by humanmama on June 13, 2011

A neighbor came over today with her three girls and we got to talking about postpartum depression a little. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. I think that all doctors should tell all pregnant women (actually all women. Maybe right after puberty) “You WILL be getting postpartum depression. Just so you know. Here’s your free voucher for three months of therapy, and if you need we can get you more help and/or medication.”

If doctors said this, you wouldn’t be so blown away when you got postpartum depression. You’d still get it, of course. But you wouldn’t be so surprised. And maybe you’d actually get some help and feel better so much faster.

Instead, the impression is that you miiiiight get the “baby blues” after you deliver (no mention of the blues you’ll feel at 6, 7, 8 months, pre-partum…). And you could, of course (though it’s a very small and unlikely chance)–maybe–get the “Depression.” MDD: Major Depressive Disorder. Yes, you might get a disOrder! But probably not, heh heh [slap on back].

That is the feeling when you first are pregnant, so that when you do inevitably develop a case of depression, you do what most women do and suffer through, taking utmost care of that little beanbag you just delivered and absolutely no care of yourself whatsoever, and wonder daily (though tears) why the hell you feel so terrible. I mean, “I’m getting two hours of sleep in a row and totally responsible for someone else’s life 100% of the time. But why do I feel so sad?!”

Men and women go through postpartum. In different ways. And I think women who bear children and women who adopt go through it as well. There’s so much that goes into play–maybe loss of one income. Fears of becoming your parents or family. Fears of the unknown (“how to take care of a baby”). Loss of your body, your “me” time, your former self. Getting to know an entirely new person who may be (**probably will be) very demanding and mysterious, at least for the first few months. And a new feeling, when you’ve always been in control before…a new little feeling that you’re not in control anymore and you can’t stop juggling or things might fall apart.

But we’re all given the idea that Depression is manifested as drowning your children in the bathtub. So that would never be us. (Note: if you are feeling that way, feel free to email me ASAP.)

I think I had postpartum with Helena for the first year. I was walking her back and forth in the hallway in the summer of ’06, bawling, hot, sweating, (we don’t have a/c, just window units, and there are none in the hallway), and just a mess. Carpenter couldn’t hear me in our room, just peacefully sleeping away through the a/c blasting, and Helena and I were both crying at the top of our lungs. Miracle of all miracles, he awoke, heard us, came out, took the baby, and I curled back into bed in the fetal position. A sane person would have thought “Hm, I might need some  help here.” But thanks to those hormones and a terrible crushing sense of guilt and responsibility, I didn’t get help. After she turned a year, and then 18 months, I looked back on those times shaking my head, thinking, I was just not right! But I didn’t know then. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

With Lilly, Carpenter took off one month of work and that time will remain blissfully in my mind as the best time ever. Utopia of baby-having. We awoke together at 3am, I nursed while we watched Frontline or Nature on PBS, and when I was done he would take the sleeping baby, change her diaper, and put her back in bed. AWESOME. So my postpartum didn’t come until lately–Carpenter’s working a ton, and a side job, and we’re running around like crazy. Lilly’s in the throws of being two and suddenly I’m feeling exhausted, run-down, and that lump in my throat that says “no one better be nice to me or I’ll start to cry.”

I think the two best things for being depressed are company and therapy. And if you can’t afford therapy, call your neighbors, or friends, or local whatever and get together with other parents. Women are better at networking, so I see a lot of dads around here that need a buddy, too. A chance to get together with other dads and talk, or at least hang out. Stay-at-homers are terrible at getting help because your kids are so much a part of your lives (*our lives) that it’s really an extra hassle to get some help or even time to yourself. But let’s do it! Let’s make an effort to take care of us. Since, if we don’t, our kids will suffer anyway.

Moral: you will get postpartum (pre-partum too maybe). So get some help. It’ll prove invaluable. (And now, if you don’t, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. But you will. Trust me.)

Oh, man. Does that mean you’ll make me get help too?! Let’s start with coffee. My place. Bring your kids.Lilly Beans





Editor’s note: I had a few women email or message me to say they never got any sort of depression. And although I am jealous if you didn’t, I challenge all of you to remember (to paraphrase a friend) how you “cried at the drop of a hat in the days following the birth of [your] children.” Like most women, even if you are truly in a Depressive episode, you will probably NOT be diagnosed with any sort of depression unless you bring it to a doctor’s attention. Which is not the New Mother’s strong suite. I was never officially diagnosed with anything, but looking back I can say, yep, that was a very hard time and I was not myself. If you don’t feel blissful at the first few months of being a mother, don’t worry. It’s okay to feel like that. You’re not alone. And, it WILL get better. So get together with some friends or go make some, even though it’s super hard to do, and spend some time taking care of yourself, too. It will pay off. I promise.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess June 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Oh yah. So hear you on this one. The late-starting kind is what I’m going through now. Pheebs is 14 months, and I’m feeling like a Lifetime special. I wish I had your networking skills. Hang in there :)


Jessica June 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm

omg this is me. Just yesterday I said to hubs “I feel like all I ever do is clean and cook like some 50s wife”. His response (like omg, he was actually home to hear it)? ” You signed up for this”. W.T.F?

You and I need to stop being lazy and start hanging out more. Does Carpenter work weekends too, b/c that is my most lonely time, as I’m only off 2 days a week.


aj June 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm

EVIL. Working parent should NEVER be allowed to say along the lines of “this is what you wanted—right–…?!???” to stay-at-home parent. Ew. Tell him he sucks. Better: make him a list like I did in my “10 things” post and try to be nice, and then he will realize how much he sucks on his own and make up for it in myriad ways. I hope : ) Or just tell him I say he sucked.


Amanda June 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I absolutely love this post. I was the SAME way when Scouty was born and I SO wish I would have been brave and informed enough to seek out help. You’re amazing and this post is amazing.


Emily June 15, 2011 at 10:40 am

I think I was definitely having postpartum after my second Noah. I was definitely not myself either and I cried a lot! The stress of a newborn!!


Hol June 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Agreed. I didn’t even HAVE the kid, and when Ellen came home with the baby and we were a family all of a sudden, it was like a system shock.


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