When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a lot of thoughts of worry about not knowing what to do with her when I got her, would I do the right things, would I be able to handle it? My stepmother went with me to one of my prenatal visits and pretty much pushed me to tell the doctor about these things. My doctor then asked me about my family history (which has a lot of female depression) and I told her I didn’t want to miss out on a single moment with my child. So we decided to take a proactive measure to start medication.
Three days after having my daughter, she still wasn’t breast feeding. We tried EVERYTHING the lactation consultant could come up with. My husband quickly wanted to start formula but I wanted the best for Emmaline and insisted we keep trying. That day we both sat in our hospital room holding our baby crying. I finally gave in and fed her formula. Then we spend the rest of the day crying about how hungry she must have been. That was my first clue that I couldn’t be a perfect mother, no one can.
After we got home, she would stop breathing, wouldn’t sleep on her back, and cried all day. The only way she would sleep was on my husband’s chest in our recliner. My stepmother had made a passing comment to my brother that “Amanda seems to be doing really well with Emmaline.” To which he replied: “Uh, not when I was over there, she was in the bed crying” Before I knew it she was at my house, told me to go to sleep, and she took care of my baby for two straight days while I rested and we could do it together.
I can remember in those days of her being miserable and crying thinking, I can see how some moms out there would just want to throw this screaming baby out the window. Thankfully, I had enough sense to hand her to someone else and walk away until I got myself under control. I couldn’t do that without the help of my family, husband, doctor, and my new best friend, Zoloft!
Now I know, that my daughter was suffering from Acid Reflux. The doctor put her on Zantac twice a day and I’m not kidding when I say, after one day’s dose, I had an angel for a daughter. She was happy, we were happy, and for the first time in a month, we were able to enjoy being a mommy and daddy.
Thank you so much for making this condition well known and supporting & fighting for mothers. I know this was a long way to say Thank you but I really do want to thank everyone for bringing this HEALTH issue into the limelight.
Karen Papajohn (with son AJ)
I gave birth to my son on November 19, 2004. It was the most incredible and the most memorable experience of my life. I’ll never forget being in the hospital with my newborn son thinking, “Oh gosh, now what?” All my friends kept saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. Just give yourself some time.”
I got home from the hospital and I felt numb. My husband was on top of the world, so happy to be a Dad and so excited to show off his son. I kept wondering why I didn’t feel the same “joy” and “happiness” of welcoming this precious gift into my life as my husband did? I thought maybe I was just sleep deprived and exhausted, I was sure I would feel differently when I was a little more rested.
The weeks passed I still wasn’t feeling the “happiness” I thought I was suppose to. I was very emotional, I wasn’t sleeping well (I don’t know if any new Mom does) and, to make matters worse, I kept having very disturbing thoughts about me and my son. At first, I thought maybe all this was “normal”? Sleep deprivation can do strange things to a person…
I remember going to my 4 week check up with my Ob/Gyn. I was feeling miserable that day and I didn’t know how I was going to get the energy to get dressed and get to the Dr’s office on time. I asked my husband to come with me. The extra set of hands with the baby would be a little relief given the “daunting” thought of having to leave the house.
The Dr did my physical check up and told me that everything “looked good” and that I was “healing nicely”. Then she said, “Isn’t having a baby such a miracle and a blessing?” I remember not even being able to utter any words, all I could do was break down and cry uncontrollably. After I composed myself, my appointment was finished. She never asked how I was doing emotionally or otherwise. Maybe she thought my tears were tears of joy?? I left her office with my head clouded with thoughts of, “I guess this is all normal and I’m suppose to feel this way”? All I could think about was I guess this is what they call the “baby blues”???
