Learning to Live with Postpartum Depression
Tanya, a 28-year-old banker from the Philippines, was so excited. After struggling with infertility for 3 years, she and her husband were finally expecting their first child. She was determined to be the perfect mom.
After giving birth, she was very surprised and disappointed. Instead of being elated with motherhood, she found herself depressed.
“I think that the years of struggling with infertility, the difficult pregnancy, and the subsequent premature birth of my daughter took its toll on me physically, emotionally and psychologically. I had also just lost my father the year before the baby was born, so I had a lot of emotional turmoil in my life.”
SIGNS OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
Tanya had never experienced depression before, so when she started crying over the smallest things, she knew something was wrong. “I was overly anxious, always worrying that there was something wrong with the baby. Maybe she wasn’t sleeping enough or eating enough or pooping enough. I was barely sleeping, constantly checking if she was still breathing. I found breastfeeding extremely stressful. And it didn’t help that my daughter went through several bouts of colic and wouldn’t sleep for hours on end. I was a working mom, operating on 3 hours of sleep a day. I’m sure the sleep deprivation didn’t help.”
“I was always very sad. And I was very disappointed in myself for not finding more joy in something that I had been waiting so long for. I felt like a failure. I was always mad at my husband for not ‘participating’ enough. I was mad at my daughter for upending my life so much I barely knew who I was anymore. I loved her, but was very mad at her at the same time. I believe at one point I called her an ‘emotional vampire’.”
“I kept my feelings hidden very well. Only my husband and my sister (who had just had a baby herself, and was overwhelmed with being a first time mother as well) knew how I was feeling. They were both supportive and acted as sounding boards whenever I felt overwhelmed or depressed. They became the emotional support group I needed while I was working through my feelings. There was no judgment from them.”
“My husband set up meetings for us with the Ateneo Center for Family Ministries, when my PPD started infringing on our marriage. It was then I realized how hard he was working to make sure that I got the support that I needed, even if it meant seeking help from the outside when he couldn’t give me all the help I needed.”
DEALING WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
“I let myself feel how I needed to feel. I was angry when I felt angry. Sad when I felt sad. I never tried to suppress my feelings, understanding that they needed to be felt in order to be resolved. My PPD was so much more than my pregnancy, or my feelings of inadequacy with motherhood. It was the sum of many things – my infertility, my father dying, my grief with the fact that he never got to meet my daughter or that my daughter would never get to know him, and being overwhelmed with the seemingly endless expectations —– from my daughter, my husband, everyone around us, and most of all myself. When I realized that all my daughter really needed was to be loved, in my own way…. when I learned to forgive myself for all my shortcomings (both real and imagined)… when I learned to accept that the only way I needed to parent was MY way, I learned to live with my PPD and eventually it went away.”
“It felt like a bubble that just burst. For almost a year, I was surrounded by these feelings of sadness and anger. I actually learned to live with it, thinking that I would always feel that way. And one day it just burst. And I stopped feeling angry, sad and lost.”
“I still have days when I don’t always feel 100%. There are days when I feel extraordinarily cranky or angry for no apparent reason, days when I feel melancholy. And I know these are the vestiges of postpartum depression. Maybe it never really goes away, but I’ve learned to live with it and rise above it.”