17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Postpartum Depression

When I had my son I experienced absolutely no postpartum issues. I heard the stories and knew the statistics but I turned out fine. I considered myself lucky to come out of pregnancy and childbirth relatively unscathed. When I became pregnant with my daughter, my firstborn was 10 months old. I remember sitting in my kitchen, about 3 months pregnant and telling my husband to watch out because this pregnancy was different. I felt different – couldn’t put my finger on what it was. But I had the presence of mind to alert him to the changes and moved my concerns quietly to the back of my busy brain.

Due to a job change and housing relocation we moved 3 times while I was pregnant. Our last move took us from NYC to the Bay Area; I was 7 ½ months along. Once in CA we camped out in temporary corporate housing and quickly searched for a house. My husband got up to speed on the new job, we put an offer on a house, the offer was accepted and I gave birth. 2 weeks after our daughter was born (via c-section) we closed on our new house and there I was, painting the ceilings, washing walls, picking out carpets, schlepping my children back and forth between homes. When my daughter was 5 weeks old we moved for the 4th and final time of 2004 into our new house. Furniture came out of storage, more painting, moving furniture, getting set up, nursing infant, getting toddler comfortable, landscaping...

And then we were finished settling in.

And then I started to unravel.

It was little things at first. I couldn’t seem to accomplish small tasks, couldn’t even muster the brain power to make a coherent list. Then I started crying out of the blue, at the drop of a hat. Then it progressed to imagining what would happen if I just died and someone else took care of my kids. The color of the sky made me weep uncontrollably. One night as I tried to hush my 8 week old to sleep while my husband was traveling for work, I could literally feel darkness descending around me. I was terrified – what the hell was happening to me? I looked down at my sleeping daughter and knew something was horribly wrong…but I still couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. Why couldn’t I pull it together?

I can honestly say I’m one of the more together people I know and have never in my life been depressed. I am always on the go, fairly organized, confident – there really isn’t much that I would change about how I tackle mothering and the world. I was completely unprepared for what was happening to my mind, my soul, my life.

One night as I was pulling out of our street on the way to pick up my husbands dry cleaning I came to a screeching halt. Literally. I found that I was unable to move the car – it was like I had forgotten how to drive. I could not pull out of my street and instead dissolved into tears a few feet from the busy intersection. I turned around and went back into my driveway and called my best friend, marian. Between that phone call and a long talk with my husband that night I realized that I was in the throes of postpartum depression and that I needed help.

I didn’t know anyone in my new town – all of my close friends were 3000 miles away. I received a blessing from my husband and found a therapist through my insurance company. I was willing to do anything to get out of this awful dark fog I was in, but all she recommended was exercise, making lists and spending some time away from the kids each day. I was skeptical…but I followed her recommendations.

I came out of my postpartum depression relatively easily but I think that’s because I worked hard at getting better and I was just lucky. I fell in love with my husband all over again as he was completely supportive and wonderful throughout the entire process. And I fell in love with my children again. I wanted to be their mother and I was grateful to have them in my life. The sky looked blue again, voices were clearer, food tasted better. My soul took a breath.

I have been quiet about my experience mainly because there is such a stigma attached to depression and mental illness in general. My family still doesn’t know what I went through. So why am I bringing it up now that I am healthy and happy again? Because I met a woman at a Christmas party a month ago and realized that it’s OK to talk about postpartum depression. We were at a small gathering of couples from our ward, chatting in small circles when “Anna” (as I’ll refer to her) walked over. I knew her from church but didn’t really know anything about her. I complimented her on the sleeping 6 month old in her arms and asked her how this, her 3rd baby, was doing. She smiled and said that only in the last month had her life returned to normal, as she had been in and out of the hospital suffering from postpartum depression. My jaw dropped. Her candor was astonishing. She was completely open to answering questions and talking about her experience. Because of my brief conversation with Anna I realized that we as a community of women and mothers need to be more open about topics as charged as depression. How I would have welcomed that kind of candor when I was going through it myself.

Someday I will have a 3rd baby and there is a good chance that I will again experience postpartum depression, probably more acutely than the first time. When that time comes I will be armed with information, the name of a counselor and the knowledge that it’s OK to talk about.


  • First, I'm so glad you're doing better.

    Second, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for talking about postpartum depression in a forum where many people will read your story and learn that it is OK to talk about it, ok to share the story, and OK to ask for help. I had severe ppd/pp-anxiety and pp-ocd after the birth of my son and was paranoid that if I talked about it my husband would leave me and the therapists/doctors/whomever would take awaay my son. All part of the insanity that was happening in my head, and all very untrue, but all very real to me at the time. Ever since I've been "better" I've been on a mission to learn more about ppd and just talk and write about it more in general. The more it's talked about, the more it will help women who have been through it and those who might experience it in the future.
    posted by Blogger Julie at 1/30/2006 09:02:00 AM  

  • Amazing post Chloe, thank you for writing it.

    "I can honestly say I’m one of the more together people I know and have never in my life been depressed. I am always on the go, fairly organized, confident" This is one of those things that makes me shake my head and ask how the heck we ever ended up being friends. There's the Red Sox / Yankees issue, the raging liberal Democrat / Republican issue, and then there's my ongoing depression and your... well anti-depression! So I suppose I was a good person to call in some ways, since it's something I'm intimately familiar with. And I could definitely tell you were NOT the Chloe I knew and loved. I'm glad you got help, I'm glad you got better, and I'm glad you're talking about it now.
    posted by Blogger marian at 1/30/2006 09:15:00 AM  

  • Thank you so much. Like julie, I try to share my PPD with people just so they know it's not as scarce as they think...

