I’ve been re-reading the books of one of my favorite authors (authoresses?), Liane Moriarty. She’s an Aussie, and her six novels are at the same time insightful and wickedly funny. She has a talent for capturing the flavor of life as a modern woman, and frequently includes characters who struggle with issues such as domestic abuse, infertility, marriage difficulties, and work/family balance.
Anyway, the book I’m reading now is called “The Last Anniversary”, and I cried when I first read it. Reason? It was the first time that I had read a portrayal of a woman with postpartum depression whose experiences mirrored my own.
When people hear the word depression, they think of sadness. Tears, feelings of hopelessness, lying in bed all day. . . So when women are asked after they have a baby if they feel depressed, they will often deny it because they are not experiencing these things. What they don’t realize is that depression in general, and postpartum depression in particular, can look and feel much different.
I have had four pregnancies and I experienced postpartum depression each time. When I think of those experiences, I don’t think about sadness. I think about anger, irritation, and a creeping feeling that I would never feel energetic and light-hearted again. All of the things that used to bring me joy (my children, my husband, my work, and my home) were nothing more than sources of never-ending demands upon my dwindling supply of energy. I would wake up each morning, still exhausted, and ready to snap at anyone who made the slightest request of me. Instead of looking forward to seeing my children’s faces, I dreaded their constant need of me. I had an insatiable need for order around me, and I hated my family because of the constant chaos that they generated. I was so on edge that I began to think that my family would be better off without me.
Postpartum depression is an insidious beast. It comes creeping up on you, slow and silent, changing your outlook on life until one day you wake up and don’t recognize yourself. You feel ashamed, because you think that you are a terrible mother who doesn’t love her children. You fight against it, thinking that if you can just try harder to hide your feelings, it will go away. And meanwhile, your family, your baby, and you suffer every day. It steals away one of the most precious times of your life.
Postpartum depression is not your fault. And it does not need to last forever.
Link to the Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care (WAPC) for very helpful suggestions about recognizing and dealing with postpartum depression: http://www.perinatalweb.org/themes/wapc/assets/docs/SimpleThingsTearOffSheet.pdf