A Healthy Road Ahead
My son has started Kindergarten and my daughter is 9 months old now. It wasn’t easy but I have done very well with treatment. I am continuing to attend the Pacific Post Partum Support Society support group, get regular exercise, eat well and take my antidepressant medications. I have also joined a parenting group to meet other mothers like me with young children.
Now when I look at my baby I feel like I have everything to live for and that the dark cloud has lifted. When I smile at her, she smiles back.Some days I feel badly I was so caught up in my depression that I lost some valuable time with my children. I realize though there is lots of time for healing. I focus now on spending as much quality time with them as I can.
“When my son turned one, I left the group. My life was still challenging but I had some new ways of coping with it all. If felt a sense of healthy control. I had learned some valuable skills. I had difficult days after that, but never the desolation I had once known. I began to value myself, form supportive relationships and take care of myself—resting when the children napped, taking a relaxing bath with a lit candle. When things got rough, I would go out on my front step and take deep breaths of fresh air. And I gave myself a pat on the back often. I learned that the myths of motherhood can get you in big trouble (myths like good mothers never get angry; women instinctively know how to be mothers; I should be able to anticipate my children’s needs). As a mom, I had write my own description of motherhood and not buy into common motherhood myths.”
While I am feeling better, I still worry that my depression may come back some day. Or if my partner and I decide to have another child, I’m terrified I will go through another postpartum depression. Because I have had one episode, I know there is a greater chance of becoming depressed again. Other women in my support group tell me they worry about the same thing.
In one of our support group meetings, we talked about how to reduce the chance of the depression returning, called a relapse. Our group facilitator said the skills we have developed to manage our depression can also be used to prevent it. We were reminded of the NESTS tips. Also, now that we know the ‘red flags’ for depression, we can ask for help early and not let ourselves get too run down. She said that temporary ‘lapses’ in mood are very common. They usually pass with time and with a focused effort on self-care. She said to think of a lapse as a ‘reminder call’. She suggested making a personal wellness plan listing our ‘red flags’, what to watch for, and what to do if we notice any of these signs. She reminded us that if the signs do not go away after a short while or if they become very upsetting to us, we should see our doctor. She gave me a handout for preventing relapse.
“I have wondered from time to time what effect, if any, my postpartum depression may had on my daughter. . . But if I catch myself worrying about this when I see her occasionally struggle with issues, I check in with my friends to see if their children have similar problems. I’ve learned over the years that her struggles are a normal part of any child’s development. At age 12, my daughter is thriving. My improved self-esteem and the communication and self-care skills I gained while resolving my postpartum depression have had, I believe, a far greater effect on her.”
My doctor told me that even though my risk is higher because I’d experienced postpartum depression once, it didn’t mean for certain I’d develop depression in my next pregnancy. But he did say that it will be important that I work with him and others on my health care team to monitor my mood during future pregnancies. We will also need to talk about whether I need to continue with antidepressants. He said that many types of antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy.
“Reflecting back over the years, I realize I am grateful for my postpartum depression. Without it, I may never have learned to care for myself or to relate well to others. I have found renewed faith in myself and great purpose in my life. My growth has enabled me to set and achieve new goals. My husband and I have recently realized our long-time dream of building our own home from where I write my story. Ten years ago, noting could have convinced me that any of this was possible.”
I was once asked to provide advice to women to help them avoid some of my pain.
Here are the things I suggested:
- Think about the kind of support you need early and who can give it to you. Build your circle!
- Take care of yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be able to take care of your baby or your family.
- If you’re feeling down or anxious, talk to somebody right away.
- Do not delay seeking help!
“Things have changed for me now. I enjoy my children so much and have worked hard to maintain a balance between their needs and mine. I have learned that giving to myself is not selfish. When I nurture myself, I also nurture my family. If I find myself feeling blue or angry and oppressed now, I usually find I’ve had very little time to myself. I treat these feelings as red flags—warnings—and put my feet up, grab a nice cup of tea, and have a hard look at what I need to get back on track.”
W.P., Powell River
Postpartum depression has a beginning and an end. Other women have described depression during this time like being in a fog. Getting better can be like a rollercoaster ride in and out of the fog. But after a while, once women get the support they need, the good days start to outweigh the bad, the fog begins to lift and the ride is less wild. Like it has with me, the sun breaks through and there is hope again.
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