I came across this article on The Guardian about post partum depression and it took me back to when I first had Cruz.
Here’s an excerpt:
The worst of it was the sleep deprivation. My son was a bad sleeper from the start. There are not even words to describe that level of tiredness. “Bone-tired” is the closest I can get, but my bones felt like they had dissolved – along with my frontal lobe. I couldn’t finish sentences. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture. At night, in bed, I get flashes of bright white behind my eyes – bursts of adrenaline, I learn – the split second the baby starts crying. I run out of supermarkets – basket abandoned in the aisle – whenever he cries, dashing home in a panic, crying myself.
But it becomes more than tiredness, more than “baby blues” – it calcifies into something deeper, more lethal. As the months go on, and winter turns to spring, I get darker inside. I have to start working again – I want to start working again. I am a self-employed writer, and it hasn’t come easy. But new mothers are not supported, financially or holistically, by the state or system. In fact, I feel actively discouraged. [My husband] is great, but I have become a person he doesn’t know; a person who screams and shouts, and whom he finds on her knees sobbing in the kitchen as the baby naps. With no extended family nearby, I just have to keep working and not sleeping and feeling like I’m doing a shit job of the lot. When I allow myself to compare myself to other people, my pride clouds things. I feel like a loser for not coping. I lie to my health visitor. I lie to my friends. I am lying to myself. I start overcompensating. I bake (I am not a baker). I post happy pictures online. I do my best “I’m fine” dance all over town. I want to look like a capable person. A modern woman. A successful feminist, having it all her way. But, slowly and surely, I am breaking myself.
I didn’t even know that I had post partum depression until Cruz was a year old. I had all the symptoms – difficulty bonding with my baby, fear that I’m not a good mother, loss of appetite, severe anxiety, inability to sleep. I lost 20lbs in a week and had to be rushed to the hospital when I bled in the shower, ultimately because of my body not healing properly due to fatigue.
I felt the huge pressure to be “perfect” (to “get my body back”, breastfeed exclusively, be hands on, prepare organic baby food, etc.). To make it worse, everybody had an opinion and the amount of mommy judgement being passed around was toxic. (A friend was accosted by another mom at the baby formula aisle of her local grocery for not breastfeeding.) Added to the fact that there were a lot less people talking about PPD then and I was the first of my friends to have a baby, made it hard for me to even recognise the symptoms, let alone take the necessary steps to address the issue.
In more ways than one, it feels like both the pressure and judgement are worse nowadays with social media. Having to keep up appearances while posting happy, carefree photos with babies when everyone knows that caring for a newborn is anything but picture-perfect, can be soul crushing.
Real conversations about the struggles of motherhood need to take place if we want to provide moms, especially those struggling with depression, with the support they desperately need.
Do you know a mom who may be struggling with PPD? Do you know the symptoms? Sometimes asking how they’re doing and listening to the answer without judgement or jumping to offer unsolicited advice can make a world of difference.
In what ways can we have more conversations about PPD to help other moms out there?