My struggles with PPD

This is going to be an extremely hard blog entry to write. It may take me quite a few crying breaks to get through my entire story. The reason I want to share is twofold: I think it will be therapeutic for me, but most of all I want to hopefully be an encouragement to other moms who are going through or will go through the same things I did. So, here it is…

Postpartum depression was absolutely nothing I expected it to be. I didn’t even know I had it until I came through it. I always thought only horrible mothers who shake their babies have PPD. Really, there is a whole spectrum of symptoms a mom with PPD can experience.

I had a fairly easy pregnancy and delivery. I was sick a lot when pregnant, but delivery went very well. Afterwards, however, Zane and I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding. I didn’t know what I was doing and he didn’t know what he was doing. I finally gave in and fed him a few bottles, which I now know is a big no-no. That led to nipple confusion and an almost impossible time latching on.

I seriously considered switching to formula, which was very upsetting. On top of me being upset, Jeremy said some sleep-deprived, stress-induced, not very nice things. The nurses also give you the dirtiest looks when you ask for some formula, they say they support you…but really they don’t.

I felt useless. The most important job as a mother to such a small newborn is to feed it, I could not feed my baby. I had to rely on “chemicals” (as my hubby said in his state of disorientation) from a plastic bottle with a definitely non-woman-like nipple attached to it. This definitely triggered and/or enhanced my PPD. I felt very distant from Zane.

We decided to try pumping. A $100 single pump was bought shortly after arriving home. Thankfully the few times I did nurse Zane was enough to get my milk in. I knew, and still know, this was a much better way to feed Zane, but it didn’t help with the distance issue already created with my wonderful, beautiful son. I was mourning the loss of nursing my son.

Picture on the right: me trying to justify somehow in my head that giving him formula is okay. Smile = fake.

Pumping was so hard on me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. With the single pump, I spent hours upon hours sitting in our living room chair. It has little back support, so the entire time I pumped (about 8 months) my back felt like it was constantly broken. Emotionally I had no bonding experiences with my son. The special breast-feeding bond I should have received with him was being made with a machine with plastic cups and a hose. Finally mentally, pumping caused me to go a little crazy. I was literally paranoid about drying up (remember, chemicals?)  and would allow Zane to cry in his crib for 20-30 minutes so I could “finish pumping”.

Ok, crying is about to begin…

For the duration of my pumping career, the PPD stayed. I felt very distant from Zane, I’d even go so far as to say I didn’t like him. I loved him of course, but not like a mother should love her son. Whenever someone else was available, I’d have them hold and care for Zane.

Notice who’s holding Zane in this picture? September 2010

This was both emotional and physical, from the hours and hours of sitting in that chair. (I’ve only sat in it a brief few times since March 2011). I wasn’t too concerned about SIDS. Other moms with PPD are paranoid and will sit up to watch their baby sleep to be sure they are still alive, I was on the opposite end. Oddly enough though, I would stress a lot about leaving him somewhere and leaving. If I left him at a grandparents’ house, I wouldn’t fully enjoy myself while out because I wanted to get back to Zane. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

I remember at one point (I’ve heard other moms with PPD share this as well) someone from church made a comment to me along the lines of “you’re loving this, aren’t you?” I put on my most realistic fake smile and responded “oh yeah”. It was a lie.

Isn’t this a beautiful picture taken in August 2010? Deceptive isn’t it?

The first 8 months of Zane’s life is a blur of no sleep, pumping, bottling. I don’t remember much, just that it wasn’t a very happy time in my life. Which is such a shame.

Speaking of shame, I felt so very ashamed for how I felt. I still do to a degree and worry about what people will think when they read this. I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I was. God had blessed me with this healthy, perfect baby boy and I didn’t even want him. I felt I had made a huge mistake in having a baby, a mistake I would be stuck with for life. The hormones of PPD didn’t allow me to see how wonderful he was, or that this feeling of falling over from exhaustion would pass. They didn’t allow me to figure out that I was not alone, there are literally hundreds of thousands of mothers who feel the exact same things I did. They didn’t allow me to seek help. They convinced me to be afraid. Afraid of being called a horrible mother, afraid of having Zane taken away from me. The hormones of postpartum depression are terrible things.

