This is a really positive thing. Depression is a topic that needs to be normalized because it’s still largely underground and stigmatized. At SWC, we sometimes work with mothers who are dealing with depression, or mothers teetering on the verge of psychosis. Here are the facts: Depression is very real. It needs to be taken seriously. It affects everyone, not just the one individual who is currently struggling.
It took an hour to get ready to go anywhere. Diapers, snowsuits, nursing, strollers, bags, meltdowns, please, for the sake of everything, keep your boots on. Where is the other mitten? Taking an hour to go to the store for 30 minutes felt ridiculous. It was too hard to go anywhere so generally I didn't bother. The first winter with two babies I felt trapped inside - both physically trapped in my house, but also dealing with that "trapped" feeling of having a new baby. Lack of sleep, not eating regularly and overwhelmed with laundry. I wasn't doing a great job taking care of myself.
Here’s one of the worst days from that winter:
I don't know what was going on that day other than I was at the end of my rope. I don't remember the circumstances that built up to that afternoon, but I remember being way out of my depth emotionally and mentally. I remember sitting against the wall in the hallway and crying. That ugly cry that comes when you have really, truly, run out of anything to give any longer and you just hate the whole universe right now. My toddler, Cordelia, came over to watch me cry. She didn't have a lot of words yet but she looked stunned and concerned. Oh great, now there's that guilt of making your kid feel uncomfortable too. She went off and came back in a moment with a stuffed toy, which she handed to me. She watched me silently again for a moment, and when the toy didn't stop mama crying she went off again. This time she came back with a can of Ginger Ale. In retrospect this was probably a good idea because I'm sure I hadn't eaten much that day and my mood couple probably be improved with a kick of blood sugar. I accepted the can and took her advice to drink some of it. She continued to watch me with a gentle frown like she was really working out something in her busy toddler mind.
Then she tried one last thing. She climbed into my lap, facing me, chest to chest and tucked her head under my chin. She put her arms on my shoulders and leaned her little body from side to side.
She was rocking me.
I was startled. This is how we soothed her - a cuddle and maybe a few minutes in a quiet place rocking in our arms. So she was trying to comfort me the same way. I have a degree in Early Childhood Studies but still, her depth of empathy and understanding surprised me despite the fact that I had spent many hours in a classroom learning about it. I held her, she held me, and it was a weird reversal of roles. We rocked.
Had that day been an isolated situation it may have been fine. But now that I'm out of it I can recognize what it was - postpartum depression.
My postpartum depression sinks in late. After Cordelia was born it hit me at about 5-6 months postpartum. After Blaze was born, same thing. That means I'm well off the radar of my midwives, and out of any sort of clinical support system. And mostly we have all heard that postpartum depression sets in approx. 6 weeks after birth or earlier, so since I believed that I decided that this wasn't PPD at all. No way. It was a lot more than 6 weeks. What did I have it be depressed about anyway?
Guess what. PPD does not always look like what it looks like on the TV commercials for the bus stop ads. But that doesn't mean it’s not real or that you don't deserve support.
You may not see in coming. In fact you probably won't notice the change because it just becomes your "new normal". But other people may see the changes, and if they are starting to notice something you should pay attention as well. Perhaps they are seeing something that you can't see right now since you are too deep in it.
If we have a third baby, I know that I'm likely to get hit with depression again. But I'm not afraid of it because I now know to see it coming. I know what to do and how to get myself support. It doesn't need to be scary. But it does need to be talked about. Keep the discussion going.
Doula at Sisterhood Wellness Collective, Toronto