When L.E. was born, I immediately fell in love with her. Less than two hours later, she was diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. (Read more about L.E.’s DDH here.) I don’t want to say that this abnormality affected my infatuation with her but it definitely affected my mentality. My whole life, I had self-esteem issues. And now I’d given birth to a baby who was less than perfect. Couldn’t I do anything right?
The next few days were crazy, as those first days of parenthood can be. L.E. had problems latching on so I ended up pumping with a hospital-grade rented pump. She was outfitted with a horrific brace to keep her hips in place. She wouldn’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time. She cried constantly and I had no idea what to do.
After T went back to work, I was trapped in a tiny, cold house with only a rented breast pump and a screaming newborn.
I never felt more alone and scared. The thoughts going through my head were a laundry list of self-loathing: I wasn’t cut out for this. L.E. and T. both deserved better than me. I was such a burden to them. I was worthless. I was helpless. I can’t even provide breastmilk. I felt as though the walls were closing in on me and I had no escape. I visualized jumping out the bathroom window in the middle of the night and running away. I contemplated taking an entire bottle of post-surgery Vicodin.
I needed real help.
Luckily, my doctor knew exactly what I was going through. He offered me several suggestions. Step one was to go back on birth control, which meant quitting breastfeeding. Step two was go back to my therapist. And step three was getting back on an anti-depressant. Despite the post-nursing guilt, all three of these were exactly what I needed to begin to feel better.
Around week ten, the sun started to shine after a long, grey stretch of winter. L.E. smiled at me while I was changing her diaper. She reached up her hand and touched my cheek. It was the first time she ever really looked at me like she knew I was her mom and not just some random lady.
It was the first positive step on the long road to recovery.
Postpartum depression affects more women than you realize. New moms are often left feeling overwhelmed and sad. Couple that with sleep-deprivation, and you have a recipe for a depression disaster.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PPD, get help. First up is talking with your doctor. While not a substitute for real medical care, The Mayo Clinic and BabyCenter both have great info on diagnosis and treatment. Brooke Shields wrote about her experience with PPD in Down Came the Rain. I can't recommend this book enough.
If you are currently without health insurance, you can't ignore your symptoms. There are treatment options available. Attending a new moms support group is really helpful. Postpartum Support International has an interactive map so you can find a group in your area. This site, Postpartum Progress, also has a bunch of resources for you to check out.
Most importantly, if you think you have PPD you need to talk to your partner. Don't alienate them into thinking you can do everything by yourself. You need support now more than ever.
It’s now almost three years later and I still struggle with feelings of insecurity, especially about parenting decisions. But I am still wholeheartedly in love with L.E. The joy she brings now counteracts all of those dark moments. A hug from her is like my own little patch of sunshine.
This post originally appeared on Austin Moms Blog.
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