When I gave birth to my son, Erik, in February of 2003, I used an epidural to help deal with the pain. Unfortunately, the epidural made me feel very distant from the actual birth. I didn't really feel "connected." In some ways, I feel like that experience (or lack thereof) was the beginning of my journey into depression.
I chose to breastfeed, which meant I wasn't getting a lot of sleep. Erik was a very, very colicky baby, and as a first-time mom, I didn't know how to respond to a baby who cried for hours and hours no matter what I did to try to calm him. Postpartum depression "snuck up" on me--my situation degraded so gradually that I didn't realize how miserable and unable to cope I was. Postpartum depression can also a rob a person of their higher-order thinking skills--even as a well-educated, upper middle-class woman, during postpartum depression, I lacked the ability to recognize my condition and to seek appropriate help. I would tell my doctor that I felt tired, and the response was "All new mothers are tired."
By now (about three months postpartum) I was having difficulty sleeping at all, and after several nights of unabated sobbing (my husband would just hold me--he didn't understand what was going on either)--he called my OB/GYN. She put me on an antidepressant and referred me to a psychiatrist. I honestly thought that life would get better very quickly. Well, it didn't. Zoloft didn't work. Lexapro didn't work. My psychiatric physician's assistant didn't really seem to register or respond to my suicidal thoughts. In the end, I confessed my suicidal thoughts to my husband and owned up to my deep despair. My husband took me to the emergency room, where I was placed under an involuntary commitment order. I was horrified that a security officer had to escort me to the area where I would be staying.
I spent three days in the hospital, and then two weeks in an outpatient program. I found a wonderful psychiatrist who specializes in depression in women. Although the hospital stay was one of the toughest things I've had to deal with, it really marked the "turning point" in the depression. It took me a long time to start feeling better--my son just turned one, and I finally feel like I'm about 80-90% of where I used to be.
No one seems to want to talk about this condition. But I do want women to realize that they're not crazy, even if they feel like it, and there are so many good treatments available. It has helped me so much to know that others have gone through postpartum depression and come out the other side.