As the weeks went on, my feeling of “darkness” persisted. I had terrible insomnia, despite being exhausted, my skin crawled when I tried to lie down and sleep, I had obsessive compulsive thoughts about death and about putting my son in the oven. I also saw him floating dead at the top of the spa we had in our backyard. I felt completely overwhelmed with the thought of doing the smallest task (like going to the store to buy milk), my stomach churned all the time and I couldn’t eat (and I was breast feeding so I needed to be eating something to keep my milk coming in). I remember not wanting to be home alone with my son all day long. I resented my husband for being able to take a shower and leave the house every morning to go to work. I avoided all my friends phone calls to want to get together for coffee or lunch. I didn’t want anyone to see how miserable I was feeling – I felt so transparent. I thought that if I was dead, everything would be so much better for my husband and my son. All my family lives in Canada. I certainly didn’t feel close enough to any friend here to share these awful feelings with so I continued to suffer.
After 8 weeks of this, I finally called my Dr. back and spoke to the nurse practitioner about what I was experiencing. I could hardly get the words out over the phone. Thankfully she referred me to Dr. Pec Indman. Dr. Indman is a nationally recognized expert in the field of mental health related to Pregnancy and Postpartum mood disorders.
I began working with Dr. Indman and, over time, I began to feel better. I was resistant to medication early on in our work together, however, after about 3 months, I chose to start taking antidepressants. I never wanted to accept that I was “depressed”. I had a baby, I wasn’t “crazy”!! Then I began to learn how powerful hormones are and that, when they aren’t in balance, your body can have difficulty functioning properly.
When my son was 9 months old, I remember writing on my desk top calendar, “I had a good day today”. The “dark glasses” I had been wearing for the last while had started to become brighter. I began to be able to sleep better and the obsessive thoughts weren’t always on my mind. I still had some “dark” days however, I knew I was on the road to recovery. I worked with Dr. Indman for close to 18 months. She, and my family and friends, were a tremendous support system. I’m forever grateful for all the love and help they have given me.
Today, my son is almost 4 years old. I love him with all my heart and I can’t imagine my world without him. Postpartum depression is a journey I will always remember. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about not being afraid to be open and honest with what I’m feeling.
My Journey through PPD and Postpartum Psychosis
In May of 2000 I had my daughter and the first month and a half was alright. Then I started noticing that things were going very wrong. I was very anxious, unable to sleep, unable to do much of anything, worrying about everything, had fear of harming my baby, could not handle having my baby near me and crying all the time. I knew I had post partum depression based on what I heard and read. It took so long to get the help that I needed. We went through our medical insurance to find doctors and we were very disappointed in the help we got. I finally ended up in the psychiatric unit for one night because the psychiatrist had told me to take my Zoloft at night time. I was already having sleeping issues and then I was taking a medicine to give me zip at night. Anyway after about a month I found a great psychiatrist through a friend and was finally on a slow path back to healing. I got medicine to take at night which really helped. It took me a few months of being on the medicine before I felt somewhat normal again.
Once my daughter was two we decided to have another baby. My psychiatrist thought I should be alright. At this point I had been off all meds for six months or so. The plan was that I would start taking Zoloft the day that I delivered this next baby. I had never had any problems while being pregnant.
I had my son in July 2003 and I was fine for the first month. Then it came on like a freight train. I called my psychiatrist the first day I noticed something going wrong. My doctor had me add a new medicine which I started. Things keep getting worse and worse. I started having huge panic attacks and then one night I hallucinated. The next day I knew I could not keep going on like this so I called my doctor. He had me go and admit myself to the psychiatric ward. I was the worst feeling leaving my two kids and feeling that I would never come back home. I was diagnosed with post partum psychosis (which happens 1 in 1,000 or .001 percent) and bi polar disorder. I needed to be on five different medications. I was in the hospital for 10 days and an outpatient program for two more weeks. After I did make it home again it was very difficult adjusting to the chaos of the kids. When I left the hospital I started seeing a great therapist who specializes in PPD which was so helpful. It took me a few more months before I was confident to take both the kids out of the house for activities. I was able to successfully go off all of my medication after two years.
My case was very severe but I did recover. It takes time and loads of patience and then you will feel normal again. Never give up hope. You have to keep fighting for your kids because they need you with them.
