We are so pleased to welcome back Cribsters’ resident educational consultant and mother of two, Debbie McWhorter, MST, MSEd. Debbie spent several years as an elementary school teacher and administrator in the New York City public school system before becoming an educational consultant. In her nearly nonexistent free time, Debbie conducts support groups for women suffering from post-partum depression, as well as acts as a co-head of her son’s Parent Teacher Association. Today Debbie shares her personal experience with post-partum depression.
I suffered from post-partum depression. Phew. I said it. Out loud. Oh S#!t. Can I take it back?
Now, I didn’t have the Brooke Shields, Susan Smith version of PPD. I didn’t want to hurt myself or my kids. I was still able to function in society and care for my children. Some might call it “baby blues,” but that term feels a little trite to me. It was more like the “baby what-the-f-am-I-doing-here dark shades of purple and grays,” in my experience.
Some days, getting out of bed seemed like the most difficult task in the world. Not from normal new mother exhaustion, but from loneliness, guilt, shame and confusion. Not being all, OHMIGODILOVEMOTHERHOOD, left me feeling like a terrible mother, wife and human being. There were days I would cry for hours on end, and other days where I felt nothing at all. The OB/GYN gave me a questionnaire to complete at my 6 week check-up. It asked questions pertaining to the super serious cases – the ones where mothers run off to never be heard from again, or stick around and ultimately cause harm. No, that wasn’t me. I must be okay- I just had to power through it and get over it.
It wasn’t until a moment of beer-fueled vulnerability that I finally admitted all of my feelings to one of my new-found mom friends. Her eyes welled up with tears as she listened to me casually mention it in a “no big deal” sort of way in case her reaction was adverse. She gave me a huge hug and told me she had been feeling the exact same way since the birth of her daughter. From that moment on, we supported each other and helped out when we could see some of that PPD rear its ugly head through our thinly veiled “I’ve got this mother thing all figured out” public personas. Eventually, we both overcame it. Admittedly, medication was helpful for me. But so was time, the rebalancing of hormones and weekly playdates with my friend. During our second pregnancies, we both prepared to nip it in the bud from the birth, and we did – with each other’s support.
I have been writing and re-writing this post in my mind for weeks now. I kept drafting ideas in my head for ways around actually admitting that I had post-partum depression, while still supporting and advising other sufferers. Finally I came to a shocking conclusion: I have to admit it, to say it out loud, because that is exactly why it is such a crippling, devastating affliction. NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT, and that is precisely why I have sweaty palms at the notion of making my struggle public. PPD sufferers often think it is their feelings are their fault, that they are somehow defective or missing something vital in their psyche.
The truth is this: 10-15% of women suffer from post-partum depression. While that may not seem like a large figure at first blush, statistics are irrelevant when you or someone you love is suffering. And if you have ten close friends or relatives that have had babies, then chances are at least one of them has suffered. So for those of you reading this that think this sounds nothing like you and does not pertain to your experiences, look a little closer at your fellow moms. Listen a little longer, and let those moms around you know you are there if they want to talk. If you see a mom struggling, PPD or not, help out with some dinner, offer to take the kids for a bit, or include them in in Mom’s night out. You’d be surprised at how valuable it can be for someone to take the reins for a bit.
If you are reading this thinking, “this sounds like me” (probably no exclamation mark there, we PPD moms aren’t known for our enthusiasm ☺), I have four words for you – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And four more – it will get better. No one will judge you if you let them in to your fears and worries. If they do judge, they are not worthy of your friendship anyhow. This is a temporary affliction, and there is no shame in getting help. Therapy, medication, acupuncture, exercise, what you need to do to feel healthy is okay. Even a sanctioned weekend away from the kids and the hubs – that’s right, tell ‘em I gave you permission – can work wonders. Ultimately, you are #1. Without you, your children will not thrive, so you need to make sure you take care of yourself. Just like in those airplane safety demos – I’m sure you have seen one once when you already finished your US weekly – you have to put on your oxygen mask before your child’s, otherwise you could just wind up looking around at everyone else, gasping for air.