When I was in my mid-twenties, before I was even thinking about getting pregnant, a good friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl. Having a family was what Sadie* felt she was born to do.
While the rest of us were still putting on ridiculously high heels to dance the night away (my late-30s bones ache just thinking about those days), Sadie was busy refinishing her kitchen cabinets at home with her husband. We saved our money for trips to Europe; they saved theirs to put up a fence in their front yard. A white picket fence, no less.
So it was surprising to all of us, including Sadie, when she wasn’t overjoyed at the arrival of her baby. In fact, she was downright miserable.
That was the first time I witnessed postpartum depression first-hand. It wasn’t just that Sadie was a little off for a couple of days, or that she missed having a full night’s sleep. She was having trouble functioning all together. It was as though someone turned a light off inside of her.
Luckily, Sadie’s mother had seen postpartum depression before (though she hadn’t experienced it herself) and she got Sadie to a doctor’s office as soon as she saw what was happening. Sadie began seeing a counselor regularly and her doctor prescribed anti-depressants.
She and her husband hired a caregiver — not to take care of the baby, since it was important to Sadie that they do the parenting on their own, but to take care of the many things they just didn’t have the time or energy to do as new parents. The caregiver took care of some housekeeping duties, ran errands, and prepared meals. Sadie said it was like she had two mothers for those few months, which was great.
Three months later, she was back to herself and as in love with being a mother as we always knew she would be.
Despite all the information and advocacy surrounding postpartum depression, it still holds such a stigma. In reality, the problem exists in the chemical composition of our bodies — the extreme drop in estrogen post-pregnancy is natural. So many women I know blame themselves for being weak or bad mothers, but the reality is that you’re experiencing a biological reaction. If you got bronchitis, you would go to the doctor (I hope) — so treat your post-pregnancy emotions like you would if you were feeling off for any other reason.
Not sure about the differences between baby blues and postpartum depression? Mayo Clinic’s website breaks down the differences between these two, as well as postpartum psychosis, which is even more serious.
Have you had any experiences with postpartum depression, either for yourself or a loved one? How did you treat it?