A few months after my second son was born I woke up and wondered how I got here. I was tired, crying all the time and felt overwhelmed. I never imagined feeling so lost and scared about how I would manage taking care of my two boys. Nobody was here or could help, everyone would think I may have lost my mind and my whole world felt as if it were uashing down.. Would I lose everything? Scott had gone back to work, my parents had returned home and we certainly didn’t have any nurses coming in to check on us like we did at the hospital. Feeling so depressed and anxious I was unclear how or what to do. Getting dressed was a chore and I certainly couldn’t think about having to plan ahead and take care of this tiny baby. He was so small and he needed to eat and be bathed and changed. I remember feeding him and thanking God we got through another nursing session. Maybe he would go right back to sleep. He usually did and it was then that I could pretend things were the way they use to be. I use to laugh, and had a great time being with Miller, my eldest, and enjoying my family’s company. But in two or three hours the baby would be up again and he would need to eat. I’d remember feeling that I was a mother of two and at this very moment I really didn’t want to be. I couldn’t be.
Where was Beth?
These last sentences still can bring tears to my eyes because dealing with Post Partum Depression put me in a place of deep sadness and at times I wasn’t sure how I would get through the day. If I couldn’t make it how would my boys. Being a mom isn’t something that we should have to cry about. The good thing is I did get through it all, minute by minute day by day. My youngest, Mac, is seven months now and I can see every day getting easier. He is my little lovie and his smile lights up my world. He laughs when I kiss his tummy and he cries when I put him down and he puts up his arms to be back in my arms. The way he and his older brother look at each other in sacred. There is no greater job then being a mom and I am so thankful I can start enjoying my life again with my boys and my husband. It is my right and although PPD took that away, I got it back and I will keep fighting for moms like Jenny. We aren’t alone and I am thankful for that.
I am a proud wife, daughter, mother and survivor of Post Partum Anxiety Disorder. I had never heard of PPAD before being diagnosed. During my first pregnancy I skipped over all the chapters in the pregnancy books dealing with Post Partum Depression because I knew that would never happen to me. I had wanted to be a mom my entire life. How could I ever be anything but thrilled? After an uneventful pregnancy, birth and post partum time with my first daughter, Emily, I expected the same experience the second time around. Little did I know how different it would be. My second daughter was born in July of 2006. I had Single Umbilical Artery and was also in a car accident during the pregnancy. To say it was a high stress pregnancy was putting it mildly. I knew I felt different right after I had her because a few minutes after my husband left to pick up our oldest child and I was alone with Rachel I started to cry. I could not stop, even after I got home. Everyone said it was the baby blues and I would get over it. I kept telling myself the same thing. After all, Rachel had fought so hard to get here; I knew she was destined for big things in her life. Still, we had been told throughout the pregnancy that there were all of these dire possibilities in regards to Rachel’s health. I knew it was only a matter of time before the doctor would tell us what was wrong with her. I had spent the last nine months stressing over her being healthy, and now that she was, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I could not wrap my head around the thought that she was okay. For the first six weeks I don’t remember how I was feeling. I was almost numb. I remember crying a lot but not much else. But then the anxious thoughts started creeping up on me. What if someone kidnaps the girls while I sleep? What if Rachel stops breathing during the night? What if she gets sick? What if I get in an accident? If I take a different way home today, will I get in an accident? My anxiety controlled my entire life including where I went and how I got there. I could not get the “irrational” thoughts out of my head. While I never had thoughts of harming my girls, I was always coming up with scenarios that, while highly unlikely, I truly felt could happen. I couldn’t sleep, I was yelling and angry all of the time, and I was not being myself. I would not admit that I had a problem but my husband was growing more and more concerned. I thank God to this day that he was so in tune with the changes going on in me because I know he saved my life. He called my mother and the two of them convinced me to talk to my doctor. I knew I needed to call him but I put it off. I was embarrassed