My postpartum depression and anxiety went undiagnosed for six months, despite my protests to my doctor. During pregnancy, I knew I was at a higher risk for PPD because of my history of depression. My doctor agreed to watch me closely for symptoms. At my postpartum appointment, he asked me if I was having thoughts about hurting the baby or myself. I said no; we moved on.
During those long months, I fell into motherhood naturally. Friends and strangers complimented my abilities as a mom. What I couldn’t do was be a mother in addition to a wife and my Jill-of-all-trades self. Even with his unending patience and love, I started to resent my husband. I recoiled every time he tried to get close to me. I felt so alone, except for my son, despite all the support anyone could ask for.
I lay awake at night thinking about how messed up I was. I stared at my husband while he slept, wanting to reach out to him, but I couldn’t. Something invisible held me back. I cried while I breastfed our son because he became the only person I felt connected to in the whole world. I knew I loved my husband. Something just wasn’t right.
I told my doctor I was having intense, frequent headaches. I told him I wasn’t sleeping well, though the baby slept for six-hour stretches, and that I was experiencing extreme mood swings. I was feeling numbness in my extremities that came and went at random. He attributed the headaches to dehydration or allergy season and said the other symptoms were normal for new motherhood. It took all my courage to admit that sex was still terribly painful and that I had no desire whatsoever. The doctor told me to “suck it up or my husband would fulfill his needs elsewhere.” His nurse tried to convince me to get out of my own head and surprise myself by putting on a cute pair of heels and some lingerie.
I never saw that doctor again.
Yet I couldn’t get his words out of my head, even though I knew, deep down, I had nothing to worry about. It added to my resentment: Maybe my husband SHOULD be with someone else. Maybe he COULD be getting what he needs elsewhere, instead of this frigid shell he called a wife.
This continued for five agonizing months. I finally pieced together my symptoms via Postpartum Progress. Casey Mullins’ “You are not.” was life changing for me — after reading it I summoned the courage to ask my son’s pediatrician for a referral. That’s how I found my new primary care physician and therapist—doctors willing to listen. I found medication that was safe while breastfeeding. I continued to advocate for myself when I was questioned about the safety of medication while breastfeeding.
My husband and I repaired the cracks in our foundation. I found an incredible community of women with stories like mine via PPDchat. I feel like myself again. My son is a perfect, healthy, troublemaking three year old, and we are now expecting twin girls in February. Until November 2013, I still took medication, and after this pregnancy is over, I might for the rest of my life, but to be the best mom and wife I can be, I’ll do whatever it takes.
This blog entry is a guest post in honor of the May Campaign, the first public awareness effort spearheaded by the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health. The goal of the Campaign is to increase knowledge about and recognition of the serious and devastating emotional complications that many women experience during and after the birth of a child. To learn more, visit http://www.mmhcoalition.com.