“You just have the baby blues.’ That’s what I was told when I hysterically called my OB’s office at 2 weeks postpartum. I had summoned up the courage to finally call and ask for help and I got pushed aside and put in the same basket as everyone else.
I called through tears and said, ‘I think I have postpartum depression,’ which is hard enough to admit. The receptionist transferred my phone call to the intake nurse where she proceeded to ask a bunch of standard questions to ascertain if I was a risk to myself or others.
I distinctly remember her asking, ‘Are you having thoughts of harming myself or others?’ Too ashamed to admit I actually was having thoughts of harming myself, I quietly said no. She then proceeded to tell me, ‘It is NOT postpartum depression because you aren’t suicidal.’ She said, ‘You should try to calm down as much as you can because the stress can pass to your breastmilk and upset your 2-week-old baby’s stomach,’ as if I wasn’t feeling guilty enough. She told me to run to the store and buy essential oils. Feeling incredibly misunderstood and dismissed, I just said ok. She told me if I was feeling like this again to call and she’d ‘talk me off the ledge.’
I hung up the phone and couldn’t breathe from crying so hard. I felt like I was talking and everyone around me was deaf. I said to my husband, ‘This is why we lose SO MANY women during the postpartum period. We find the courage to come forward and ask for help and we get ignored.’ Luckily, I didn’t give up. I called five days later and said I absolutely need an appointment to see my doctor. I got one the next morning and I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and borderline psychosis.
You see, this wasn’t my first rodeo, I had an older son born in January of 2018. I suffered when I had my first and luckily it lasted only 2 weeks. However, being more educated now I definitely am aware I did have undiagnosed postpartum anxiety at the time. I chalked it up to being a first time mother and being on the neurotic side, but now I know better. I had all these terrifying thoughts of what could happen to him, I never really let anyone hold him, and the only time I left him was when I had my second son. My anxiety became so bad I developed obsessive compulsive disorder. This meant I had to do and say the same things to him at night or I feared the worst would happen. I only let him to wear the same pjs because I was petrified of SIDS. I found myself googling every little thing I noticed and it became an obsession.
At the same time, I loved being a mother so much. It was all I ever wanted and I am a stay at home mom. But I just wished I was more relaxed. Nonetheless, I accepted this was just what kind of mother I would be.
Fast forward to September of 2018, I found out I was 4 weeks pregnant and I have never felt so terrified in all my life. I experienced every single emotion you could think of. I remember saying to myself, ‘Ok, you have 9 whole months to adjust, come May you’ll be ready.’ To my shock, in March 2019 when I was roughly 30 weeks pregnant, I began feeling emotions I NEVER have experienced in my entire life. I blamed it on being overwhelmed while looking after a clingy toddler, having a shift working husband and being a stay at home mom. I basically had no breaks from the kids.
The pivotal moment for me was when I was home with my toddler, holding him while heavily pregnant. I got up because my dog wouldn’t stop barking and it triggered an intense rage. I was so mad, I smashed the window of our door while holding my child. I immediately called my husband and told him even though I was ashamed. I knew right then and there something wasn’t right with me. I went to my OB at my 30-week appointment and told him, ‘I think I’m suffering from depression.’ He told me to have the baby first and see how I felt and if it changed.
Those last 10 weeks were hell and I cried every single day. I resented the baby growing inside of me. I wanted to leave him at the hospital. I didn’t want him and thought of him as a chore rather than an exciting addition to our family. I was too afraid to talk about it and I was even afraid to tell my husband because I was so incredibly ashamed. I was petrified if someone caught on to my thoughts I’d get my babies taken away from me. I knew I wasn’t crazy but my thoughts were.
Fast forward to May of 2019 I delivered a healthy baby boy. But that’s when it got worse.
After I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, I went on Zoloft and into therapy. After 3.5 months of therapy and medication, I realized I saw absolutely no improvement. I decided to take myself out of therapy and focus on finding a therapist who specialized in postpartum mood disorders. This was easier said than done. I ran into issues with my insurance not covering these places so I would have to pay out of pocket. As a single income family with 2 children, it’s almost impossible to do.
I became very close to a wonderful lady from the advocacy group 2020MOM, and she quickly became my confidant. Joy has given me the platform I craved in order to vocalize how hard it is to get health for maternal mental health issues. She even asked me to be a speaker at a summit in LA in February where I’ll be able to share my story with hundreds of people.
She advocated for me every day until I finally found a postpartum psychologist. It took me MONTHS AND MONTHS to be seen, which meant the postpartum depression had an opportunity to manifest. It is now December and I have seen my psychologist 3 times. I am feeling hopeful I am heading in the right direction but it should never have taken THIS long. I have been suffering for 9 months. It is 9 months my family can’t get back.
To anyone suffering from any type of postpartum mood disorder, I see you. I know how isolating it is but you can’t give up. Your babies and husband are NEVER better off without you. Advocate for yourself, and hang in there.
Months went by feeling misunderstood by my original therapist and having to justify why I wasn’t taking her advice on board (merely because she was suggesting things I’m not capable of doing, like leaving my kids for a day to get a break). My new psychologist deals only with moms and postpartum issues so she makes me feel heard and accepts me as I am. She doesn’t suggest anything that I don’t feel comfortable doing.
I feel heard. I am re-energized and although I never gave up, I now know I have the right people behind me.”