to discuss my feelings with him. I was a new mom. I should be happy because of the newest miracle in my life. I thought that he would judge me and think that I was a bad mom. I even had thoughts that he would take my girls away from me. Finally, at an appointment for Rachel, I broke down and cried when the doctor asked how I was doing. That was the day I started to become myself again. I started on medications the next day and I also started seeing a therapist. She helped me develop coping skills to deal with the anxiety and to realize that I am a good mother. She also helped me to be confident enough to share my story with my family and friends. It was so difficult to take those first steps towards recovery but every day I am so thankful that I did. So often we judge new mothers and frown upon them if they don’t feel all sunshiny and happy after they have a baby. We don’t think about the emotional and physical toll that having a baby puts on a woman. Every feeling you have as a new mom is real, good or bad, it is how you feel. We need to support new moms and encourage them to seek help when needed. Hiding things only makes them worse. By sharing my story I have not only created a support system for myself, but hopefully for other new moms as well. While I still have my moments, I feel confident in my abilities to be a mother and a PPAD survivor. While I am deeply saddened by the circumstances that led to Jenny’s Light being founded, I am profoundly grateful that this organization exists. Speaking up about this disease will help create support and understanding. Let’s continue to spread the word and give hope and light to those in need.
Katy Noonan Russo
I am one of ten children. My mother suffered from Major Depression which was exacerbated by the birth of each child. I have memories of my father fighting to get my Mom into the car in order to forcably admit her to the mental hospital…
Growing up, while we all knew that our mother was “different”, my parents did not talk to us about my mother’s condition. It was a source of embarrassment and shame as I got older.
I left my home at 18 to attend college in Dallas where I met my future husband. In 1997 we married while he was attending law school in New York and I was in Physicians Assistant school. We have lived in New York since.
My twenties are a blur of one pregnancy and childbirth after another. I had a very difficult time coping after each birth…while I was not suicidal, I had feelings of isolation, anxietyt, sadness, hopelessness and was often just overwhelmed. I usually just chalked it off to my situation..afterall, no one said having three children under the age of 4 would be easy!!!!
Well, about a year and a half ago, after these feelings were getting worse and worse, and the day to day was getting more and more burdensome for me to handle, I decided to get help. I did not even tell my husband at the time (our relationship has suffered tremendously through it all). Last January I started antidepressants and I have never felt better. After just a few days of taking the medicine I cried tears of joy because when I looked at my beautiful children I felt as though I was actually seeing them for the first time…
You are all doing a great thing with Jenny’s Light…keep at it. ..and thank you!
Postpartum Depression has affected my life for a long time, having seen my mother go through it and then having two depressions of my own. I want new mother’s to know, though, that there is hope. Despite the turmoil I endured witnessing my mother spiral out of control and during my experiences; I still was able to defeat the illness by working with a doctor and researcher to prevent me from having Postpartum Depression a third time. I hope my story will help others dealing with PPD realize that no matter how dim the situation seems that there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel.
My first encounter with Postpartum Depression was at the age of 4 when my mother suffered from it after my brother was born on April 12th 1951. It was clear to me at that time that my mother wasn’t acting her usual self. She would wander around in the middle of the night and lock me in my room during the day in order to try and get sleep. She was also extremely sensitive and would yell at me for the slightest thing. I was confused and worried. Then one day, which is still a blur in my mind, my mother got extremely upset and I was so afraid that I ran over to our neighbor’s house for help. It wasn’t until later I was told I saved us carbon monoxide poisoning (she’d either left the oven on or we were in the garage with the car running, I don’t recall but one of my neighbors believes it’s the later instance.) At the point my mother was taken away and hospitalized for three months. When she returned she was better but never went back to being her old self because of the shame and guilt she felt for almost hurting her children.
