Looking back at the birth of my first child and daughter, I think I experienced postpartum depression. At birth, I felt content but stunned, mostly because I was adjusting to a very new, disruptive schedule and learning to nurse my child. I’d left a job I had grown tired of which wasn’t in line with my career aspirations, and the place ahead was the supposed bliss I wanted. I’d be a mother to this little being and any others that followed. I’d meet other moms who’d become friends, help my daughter make friends herself and schedule playdates and plan birthday parties. She’d learn her alphabet, colors and numbers. I’d dress her in pretty clothes and beam at the results, kissing her rosy cheeks and stroking her smooth platinum hair. So ready was I to become a mom and leave my current lifestyle as a working woman.
What I didn’t consider in those months, patting my growing belly and imagining what my daughter E would look like and what personality would emerge, were the highs and lows of hormones and bodily changes. I didn’t realize how much caring for another would deplete me. And I didn’t detect the subtle signs of postpartum depression – no matter how slight. They were so subtle that I couldn’t connect the dots to the disorder, and it never occurred to me that I was even suffering.
You see, I didn’t endure overwhelming depression, crazy mood swings, crying jags or suicidal thoughts. Once I acclimated to the new daily schedule, I covered all my daughter’s needs with aplomb. But I felt like I was going through the motions of laundering her tiny clothes and ensuring she stayed comfortable. When she was hungry, I fed her; when it was time for a change, I diapered her. As always, I read books and magazines; I watched TV; I ate foods I liked. I simply adored and loved baby E but something was missing.
I mustered no enthusiasm or will to leave the house and take the baby out. Recently, we’d moved to a new, unfamiliar neighborhood where we knew no one and hadn’t met any of the neighbors who milled about minding their own business. I wasn’t familiar with any local kid-friendly spots and/or parks, either. Everything seemed so faraway and required the use of a car — so different from the park and library within walking distance of my childhood home.
I only left the house when my husband was home and could bring me somewhere. For some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to plop in the car and complete an errand! It wasn’t that I didn’t drive or couldn’t. I drove over an hour one-way to work, survived a year’s worth of long distance romance and traveled 3 ½ hours by myself to college. I owned my own car which held a properly tethered car seat. I never worried about the harmful germs that could infect my daughter in the outside world. No visible problem existed to prevent me from leaving the house. If I left, maybe it would release me from my mysterious funk. Although I dressed the baby daily, sometimes more than once if necessary, I rarely packed the diaper bag, driving the car to points unknown. I spent long days cooped up in my stuffy house, taking care of E, reading, finishing laundry and light cleaning, and listening to the radio. Functioning but not living.
At the time, I couldn’t fathom that my lack of motivation and agoraphobia could be linked to any postpartum depression. Since that time, after reading other mothers’ harrowing accounts and hearing stories from friends, maybe, to a small degree, I had postpartum depression. I wasn’t especially tired or still transitioning to a new environment, so could it be PPD?
My daughter is turning 12, and only in the past few years have I drawn this conclusion. Unfortunately, due to the mild nature of my bout, I don’t know if it warranted an intervention or even a discussion. Hearing other moms’ stories about how debilitating and monstrous their symptoms, how dare I complain? I made a daily effort, but I couldn’t leave the house without assistance, accompaniment or encouragement. No strides were made by me to find a moms’ support group or any other means of occupying our time outside the house. And I wonder how many moms experience the same thing and because they don’t have overwhelmingly violent or abrupt symptoms may think their malaise is nothing other than normal parenting woes?
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by M.B. Sanok based on her personal experience. Read a little more about symptoms of Postpartum Depression. Contact your health professional if your symptoms are severe.