I regret this time in my life, but then, I’m not really sure it is something I can regret. I didn’t want postpartum depression, I didn’t invite it into my life. From a series of circumstances it just happened.  I guess I regret not being able to get out of the fog so I could seek help and perhaps have enjoyed the first year of my precious baby’s life. That’s what I regret, missing out on Zane’s first year on this earth.

Around 6 months I started to dry up, not a lot, I still produced enough for Zane to eat and had plenty of breast milk in the freezer. When he was 7 1/2 months I caught that nasty 24-hour stomach bug. I knew I could still pump, but who wants to try to do that when they’re hanging over the side of the toilet? Not me! Thankfully, I was finally okay with drying up. At 8 months, my milk was gone. I was so proud of myself for making it that far! (The grand total of milk pumped was 6,609.25 oz, which is 51.6 gallons! Moo!) And because Zane received 8 months worth of breast milk, I figured a few months of formula before switching to cow’s milk would be just fine.

My PPD lingered until a year, maybe slightly over, but gradually got better and better since that 8 month mark. I don’t know when it exactly left, all I know is I do not have it now and never want to go through that again!

 Finally a happy picture! We’re at the zoo in October 2011. Jeremy is carrying Zane only because he is physically stronger and doesn’t have long hair to pull. 😉

I was never officially diagnosed, I never spoke to anyone about this until I mentioned it to Jeremy when Zane was just over a year old. I didn’t elaborate, just said I think I had PPD when Zane was younger. I was afraid Jeremy wouldn’t understand and/or would be mad with me and/or wouldn’t want any more children for fear I’d get it again. Just recently I wanted to tell him more details, and I did. He wasn’t mad, tried to understand, and well…we’re pregnant again. 🙂

Since I was never properly diagnosed I have to go off my own non-educated opinions and experiences. I believe I had a moderate to severe case of PPD, but then I have nothing to compare it to. I never hurt Zane, nor had any desire to. I didn’t neglect him, at least not physically. Emotionally perhaps I did. I wish I would have known I could seek help. If you ever go through these “baby blues”, please know, you are not alone and there are lots of women who want to help you!

I have a theory, that perhaps moms who go through a more severe level of postpartum depression make happier moms when they finally come out of it. We know we missed out on our baby’s life and being their mother, so we cherish every single second we get with them! We realize just how precious and important they are to us, and because we didn’t see it for so long, we want to make up for lost time! Of course I realize moms who have mild or no PPD can be happy moms too. 😉 It would take extensive research and poll taking, something I am not interested in doing at the moment! The important thing is, I am a very happy mama now. Very happy, I can hardly believe I ever regretting becoming a mama or wished I wasn’t one. I can enjoy a day off here and there to spend time with Jeremy, but enjoy spending time with Zane even more the day after because I missed him! 🙂

There is my story. It’s not a pretty one or an easy one to tell, but it’s made me into the not perfect, yet happy and loving mother I am today.

I was telling Zane to say “hooray!” for being 2! (Please excuse my closed eyes.)

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6 thoughts on “My struggles with PPD

  1. Thank you for sharing! I’ve often thought about sharing my experiences with PPD, but I’m not there yet. I know the courage it took for you to write that. God bless!

  2. wow Emily! Thanks for sharing, I know you had reservations, but there are so many mothers that struggle with PPD! I am sorry you had to go through that, but your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes, that b/c of your struggle you cherrish every moment with your son! It just goes to show you that what Satan means for evil in our lives, God can use for good!! He is amazing, isnt he?
    Do you think you will breastfeed again? If so, please promise me you will go to the Breast Feeding Center in Massillon….The class you take before you deliver is cheap…it may even be free, I cant remember. And then whenever you need some tips or are having questions or problems after the baby is born you can go and get a FREE consoltaion with Besty (this lady is God Send to new breastfeeding mothers)!!! I had lots of trouble breastfeeding after I got mastitis when Sam was 10 days old, and my milk supply was compromised. It was so good for me to get over there and have her and other breast feeding moms tell me, that supplimenting with formula did not make me a bad mother, and it was just encouraging to get tips to keep going! We know these things, but after having a baby your hormones are so messed up its easy to get down on yourself!
    anyway! Just wanted to encourage you and let you know I appreciate you sharing your journey!

