It’s not something we like to talk about. Having a new baby is supposed to be beautiful and wonderful, not a nightmare. But Postpartum Depression is said to affect around 15% of mothers. Women who have suffered from PPD previously have a 40% chance of it occurring in subsequent pregnancies. Yet, when you are that mother, you feel completely alone.
A reader wrote me this email,
“It [postpartum depression] was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It took almost three months, but fortunately with the patience and help from God and my wonderful husband, I was able to pull through it… I was wondering if you have any tips for fighting off those feelings of crippling fear and depression. Honestly, when I think about having more children, I’m terrified of re-living those days.”
4 years ago, I would not have known how to answer this question. I was not one of the 15%. I’d never suffered through more than a light case of baby blues postpartum.
Then, our 7th child was born and life became a train wreck.
During his pregnancy, I had bizarre thoughts and feelings that were very abnormal for me. I found myself not wanting to be a part of family activities. I was standoffish and preferred to be alone. His pregnancy drug on and on through a hot summer that left me antsy and sleep-deprived.
Finally, true labor set in and he was born very quickly. However, six hours after his birth he began to cry. His crying continued for the first four months of his life, leaving me anxious, tried, and very depressed.
I did not share with many people what was going on. I did not share here what was going on. I just kept pushing through, often using the internet to escape what was really happening at home.
And then a “troll” (as they are called in blog-land) came to my blog and pretended to be someone she was not in order to get her comments approved, only to later change her name and begin to attack me and my parenting – causing me to spiral even further downward.
Many nights I cried alongside my fussing newborn. I wasn’t even sure who I was, but I was convinced I was a horrible mother. I couldn’t take care of my children. God must have made a mistake giving them to me. I wanted to run away. But mostly, I just wanted to feel normal again.
As I look back on those days, I don’t remember much other than a blurry existence. I didn’t want anymore children because I obviously couldn’t handle it. I did very little with the children as we coasted through our days. I kept praying for a way to get out of the nightmare in my head because I knew what I was feeling was not truth.
So, when this reader asks what she can do to let go of the fears and actually deal with postpartum depression, should it happen again, I answer not from some lofty position that has it all figured out, but rather from a very humbled position that can only speak from what the Lord has shown me since that dark time in my life.
Simplify your every day life
New moms should do this anyway, but all too often, we complicate those newborn days with revamped schedules, stress over the upheaval, and resolutions to do everything right this time.
When dealing with postpartum depression, the every day is overwhelming and adding anything to it spells disaster. You have to take your entire day to the lowest common denominator and get rid of the stuff that easily stresses you out.
Meals need to be simple and on paper plates. School needs to be simple and workbook or internet-driven. Your days need to be devoid of extras until you can crawl your way out of the postpartum pit you are in.
I failed to simplify as much as I should have. I also allowed the blog troll to heckle me far too long. I should have blocked her from the moment I realized she was there to bring me down. Perhaps there are “trolls” in your life too. Simplify your life by removing or avoiding those trolls sooner rather than later.
Search out ways to heal
Not every PPD remedy out there is going to be perfect for you. While I believe postpartum depression is caused by an imbalance in your body, I am not convinced it is the same imbalance in every woman. Don’t give up just because one thing you try doesn’t work. Try something else. Ask your doctor/midwife to help you find an answer – the right answer for you.
I never did find the cause of my PPD; however, I suffered 2 back-to-back miscarriages the following year. After the second miscarriage, I felt different. It was as if my hormones completely shifted and righted themselves. I am still curious as to what initially caused my depression.
Get outside and bring it inside
It is a known fact that we do not get outside enough and move our bodies and soak up the nutrients in the fresh air and sunshine. Even if all you can manage right now is to sit in a chair on your back porch, do it. Work your way up to actually walking around your back yard or neighborhood. Breathe deep. Take as much of the outside with you inside. Open windows, bring in flowers, eat fresh fruits and veggies.
One of the easiest things to do when you are suffering from postpartum depression is to eat junk. I could barely find the energy to eat, so I grabbed junk to keep me going – or so I thought it would keep me going. Oh, how I could have benefited from a bowl of fresh fruit or a baggie of cut up veggies. I also should have started getting outside more, even if I had to put my screaming baby in a stroller or strap him to me in a carrier. We both would have felt better.
We move in the direction we are facing. You must look forward so you can move forward. Write down 1 thing you are looking forward to each day. It can be as simple as a bath or as complex as a weekend getaway. However, I know from previous experience with depression, it becomes the simplest of things that pull you out of the depths.
Making a list was how I dealt with my depression in college, and it was making a similar list that helped to pull me out of PPD. My list was in my head and something I told myself every morning as I awoke. I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling trying to figure out why this day was worth getting up for. Sometimes it was because a friend was coming over or I had planned a certain meal or treat, but more often than not, I would lie there and make up something to do that day that was worth looking forward to. I would resolve to do things like wash my face with a new cleanser, buy a new pair of earrings, or pick a bouquet from the garden. Most of the time the items on my list were simple and rather menial, but they were things that brought a smile to my face and gave me a reason for pulling back the covers and facing the day.
Pray for the Lord to direct your steps
God has given each of us a path to walk. The Bible tells us He will not let us be utterly cast down even if we stumble. The postpartum depression path is a difficult one, but it is not one devoid of lessons and understanding, and God has not left you to walk it alone. And hopefully, someday, you will be able to give of yourself and your story in order to help another.
Give your fears to the Lord
Christ is our rest. We can hand all the fear and hesitations to Him. He is holy, He is mighty, He is our savior yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He can handle these feelings and the fears that come with them.
My dear mama, you are loved! God knows where you are and He knows exactly what you need. He is bigger than your postpartum depression!
Feel free to share your own stories and experiences in the comments below. For those of you currently dealing with PPD, I am praying for you to feel God’s presence every day as you walk this road. I am also praying you find exactly the help you need to get through this trial. ((HUGS))