Like a black cloud coming over you Postpartum/natal depression engulfs you until you can’t see clearly. You lose track of yourself, the person you once were, the person you once loved ceases to exist. I am a doula, I am trained to see PPD/PND in my clients. The warning signs that signal a woman is on a slippery slope were so easy for me to see in my years as a Doula. However when you are that person standing on the ledge its as if you are blinded by the fog. Looking back I can see how it began. Going to bed early, hiding in the bedroom, pulling away from friends and family. All the signs I question my clients for in the months after the birth of a child and I had them all present yet not visible to me. How could I a doula be so blind to the fact that I was losing myself? How could I have allowed this to happen to me? Shame sets in, you begin to feel as though your feelings are wrong. How could I feel so down when I got exactly what I wanted. A baby girl I longed for, a rainbow baby after two early loses. It wasn’t just my own thoughts people are so unaware of what a few simple words do to a mom. The words “at least you have a healthy baby” or “how can you be depressed you have beautiful children”. As if this state of mind was my choice and not my captor.
People think PPD/PND is definable by one set of rules. Like if you have PPD/PND you must be crying all the time, withdrawn from your baby, tired, but it’s not the same for every woman. Where one women will feel those exact feelings others may experience it in the form of anxiety or anger. Some women feel like their baby is in harms way not from themselves but from the world, others may feel themselves are unable to care for their child. Neither one is more definable than the other each leads to the same fog ridden path. When I finally figured out what was going on it was too late. I was knee deep in the fog and my relationship was severely affected. Where stood my once best friend a stranger now took their place. We were so distant and so apart we could hardly see the others pain.
Each day I lived for bedtime, I longed for the hours to go by so I could retreat to my bedroom and be alone with my kids. I lay in my room feeding my youngest and waiting for my toddler to fall asleep. Then I would watch endless hours of Netflix watching one series and moving on to the next. Watching them became a way for me to be numb, to silence the thoughts in my head, to have moments of clear stillness. These characters become my friends in a way, I longed to see them on the screen and felt safe when I was watching them. I reached out to people on Facebook and talked to them about anything but how I was feeling. I withdrew from my friends because I was worried that they would think I was crazy for feeling this way. Shame made me go deeper and deeper into hiding until I was so lost I couldn’t find my way back even if I wanted to.
One night when I was sleeping it came to me, the reason my birth affected me so. It was at that moment that I realized something was seriously wrong with me. I wasn’t myself, I needed to find me again and maybe the way back to my life partner would once again become clear. One simple act during birth, the breaking of my waters, triggered in me a moment in time that had taken place over 20 years prior. A moment I had not thought about for several years had somehow consumed me in a way, and I had no idea it was happening. Once that became clear and I was able to voice it to my partner, I thought it would be easy to return home. It isn’t that simple though, you can’t just return to the moment in time before PPD and pick up where you left off. In the wake of destruction so much has to happen before you an even hope to put the pieces of your old life back. I began taking my placenta tincture, the one I had prepared for myself as I had done for many clients before this birth. I finally started to feel like me again, if it was a placebo affect as some call it so be it, because it saved me.
The fog doesn’t leave right away, it slowly gets clearer but I can’t say you ever feel whole again. Once it touches you it’s almost like it makes a dent in your soul and will remain part of you forever. People need to stop shaming women for feeling this way after birth. They need to realize that it has nothing to do with them or with the children that are born. Of course we are delighted to be mothers, of course we are beyond the moon that we have had these precious babies, it isn’t about that. For those that have PPD/PND due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by the birth it’s ok to feel this way. It isn’t OK for people to say things like at least you have a healthy baby, at least your baby is here alive and well. I wish for once the medical world would see how important birth is not just for baby but for mother as well. More than 50% of the women I spoke to ended a relationship after a bout with PPD/PND. How can we then say that the only thing that matters in birth is a healthy baby? When in the end PPD strips from you months, years of memories you could have had. When it beats your relationship to the point where you may not ever be able to return things to the way they were before? Birth matters of course the health of the baby matters but so does the health of the women, of the mothers of the families.
I lost months, years of my life to PPD/PND. I am not sure how things will play out in my life, I’m not sure if things will ever go back to the way they once were. I’m forced to watch videos of my kids and try to remember how I was feeling when I captured those moments. I am forced to remember a time when the love of my life was also my best friend. I can’t change my past I can only hope that in my pain, in my sorrow you can understand your not alone. I feel your pain and I hope you can see there is no shame in asking for help. The shame lies in the medical staff that ignored our health, it lies in the people who instead of holding us shamed us into feeling like we don’t matter like we needed to hide. Enough is enough we need to stand together and let others know that we aren’t going to hide from it any longer. That were are going to fight for the rights of women everywhere to have their feelings understood, their voices heard and their mental health treated equally as important as their newborn baby. No more silence. To the women who took their own lives because they felt so alone I am so sorry that the system failed you. To the children without a mother now, it was never about you and I am so sorry the system didn’t protect your family. PPD/PND is a horrible road to be on but your not on it alone.