“After finally drifting off into a light sleep and being able to escape the surmounting dread of my awakened state, the moment turns out to be fleeting and I am shot out of my fragile slumber into a state of terror. My heart is racing, I am sweating, I feel nauseous and I am devastated to have departed that glorious state of unconsciousness, my only place free of pain.
This is what happened every night for months. If I wasn’t awakened by night terrors, I was woken by the crying of my young baby. Most mothers would pull themselves out of bed without compliant and feed their beloved newborn. I cringed and shivered. I dreaded the days because I was exhausted, and the thought of drudging through each hour of daylight was unbearable. The panic and anxiety was crippling, and the thought of the night, oh how I hated the night. My husband found me lying on the bathroom floor one night moaning in pain. Panicked, he rushed in asking, what had happened? What was wrong? What hurt? I thought about it, confused by the question because there was nothing physically wrong with me. I looked at him and replied, “my soul…my soul hurts”.
At this point I realized something was obviously wrong, and being a bit of an internet doctor, I began to research. I looked desperately for some answers, some support. All I wanted was a number to call, a person to talk to. Someone to explain what was happening? Unfortunately only six years ago resources were not readily available, and if they were, I clearly didn’t know where to look.
One night lying awake in my hell, I woke my husband and said “I am taking myself to the hospital, I think I have Postpartum Depression” In the dead of winter I walked into the emergency ward shivering, terrified and in a total state of despair. Still in my pajamas, I approached the triage nurse prepared for a very long night in the waiting room. Clearly there were more serious medical issues- pneumonias, heart attacks, and broken limbs? The nurse asked me why I was there; I whispered “I think I have Postpartum Depression”. With that, I was whisked away, and because they didn’t have any more beds I was put in a closet-literally. They brought in one of the blue mats we used to use in gym class, and being completely depleted both physically and emotionally I fell asleep.I was awakened by the doctor and it was at this moment that my journey out of my darkness began.
Upon reflection there are many clues and events that occurred which could have lent to my depression. After having my first child I had never felt happier. I truly felt like I was the only woman in the world who had ever given birth. I was a queen. Life could not have been better. Who in a zillion years would have ever thought that I could get Postpartum Depression after my second child? The words weren’t even a part of my vocabulary….Postpartum Depression. That’s only something crazy people get right? Well, whatever it was, it found me.
Was it the move to a new house when the baby was born?
Was it the nine months of morning sickness?
Was it the struggles I experienced during my pregnancy?
Or, was it simply that I feel victim to the tsunami of hormones that ignited PMD’s fire?
I will never know. What I do know is that for years I felt horribly ashamed and embarrassed, working desperately to hide my secret.
Through therapy, support groups and becoming very informed, I realized my secret was not so shameful after all. I was simply caught in the crossfire of something that was out of my control. Postpartum came into my life, I did not bring it in.
I am extremely grateful and feel very privileged to have the opportunity to share my story. I struggled hopelessly for months not knowing where to turn. I truly hope that by continuing to reveal our “secrets”, women who find themselves in the darkness can be reassured that with help and support, there is a lot of light.
Five years and two beautiful daughters later, the words Postpartum depression are very much a part of my vocabulary, and hopefully as time goes on, they will become a part of everyone else’s. We need to have this conversation.”
“I had a planned pregnancy and was happy to be pregnant even though my pregnancy was not an easy one. I was nauseous all the time and vomited at least 15 times a day. I was diagnosed with placenta abruption and was advised by my doctor to take it easy.
During that time I became increasingly anxious about my baby’s health. Labour lasted 2 ½ days and ended with an emergency c-section when I finally gave birth to a beautiful boy. The love I felt for my baby as I held him for the first time was unbelievable and spiritual. I was in love.
My symptoms started three days postpartum. I couldn’t sleep when my son was sleeping, my mind kept racing. I felt sad and overwhelmed. I approached a nurse at the hospital and told her how I was feeling. She explained that it could be “baby blues” or Postpartum Depression.
As the days progressed my symptoms got worse. I became so depressed that I could not stop crying. I felt alone and isolated, even though my mother and husband were constantly by my side. I could not make sense of anything around me. The simplest tasks became a challenge. Everything was grey and dark.
A week and a half later I still wasn’t sleeping. My mind was in overdrive and I desperately wanted to turn if off, but didn’t know how. I started to worry about my son’s health. That his cry was too low so he must be in pain, that he might stop breathing or that he was uncomfortable. Every little noise felt amplified. I didn’t want to be my son’s mother. I wanted to go far away.
I started having compulsive and intrusive thoughts about my son and myself. When those thoughts came into my mind, I believed I was going crazy. That’s when I knew I needed help. I told my family how I was feeling. At first they thought I was going through the “baby blues”, but when I told them about the intrusive thoughts, they knew it was serious.
