It's Mother's Day here in the US.
A day when we place special emphasis on the women who birthed us, care for us, support us. It's not a happy day for everyone, and if that is your case today I am truly sorry. You have my love and any support you may need. I wrote last year about how hard Mother's Day has been for me in the past as we struggled with unexplained infertility, so you would think that this year, my second Mother's Day (if you are having a baby, you are a mother, even if you are the only one to have "met" your child), I would be full of joy and light. And I am. But it is not always that way.
You see, I have Postpartum Depression.
I think it is important to tell you this because my son turns one this week and I am still fighting this battle. My diagnosis came several months after I gave birth because I did not recognize the signs. Too often PPD is presented as uncontrollable sadness or a complete disinterest in our children. That is a version of it, but it is not the complete picture.
PPD is an umbrella diagnosis that encompasses symptoms I had not even heard of. In my case it presented as uncontrollable rage and fear. I would stay awake after a three AM feeding and scrub our tiny apartment on my hands and knees, convinced that I would be a bad mother if things were not perfectly clean. I had intrusive thoughts, not about hurting myself or Pasha, but about insane fears. Once I became convinced after starting a load of laundry that I was so tired I had accidentally put the baby in the washer instead of the clothes, even though I was holding him.
It wasn't until I threw a handful of knitting needles at Chris that I began to wonder if my family would be better off without me. I wasn't suicidal per se, but I knew I could not continue to be a wife and mother in my current state. I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal midwife who knew enough to ask the right questions. At every postpartum appointment she asked me questions beyond the standard questionnaire and helped me find treatment options that worked best for my situation. I still have my rough days, but no more than any mom of a young child.
May is PPD Awareness Month, which is why I feel compelled to tell you my story. I was blessed to be raised in a family that normalized postpartum issues. I grew up knowing women around me who battled PPD and were amazing mothers -- yet I still did not recognize it when it happened to me. I recently shared this post on Facebook and it reminded me that so many women do not know the signs.
1 in 7 women who give birth will suffer from PPD and in some areas that number is as high as 1 in 4
If you are a new mom who has recently given birth one of the most important things you can do is answer honestly when taking a PPD assessment at your doctor's office. It is a standard questionnaire that should be given at your followup appointment. And if you are pregnant or looking to become pregnant, start educating yourself now. A little information can go a long way in the battle for maternal health.
Most importantly, if you suspect you may have PPD seek help. Speak honestly with your healthcare providers. Talk to other mothers because chances are you know someone who has been through this struggle. And support those around you. Together we are stronger than we can ever be in isolation.
Love you, mamas.