I struggled with postpartum depression after having Duke. For me, I describe PPD as a fog. It was incredibly thick at first. I couldn't see out and there was no way I could change it. The only truth was what was here right in front of me - sleep deprivation, a life that would forever be stuck at home, a baby that needed me all the time, and no energy to dream or do what I wanted. No future at all. No amount of "It'll get easier" or "You'll feel better if you take a nap" was going to solve my problem. I felt very hopeless.
The fog gradually lessened over time. It got thinner and thinner and I could see more and more. But it was still there. Around 2 months, Duke was sleeping 8 hours at night, so my sanity was gradually returning. By the time Duke was 6-9 months, I would say I was almost back to my full, normal mental self. At that point, our schedule was predictable and I felt pretty adjusted to my "mom life." I truly was happy and I loved my life, but the fog was still there. It was thin, but it was there. Just because I was happy and content didn't change the fact that I was still operating under that fog. That doesn't mean that I felt depressed the entire time Duke was 6-9 months; it just means that there was still a faint ceiling of PPD that would not go away.
As I get further and further away from it, I see more of the actual timeline. I see when it all really ended. I couldn't see it then because, contrary to what I thought, I was still in it. Now that Duke is 3 years old, I can say with certainty that the fog was completely gone when he turned 1. I'm not being dramatic, but that's how long it took to get out from under it. I mean, completely get out from under it.
In the beginning, committing to having another baby seemed like it had to go hand in hand with committing to being depressed again. I had hoped that my perspective would help in some way this time around, but more than that, I prayed that it would just not be a thing for me. That I would go through the newborn phase like every other mom - sleep-deprived, sometimes insane, moody, emotional, and weepy. But not depressed.
Only by the grace of God did I come out of Nova's newborn season without PPD. There were plenty of factors that could have driven me straight there - the overdue pregnancy, semi-traumatic labor, and the awful nursing experience. Those things certainly created their own concoction of problems, but being legitimately and constantly depressed was not one of them. I am so grateful for that!
With Nova, I've had awesome days and hard days just like any other mom. But now I feel like I know the difference - the difference between the hard stuff that we all experience when we have a newborn and the hard stuff that a person who has PPD experiences with a newborn. Newborn life, which is still very hard, is a completely different ball game without PPD.
PPD is not baby blues and it's not just feeling sad sometimes. It's an ongoing struggle that cannot be reasoned with. It's being depressed. Depression weaves itself through every part of your life, so you can't separate things out and say, "That's the depression talking, but this is real life." It's all intertwined. PPD wrecks your view of reality.
PPD can hit anyone. With Duke, I had a natural childbirth and I breastfed for a year, so all of the "bonding" elements were there. But I still had it. There's just no formula for who "gets" it and who doesn't. You can still be a normal person who loves life, your sweet baby, and your family yet feel depressed at the same time. The horrible part is that depression affects all of those areas, so things start getting mixed up. You start questioning yourself. Am I depressed because I'm a mom? Am I not capable of being a parent? Am I sad because my life is terrible? Is it going to be like this forever?
For a lot of us, time is the only thing that can resolve PPD. We need time to adjust, sleep, and find our new way of functioning. Brains need to adjust. So if it seems foreign to you, count yourself blessed. If you "just don't get how people can be depressed after having a new baby," count yourself blessed. If you're "tired of hearing about the negatives of motherhood on social media" and "people should just focus on what a gift it is," count yourself blessed. This is another place where a lesson on compassion is absolutely necessary. More than opinions and advice, people who struggle with PPD (or any kind of mental illness, really) simply need your attention, understanding, care, and help.
Sometimes it takes an army to raise a child. If you're struggling, talk to someone. If you're not struggling, be a light to someone who is.
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