I went to see my doctor. I remember crying helplessly and having fears about my baby being taken away form me. She said reassuring things – that I had Postpartum Depression and with the right help, I would recover. I was prescribed medications. I called Peel Public Health and was connected to a nurse who to this day I still call my “Angel”. She came to see me, week after week, phone call after phone call, until my medication started to work. She would hold me, console me and plead with me to keep hope alive at the most unbearable moments.
I started attending a Postpartum Depression support group, seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist. My nurse and family visitor came to see me every week as well. Family members took turns taking care of me and my son and I was fortunate to have them at home with me. I was never left alone. I owe my life to them. Along with my faith, they were my strength and hope.
While I was going through Postpartum Depression, I did not feel a strong connection to my son. My therapist and psychiatrist taught me that I did love him and that the more time I spent with him and bonded with him, the sooner I would come around.
And they were right. With time came patience, with patience came hope, and with hope came recovery. My cries became softer, my mind became quieter and my strength was renewed. The love that was buried within the walls of this depression resurfaced while holding my son in my arms one night, gazing into his eyes. My eyes filled with tears and I finally told him how much I loved him. At that moment I let go of all my guilt. I had made it! The fight for recovery, and all the strength and hope I had held on to during the difficult time was for him and nobody else!
As dark as those days were, it was also a time of growth. For any woman going through this, I encourage you to be true to yourself and reach out for help. Talk to a doctor about your condition. Get connected with support groups and take advantage of all the resources there are out there. Also remember to take care of yourself through meditation, prayer, exercise, reading and eating healthy. Most of all, carry your strength and hope in your heart. Hope is what will get you through. I conquered Postpartum Depression and can now say I am the best mom my son could ever ask for.”
“I went to see my doctor about some health concerns, including having no menstrual period and was sent for tests including an MRI. Soon after that I was lying in my bed and felt what I thought was kicking; I woke my husband and told him to purchase a pregnancy test. I thought I couldn’t possibly be pregnant because it took almost three years to have my first son through fertility treatments.
The pregnancy test was positive. I didn’t know how to feel – scared, shocked, and guilty. How could I not know that I was pregnant? I had missed out on the joyful experience that I had during my first pregnancy. I was seven months pregnant and now had only two months to prepare for the arrival of my second child. I was also concerned about the medication I had been taking and the dye used during the MRI, but fortunately Motherisk confirmed that because I was so far along in the pregnancy, the medications and dye would not affect the baby.
The delivery went well, but afterwards I felt very alone. My son didn’t sleep much and needed to be fed almost every hour. Breastfeeding was the only time I felt bonded with my son. I was alone most of the time with both boys since my husband travelled for work and I had no help from family or friends. I was mentally and physically exhausted and I couldn’t keep up.
I found out from a friend about the Adjustments after Birth Support Group offered at my local Ontario Early Years Centre. A staff member at the OEYC gave me a sheet with symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorder and I realized that I was experiencing many of the symptoms listed.
I attended the Adjustment after Birth support group for about two years and became a better mother and person because of the program. I learned from the other moms and developed friendships with them that are ongoing. I was referred to the Reproductive Mental Health Program at Credit Valley Hospital where I was able to talk to a social worker on a regular basis as well as see a psychiatrist to discuss my medications.
Many of my friends couldn’t relate to what I was going through, but thankfully I found an online mom’s group called Halton Peel Circle of Moms. I joined and I am now an assistant organizer; it was a lifesaver. They hold scheduled events, play dates and mom’s night outs. On one occasion when the whole family was sick, they organized a variety of meals for us.
My husband was a huge support. He helped me through the evenings with the baby, he did the household chores and cooked meals to freeze for when he was away on business. He attended a workshop for dads about Postpartum Depression which helped him understand what I was going through.
I was able to take an additional year off work which helped with my recovery. I enjoyed taking the dog for long walks and shopping when I could leave both boys with my husband. I found a hobby I loved when I started scrapbooking at a local church.
Now that my boys are 2 and 4, I am able to enjoy them more. I am focusing more on myself by being involved in a women’s volleyball league as well as my scrapbooking. I am working part-time with the support of a nanny and have moved into a new community where I feel a sense of belonging.”
“According to my midwife, I had a textbook pregnancy. I gained the right amount of weight, my sugar levels remained steady and baby was growing consistently with each passing month. I was healthy, taking my vitamins and I had a supportive, loving partner to help along the way.
I didn’t tell anyone that I had little to no desire to buy baby clothes or diapers, and I was ashamed to admit even to myself, that I wavered in the belief that I could do this, or that I even wanted to. No one knew I was depressed for a large part of my pregnancy.
My daughter’s birth didn’t happen according to my birthing plan. She was supposed to be gently eased into our life in our own bed without trauma. Instead she was pulled out of me with forceps by a doctor I had never met, in a blinding sterile hospital room while I screamed in agony and exhaustion. I think that’s the moment my postpartum depression began.
