May is Maternal Mental Health Month, readers, and we’re bringing you true, but touching, stories from moms just like you who have shut down the stigma of postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) and shared their experiences with us in hopes of bringing awareness to this important topic. We’re sharing some obvious and other hidden symptoms and facts about PPMD and including resources for support. Stay tuned all this month for these stories and more.
Me, Too – Defeating Depression Series
Two and a half years ago I was so overwhelmed by everything that I was reading about sleep training and schedules; I felt like an absolute failure as a mother. I had severe postpartum depression, I was still getting used to married life, and I was so sleep deprived. It was fuel to the already roaring fire. My son never slept more than 45 minute at a time, day or night. I was getting 20 minutes of sleep every hour, and after 5 months of that, things in my life felt scary for myself and my 5 month old son. I began hurting myself, and had thoughts of suicide and fears of hurting my son. I had quick emotional changes that were so unpredictable and barely controllable. It was awful and when I went to the doctor he asked me what I needed, at that time, to make the biggest difference in my life. My answer was sleep. That was when I reached out to The Baby Sleep Site® for help. I needed help to make a plan and practical help to carry it out. I needed this so badly because I didn’t know what to believe from all that I had read nor how to implement it. Also, and this is HUGE, it wasn’t just me who needed to be involved, it was also my husband.
My husband and I were struggling to adjust to married life (married a year and a half at this point), and although this is so normal, the added stress of a baby brought about a lot of tension and fighting in our day-to-day (and mostly night-to-night!) interactions. We had a hard time agreeing on goals, what our plan should be, and what was whose responsibility. I needed The Baby Sleep Site® to help me get my child to sleep and not destroy my marriage in the process. It was so liberating to have someone else consider the needs and personality of myself and my child and work with my feedback and concerns to create a customized plan for not only our son but all family members in mind. It was like the responsibility of being the ‘Team Captain’ and ‘Coach’ were on me and I gave them away to focus on being a ‘Player’ alongside my husband. With a plan made by someone else, an expert, we could work together to follow it perfectly, as equals! It was set in black and white. We knew what to do. No debating, no allowing anxiety, fear, or frustration to make the decisions because we had a plan in black and white and all we had to do was follow it and trust.
What happened that week we sleep trained saved me! Literally saved me! After 5 nights my son was putting himself to sleep in less than 20 minutes and sleeping through most of the night. I began to get hours of sleep at a time and also saw the bigger picture that sleep for my son WAS possible! My postpartum depression became more manageable, I stopped having mood swings, I stopped hurting myself, and I no longer had suicidal thoughts. I actually hate thinking about where the road of postpartum depression aggravated by sleep deprivation would have led. It is still painful when I look back at the woman I was for those months and how far I was from the mother I wanted to be.
I had nothing left to give in terms of patience. I struggled to have patience because I struggled to have hope. I was ill. And, anyone as sleep deprived as I was is suffering and not themselves. Things that seem like they should be easy become monstrous tasks – things as simple as laundry or going to a nephew’s birthday party were crippling.
I am proud I reached out for help in a dark moment. I am proud to be someone who once needed help and allowed others to use their talents to offer me that help. I am proud to tell people I once felt hopeless and that it definitely can get better with work and a plan. I am proud to share my story because I know at least one person needs to hear it – anyone struggling to feel the joy they want to feel for their baby during this precious time needs to know they are not alone. YOU are not alone! Sleep is not just a ‘nice thing,’ sleep is not just ‘a hobby,’ sleep is deeply essential to being a functioning human and without it, many things can be jeopardized. I want other parents to not be afraid! It can get better with a plan. Make it black and white, and follow it.
The struggle is real and can be so devastating. Thanks to The Baby Sleep Site® our sleep story has a happy ending and our family has grown to include a daughter!
Missed the last post in this series? Read Bonnie and Shanes’s story here.
Considering sleep help? Learn more here.
Quick Facts about Postpartum Mental Health
Approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone.
More women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.
Only 15% of women with postpartum depression ever receive professional treatment.
When women are not treated for PPD, research shows they are less able to bond with their children or care for them properly.
Women who do not seek treatment are more likely to medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. And they may end up with lifelong chronic depression or anxiety. Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth, putting American families at risk each and every year.
Mothers are often told that in order to care for their babies they must take care of themselves first, just as we are told on a plane prior to takeoff that we must put our oxygen mask on first before we put one on our child.
Postpartum depression is now often referred to as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or postpartum mood disorders (PPMD).
There are four subtypes of PPMD: depression, anxiety with or without depression, panic attacks, and obsessive -compulsive disorder.
10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression.
Symptoms [of PPMD] can start to show within a few weeks of childbirth, but sometimes it can take up to a year.
Mothers with Postpartum Depression may not wish to engage with others or their babies, lack concentration and focus, and may feel worthless, hopeless, guilty, and sad.
No one is ever at fault for having a Postpartum Mood Disorder. There is nothing a new mother could have done to prevent it, and she most certainly did not ask for it. And she cannot simply will it away.
Where to turn to for help – Resources for parents experiencing symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders