Ottawa Doula Services
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Blog discussing pregnancy, birth & parenting in Ottawa. 

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ABC's of Pregnancy, Birth & Early Parenting- Depression (Part 4)

For the last few weeks, I've been sharing stories of brave, strong and amazing mothers who have lived through postpartum depression (part 1, part 2, part 3). How they knew something was wrong and how they got better. PLEASE know that you are never alone. We want to talk to you, we want to support you. If you are expecting or have a child under age 2, please feel free to join us over on our Facebook group "Pregnant in Ottawa". We would love to have you join us and support you through this journey. 

Seeking help does not make you weak, it is truly the best thing you can do for you, your child and your family. 

I was already on depression medication when I was pregnant. My son was maybe less than 2 weeks old and I felt off. Something just wasn't right. I had bad thoughts about hurting myself or my son. I went to the doctor immediately in the morning and he adjusted my medication. Luckily my mom was staying with my husband and I and I told both of them not to leave me alone with the baby until the new medication kicked it. It took about 5 days and then I felt back to normal.
It was pretty scary. -J mom of 1.

While my pregnancy for me was easy the birth was traumatic and scarring.  It ended up being an emergency c-section under general anesthetic after being forced to wait almost 13 days past the due date.  The weeks after were a kind of honeymoon period but then things started to change.  I just felt off and really upset at what had happened and at that point, how my life had changed.  I was not able to breastfeed and the guilt, pressure, and meanness from others was very difficult to handle especially since I was already fragile.  I stayed away from other moms and any social agency so I wouldn't get judged or pressured into breastfeeding.  I tried but had a hard time bonding with my son (not because I wasn't breastfeeding) but because I was so overwhelmed and not sure that we had made the right choice to have a kid. The guilt over questioning whether we should have had a child coupled with the me not "doing what was expected" re breastfeeding, having a c-section, and getting an epidural was scary, isolating, and damaging to my self esteem.  I was an outsider and often made to feel it.
In the beginning I just dismissed it as the blues but then it didn't go away and just carried on.  My husband was posted when my son was 6 months so I was left on my own throughout the week, which made things more difficult. We have no family up here so it was extremely isolating and I had no friends who had kids. On the weekends, my husband was responsible for everything kid related which gave me a break but made me feel guilty because I really wanted time away.
I didn't really get any help although I did speak to my doctor.  She did refer me to a psychologist who was a nut and did not help the situation.  I left after 2 sessions.  I isolated myself in my house for a bit and then tried to force myself out so that my son could engage with other babies but I felt like an outsider with other moms.  I tried to seek out people like me who had made similar decisions so I could feel normal.  I found that this was helpful and that others had gone through what I was going through.  It was a relief but it felt very secretive because we were all scared of being judged by other moms.
 I finally tried to focused on my mental health by asking myself what my mental health was worth to me (was it worth a clean house, was it worth a lavish dinner, was it worth engaging with people who weren't supportive).  Thankfully we were able to hire people to help out on things that were really overwhelming me and I could focus on my son and I.  I went back to work when my son was 10 months and ended up going off on sick leave shortly after due to a myriad of reasons.  At that time he was in daycare and we made the decision to keep him in daycare while I recovered. I was in therapy and was able to process everything and it was there that I was diagnosed with having postpartum depression.  It wasn't until then that I could see the light.  My husband and I also agreed that we needed one night a week to ourselves.  I took up pottery and he took up woodworking.  It is our time to nature our own selves- free from any responsibilities.  We make sure the cost is in the budget and the those nights are protected from scheduling conflicts.
I would add that my husband also was traumatized by the birth and suffered from postpartum depression (an issue that is not often addressed) amongst other issues.  He just pushed on and didn't say anything until he almost broke.  Postpartum depression affects the whole family.
When you have postpartum depression you aren't functioning properly so you ability to make a decision to get help is difficult especially since the child comes first and you aren't thinking straight. A lot of things that people passed off as me being a laid back (or hands off) parent was really me not giving a crap about because I was depressed. The comments did stay in my head and then swirled around and had me further questioning my abilities.  A number of people talked down to me like I was an idiot or passed everything off as a first time mom (which is infuriating), so finding someone who would speak to me like an adult and with compassion and not condescension was important.  I also did meditation exercises and yoga, which I found helped centre me.  Finally, when I was offered drugs by my doctor, I took them.  I realized that I need a multi pronged approach, my reserves were exhausted, and I really wanted to get better.
It has been a struggle and one that I still struggle with at times 2.5 years later.  We are in a better place and reaching out for help (and finding the right help) was essential.  I have not joined any postpartum support groups as I was wary of being in a group that focused on being a victim.  For me it was important to find something that would empower me and given me strength to pull myself out and reach out a hand when needed and on my own terms.
Postpartum depression is complex and a number of things can influence its degree of severity. For me it took a medical and non medical approach but that's not always how overcoming postpartum depression is presented. You have to do what's right for you. Listen to all options given and make a decision. At a certain point depression does become an urgent medical issue and it's okay to reach out to a doctor as well as engage other non medical professionals. -J mom of 1

