If you know me from my own blog or Twitter or, heck, pretty much anywhere but here, you probably know my story. You know why I started blogging in the first place and you know why writing about motherhood, including the hard stuff, matters to me.
It's because I had horrible, unexpected, undiagnosed postpartum depression.
For those of you who don't know it, here is my story:
When I was 38 weeks pregnant with a breech baby and low amniotic fluid that indicated a need for a C-section, the OB asked us a question: “Would you like to have this baby today or tomorrow?” Not prepared to be whisked to the OR that instant, we chose “tomorrow.” Connor was born on June 13, 2008, which happened to be Friday the 13th.
Thus began my journey into motherhood, which included a lot of things I didn’t anticipate, like a fussy baby who needed to be bounced all the time and would accept no substitutes — no walking, no rocking, no swaying. He also thought sleep was for weaklings.
At first the sleep deprivation was hard, as I expected. After five months, I couldn’t take it anymore, so we attempted sleep training. I’ll give you the short version: It didn’t go well.
By the time Connor was eight months old, I was miserable. In desperation, I phoned a counselor who said, “It sounds like you have postpartum depression. You should see your doctor.”
I rejected her suggestion.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” I told her. “I’m not interested in that label.”
She was right, of course, but I didn’t realize it because I didn’t feel “depressed.” My issue was anger. Rage, actually. I had no idea it was a symptom of depression.
Finally, after reading someone else’s story, I started to accept that I was dealing with PPD. When my son was 18 months old—after almost losing my marriage and my family because of my anger—I went to my doctor.
At first the anti-depressants helped and I no longer felt like I might throw my high-energy, non-sleeping child out the window. But over the next 18 months, things were better for a little while, and then tough again, and on and on I went riding my extended postpartum roller coaster.
I looked for more help. As we neared my son’s third birthday, I was seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist who specialize in PPD, and I was on a different medication at a higher dose.
I had also started blogging about my experience, and then actually telling family and friends. That was hard, partly because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, but also because I didn’t want to admit I was having a hard time being a mom.
In the end, writing about my experience and sharing it with others was the best thing I could have done. In telling my story I’ve found nothing but support, and once I opened up, I realized how common PPD is.
I started telling my story because I didn’t know enough about PPD to get help when I needed it. Now, every person who tells me that my story has helped makes the telling of it worthwhile, so, stigma or not, I’m going to keep sharing.