I can’t remember much about the birth of my twins, nor can I remember much about the first three years of their lives. Unfortunately, some of the things I can remember are the negative thoughts and pure exhaustion I experienced. I told no one but my husband and my dad, who was a physician. I suffered in the silence with postpartum depression for close to a year. I did not get counseling. I did not go on medication. Looking back, that was not the right decision.
It was 2001 and I had a 6-year-old a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old when my twin babies arrived. If you were not counting, that is five children that are six and under. It was more than anyone could manage. Unfortunately for me, postpartum depression wasn’t really talked about much back then. At least my physicians did not discuss it with me or check on me to see if an intervention was needed.
I remember crying a lot. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted beyond anything I can explain. I remember having suicidal thoughts and thoughts of hurting the babies. I somehow was able to separate these thoughts and talk myself out of them, but it was scary and not me. I didn’t go out much partly because it was too hard to get five children out the door, and partly because I was depressed and anxious.
My husband was as good of a support that he could be working full time. I don’t think he fully knew how much I was suffering, though. To this day, I am not certain he really knows or understands what I went through. Part of me still doesn’t want to share some of the dark thoughts I had. I am sure if he did know, he would have made sure I got mental health help. My father thought it might be a thyroid problem and so he tested my thyroid, which was low, and put me on thyroid medication. It may have helped some. To be honest I don’t remember if it did or didn’t help.
I had always been pretty good at exercising. I remember nursing my babies on the recumbent bicycle and trying to do some floor exercises with children crawling over me like I was a jungle gym. I am sure that was part of my problem too. There simply was always something else that needed to be done that exercise didn’t happen as much as I needed it to.
I did not get much help when I had my twins either. We couldn’t afford to hire anyone. My husband had just finished graduate school and we had just purchased a home. I did not know there was such thing as a postpartum doula, but oh would I have loved to have one to come and help. I am certain that would have made a difference in my ability to cope.
As a mom that experienced postpartum depression, I knew I wanted to help other moms going through similar experiences. When all my children started school full time I decided to become a postpartum doula, so I could do just that. Through studying more about postpartum depression, it has amazed me at the percentage of women that struggle with it. It has given me a new light and taken away the shame I felt from when I experienced it. I now recognize that it is nothing that I did wrong.
There are some things I would say one should consider doing if they are struggling with postpartum depression.
1. Seek medical help at the first sign of postpartum depression. There is no need for you to suffer in silence.
2. Hire a Postpartum doula, or ask family to come stay with you for a while. Have friends come over to relieve you?
3. Continue to cultivate your friendships. Have something fun planned so you have something to look forward to.
4. Exercise – it is the key to better physical and in turn better mental health.
5. If you can afford to, hire a housekeeper. I did a few times and it sure lifted my spirits.
6. Make sure your spouse knows what you are going through and ask them to help as much as they can.
7. Connect with Baby Blues Connection: www.babybluesconnection.org They offer one on one support and support groups along with recommendations of the best psychiatric physicians.
There really is no reason to suffer in silence like I did. Things have changed and this is far more recognized than it was even 15 years ago when I went through this. Some of my greatest rewards as a postpartum doula have been helping a mother through postpartum depression. Help is available. All you have to do is call.