A year ago I became a Mother. I knew the moment I held my little boy, that I would love him and do anything to keep him safe. I had no idea then that I would be the biggest concern.
A week after my son was born, my husband left on a training course lasting two weeks. My mother and mother-in-law were able to come and stay for a couple days each, and my husband was able to return home for the weekend in between. Unfortunately there were a few days where my son and I were alone and, during that time, Postpartum Depression (PPD) set in. I was on Maternity Leave from the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC), and while I was there I had written an article about PPD in relation to mom support groups, so I knew what the signs were, that I was at risk and I had even told my husband my concerns while I was still pregnant. I had just hoped and prayed it wouldn’t happen to me.
During labour I had injured my back, and that--combined with lack of sleep, two dogs, and a newborn--were all big contributors to the anxiety and sadness that came with my PPD. When my husband returned home, things were better right away and gradually better over the next couple months as I grew physically stronger. But then I fell down the stairs a week before my husband was deploying overseas and just before Christmas. Everyone tried their best to help out. My in-laws took my dogs for a couple weeks, and my family and friends came to visit when they could, but the depression settled back in, and this time with a vengeance. I felt like such a failure, that I wasn’t strong enough to fight this dark cloud, and afraid to tell anyone how bad it was because I didn’t want them to worry anymore than they already were with my back injury and my husband overseas. But more importantly, I really didn’t want him to worry. I mean, what could he do? At least that was how I felt at the time.
I knew it was important for me to find social support, but unfortunately due to the H1N1 clinics, the New Mom’s Network Groups weren’t running and my friends who had babies, eventually had their own groups with babies closer in age. I did seek help from my family doctor for which she prescribed anti-depressants; unfortunately they made matters worse with the sheer exhaustion they caused when I was getting up with my son every 2-3 hours. I also went to my MFRC a couple times looking for support groups for new moms and spoke with a couple of former coworkers, but there wasn’t anything available and I didn’t hear back. I felt so sad and very alone.
Pity party aside, there were two volunteers from my husband’s work who came to help with my dogs (due to my back injury) for about a month, and just knowing they were coming made all the difference on dark days.
Without the support groups I was seeking, I took matters into my own hands. I started talking about my PPD with my family and friends. I set social outings at least every two weeks giving me things to look forward to and positive things to focus on. Anxiety is powerful, and instead of letting it take over, I would walk away from whatever triggered it, and I would spend time with my son. We read stories, sang silly songs, danced around the kitchen...and just played. If he was the trigger, I called my mom to hear those magical words, “it’s okay to feel that way, you’re a wonderful mom,” and I would breathe. Eventually the anxiety triggers decreased, and I was enjoying motherhood again; it was magnificent!
What’s left now? The anxiety rears its ugly head every now and then, and the sadness is mostly gone, but I’m a work in progress. I have a happy, healthy son and a wonderful bond with him, and that was my biggest fear: that my PPD would prevent my son and me from bonding.
I was inspired to share my difficult story hoping that other mothers who are or have experienced Postpartum Depression, know they are not alone and that there is help out there. Be a champion in your community and ensure there are proper supports in place for new moms - support makes a difference.