What Postpartum Depression is Really Like: The Bad Birth That Started it All

a team of healthcare workers walking down a hospital corridor

Two weeks after giving birth, I learned what postpartum depression is really like.

“Your labor is not progressing. We have to do a C-Section.” The words shattered all my dreams and expectations of a natural childbirth. During my first birth, I tried so hard to relax and open up my cervix in labor, but it had not worked. From the beginning, I felt very uncomfortable in the hospital and at some point, I got stuck at 6 or 7 cm dilation. In hindsight, it was a typical progression in a hospital birth. At the time it was traumatic. And it set off a series of unfortunate events that culminated in the person I am today. I found out what postpartum depression is really like.

I came out of Labor and Delivery feeling very angry and sad.

Over the next year, I roller-coasted between these two feelings and exhaustion. Nursing got off to a rough start and took about two weeks to feel even partly comfortable. It began as the Baby Blues but I spun into Postpartum Depression. I cried all the time, living in a half woken state. Worst of all, thoughts about putting my baby in the oven would pop into my mind, as did images of knives. To cope with the thoughts, I hid the knives and then moved them again into the back of the drawer. I was sure that I didn’t want to kill my son, but those images haunted me. I felt so ashamed and inadequate. For weeks, I sat in my rocking chair nursing my baby, looking out the window with tears rolling down my cheeks.

My family organized around my postpartum depression.

My mom got me breastfeeding help. She and my sister came over to help with my son and take me out for lunch and shopping. My husband called La Leche League and he tried to distract me. In addition, he made me come back to work in our business, so I wouldn’t be unsupervised and alone. Finally, he interviewed therapists and scheduled a physical exam for me. We started going to therapy as a family.

“Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby?”

Our therapist was young, gentle and kind. As she asked this question, I was terrified so I said, “NO!”

I lied. I thought they would separate me and my baby and probably hospitalize me. Whether or not this was true, it is what I believed. Separation would end our nursing relationship and at this point, breastfeeding was the only thing going well.

She recommended medication. At that time, anti-depressants were untested on nursing mothers and I would have to wean. So, I refused them, preferring to nurse.

Over time, research has shown that anti-depressants are safe while breastfeeding. Furthermore, studies of nursing mothers also show regular exercise can be as effective as drugs.

My baby was a fussy baby who didn’t sleep.

He was a 2.9 in the “Colic Rule of 3″ which was enough to rattle anyone. Holding him and nursing him was the only way to soothe him. I thought if I could just keep nursing and get some sleep, I would be OK.

By accident, I did what turned out to be a key piece in overcoming postpartum depression.

I joined a playgroup. When my baby was six months old, I met 4 women at La Leche League and we (very politely and shyly) agreed to meet weekly. More than anything, this action pulled me out of the hole. However, at one year, I was still tired and angry, but thankfully, my sadness was intermittent.

Later that year, I was invited to be a La Leche League Leader and I started the application process. The rest is another story.

If you or someone you know is suffering with Postpartum Depression, you can find resources for help at Postpartumdepression.org.

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