The “baby blues” is common among new moms and also with moms who have given subsequent births to their first. Bethany is joining us to share her experience with PPD. She is a mother of two and the author of Organic Baby Steps, a site dedicated to organic living made easy.
Tell us about yourself Bethany.
I have two sweet children and a very young at heart husband. My son is 3 and my daughter is 14 months. Both of my kids are extremely laid back but my son is my mischievous, sneaky child. My daughter is my cuddly but spirited one. I never thought I would love being a mom as much as I do.
I also work full-time as a neonatal clinical pharmacist in an academic children’s hospital. I always thought I would be a busy, worker bee that loved always loved going to work. I honestly had no idea how I would feel after having to go back to work after maternity leave.
Describe the warning signs that something was wrong.
I knew it was more than the baby blues when I was in a traffic jam on my way to the daycare and I started having a panic attack. Anytime I was a few minutes late I would cry the whole way there, and I usually cried the whole way home, too. I would struggle to keep my composure anytime someone asked about my son. Sometimes I could not leave my office because I was so choked up. I was fine the first two weeks after my first maternity leave, and then it felt like I was breaking.
What first steps did you take that led to your diagnosis?
I knew that I was on the verge of breaking down. I met with a counselor at work and shared my feelings. It was not a great help but it helped me just to talk about my feelings. I still needed to resolve my feelings so I went ahead and met with my employer and my OB. My employer was sympathetic but not open to creative scheduling. My OB was the person that truly validated my feelings and suggested that I needed to be treated for PPD.
How did you get others involved to support you in this journey with PPD (spouse, family, friends or employer)?
I talked with my husband almost nightly. It was extremely hard for him to understand how I was feeling and relate to the hormones of it all. He tried to be very straightforward and helped me see the benefits of working. I looked for as many other mom friends in similar situations, and I joined several working mom forums. I also changed childcare providers which went a long ways in giving me peace of mind. It made me feel a lot better about leaving my child.
What observations would you offer to other moms about PPD and recognizing the signs?
- Listen to yourself.
- Don’t wait for someone else to notice the warning signs.
- Crying is completely normal especially in the days leading up to the end of your maternity leave and the days after returning to work.
- However, if you find yourself inconsolable and crying at the mention of your child’s name it may be a warning sign. Panic attacks are another warning sign.
How have you continued your healing process?
Sometimes it is still a daily struggle. I can go months being at peace and then cry myself to sleep. The first step in healing was allowing myself to accept that I had PPD. Admitting it was freeing. The next step was deciding what to do about it. I had a prescription for an antidepressant but chose not to get it filled. However, it took me the following year to work through the depression on my own. I had to force myself, sometimes several times a day, to dwell on the benefits of working.
- Sometimes healing is in splurging on a new outfit.
- Sometimes healing is taking advantage of our childcare provider and taking some me time even on my day off.
- Sometimes healing is taking a day off work specifically to take my son on a date.
- I have to literally make lists in my head of all of the good things about working.
- I try to make the most of every minute with my kids (ok, well, most minutes).
- I even have to consider the disadvantages of staying at home every day.
- Peace is realizing that I am a great, maybe even a better, mom by working.
- Healing is realizing that it is ok to be sad, angry, or disappointed but my family needs me to be happy and at peace.