PPD Recovery Stories “Without proper sleep I could not take care of myself or parent him properly”

Welcome to this month’s monthly PPD Recovery Story! This month we get to see just how much of a different sleep can make to your mood.

  1. How would you describe your postpartum experience? 

The first 7 months of my son’s life felt like a blur. My whole world felt upside down, and I couldn’t find my place in it. Some days were okay and I got out and did things and felt like I was coping and others were so dark I couldn’t function. I felt hopeless and like a failure as a mother. I worried I had made a mistake by having my son because I would “ruin” him. When I finally got treatment and started on medication for PPD/PPA things slowly started to improve. Luckily, as I got better, I was able to enjoy the last few months of my maternity leave. I went from barely surviving, to feeling like myself again and actually looking forward to my time with my son.

  1. Did you receive a formal diagnosis of a postpartum mood and adjustment disorder?  If so, how did you receive that diagnosis? If not, did you seek one? 

I have a history of depression/anxiety and it runs in my family. When I was pregnant, my doctor proactively referred me to a women’s reproductive mental health clinic at the hospital where I would be delivering. The psychiatrist wanted me to start on antidepressants immediately following the birth of my son, but I resisted. At the time, I felt fine and I was too worried about the medication getting to him through my breastmilk (even though I was assured it was not a big risk). After I had him, and the “baby blues” never left, I felt like I should be able to “handle” things on my own. I kept convincing myself that if he would just sleep better and if I could just make breastfeeding work, I would be okay. Finally, things got so bad I accepted that I was experiencing PPD/PPA and I needed professional help to recover. I was formally diagnosed by my psychiatrist.

  1. What was your postpartum experience like at it’s worst? How did you know it was time to get help? 

At its worst, I had such severe insomnia I could not sleep for days. I felt like I was losing my mind and that I would never feel “normal” again. I was hopeless and in despair. Everything felt dark and I was crying all the time. I was afraid to take care of my son because I couldn’t remember basic things like when he last ate. My mom moved in with me and my partner to help us care for him.

  1. What kinds of supports do you credit with your recovery (medication, one on one therapy, group therapy, naturopathic care, etc)?

Medication for PPD/PPA and for sleep was the turning point for me. Without medical intervention, I would not have recovered as well as I did.

  1. When did things start to turn around? 

A few months after I started medication and after we finally decided to sleep train my son, things began to turn around. My son was waking up 5 – 10 times a night for months, and I realized that without proper sleep I could not take care of myself or parent him properly.

  1. What kind of support did you have from partners, family or friends?

My mother was incredible and a played a huge role in my recovery. She was a constant source of support, unconditional love and took care of my son (and me!) when I couldn’t. My husband tried his best to be supportive, but the situation was very challenging for him too and he worked a lot. I never hid my PPD/PPA from friends, but I did not know many people struggling as much as I was.

  1. What helped the most? 

Medication! Realizing that I was not a failure as a mother because of my PPD/PPA. Letting people help me. Finding an online community of other moms going through the same thing.

  1. What helped the least? 

Certain online parent groups were distressing for me. I would go looking for support/community, but end up feeling isolated as my son was very high needs as a young baby and I did not have an easy postpartum experience like some other mothers. I was left feeling like there was something wrong with him and me.

  1. What kind of support plan do you have in place ongoing?

I am still on medication and I meet with my GP regularly to check-in in regards to my mental health. I am intentional about self-care, like getting regular exercise, alone time and sleep. My husband and mother are there when I need to talk through things.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to a parent struggling with their postpartum mood, what would that be?  

You are not alone and you are not a failure. Do not be afraid to seek help.

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