It wasn’t until my second child was born that I realized that I had, and was currently, experiencing postpartum depression. With my first child I thought my repeated anger and loneliness was because of my circumstances- my husband was deployed and I was living across the country from family with no one to help or really talk to about what I was experiencing.
On top of that, I was embarrassed. I was a first time mom, trying to hold down the home front on my own, and in true military wife style, I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t thriving. Any time people would ask me if I was ok and how the baby was doing, I would say that things were great. That everything was fine. And I honestly thought that was the truth. I just thought that what I was feeling was just because I was alone with a new baby as a first time mom.
But then my second baby came, three years and three miscarriages later, and many of the same symptoms returned. This time my husband was home and I lived just an hour from family. But I found myself increasingly angry, sad, and lonely. My postpartum depression reared its head even worse now, and I was even having thoughts of suicide.
My husband was the first to identify it. He asked me what I thought and I immediately became defensive. I could never be that mom; I’m just having a hard time, I told him. But the truth was that I did have postpartum depression, and in my heart of hearts I knew it. And then he said that’s what I probably experienced after my first baby but we just didn’t realize it (and he wasn’t home to see much of it) and the bells went off. I did have postpartum depression. But I didn’t do anything about it. Much like a sleep regression in a baby, I figured I would grow out of it and it would be fine.
When we became pregnant with our third child (much sooner than we planned) my mind immediately went to my postpartum depression. But this time I knew what to expect. I knew how I might feel and I felt like I could sidestep it because now I knew it was a reality for me.
But I couldn’t. I didn’t. Our third child was born almost a month early, but it wasn’t until she was about 3 months old that the depression came back. This time it was worse than it ever was before, with bouts of intense anger and contemplation of suicide. I felt like I couldn’t function on a daily basis, much less with two babies only 14 months apart plus a preschooler.
My girls are now all much older and the postpartum depression is gone, but it has completely changed the way I parent. I was never one to lose my temper before children (I was a teacher), but after three rounds of PPD I found myself stuck on the same habits and would lose my temper easily. But being on the other side of the tunnel, I can more easily identify it and have found ways to calm myself down before the anger affects my children. It isn’t easy and I feel like it is something I will constantly struggle with on a daily basis.
Although it is talked about more openly now, postpartum depression is something that many women experience silently. It is something we push away when people ask us how we are doing because we don’t want to be seen as someone who can’t “handle” being a mother. But it is real and it is hard and it is scary. I was never directly asked about postpartum depression from any of my doctors because I knew how to fill out the questionnaires. I wasn’t asked by my family or friends, but then again I never asked any of my friends either because I didn’t want to embarrass them.
If you are experiencing postpartum depression, contact your doctor today. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed- the best thing you can do for your children is to take care of yourself.