My story actually begins in the hospital. The largest misconception people have about PPMD, besides the one that every mom who suffers from them is another Andrea Yates, is that it takes time to develop. It doesn’t. Some moms start struggling with them while still pregnant, some develop them in the hospital, and others do not develop them for months. I, unfortunately, developed signs of a PPMD about two days after delivery.
It really did start small, things one could easily discount. Things that, under other circumstances, would have meant nothing. Since, I had a c-section I had to stay in the hospital and my Hubby could not stay with me. We had a dog at that time and he had to work at least a half day so him going home to sleep was non-negotiable. When he would get ready to leave in the evening I would start getting agitated. I would insist the blinds needed to be closed. Not because light would shine in and keep me up, but because I could not bear the outside world “looking” in. In reality the only one who could look into my 8th floor room was a pigeon, and I am sure he wanted my sandwich more than he wanted to criticize my mothering.
The anxiety before bedtime very quickly, like next day quickly, lead to anxiety during the day. It did not help that the common new parent mistake of forgetting to check and change Eldest’s diaper ONCE lead to the thinking that I have already ruined my child and I suck as a mother. The lactation consultant that I had helping me in this hospital sucked. She was cruel and violent (I do not believe you should EVER forcibly shove a child onto its mother’s boob). She made me sit in an extremely painful position and constantly berated me when she came in to “help”. The night nurse, bless her heart, tried to help; but by then I was a lost cause.
It has always surprised me how quickly I went from having some modest confidence in my ability to mother my child to absolutely none. As if the loss of confidence was not bad enough, I began to have terrible thoughts. At first they were fleeting, but then they came with more and more regularity. The first time I had thoughts like these was when my night nurse dragged Eldest in under a warmer with bili lights due to jaundice, and I told her just to leave Eldest in the room with me. The thought was something small and easily dismissed- “What if I roll over on Eldest?”
Looking from the outside it seems ridiculous. You are in a hospital bed and Eldest is in a warmer. Like I said, it seems small and inconsequential; but it caused me a lot of anxiety. I slept very lightly. Woke at every sound. And checked on Eldest constantly. I gave into this anxiety and instead of helping it made it worse. The depression got deeper, my lack of confidence stubbornly remained in place, and the thoughts/visions got worse, got violent.
By the time I was “ready” for discharge I was fully submersed in my PPMD. I did not want to leave the hospital because I was convinced I could not mother without the nurses around me. No one was allowed to touch my baby because only I could hold Eldest right. It was very difficult to let Hubby hold Eldest. However, I did and something unexpected happened. Eldest quieted and calmed. In my mind that meant I was not to touch Eldest, I was the problem. It never reached me that maybe Eldest was calmer with Hubby because Hubby was calm. I did not want to touch my baby, nor did I want anyone to touch my baby. I was a mess.
Not once was my Hubby told what to look for in relation to Post Partum Depression or signs that maybe I need extra help. Not once was it explained to us that sadness that does not start lightening or gets worse after “x” amount of time should be looked at by either a therapist or another trusted professional source (midwives can be extremely helpful during the post partum period as they can help with breast feeding and PPD identification, though not a diagnosis). We were left to flounder alone.