Our second daughter was born in September of 1983. The delivery went well, a natural birth after having had a Caesarian Section with our first. She was healthy and I was especially happy because I was hoping for another girl.
She did develop a staph infection in her nose when she was about a month old – she had to go on antibiotics which also upset her tummy. So her sleep was disrupted too. We had a family gathering for her baptism around the same time. I remember starting to feel some anxiety then as well as less sleep and I was also breast feeding. At the same time my husband was extremely unhappy at work, a first for him. The day she was born he told me that his responsibilities had changed and he would be travelling more.
I stopped sleeping when she was approximately 5 weeks old – I would nurse her at night and go to bed, and just lay there until the next feeding 2 am and the same until the morning. This went on for about a week – I kept telling my husband I wasn’t sleeping but he said I probably was. He was a deep sleeper so really wasn’t aware. I went to see my Obstetrician for my 6 week check up and told him what was going on. He said to me “ Well you aren’t depressed are you? You aren’t that kind of a person are you?”
I truly didn’t know what he meant by that. Being depressed meant to me being sad, being down, like when you break up with your boyfriend – I had never heard of postpartum depression – and he didn’t call it that either. I had only heard of one day of baby blues right after having a baby.
I told him all I wanted was to be able to sleep He gave me something to take for a week. When I finished them, still not sleeping normally, I called him for a refill. He did order it but then called me and asked me what was going on. I told him I still was barely sleeping and was having trouble coping. I truly believed I was doing this to myself, getting worked up. He said I needed to see my Doctor as this now was beyond his scope of practice. He still did not call it Postpartum depression. I called my family doctor but it was the end of the day, they were closed the next day Remembrance Day and my appointment was the day after.
My husband had left early that morning, going away for work for 2 days. I stood there and told him I hadn’t slept and he said I probably had and left. He was consumed with his own worries about work. That day I was extremely sleep deprived. I was aware of what I was doing but felt like I was in a fog. I would start a bottle for the baby, then get distracted and do something else, then realized the baby was crying and I realized I hadn’t fed her yet and got back to the bottle. I was anxious and the crying was like nails on a blackboard.
Fortunately a good friend of mine called just after I spoke with my Obstetrician. My friendrealized from what I said and the crying in the background that all was not well and he got his wife and came over to help me. We called my Mom who flew in that night to help and stay until my husband got home.
I did go to my family doctor, and he recognized my symptoms as postpartum depression and put me on an anti depressant which helped me sleep that night. He also asked for my husband’sphone number so he could call him and explain PPD and tell him how he needed to help. Since the baby was now being bottle fed we took her to my mother in laws to sleep over and be fed every night for a week. This helped a lot in allowing me more sleep.
I saw my doctor every week for several weeks as he increased my dosage and talked to me about how I was doing. Every appointment he asked – “Do you want to harm yourself? Do you want to harm the baby? Are you suicidal?” He knew how to handle PPD and got me through it. I was on that antidepressant for a year, and then took about 6 months to slowly take me off of it.
I was sleeping again and I lived life fairly normally – the meds really dulled my emotions. Until they really kicked in I would have occasional bouts of crying, I can actually describe it as howling. It could go on for an hour. I was given a small dose of Xanax to help with those but my Doc only prescribed them twice, 10 at a time and that was it. They are highly addictive which the antidepressant was not. I did not laugh spontaneously at anything and I also stopped singing – I actually remember the moment I first sang in the car a year later. I was able to look after the girls, make meals, do what needed to be done as a stay at home Mom. We did some socializing but I remember still feeling somewhat anxious which was not me! I had been the organizer of get togethers so this was hard on me – and my friends as they also didn’t really understand what happened to me – because hardly anyone knew what PPD was. I have to add that I had a fantastic support system of friends and family throughout this which is extremely important.
I read a lot about PPD and depression then and still do. I believe had I known the signs of what to look for I could and would have sought help much earlier. PPD must be discussed at all prenatal classes and in all literature given to expectant mothers. It is especially prevalent in people like me who had a career before having children, I was over the age of 30, and she was my second child. I also think all the things I wrote about – her staph infection, my husbands work, the baptism event – all these things were contributing factors. Fortunately, our society and the medical profession have recognized the importance of educating the public about this depression.