Editor’s Note: this is the second of a two-part series, part I is available here.
By Meghan Miller
It was the day after our third wedding anniversary and we were out to eat with our almost 2-month-old. We had just passed his due date 20 days before and I thought that making it that far would be better. We were halfway through our meal when I just blurted out “I think something’s wrong. I think I need help.”
That was the first time I said it out loud. In my head I thought that if I at least made it to my son’s due date things would change. The baby hormones would be natural. Things would be easy. Fighting thrush wouldn’t be the equivalent of running three back to back marathons. That doing the daily walks in the morning sun would actually make a difference instead of feeling like one more thing that just wasn’t doing what it should.
But it didn’t work that way. It was just getting worse.
I mentioned to a few friends I met in a mom’s group that I was feeling “off.” They took it seriously and told me “just call the doctor.” Which was pretty good advice, that’s what I would tell someone. There’s not a huge stigma in calling a medical doctor when you feel sick and thinking of the way I was feeling as “baby sickness” or some other physical feeling was easier to identify. Everyone calls their doctors, not just me.
So, I called my doctor. They told me that they could get me in sometime in the next few weeks but that if it was an emergency to call the suicide line. Geeze, I wasn’t about to kill myself! (Well, at least not right then.) But also, I wasn’t going to wait and feel so incredibly sick for two more weeks. I called my best friend and told her. It was hard, but she sent me wonderful texts throughout the day. My husband was at work so I took my son, strapped him to my body and sat in a nearly empty theater watching Mama Mia and Wall-E. Nursing him when he cried and crying through scenes that probably shouldn’t have been tear-inducing.
My husband came home and he fought for me. He made phone calls. He ran into my doctor (thank goodness for that lucky break), and he helped me. It was so nice to feel so supported. My doctor called in Zoloft right away. She gave me all the information on breastfeeding on anti-depressants. She gave me the name of a therapist to talk to. I started the medication, the first time in my life on a daily medication.
And I started healing. Within a few weeks I noticed I wasn’t lying on the floor in tears. I was cooking dinner. I was starting to sleep a bit. My husband took on full night duty with our son. He slept in the baby’s room and fed him bottles of expressed milk. I took drugs to sleep and once they were out of my system I woke up, pumped, and then went back to sleep. My husband was a total champion.
I talked to a social worker and realized that talk therapy just wasn’t a good match for me. It just didn’t seem to work. BUT, I can see where it might for someone. It’s not something I would rule out again.
And a few months later though I was still struggling, I was starting to enjoy being a mother. I picked up my pens and sold a piece of artwork after six months without even trying to draw. I looked forward to spending time with my baby.
I never made it to any group therapy sessions, or to any mom’s groups. The idea of doing that was just too much for me. I was really plodding along and couldn’t disrupt the balance. But, really, that’s OK. I was getting healthier. Unfortunately my mental health came at the expense of physical health and I ended up (and still am) about 40 pounds larger than I was before my baby. That’s my only leftover roadblock. And I am here and happy. I have heard many times that a happier mother is what is best for baby. And it takes a whole family to help get her better. And it takes admitting feelings.
And knowing that admitting that something is wrong is the opposite of admitting defeat.
If you’re suffering from postpartum depression, here are a few local and online resources:
Crisis Nursery in Urbana offers support for moms and care for kids, including a “Beyond Blues” support group
Postpartum Depression Illinois Alliance; lists a support group for Champaign.
Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress blog — resources and more.