I wish I knew then what I know now. Oh, how I wish.
After the birth of my first daughter in 1993, I struggled with a botched C-section and was bed ridden for 4 weeks. My mother came to stay with me to help me out with the baby and house. When I was deemed able to get around on my own, my mother left to head back to her life in Minnesota.
After she left, I started to experience a whole new set of feelings and problems, which I didn’t understand. I had this beautiful new baby, who was perfect in every way…why was I crying and anxious all the time? I chalked it up to being tired, a husband who had odd hours at work, and being alone with a new baby for the first time in 4 weeks.
That had to be it, right?
Little did I know, I was probably suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. I say probably because I never reached out to anyone about my feelings and symptoms. I was never diagnosed, until 20 years later.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are common.
They can occur after and even during pregnancy. As I look back with all my daughters, I can now see the symptoms were there. How I wish I had gone to the doctor (or anyone for that matter) for advice. I was getting angry over the smallest things and then breaking down and crying for getting mad. I’d stick in a video or movie for them to watch on my bed so I could sleep, then feel guilty about not spending quality time with them. I wish I could change a lot of things, but can’t.
Now, let me clarify, this did not happen on an everyday basis. I feel like I was a good and loving mom. I just wish I had recognized that maybe some of those things were not normal, and had talked to someone about it. Since then, I have learned that postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can rear their ugly heads well after the birth of a child. They can stay with a mother long after as well.
I suffer now with anxiety/panic attacks, that I believe started after the birth of my girls. It was only in the last two years that I sought out treatment for them. I have also spoken to my doctor about my possible struggle with postpartum depression years ago. It was suggested that I pass on the information to my daughters, so they know what to look for when they decide to start their own families.
If I knew then what I know now, I would not have ignored my feelings and physical symptoms. I waited it out for 20 years.
I missed out on many days with my children that could have been spent playing in the park, taking them to the zoo, or baking cookies. I missed out on just watching them play with a smile on my face instead of having a constant fear of them getting hurt, lost, or stolen by a stranger.
Believe me, as my daughters grow up and are leaving the nest, I still worry about all those things. After all, that’s what a mother does. It’s when those feeling start invading your daily life and cause you to stop doing the things you used to do – that’s when you should at least talk with your doctor to explore the possibility of postpartum depression or anxiety.
If you are struggling, you can feel better! Here are some basic tips to combat depression and anxiety, but in no way should these be a complete solution:
1. Give yourself permission to reach out for support.
2. Spend quality (baby-free) time with your partner and friends.
3. Get some rest! Sleep deprivation makes depression and anxiety worse.
4. Cultivate a connection by singing or talking to your baby.
5. Get out in the sunshine for at least 10-15 minutes a day.
Always reach out and talk to someone! Don’t wait 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years, before you decide you can’t handle it anymore.
As for me, I’m ready now world…bring on the grandbabies!!!
- Adjusting to Motherhood – Anxiety & Postpartum Support Group: (319) 369-7580
- Anxiety and Depression Coping Skills Group: (319) 398-6575
- Foundation II Crisis Hotline: (319) 362-2174
- Healthy Families Line: 1-800-369-2229
- Iowa Concerns Hotline: 1-800-447-1985
- Postpartum Support International (PSI) Warm line 1-800-944-4773 or www.postpartum.net
- Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
- University of Iowa Women’s Wellness & Counseling Service (319) 353-1898
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Helllo, Brenda! Thanks so much for sharing your story. This is such an important perspective! I would love to leave you with my information as well as a resource for mothers… I am a therapist in town and I specialize in maternal mental Heath. I run a free Pregnancy and Postpartum Adjustment Support Group twice monthly. I’ll leave my website here, but feel free to remove that if it’s not allowed. Thank you again for your thoughtful article.
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