What I thought was the “baby blues”, turned into a daily struggle to remain emotionally afloat in my new role as a mother. For two months after she was born, I pretended to be confident and happy instead of terrified and anxious. I began to feel an inconsolable sadness and hopelessness about my life instead of enthusiasm about this new journey. I took to stretching out my showers and busying myself with errands or housework so as not to spend more time than I had to with her. I began to resent her high demand for my milk, my touch and my voice. I had nurturing moments, but as time passed they began to feel more out of duty than out of love. And I thought all of this was perfectly normal.
I was diagnosed with Postpartum Mood Disorder at a walk-in clinic, given a prescription for anti-depressants and told to come back in a month’s time. By then however, I was emotionally and mentally crippled by my illness, living with my parents so that they could care for my daughter, and despite being counselled professionally, entertaining the thought of ending my life. I felt like I was drowning and I was desperate for it all to stop.
The next four months were a rollercoaster of finding the right cocktail blend of meds, hospitalization for my own safety (and my baby’s) and a slow excruciating crawl back to the surface of normal. When I was well enough to come back home to my partner and start caring for my daughter (part-time at first), I connected with a local mood disorder clinic. There I learned the difference between what was normal for a new mom and what was normal for a mom like me with PMD. I learned the mechanics of the illness and understood that denying it was not an option for recovery. I learned that I was my worst critic and that I was eventually going to be my best advocate and cheerleader. I learned that I had to take pride in the smallest effort to complete a normal task that I otherwise couldn’t do before I gained control of my illness. I learned to be compassionate towards myself and most of all I learned that this wasn’t something I caused…this wasn’t my fault.
With the help of my family, I learned that showing up each day no matter how sick I felt helped me stay committed to getting well. I learned to let others take care of my baby and me, and to let go of the guilt and shame of being incapacitated.
In my weekly counseling sessions and peer support group I was given a safe space to talk about my yo-yo feelings, what I felt proud of ~ “I made her bottles today instead of hiding in my room”, and what still caused me to want to run away from it all. I felt no shame in talking about this illness to other moms with it too…nothing seemed too horrible to hear, or to say.
PMD is emotionally crippling, physically debilitating and creates an impairing mental anguish. I was unable to sleep due to my anxiety, felt weakness in my limbs, was short of breath and heard buzzing in my ears when I became overwhelmed. When I surrounded myself with people who could help me, I began to heal.
It took time, determination and mountains of support but I never did go back down to the same depth of suffering like I did in the beginning. At the clinic I learned about the steady, if not shaky, steps this illness takes and I was constantly reassured that I would survive it. I was held tenderly when I felt fragile, and congratulated and hugged when I showed signs of healing.
PMD robbed me of my self-esteem and joy as a mother and a woman. Fortunately, I reached out for help and found support and courage before it was too late. Denying my illness didn’t make me a hero or make it go away. Acknowledging it, in spite of the shame, helped save my life.”
“I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I worried endlessly as all new mothers do, but I knew the other feelings I had were not ‘normal’. For two weeks I cried in the shower, when I was alone with the baby and in the car. I felt hopeless, unprepared, desperate and even that life was not worth living. I knew I had Postpartum Depression but I was terrified to admit it for fear that I would be told to quit breastfeeding or that someone would take away my son.
Day after day I had to lean on my family as I was not even able to get out of bed. The hopelessness was the worst part as I felt so alone. I kept thinking that there was something wrong with me and that if people could read my thoughts they would be appalled. Women are supposed to want to be a mother and love every moment of it. I didn’t. I was tired and emotionally unattached from everything and everyone. I loved my son dearly and wanted to be a good mother to him but I just could not connect with those feelings. They were in there but were overshadowed by the darkness.
Finally, after two months of suffering and denying, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. I found a support group at the Caledon Parent Child Centre that allowed me to talk about my feelings openly with other women who were experiencing the same feelings.
After seeking treatment with a psychologist who seemed to have very little experience treating postpartum depression, I asked my doctor to refer me to a specialized program at Women’s College Hospital so I could get the treatment I so desperately needed.
Once I had my appointment with the psychiatrist I felt understood and less alone. Breastfeeding my son was one thing I felt I did well and I really enjoyed the physical closeness it gave us. Thankfully I was given a prescription for a medication that was compatible with breastfeeding. I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.
I had weekly sessions over the phone with a psychotherapist who specialized in trauma therapy so I could stay at home with my son. This therapy allowed me look at all of the factors that contributed to my disorder and really focus on accepting and understanding what had happened to me.
After a few setbacks and changes in medication I have made a full recovery. I still see a therapist once every couple of months to keep in check with my feelings and I welcome this.”
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