By the time my twins were 6 months old, I knew something wasn’t right. But I wasn’t sure enough what it was to put my finger on it. I listened to my friends tell their stories about PPD, and how they just couldn’t stop crying, or how they had severe postpartum anxiety, how they couldn’t sleep or didn’t want to get out of bed, and I knew that wasn’t me. So it couldn’t be PPD, right? Especially since I had a blissful postpartum experience with my firstborn.
It wasn’t until months later that I finally got up the courage to take myself to the doctor and tell him how I felt. About how I felt like I could not derive pleasure from anything. Like I was completely disconnected from my children and watching my life play out from the corner of the room. I felt angry all the damn time and I would lose my temper at the drop of a hat. My weight plummeted to double digits.
My doctor is a wonderful, wonderful man who intently listened to me and then carefully explained that I had a traumatic pregnancy. I was basically robbed of my whole third trimester. My hormones took a nosedive, but I was so focused on the survival of my babies, that I never once focused on self-care. Once we got home, I had one very colicky baby who cried from 4pm-11pm daily and likely, I was just so focused on getting through everything that once things settled down, I began to be more self-aware. He also explained to me that mothers who experience pregnancy and labor complications are at a heightened risk for PPD, which doesn’t just include loss of energy, severe anxiety, sleeplessness, sadness, but also often includes lack of pleasure in things that should bring them pleasure, appetite disturbance, and agitation.
Its been more than 10 years since I was diagnosed with continued postpartum distress (otherwise known as undiagnosed PPD), and yet, here I am, still taking medication for it. Over the course of the years, I’ve gone off the meds, only to find myself back on them for the same reason I started on them. Whether its the traumatic event (bedrest + premature birth + nicu stay) that triggered my depression or my PPD was a prelude to the development of a chronic depressive disorder, I do not know. What I do know is that depression is real. And there’s a real need for better screening for new moms. And its never too late to reach out for support.
If you or someone you know if a mom struggling with emotional complications during pregnancy or after giving birth, you are not alone. Our hope is that this upcoming mental health series brings you encouragement and support. We are enthusiastic and confident in our endorsement of Moms Mental Health Initiative and would love for you to explore their site to get connected to resources to help.
For the month of May, the proceeds from the sale of this shirt will go to support Moms Mental Health Initiative, a local organization committed to connecting moms in the greater Milwaukee area to support and resources for recovery from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.