    I had PPD twice. Once after my first and once after my 3rd. Both occurred after I had "settled" down as well...very few people know about it that are close to me because I hid it as much as I could. Then I realized that by hiding it, I was enabling it.

    I'm glad you got the help you needed!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 1/30/2006 09:36:00 AM  

  • This post made really hit home with me, it actually made me cry. I have 3 children, ages 8, 6 and 10 months. It wasn't until my last pregnancy that I experienced ppd. This pregnancy and recovery were so different from the first two. Not only had it been a long time since my body had carried a baby, we relocated and found out we were expecting in the same week. I realized how much my family and friends meant to me and how hard it is to have no support system. It wasn't until the baby was almost 7 months that I even started to feel like myself again. Looking back I realize I should have gotten more help. I did talk to my parents on really bad days, but I kept how "bad" things were to myself.
    Now my dh wants to think long and hard before we have another baby. I on the other hand don't feel as relunctant, now that I know what to expect and how to deal with ppd. It has been hard on the whole family.
    posted by Blogger Ellyn at 1/30/2006 09:55:00 AM  

  • Chloe - As a to-be mom in just about 4 weeks I really appreciate you sharing your story. I'm a little nervous about PPD, but am trying to stay open to whatever emotions I feel post-baby. I feel so emotional being pregnant sometimes that it's easy to imagine how PPD can overtake a new mother's body & mind. I for one am grateful for your openness and honesty. Thanks for this post. And I am thrilled that you are feeling better and your DH was there to support you thru everything. Sometimes (hopefully most times) our guys can really pull thru when we need them.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 1/30/2006 12:56:00 PM  

  • I echo the thank yous that have already been expressed. Something that I just learned from a dear friend is that PPD can happen after a miscarriage. I had no idea. I'm glad that people are starting to talk more about PPD and depression in general. It is real and it affects so many. I value these woman-to-woman connections here and the many things I am learning and the support I feel, just knowing that other moms are out there doing their thing. Thank you, everyone!
    posted by Blogger Mrs. M at 1/30/2006 02:06:00 PM  

  • chloe, thank heavens you had marian and your dh. I for one think that i might have denial about PPD if it were to ever happen to me...less because of the silly taboos out their about mental illness but more because I would think: "I have to succeed, I have to be happy about this, I am just tired and sleep deprived...." I think that we are not educated enough to know the signs: "Hmmm...Post Partum Depression? I thought PPD stood for Perpetual Poopy diapers"

    At first I didn't understand why Brooke Shields came out about her PPD in such a dramatic way, but I did listen to what she had to say, and as a result, I think I WOULD recognize the signs if I was in the grips of PPD.

    Thank you for having the courage to share. It was very well written.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/30/2006 05:30:00 PM  

  • Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Kage, I totally agree with you about feeling the need to succeed and just "get through it" post childbirth. That's exactly how I felt and probably why it took 10 weeks after Sophie was born to realize something was wrong. We're hardwired as women to just roll up our sleeves and dig in, especially when it comes to our kids. My ego kind of got in the way of my mental health for awhile.

    I didn't know that PPD can strike many weeks and even MONTHS after your child is born. I figured if I made it to my 6 week checkup and felt decent that I was out of the woods. Not so, and unfortunately, this is a little known fact. Also not having been familiar with signs of depression, I had a hard time recognizing my own symptoms and what they meant. Crying all the time and feeling "sad" aren't the only signs of depression.

    We owe it to ourselves as mothers, wives, women and as a community of supportive friends and bloggers to educate ourselves about PPD. When you come across a bit of information on the subject, take a moment and soak it in. Maybe you won't need it for yourself... but you never know who you may be able to help.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 1/30/2006 09:12:00 PM  

  • Chloe, thank you for being so honest and sharing that with us. I am sad that you were so far away. I would probablly have had a hard time recognizing the symptoms. Now I will be more aware if it happens to me--maybe this time around
    posted by Blogger Brandolyn at 1/30/2006 09:31:00 PM  

  • I had the depression with my second child experience too. I'm so glad when women are willing to be open and share their stories. It has helped me to share and so many people have opened up and admitted it happened to them but they had never told anyone about it or gotten any help.

    Hooray for your husband too. Mine was and is also an excellent support. So few woman are that blessed.
    posted by Blogger The Daring One at 1/31/2006 10:21:00 PM  

  • Chloe,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have so much respect for people willing to put themselves on the line like that and share personal experiences. I also think it showed a lot of courage to get yourself the help you needed, including counseling.

    There have been a couple of times in my life that I could have truly benefitted from seeing a counselor and I basically chicken out.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 2/01/2006 08:06:00 AM  

  • http://blogher.com/mothers-act-join-us-oct-24-save-womens-lives

    I’d like to invite you to participate in the Blog for the MOTHERS Act and PPD blog day on October 24th. On that day we will be encouraging bloggers from around the country to write about the MOTHERS Act and encourage women to call their senators on that day and urge them to support it. If you’d like more information, please let me know. Thank you!

    Katherine Stone
    Postpartum Progress http://postpartumprogress.typepad.com
    posted by Anonymous Katherine Stone at 10/04/2007 08:33:00 AM  

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