Years later I had my own experiences with Postpartum Depression. I was 22 when I gave birth to my first child on March 24, 1968. I was deeply in love with my husband at that time and was thrilled throughout my pregnancy to be having a baby, so I never expected to feel so anxious, worried and depressed six weeks after he was born. At the beginning everything was fine and I had lots of visitors over to see my new baby. But then almost suddenly I was restless—not sleeping for several days!—and I lost concentration and was extremely worried about my baby. I couldn’t even hold him for fear I might drop him and he’d break. While my case wasn’t as serious as my mother’s, I still needed to be hospitalized for one month. Even though I recovered, the whole ordeal placed a rift between me and my husband. He was very disappointed and became emotionally distant from me. Eventually the distance between us led him to seek companionship elsewhere and he divorced me. Even though I wanted custody of my son badly, I didn’t have the emotional or financial ability to fight for him in court and my parents who tried to help me only increased the stress in the situation because they were going through their own divorce. So I decided it would be best for my son and me at that time if he stayed in the stable environment with his father. Even after I felt better, though, he still wouldn’t give up his full custody rights to let me see my son more often. I was crushed.
I did marry again, however, and had my second son on Jan. 25 1975. The odds of me getting Postpartum Depression a second time were one in four and my doctor at the time did his best to try and prevent it from happening. I was given Compazine to head off Postpartum Depression but sadly it turned out I am allergic to phenothiazenes, and I had a second depression. This time I suffered the same symptoms of restlessness and anxiety, but the depression was more severe because I was so disappointed and humiliated to be going through it again. I felt like I was a bad mother and a bad person. I was also afraid his father would take him from me like my first husband had taken my other child away. This fear was elevated while I was in the hospital for 6 weeks and my husband took the baby to New York without telling me. It turned out that my husband didn’t leave and we raised our son together for the next 13 years, however things weren’t the same with him and he was distant and criticized me all the time.
In 1986 I read an article about a man named Dr. James Alexander Hamilton who had done postpartum research on 50 second-time mothers using a mixture of natural hormones to head off a second depression. His research had a 90 percent success rate which inspired me to want to try and have another baby. My husband and I, though, had agreed earlier not to risk having anymore children and when I approached him about the subject he was negative. That same year my father was dying and when I wanted to go see him in California (we lived in Illinois) my husband gave me a one-way ticket which basically was the sign our marriage was over. He divorced me and used my mental health issues to get custody of our son (who 2 years later chose to come live with me). Meanwhile I had reunited with a long-time friend in California who comforted me after my father died, and soon our relationship grew more serious and we decided to get married. He knew my history but was willing to try and have a baby. Once I became pregnant I tried to contact Dr. Hamilton, and when we finally spoke I was three months along. He had doubts that he was ready to do research on a third-time mother, but after some convincing he decided to make me case #51.
Dr. Hamilton got in contact with my doctor at the time and they worked together to produce a positive result: I had no third depression with my little girl who was born on Dec. 29 1988. It was a miracle! And it wasn’t until a year passed that I found out my odds of having a third depression were 99 to 1! Now my daughter is all grown up and will be celebrating her 20th birthday soon alongside the 20-year anniversary of this monumental success.
I want every mother out there to know this means there is hope, even if you feel the odds are slim…NEVER GIVE UP! Ask questions, seek help from your doctor, and always say ouch when something hurts emotionally as well as physically and no matter how hard it is to believe THINGS WILL GET BETTER! Have faith in yourself and love yourself like you love your baby.
Annie Etzel (with MacKenzie)
I suffered from paralyzing anxiety/depression after college. I had been successfully treating it with Zoloft for years before getting pregnant. My biggest concern before my first pregnancy was that I was on Zoloft, and if it was safe during pregnancy. My Dr. convinced me that it was safer for me and my unborn child to stay on the drug during my pregnancy. The risk of me getting depressed outweighed the possible risks of the drug. My first pregnancy went without issue, and my son was born in 2002. I went about my second pregnancy the same way, and stayed on my Zoloft. Again, my pregnancy went without issue, and my daughter was born in 2005.
