We are thrilled to welcome back Becky Schroeder of Moms Mental Health Initiative to MkeMB. Last year, Becky and MMHI co-founder, Sarah Ornst Bloomquist, joined us by sharing the story of how two Milwaukee area moms saw a need, grabbed hold of a dream and ran full speed ahead to make it a reality. What a honor it is to partner with Moms Mental Health Initiative as we explore postpartum mental health as we celebrate the miracle of birth and Mother’s Day this May!
I didn’t feel depressed, not in the beginning at least.
I knew what clinical depression felt like because I had suffered through it in the past, and this felt different.
I had just had a baby weeks before, and I thought I knew what I needed to know about postpartum depression. I had even mentioned to my husband during my pregnancy that I was at risk for developing it because of my prior history with depression and anxiety. But this just wasn’t it. I was sure of it. I had no idea what this was, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t postpartum depression.
I wasn’t crying all the time, wasn’t sad, wasn’t disengaged, unmotivated, hopeless, or suicidal. Some of those things came later, but for weeks I was dealing with symptoms that were truly confusing to me, many of which could have been chalked up to having a newborn and doing this all for the first time — I just wasn’t sure what was normal and what wasn’t.
My first symptom of postpartum depression was insomnia. I laid awake in bed all night, eyes wide open, mind racing a mile a minute, while my newborn baby slept like a rockstar. After many nights of getting just an hour or two of sleep, I started to get pretty desperate for rest. I still wasn’t sure if this was normal, but I knew that I needed to sleep, and that soon, I wouldn’t be able to function at all if I didn’t get some.
I remember sneaking to the kitchen one night, husband and baby sound asleep, searching our fridge for alcohol. I didn’t want to drink it to numb out, I wanted to drink it because I knew having a beer would make me a little sleepy. I was breastfeeding and I honestly didn’t know what sleep aids were safe to take, so in that moment I thought a beer might do the trick. I chugged a Modelo in the middle of the night, and hopped back into bed. I waited. Nothing. Maybe a slight buzz since my tolerance was very low, but I still laid there awake and alert. It felt like my body was screaming out to my brain to stop thinking, stop obsessing, stop worrying, but my mind would not concede.
It all went downhill from there. I stopped sleeping almost completely, started having panic attacks in the early evenings and in the middle of the night, and couldn’t eat much at all during the day, leaving me looking, quite literally, like skin and bones.
This all happened over the course of a few weeks and I honestly had no idea what was happening to me. It still didn’t feel or look like what I thought postpartum depression was, so I scoured the internet for other answers. Even my primary care doctor couldn’t say for sure what was going on and referred me out to a sleep disorder clinic.
After suffering for a few more weeks, I hit my rock bottom. The severe insomnia left me in a state of panic most of the day, and I started to have those nasty, infiltrating thoughts, that my illness made me believe wholeheartedly.
“You should have never become a mom.” “You’re worthless to your family.” “How will you ever take care of them?” “You can’t and you never will, so you should just give up.”
I finally found information online about something called postpartum anxiety. Postpartum what? I’d never heard of it and certainly, no health care provider had ever mentioned it to me.
It turns out postpartum depression is sort of the mother diagnosis with all these other disorders and sets of symptoms that fall under it. There’s postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum bipolar disorder, and postpartum psychosis. And all of these disorders can start during pregnancy.
I wish would have known that there was so much more to the diagnosis I was at risk of developing. I wonder how much suffering could have been avoided if my doctors, knowing I had a history with mental illness, would have discussed it with me. Or, if my primary care doctor would have picked up on it right away and helped explain what was happening to me and what I needed to do to get better.
We need moms and families to know that postpartum depression is so much more than depression.
These conversations need to happen in doctor’s offices, in prenatal classes, in mom’s groups, on labor and delivery floors, at birth centers, at home visits, and in articles like this one. Because the more new moms know about these illnesses, the better prepared they will be should they become one of the one in seven women who will experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.
How You Can Help
MKE Moms Blog is thrilled to offer an easy (and stylish!) way for our readers to support MMHI in their mission. For the entire month of May, the proceeds from the purchase of this “You Are My Sunshine Shirt” will be donated to Moms Mental Health Initiative!
If you or someone you know is a mom struggling with emotional complications during pregnancy or after giving birth, you are not alone. Our hope is that this upcoming mental health series brings you encouragement and support. We are enthusiastic and confident in our endorsement of Moms Mental Health Initiative and would love for you to explore their site to get connected to resources to help.