On December 31, 2011, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! It was something I had dreamed about for so long. I remember the day after she was born — I was crying on the phone with my midwife because I was so overwhelmed. My baby was so little and I didn't really know what to do.
Being a little overwhelmed is common. After giving birth, many moms (up to 80%!) experience some form of the baby blues. This could be feeling irritable or exhausted, needing to cry for no reason, or worrying that you won't be a good mom.
I did not have that. I had something that nearly sucked the life out of me.
After we got home from the hospital, I rarely got off of the couch for 30 days. I got up to feed the baby and change her, but I didn't eat. I remember just feeling so weird. Everything was robotic: "Must feed baby." "Must change baby." I don't remember even enjoying any of it.
One night, I was so tired that I actually Googled how many sleeping pills I could take without dying. I didn't want to die, but I wanted to be pretty close so that I would sleep for a few days. I actually had a bunch of pills laid out on the ottoman. I started to down them and then I thought, "What if I am unconscious and she starts crying?! Nobody will hear her." I didn't want her to cry and not have help. So I begged God to let me fall asleep, and I threw the pills away. My baby saved my life.
Then the paranoia set in. I started to think that something very terrible was going to happen. I started to place emergency items around the house — things I would need to survive if I ran away — which I did. I kidnapped my own child.
Luckily, a family friend who is also a nurse found me hiding out. She told me that I had postpartum depression (PPD), a condition way more intense than the blues. At the time, I didn't know that PPD occurs in nearly 15% of births. All I knew was that I just wanted to disappear. I hated everything. I couldn't function, and I was mad that I wasn't connecting with such a precious little baby.
While I never wanted to hurt my baby, I would be lying if I said that I never wanted to hurt myself. Unfortunately, I know that some women who suffer from PPD do hurt their babies or themselves.
I don't even remember when I started feeling better, but I did overcome my PPD with the help of my doctors and family and eventually gave birth to another daughter. I thought I knew what to look for the second time. Thankfully, I didn't experience the same intensity of symptoms again. But what I didn't realize at the time is that PPD comes in so many different forms.
After the birth of my second daughter, I felt anxious all the time, like a walking ball of nervous energy. Even at work, when I was in my zone, I still felt out of place. I had intense fears of losing my children and the people who meant the most to me. I thought it was anxiety, so I saw a doctor who specializes in maternal mental health. I remember sweating profusely in her office, heart racing so badly that I felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I couldn't sit still. She asked a million questions and I answered them honestly, expecting her to say I had anxiety and we would get through it.
Then the bomb dropped. She said I was suffering from PPD — again. I instantly started bawling. I thought, "No, I am NOT. I had that before and this is different. I can't have that. It almost killed me and ruined my life and marriage. I go to work, I laugh, and I function. How can I have it again?"
I am all right now, but it took a lot of work. I overcame my PPD by attending support groups and therapy, taking medication, and surrounding myself with people who understood what I was going through. Eventually, with the help of my support system, the haze lifted, and I slowly became myself again. I started to live again.
I'm sharing my story because I want women to know that they're not alone. There are so many resources for new moms and for moms who are struggling. It's okay to ask for help. I did.
Postpartum depression is my truth — an ugly truth that I conquered and you can, too.
The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.