~ A look into the underbelly of what it’s really like to be a mother ~
WARNING: CONTAINS CONTENT THAT SOME MAY FIND DISTURBING.
As of late, I find my fascination with pregnancy growing. What started as a pet project to connect with readers for a maternity-themed “Health & Beauty” turned into a full-blown information rabbit hole. For the past few months, I have been trying to understand more about how tiny humans develop inside of their female human homes. This drew me to asking real mothers about their experiences and found that many of them were quick to demystify a lot of what I had read and/or provided confirmation of others situations.
One very prevalent bit of information that kept popping up, even in the very beginning, was about postpartum depression. Yes, it is not a fun topic to hear or read about, but it is something I was surprised to know that a majority of the mothers around me suffered from in either mild or extreme ways. Let us explore what is being written about this phenomenon.
What is postpartum depression?
“The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect – depression.
Most new moms experience postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth. Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby.” --Mayo Clinic
Any new mom can experience postpartum depression and it can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first. However, your risk increases if:
-You have a history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times.
-You have bipolar disorder.
-You had postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy.
-You have family members who've had depression or other mood disorders.
-You've experienced stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss.
-Your baby has health problems or other special needs.
-You have twins, triplets or other multiple births.
-You have difficulty breast-feeding.
-You're having problems in your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
-You have a weak support system.
-You have financial problems.
-The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted.
Armed with the above information and more, I sent out a list of questions to some of the mothers I know on Facebook. For purposes of keeping my article short, I had to go with the few mothers who stood out to me. However, this does not mean that others didn’t suffer from postpartum depression, but these were at very different ends of extremity.
Here are the questions I sent them:
- How were your first two weeks after having your baby?
- Did you feel that seven weeks was enough to head back to work?
- Did you have to request more time off?
- Was your birth a C-section?
- When you went back to work, did you have trouble adjusting?
- Did you experience postpartum depression?
- Did you have your mother/father/partner’s help?
- First two weeks? “It was hell. Having my kids (I had twins) was not anything like I had read about or was told about. I was alone from the beginning of my pregnancy till present. It reached to the point where I wanted to get rid of them because it was just too much. They were always crying. I never got any sleep for a month because 1 slept during the day while one was up and the other at night while one was up. I had thoughts of getting rid of them (suffocate) it even reach to a point where one day I had a pillow over my baby’s face for two seconds. I couldn't take it anymore and it haunts me every day. But that was the part no one spoke of the real part.”
- Was seven weeks enough? I had an awesome boss who gave as much time home with my babies because he has kids and always says that kids are a blessing and will do anything for them. I was away from work for almost six months. They were born in November and I went back to work almost in February.
- More time off? No I did not. My boss and I made arrangements so instead of working full-time I was part-time. I would come in at 8:00am and leave at 12 noon. It worked for him and me. He wanted me to spend as much time as possible with them because he knew how important it was. And I will always be thankful for that.
- C-section? No it was not. I pushed both my big-headed babies out [lol]. I did not want a C-section and I searched until I found someone who would deliver my breeched and non-breeched baby. My daughter was breeched and my son wasn't and they both came out the vaginal canal.
- Trouble adjusting? It was very easy to adjust back to work because I know I was seeing them at 12 noon regardless. And I also thought of it as my little break from them because it was so much for me dealing with them without their dad.
- Depression? Yes, and full-blown too. In the first question, I mentioned I covered my child with a pillow to stop the crying. It wasn't because I wanted to. It's because the mental state I was in was postpartum depression and it wasn't until last December I figured it out. I have been dealing with the depression from 2015 until I actually got help and I must say, so far, I'm doing better. It's a real thing and even though I'll be judged for what I did in the past, I won't let it hurt me because now I know and understand that I wasn't myself entirely. Please get help, ladies, after your kids, it's worth it.
- Help? Nope. I was alone.
“I can share mines now [lol] but it was not easy. I hated myself and my baby in the beginning. Thank God for my mother's patience and assistance.”
- First two weeks? First two weeks was okay. I was happy and I loved the baby.
- Was seven weeks enough? Seven weeks was not enough time.
- More time off? Yes, I had to.
- C-section? Yes, my birth was by C-section.
- Trouble adjusting? It was hard. I went back after three months and still had trouble adjusting; I couldn't lift anything.
- Depression? Yes, it hit me two months after giving birth.
- Help? Yes, my mother and my friend who was a nurse. She came by every morning to help with bathing until I got better. Postpartum depression is real; I still can't believe it. I just find that women should be prepared not only financially, but mentally before planning to have a baby. Now when I had my second son in the US, I was provided a team that guided me through everything from start until I returned back St. Maarten. Apart from the different doctors, I had a nutritionist and a psychologist. And I had to stay in the hospital for a week to ensure that I was ready mentally and physically before going home. They also asked if I had anyone at home to help me out or a nurse would have been provided.
- First two weeks? Honestly, the first two weeks are a blur of just trying to keep up with trying to feed my daughter and trying to sleep. I kept trying to breastfeed, but didn't produce enough to satisfy her so I literally spent all day with her on me and I was just tired and anxious all the time if I was doing stuff correctly.
- Was seven weeks enough? I'm on the fence about the seven weeks thing. On one hand, I hated having to leave her in a day-care because it's expensive and because she's so little and vulnerable. On the other hand, I needed to get out of the house and feel productive again. If her dad was around (or any other family member really) to keep her while I could do something part-time, I think seven weeks wouldn't be too bad.
- More time off? I did not request more time off.
- C-section? No, I had a vaginal birth.
- Trouble adjusting? It was sort of difficult, yes, but creating a routine and sticking to it helped a lot. The first week she went to day care, I called a few times to check in and I had trouble figuring out what routine would work best, especially when babies change so much in such a short time. After I got the routine down, the worst part was just the exhaustion from waking up to feed her at night.
- Depression? Yes. I went into some dark places for no particular reason and I was told that I'd get over it and that babies are a blessing, just be happy. Not being able to breastfeed and the times that I couldn't calm Mimi down but someone else could made me feel like a failure and the depression magnified that. Looking back on it, I wish they had talked more about postpartum depression in those pre-natal classes I went to.
- Help? My parents were back in SXM and my then boyfriend was in New York. I had my sister, which was helpful because she would take care of cooking meals but that was essentially it.
Writer takeaway: “First I’d say that it kind of shook me that so many women I knew were suffering from postpartum depression and that many of them didn’t receive mental health treatment for it, they just pushed through. Also, it’s sad to think that if you’re a single mother with nobody to help you, there are very few facilities for mothers and postpartum care on the Dutch side of the island. It was pretty difficult to hear and even less fun to write, but these women need to get their stories out there and let others know they’re not alone.”
Tune in to the next article where I delve into the idea of introducing paternity leave as well as extending maternity leave.