I experienced post partum depression after the birth of my first son almost 20 months ago. I was completely blind-sided. I had an amazing pregnancy. I felt great and looked forward to the being a mother. Like most new mothers-to-be, I was very excited and did everything I could to learn about my pregnancy, labor and birth. I read pamphlets from my doctor's office. I read books and magazines and talked to friends and family. Surprisingly enough, through all of this information-seeking I never learned that I was at risk for PPD.
For me, motherhood was something I couldn't wait for. Shortly after my son was born, the PPD symptoms started. Since I did not recognize the symptoms, I went untreated and suffered with extreme anxiety, mixed emotions, feelings of inadequacy and insomnia until my six week check up.
During these six weeks, I found myself overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I felt and truly believed that I was not being the mother I should be or was expected to be. While I had a very supportive husband and family help, I never felt so isolated and alone. Never, until now, had I experienced any of these feelings. I had always been very independent and sure of myself. I can definitely say that it was the darkest time in my life.
Looking back on my experience, I am particularly surprised that my prenatal class devoted all of about 10 minutes to the subject at the very end of the last class. The extent of what I heard was that it happens. There was nothing about identifying symptoms or what steps to take if you think you are affected. Even more surprising was that my OB never, during all of my visits to his office, discussed the possibility of PPD with me!
I went to my six-week appointment, literally, with a list of questions. I was scheduled with a nurse-practitioner, not my regular OB. After my exam, I had a chance to talk with the nurse. I got through about two questions when the diagnosis was made. Then came the prescription - Prozac. It turns out, this is a common, almost standard, 'band aid' treatment for PPD that many OB offices prescribe. In my case, it was an inappropriate treatment. Had the nurse listened to and answered the rest of the questions on my list (or even suggested I talk more in depth with my OB!), she would have realized that much of what I was experiencing was anticipatory anxiety. I later learned from my psychiatrist that a common side effect of Prozac is increased anxiety! My OB's office was useless. They never scheduled or suggest that I schedule a follow-up appointment. They simply gave me the prescription and a short list of psychologists and sent me on my way. I took Prozac for a month. All my original feelings and symptoms remained and intensified.
I was able to find a psychologist who specialized in PPD. She was extremely helpful and recommended a psychiatrist to discuss changing my medication. It was obvious that the OB prescription was not helping. However, I was told to give it a month.
Finally, I met with the psychiatrist and was prescribed Lexapro for my PPD and Ambien for my insomnia. With the correct medication and continued support from my therapist, friends and family, I was able to slowly find "me again". I specifically remember the day my psychiatrist stood across from me after a follow-up evaluation and put out her hand to introduce herself. I was a completely different person than that first day I walked into her office. It was a great day!
It's been almost 20 months since my son, Jack, was born. I still feel like I'm recovering everyday. I continually wonder if I could have or can do things better so that he will love me more. I still wonder, 'what if I never had PPD?' Would we have an even better relationship? I still, to this day, have the "what ifs" and I still, to this day, feel guilty for my feelings.
I am told that Jack is the happiest kid around, that he always has a smile on his face and that he must really be loved. When I hear that about my son, I have to believe that I have had a part in that.
Despite my experience with PPD, my husband and I are still planning on growing our family. I'm currently pregnant with my second child and am already fighting with anxiety and mixed emotions.