I’m not 1 in 5 but I know someone who is. She’s my bestie, Allison. For those that don’t know, Allison and I have been best friends for almost 20 years and as best friends do, we would often talk about having our kids close in age. That didn’t exactly happen.. at first. Allison’s daughter arrived back in 2015, the year I was married. Her second was born 17 hours after Aria. How’s that for timing? 17 HOURS!!! Allison is totally different this time around though. She smiles. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t notice the signs. That’s why I asked her to share her very personal journey with postpartum mood disorder.
Here’s her story:
“Cherish every moment”
“Babies are precious gifts”
“I loved her from the moment I saw her”
“She filled my heart with so much joy”
All things many women say and feel after having a baby, however, none of which I felt after having my daughter Zoey. This was the beginning of my struggle with postpartum depression, now known as postpartum mood disorder.
My name is Allison, I’m 36 yrs old, and recently became a mom of two. I am one of the 1 in 5 women that suffer or have suffered from postpartum mood disorder.
Zoey was a planned pregnancy and other than the typical symptoms; weight gain, heartburn, difficulty sleeping I was blessed with a straightforward 9 months of pregnancy. Zoey was born via c-section due to being breech and arrived February 17th, 2015. I knew almost right away that something was wrong but dismissed it thinking it was a combination of hormones, baby blues and the stress of healing from a major surgery. When I looked at this baby laying on my chest I didn’t get that rush of love that you always hear about. I thought, “what have I done?”. But I kept that to myself, because everyone else around me was so overjoyed that I couldn’t bring myself to say those words out loud. What would they think of me? What kind of monster was I? Zoey was this perfect little person that I had made, that I had wanted, and yet I felt no connection to her.
As the weeks went on, it didn’t get better, it got worse. Sleep deprivation hit hard. I would cry almost everyday. Sometimes because of my sad thoughts sometimes because that was all I had left in me. I would daydream about walking out my front door and just not coming back. I felt isolated, alone, and guilty. The shame is what really kept me from reaching out for help earlier. I kept how I was feeling hidden and kept up with the societal standards of how I was supposed to be enjoying motherhood – Yet, underneath I was suffering.
Both my mom and husband started to take notice that I was not myself. I remember my husband asking me if I loved Zoey. Of course I did, but she was 3 months old and I still hadn’t said it out loud and didn’t think I could. I wanted no harm to come to her. In fact most of my anxiety came from ensuring her well being. However, at the same time I resented her. How she changed my life, how I didn’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, how she wouldn’t take a bottle so I couldn’t be away from her for more than 2-3 hrs (I was breastfeeding), how this little person depended on me for everything and my life was no longer mine. I had no appetite and experienced panic attacks. I knew all these symptoms were affecting Zoey which caused me to be more overwhelmed and anxious. It was a vicious cycle. I was tormented by my thoughts. My rational side of my brain knew that what I was feeling wasn’t right but my emotional side continuously took over.
I started to realize that what was happening wasn’t fair to my daughter, my husband or myself. I was missing out on life. Missing out on life with my baby girl.
I eventually, with the encouragement of my family and husband, knew it was time to get help. They saw many of the signs in me that led them to believe I had PPMD.
Postpartum depression symptoms may include:
-Depressed mood or severe mood swings
-Difficulty bonding with your baby
-Withdrawing from family and friends
-Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
-Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
-Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
-Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
-Intense irritability and anger
-Fear that you’re not a good mother
-Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
-Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
-Severe anxiety and panic attacks
-Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
-Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Once I started my journey to get help a whole new world opened up to me. There was so many avenues for support.
How I got help:
I spoke to my family doctor. He got me involved in a program at my local hospital that specialized in PPMD. I started making bi-weekly visits in which I spoke to a nurse that helped me find tools to overcome my symptoms.
I found a PPDM support group at the Ontario Early Years Center (now renamed The Bridgeway Center). It was a safe place. I got to speak about my experiences with other women. It was very comforting and a relief to share my feelings and know that I wasn’t the only one. This is where I stopped feeling so alone.
My husband’s workplace offered a mental health program that paired me up with a psychiatrist in our area.
And of course my family. My sister had her children before me. I spoke to her daily to get advice, to vent or just to be told I can do it.
My mom was also a major support for me; always available to talk or just take the baby for a walk so I could get in a quick nap.
They say it takes a village. No statement could be truer.
It didn’t happen overnight, days or even weeks but with the help I got I made my way out of the darkness. Each group meeting, every time I used a coping technique that I had learned, I felt better. It was about a year before I can really say that I had control and no longer was living with the background of negativity.
Today I am the happy and proud mommy to Zoey – 3 years old and Lincoln – 7 weeks old. We are all happy healthy and thriving.
I wrote this article to let other women know they are not alone. And that PPDM is a mental health disease. There is no shame in getting help to cope and recover. Having a baby is a complete shift to your world, but please know you are stronger than you know and YOU ARE a great mother.
– Allison Di Tomaso