My daughter was 6 months old when I was hit with PPD. I had gone 7 years on my Zoloft without any issue, so I was caught off guard. It literally hit me one day. I woke up with feelings of fear, failure, and dread. I was lucky that I knew what it was; I had dealt with depression before. It’s hard to explain, but anxiety/depression literally makes me afraid of my own thoughts. I feel scared in my own skin. The logical me could tell myself that these were just feelings, but the emotional me didn’t care what was causing it, I just wanted it to stop. I called my Dr., and she doubled my dose of my Zoloft. Unfortunately, it takes a few weeks to take affect. I was scared to be home with my kids while my husband worked. I didn’t think I would do anything, but the intrusive thoughts were terrifying. I took my kids, and went to Ct. for a week to stay with my sister. She took care of my kids, while I slept, and waited for my Zoloft to kick in. The more I did, the better I felt. Getting up and taking a shower, taking a walk. I was literally trying to get through each day, waiting to take another dose of Zoloft. Time passed, and eventually there would be a time where I would realize I hadn’t had “bad feelings” for 10 minutes, which became an hour, a day, a week, until I finally felt like myself again.
My daughter is now 2 and ½ years old, and I have been doing well. I live my life very aware of my feelings. If I start to feel sad, it scares me. If my adrenaline gets going, I fear a panic attack. Because of my history, my husband, friends and family have learned to be aware of my actions. If I start to ignore phone calls, or sound distant to them, they now have the knowledge to talk to me about it.
For someone who has not dealt with depression it is impossible to explain. Although you may be trying to help, telling someone to snap out of it, or just be happy, is not going to cure them. There are professionals who are much more equipped than we are to decide what the treatment should be. Depression is not embarrassing, it is a disease. It should not be hidden, or taboo. I say this to anyone out there that may be dealing with PPD, anxiety, or any form of depression….IT WILL GET BETTER. I know it is impossible to believe, but IT WILL!
I have three babies, and I had a bout of PPD after each was born. Luckily, I suppose, I had experience with depression earlier in my life, and when the blues hit I recognized the feeling and knew that I could fix it. But I hid it from everyone, there is no way that anyone, not even my husband, knew just how unhappy I was. I felt that there was no point in telling anyone, because in my mind there was no way they could help. I was so grateful to have my baby, to no longer be pregnant, and to be so in love with my child. But there was still a sadness that was overwhelming. I was one of the lucky ones, I had a Dr. I was very comfortable with and I did call her and get back on medication, and I responded quickly. I also had a network of mom friends, some of whom had experienced PPD much more severely than I, so I knew that it was common and to be prepared for it. I did not need the antidepressants for very long, and I was able to continue breastfeeding, and most importantly for me and my baby, I was healthy and happy again after getting help.
I am the mother of a 2 year old daughter and for the first time in a very long time I am able to enjoy myself and my daughter. Soon after my daughter was born, I began doubting myself, feeling anxious, to be honest I just felt lost, not connected to myself, my daughter, anyone or anything.
Sure, everybody thought I was fine, because I made it look that way. I wasn?t the picture of depression. I would still get up every morning, put on my make-up, make myself presentable and when I was around others I would put on a happy face. But, it was when I was alone that I began to feel afraid of what was going on inside my mind. I would cry a lot and I just felt like something was off within me. I was ashamed of the way I was feeling and it took a very long time for me to share my feelings.
You see, I was always the strong one in my family, usually making my family proud, I was the one others would come to for help, so I think that only made it more difficult to face my feelings. When I finally sought help, which was very recent, I was told I do in fact have depression. My therapist then asked how long I had been feeling this way and my answer was about 2 ½ years, well, my daughter is 2 ½; it became apparent my symptoms have been present since the birth of my daughter.
I see my therapist once a week now and my promise to myself, my daughter and my family is that I will continue to see her. It is a process, but I am beginning to feel better, more connected to myself, my daughter and I no longer feel lost. Please ask for help, there are a lot of us out there who understand and will understand.
Love and Light~