No mom wants to suffer from postpartum depression. Most moms experience it in some degree. Few moms will openly admit to. We don’t want people to think we don’t love our babies or that we’re not grateful for them. We tell ourselves that moms everywhere are successfully having and raising babies, and that we should be able to as well. We tell ourselves it’s just a phase and that it will pass, but we do few things to aide it’s passing.
I don’t know if this is standard practice or just something with the hospital I delivered at, but when I went in for my 6 week postpartum checkup I had to take an evaluation for my risk of postpartum depression. It wasn’t an official psych evaluation, but it would serve as a red flag if something could be wrong. A score over 10 meant that I was at risk for postpartum depression. I scored a 22.
For 6 weeks, I suffered but thought it was normal. The exhaustion, the fight to keep going, the crying; I thought this was just part of being a new mom. Then I took the evaluation and had an open conversation with my doctor. Yes, it was normal in the sense that most moms experience they same highs and lows after giving birth. But no, it was not healthy and should not be ignored.
After leaving her office, I had to have more candid conversations with my husband, our parents, and my boss. Until I could take the depression evaluation and score a 10 or below, my doctor would not clear me to return to work. I would need to enlist the help of friends, family, and yes medication to get to that point.
It was a struggle to get better. I had to learn boundaries; what I could handle on my own and when I needed to ask for help. I had to learn to ask for help. We would have my mother-in-law over just so I could go for a 30 minute run and take a shower.
It took another 6 weeks and multiple appointments with my doctor before I finally “passed” my evaluation. Even then, my doctor said she wanted to keep me on the current dosage of Zoloft for a year. She said we needed to be realistic; there would be more challenges over the course of the first year and we needed to keep me functioning.
It hurts to think about that experience. To remember the mornings that I would wake to Milo’s cries and would be frozen in bed, I didn’t think I had the strength to get myself up and face another day. To remember the days Nick would come home from work and I would desperately tell him I needed him to take Milo from me. I’d go in the bedroom and sob. It was all so hard. And it’s hard to think back on it and not feel guilt and shame.
It wasn’t until this week that I realized the fog has finally lifted. I’m no longer treading just trying to keep my head above water. I’m actually thriving!
Sure, I’ve run 2 marathons which could be a measure of my postpartum success. I’m managing my household; making dinner every night, baking bread, cleaning the bathroom, etc. They’re all wonderful accomplishments.
But the real mark of achievement has come from our church family. On multiple occasions they have commented to me on how well I handle Milo on Sunday mornings. (For those who don’t know, Milo is the only child in our church. We don’t have a nursery, so I have to entertain Milo every Sunday while trying to also listen to the service.)
Nick had a Church Council on Monday, when he came home he told me that more people were talking about my parenting skills. They were impressed with how well I kept my cool on Sunday mornings. I do my fair share of complaining about the situation; I sometimes feel cheated that God would call us to a place that offers me no support as a mom. But as I thought about it this week, I realized that I get frustrated with the circumstances, not with Milo. And more importantly, I don’t take Milo’s mischief and wandering personally. The fact that he likes to explore does not make me feel like I have no control over my child.
A year ago, this wouldn’t be true. A year ago, I would have been frantic. A year ago, I would have been visibly distraught. A year ago, I would not be able to emotionally handle this situation. Thank God that time and the fog have passed!