Photo: Janelle Capra

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like you traveled in time? The kind of time travel where the feeling is palpable, all too familiar and yet a little unknown. This happened to me recently while on Periscope.  I felt myself almost teleported into a broadcast of someone I had never watched or even heard of before her live ‘scope.  I connected with her instantly but I didn’t know why.  In the midst of her sharing beauty and business tips, she talked about her very personal struggles with postpartum depression.  There it was: my past and present colliding together.  I was brought back to a place where I too had been fourteen years ago.  The recent public tweet by Hayden Panettiere also brought me back to a place that felt all too familiar.  Hayden tweeted, “Feeling like I’m #finally coming back in to my own body!”

Wow, doesn’t that say it all? It’s exactly how many of us moms feel struggling in silence with PPD.  Our bodies do not feel like our own.  Our hearts want so badly to feel the love for our babies.  The love that we see on display, time and time again in the movies, in pictures, by our own friends.  But, we feel helpless almost like we are not in control of our bodies, our feelings or our emotions.  Callie R. Blair, D.O. OB/GYN, Associate Physician, states that as a mom and a doctor she hopes she can convey to patients that they are not alone in the struggle with PPD.  Dr. Blair states, “As a physician I am here to help moms get the help they need, and even though every situation is unique, as a mother of two, I have shared many of their same challenges.”

So if this is you.  If you too are struggling or have struggled with postpartum depression, this blog is dedicated to you.  It is my love letter to all moms battling PPD.

Oh mama, yes you, sitting on the park bench with tears filling up your eyes while your baby sleeps so sweet in the stroller.  It seems like no one knows that this baby, your baby, who is perfect in so many ways, doesn’t feel like yours. People look at you and smile and you force a smile in return when all you really want to do is cry.

I see you.

Oh mama, pretending to enjoy a meal out with your family in a real restaurant with grown up people.  People who love you and your baby.  People who love you, but can’t seem to see that you are not you right now.  Oh how you need someone, anyone to feel how you feel, even if it’s just for one minute so that they will understand that this is so much more than “baby blues.”

I feel you.

Oh mama, rocking your baby to sleep at 3am and looking out the bedroom window.  You see dark houses, no lights on inside, everyone seems to be sleeping except you. You sit there and finally let the tears roll down your cheek that you’ve been holding in all day because it’s just you and your baby and no one needs to know how broken you feel inside.

I am you.

I remember looking into the eyes of my child and wondering, “why don’t I feel anything?” And thinking that already, on day one, I was failing as a mom.  How could I not feel love for my own child? But, I am also here to tell you that as those days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I found my way back to me and to a real love for my baby. For me, it happened one afternoon after doing laundry and singing to Elton John when “Your Song” came on.  I started singing it to my baby, starring into her eyes and just in that moment, it happened. I felt love. It was real, it was unexpected and it was ours.  And, you will find it too.  I write this to tell you from my heart to yours that above all else…

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Please know that you are amazing! You are. You are so much stronger than you ever thought possible.  You are beautiful, loving, giving and kind.  And, most importantly, you will beat postpartum depression.  You will.  And, when you find your way back to your body and to your own love for you baby, just know that we are out here with you holding your hand, giving you virtual high-fives and big hugs.  Yes, we are survivors, warriors even and we have won the battle against PPD.  We unite to share our stories, to support new moms who enter these battle fields and to stand up together to stop the negative stigma of postpartum depression. 

Together, we can change this conversation once and for all.

Together, we can help shine a light and support those suffering in silence.

Together, we can let love in and let love win.

Are you or a loved one suffering with postpartum depression? Let’s keep the conversation going.  Comment right here or join our discussion on Facebook at “Hello Mama” an online support page for all moms who want to share their voice, their struggles, their celebrations. This blog was orignially posted on Huff Post September 5, 2016.

Facts and Myths of Postpartum Depression

Facts:

Postpartum depression (PPD) is depression that occurs up to one year after having a baby. It is distinguished from normal postpartum sadness or “baby blues” that occurs in up to 80% of moms within 2-3 days of delivery but resolves within 2 weeks. 

Symptoms of PPD include but are not limited to: tearfulness, anxiety, anger, guilt, insomnia, difficulty making decisions, fear of hurting your baby, feeling overwhelmed, and questioning your own ability to care for your baby. 

The hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease dramatically in the postpartum period.  This hormone shift occurs in all women, but combined with genetic, environmental, and situational factors, it can result in depression in as many as 1 in 7 women according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG).

Tell your partner, a trusted friend or family member, and most importantly; tell your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Don’t wait for your six-week postpartum visit. The sooner you get help the better. 

It is important for family and/or a woman’s partner to get involved and come to appointments if possible. Loved ones can help convey to the healthcare provider the changes they’ve noticed.  Women often hide or downplay their symptoms and family can help bring light to what really goes on at home. The more information the provider has, the better they can recommend treatment.

PPD can occur in approximately 10% of men within the first 3-6 months of delivery according to one meta-analysis with similar symptoms as PPD in women.

Myths

PPD is the same as postpartum psychosis.  Postpartum psychosis is a severe form of PPD associated with delusions and hallucinations. It is rare at 0.1 % of cases.  PPD is not always associated with psychosis, but untreated can lead to psychosis. 

Only people with underlying psychiatric disorders get postpartum depression.  While PPD is more common in women with a history of another psychiatric disorder, it often happens in women with no prior history.  PPD also affects all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

PPD is “all in your head” and the moms who suffer from it “just need more sleep.”  While it’s true that all moms need more sleep, this will not cure PPD.  Treatment with counseling and antidepressant medications are often needed and advised. Often women have concerns with taking medication and potential side effects, however the side effects of untreated depression are far worse. 

Callie R. Blair, D.O. 

OB/GYN, Associate Physician, 

San Dimas Medical Group

Bakersfield, CA

Sources

1. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology

2. Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: a meta-analysis.

Paulson JF, Bazemore SD

JAMA. 2010;303(19):1961.