, just address it.
The reason it helped: Actually hearing it aloud rather than hearing it in my head made it so much more real. “I’m having a hard day.” “I felt like a bad Momma.” “I need 5 minutes.” “I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.” “I had a breakdown.”You’re not invincible but you’re capable of making yourself think you are.
This was my bread & butter. These were also written down in my bullet journal – both daily & monthly. Starting small with daily goals like getting outside set me up for success. I know feeling the sun on my skin (even though WA was setting a record for the most sunless days EVER -_-) or just breathing fresh air diminishes the chances of cabin fever. My CAPSULE WARDROBE Challenge – something minor but I could attempt every day for a small daily goal.
The reason it helped: It gave me stepping stones to getting into some kind of schedule with a baby attached to me.
FINDING YOUR OUTLET
Before I had Jackson (before I was even pregnant), I knew working out was my outlet. & I mean lifting, not just running or body weight exercises. But after having J, everything was thrown into hyper gear & I was stressed out more than ever. Even more so after the magical 6 week mark for exercise but A. My gym didn’t offer childcare, B. Like I’d use it anyways because it’s a waste of money & I’m sure not clean & C. Matt wouldn’t get home into time for me to go so he could watch J. CUE THE BEGINNING OF OUR HOME GYM. I started squeezing in short 20 min lifting sessions during Jackson’s naps & viola, I started feeling 1000x better! Now I’m even running with Jackson in the morning!
The reason it helped: I was physically exerting my energy & my body started to ‘bounce back’ faster. Simple.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR WINS
I feel like this one gets overlooked constantly. Everyone, myself included, is so quick to point out the things you didn’t do or failed to accomplish. So you didn’t get to do the laundry, wash the dishes or make it out of the house that day. What did you do? You kept you child alive for another day & hopefully ate yourself. Maybe you even showered!! Once you master both showering & eating in the same day every day, girl you’ll feel amazeballs. Also, the journalling helps with acknowledging your wins because you get the privilege of checking things off & / or moving them to the next day.
The reason it helped: Reminding yourself of the good you’re doing instead of seeing only the bad gives you balance. You’re not all bad even if you feel like it!
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
This one’s a biggie & can pretty much determine a breakdown. When you’re at the end of your rope (for that part of the day), anything could set you off. Knowing when you’re at your wit’s end helps with the remainder of your day. Feeling overwhelmed because things keep piling on or something wasn’t done? Acknowledge you’re about to explode, step away & relief that pressure.
The reason it helped: Most of the time, this step is completely skipped & your day goes from great, everything gets piled on then explosion! There’s a step in between! Plus, you show yourself you DO have control in a situation that makes you think you don’t.
I can’t help but feel like I’m missing so much but I can only speak for myself & my own journey. Just opening the door to the conversation is half the battle, right? Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything because that’s the kind of person I am. I’ll ask 1000 questions but I’ll never really understand until I experience it. Everything happens for a reason so even the hard parts have a purpose. Whether it be taking on too much too fast, not giving myself the benefit of the doubt, not joining or joining a certain group, taking more naps or even speaking to the therapist – everything served a purpose.
Personally, I see it all as a test & you know what: I got through it. I had help from Matt, my family & my village but I survived & YOU WILL TOO. You absolutely will.
There will be hard days. Some days you honestly won’t be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your baby may only sleep in 30 min intervals all day. They maybe won’t take a bottle & only eat straight from Momma. Little one may cry constantly driving you up a wall. YOU WILL SURVIVE!
To all the Mommas out there, please know you aren’t alone. Don’t be scared to reach out – call, text, email, whatever to whoever you feel comfortable. This is not meant to be handled in the dark – you don’t have to walk this alone.