  3. Emily,
    First of all, I hope you know how strong you are for sharing such a personal story like that. Secondly, I feel that God has placed you and Zane and Jeremy in my life(And Carson’s) for a reason. I am thankful we have grown a little closer over the past year, but I feel like I am even closer to you because you were willing to open up and talk about this struggle. Your family is on my heart and in my prayers. You are a wonderful mother and I look up to you!

  4. Emily, I am so glad you wrote this. I also had PPD with both children, and am still trying to come off of the medication I had to take after I had Chloe for it. My story matches yours almost exactly with the birth of our first child. I always thought I would not get PPD, I thought that it only affected people who already had problems with depression, and I didn’t. If I had only known what was happening to me I would have gotten help much sooner. It was only because of the encouragement of some great friends at church, that I finally did. I am glad that I was able to talk about it with someone and find out that they also went through it and that it was okay to seek help. I will pray for you with the coming of your second child. You definitely want to talk to your doctor about this before you have your next child so that they can get you started on medication for it right after you have the baby. I didn’t really want to have to medicate myself, but it helped alot! It made me feel normal again, the feelings that I had without it were gone, praise the Lord! I recommend taking Jeremy with you to the doctors if you decide to go and talk to the doctor about it, because it will help him gain a better understanding of what’s going on and to know that it does need to be treated. Curtis wasn’t onboard with my needing help until my emotions really started to affect him. I said some awful things and was just downright nasty towards him and the kids. I to wish I could go back and start over, get help early so that I could appreciate my baby and not hate being a new mom. Thanks for writing:) Love and prayers, Shawna.

  5. Emily,

    We don’t know each other but I went to school with Jeremy. We were good friends all through high school, up until I joined the AF and moved away. Anyway…

    I’m sorry you had such a difficult first year. I have 6 children and I, like you, had hoped to nurse my first-born. He had latching issues and I tried to pump, but it was too time-consuming (as you well know!). I succumbed to formula and was glad that he was finally eating! I am writing to encourage you to a) understand that this next pregnancy/delivery will probably be better because you know what to expect; b) don’t beat yourself up if you have to use formula. I agree that it’s not “natural” like breastmilk but if using it helps your overall mental well-being, isn’t it worth it? I was able to nurse the next 4 of my children, and the last one (born 11/25/11- she’s 7 mos. old) never latched on just like her eldest brother. I was upset at first because I had experience nursing (I nursed all the others for 13+ mos each) so I didn’t know what the problem was, but I promise you, it was a blessing from God that she DIDN’T nurse. Just like pumping, nursing is time-consuming, and it becomes more challenging when you have other children. Bottle-feeding formula was a blessing because my hubby could help with feedings (even in the middle of the night!), and so could my other children (with the help of propped-up blankets in the baby carrier). I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to breastfeed, but if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. The important part is that you have a full baby (regardless of where the food comes from!) and a clear-thinking mom who isn’t walking around in a depressed stupor. I had some mild PDD with this last baby, and for me it was crucial to get out and spend time with adults, as well as exercising to gain some energy. I swear to you that I haven’t slept through the night in probably 6 or 7 YEARS, but your body will adapt to less sleep. Exercising (just taking a walk for 10 mins/day) will help you feel better and give you a chance to just think clearly. I don’t know if you have someone (a friend) you could walk with, but I’d suggest you incorporate this into a routine now before the baby arrives. The last, best piece of advice I can give to you is to meditate on scripture. The Psalms are full of encouagement. A favorite of mine is Psa. 34. Psa. 119:68-75 were also encouraging verses to me when I miscarried the twin to my now 2 y.o. Perhaps it will encouage you, too! Anyway, I know I wrote a book but feel free to find me on FB (I’m friends with Jeremy) and message me if you have any questions or just want some encouragement.

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