My symptoms began the moment they handed me my son. I cried uncontrollably in hospital and couldn't have decided between paper or plastic, and I made non-stop decisions for a living. I kept asking if it was normal and was told that it was "baby blues". I felt like there was a conspiracy. If people actually felt this crappy after having kids, why wasn't anyone talking about it? Every day was a struggle. The worst was the anticipation of the night to come. The dread was like a dark cloud that sucked the life from you. Hardest though was when people would say "You're lucky. He's so easy". I kept thinking that I must be the worst mom ever, because he was so easy and I was barely keeping my head above water. For my 6 week checkup, my husband came along and told the nurse that there was something very wrong. Thank God he did because I would've just continued assuming it was my fault and I was the failure.
I started medication and it was like the fog lifted just enough to see again. It wasn't a cure, but boy did it help to build confidence and seek out what I needed.
I had no warning signs. No history of mental illness. High stress job, and I liked it that way. I threw out all the pamphlets while pregnant, because it couldn't happen to me.
It happened again with my second child, and it was almost worse because I thought I was prepared.
I'm delighted to report that I didn't get it for number 3 and it was like a switch flipped and I'm more like my pre-kid self than ever.
Tell someone. Ask for help. Accept help when offered. Talk to people. You are not alone. Far from it.  -K mom of 3

My story and my situation I wouldn't identify as 'baby blues', but definitely post partum anxiety. My husband and I tried for 8 years (6 of which were trying every fertility treatment we could) before finally having our little peanut trough IVF. I really had started to think it would never happen, as anything that could go wrong seemed to along the way. Anyways, very shortly after having her I realized how terrified I was that something was going to happen to her, I over thought every move I made, everything I did, terrified something was going to happen to her. Specifically the stairs, I really had to mentally prepare myself to go up and down the stairs. I really started to obsess over this during night feeds, it was all I could think about as I sat in her nursery feeding her. I would dread the walk back to our bedroom to put her in her bassinet because I had to walk by the railing in the loft area overlooking the stairs. This would only happen at night. Then one evening at about 8 pm the anxiety really set in, I was starting to get anxious about the middle of the night feed and having the feeling of her falling down the stairs. My husband could tell something was wrong and finally I explained to him how I had been feeling, his first response was that he was sorry that' this was happening and that it was likely something all moms experienced. The next night same thing, terrified about the night feed to come and those fears of the stairs, heart racing, pure panic. My husband would happily get up to feed her during that feed but I insisted I could do it (the idea that I couldn't devastated me). That night when I was walking her back to our room I found myself leaning (even rubbing) against the wall to get as far away from the stairs as possible. I put her in her bassinet as adorable and as peaceful as ever and lay in bed wondering what I should do, knowing I had to do something, mommas mental health is so important. So in the morning I talked to my husband again about it, he simply said you need to sleep, I will do that feed, you do so much for her, this will be our time to let you rest, and that was it. Best decision we ever made. I then called the fertility clinic and sought out the services of the psychologist there because I knew that I needed to be mentally help immediately comforted by her, first thing out of her mouth was "nobody told you it would be this hard did they? Nobody told you it was possible to love something so much". I knew I had made the right choice, for me, for my little girl, for our family. I will see her as often as I can, being a mom is hard, understanding the hormonal emotional roller coaster is nearly impossible without help. -N mom of 1

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to everyone who shared their stories. 

Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 and please share this with any mothers you know so they know they are not alone in this fight. 

Sherry Theriault