By all accounts, I had it all together. A loving husband, supportive parents and a wonderful team of midwives overseeing my prenatal care. I had a job I loved and was giddy with the nervousness and excitement of my first pregnancy.
But the giddiness of those early weeks was soon overshadowed by a darkness the creeped up on me. First the anxiety and worry. Then came the insomnia.
Evenings spent in tears as my mind raced in circles until 3 am when I would finally give in to the exhaustion. Only to wake to my 5:30 am commuters’ alarm followed by a 10 hour shift and yet another drive home in the dark. My busy workday actually seemed to be a mental reprieve from the hours I spent at home, alone with my thoughts.
I thought I couldn’t possibly have postpartum depression. Barely out of the first trimester, I wasn’t even postpartum!
Try as hard as I could to keep it all together, I was crumbling under fear and worry. Afraid of being around people. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of sleep. Afraid of not sleeping. After a particularly bad week, I revisited my doctor, conceding that I needed help. There I learned things I wish someone had told me about postpartum depression and its many disguises.
“Postpartum” depression (aka perinatal mood disorder) often strikes first during pregnancy. It doesn’t always manifest itself with classic depressive symptoms.
Many women like myself find they struggle more with the anxiety side of things than standalone depression (e.g. postpartum anxiety). The spectrum of perinatal mood disorders and anxiety is so wide and varied, the list stunned me.
Postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, post-adoption depression, postpartum panic disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, postpartum psychosis are all very real, very serious, and treatable with professional help.
These illnesses can arise anytime during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after birth. It doesn’t matter whether it is your first or your fifth baby, they don’t discriminate.
It doesn’t matter how strong you are, how financially successful you are, whether you can run 5km or twirl a baton. There are risk factors (like mine: family history of depression/anxiety, a perfectionist personality, and previous experience with anxiety disorder), but what leads one woman to illness may not be what leads another woman to get it.
Bottom line? Knowledge is power. If you feel like you are struggling during pregnancy or after welcoming a new little one into your family, talk to someone. You are not a failure, or a monster, or broken. It gets better.
Squamish is fortunate to have a great support group for new mamas. Started in March of 2012, Apres Baby is a volunteer run, free support group for new and expectant moms needing some extra support in the transition to motherhood. For more information visit lunamama.ca