by Nicole Buratti, HBCE, LCCE, RPYT, CLD, CCBE, eRYT
Having a Baby is Supposed to be the Happiest Time in Your Life
Today is the 10th anniversary of my realization that I had postpartum depression. I don’t say diagnosis. It was a realization that something wasn’t right for me and that I could no longer hide it from my friends and family. My baby was almost 3 months old. It wasn’t until over 2 months later, when my baby was almost 6 months old, that I was officially diagnosed and began treatment for postpartum depression (PPD). By that time, the PPD had escalated to full-blown postpartum psychosis (PPP).
Dealing With Postpartum Depression (PPD)
PPD/PPP is a horrible and debilitating condition, as you know. At the time I was a single mother with a newborn baby boy. I had no support as a new mother, no family nearby, and was definitely not getting enough sleep or nutrients. Ooh, the irony…. the doula who had no support!
So hindsight is 20/20, right? Right. I had always had on/off bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my life but nothing like this. I wasn’t planning to have a baby and definitely wasn’t planning to have a baby alone. I had moved from Chicago to New Jersey to finish my nursing degree to be on the path to midwifery school. I met a great guy… And, you know the rest.
My son was born 4 weeks before his due date. He was born on the morning of moving day. I came home from the hospital with my tiny little baby to an entirely empty apartment. The movers had to reschedule and I couldn’t stay in my old place with a new baby. Money was tight because I was not entitled to a paid maternity leave. My friends were his friends and family. They stayed his friends and family. And then the legal actions started. I was treated like a criminal when all I did was have a baby. Was this his way of contesting?
The anxiety, the loneliness, the fears… Everything started to feel totally out of control.
Postpartum Depression Struggle
I tried to talk to family and to old friends about my feelings and my thoughts. Nobody understood. Those I loved didn’t believe that what I was saying about how I felt was true. Family told me to “snap out of it!” and, “You wanted a baby, you got a baby.” I felt completely alone and uncared for. I had trouble sleeping, I was losing weight at a rapid pace, I couldn’t eat. I just wanted to run away. The simplest things started to become scary. I had a hard time driving and trusting myself while driving. It was difficult to take care of myself while taking care of my baby. Simple things like preparing a meal were too much effort. The OCD set in.
I checked the locks, the stove, the carbon dioxide alarm, smoke detectors, etc. CONSTANTLY. I would have to pull my car over to make sure the car seat was in the backseat with the baby in it, that I didn’t leave the car seat and the baby in the driveway. I ran out of the shower thinking I could hear the baby crying or that I smelled smoke in my apartment. I didn’t trust myself or anyone. I had intrusive thoughts and intrusive visions. I thought my baby would be better off without me.
I would lie in bed at night planning my own suicide. That’s not easy to type but it’s true. I needed help. Back then, I didn’t know what I know now and there wasn’t the postpartum support we have today. I wasn’t a doula yet and the awareness of PPD/PPP was not yet prevalent. We still have along way to go, obviously. Believe me when I say that there were therapists and doctors that told me, “I don’t know how to help you.” There is better help now but not a whole lot.
I found a therapist in Manhattan, over an hour from my home, who finally understood what I was feeling, a little bit. He listened. He called me during the difficult times of the day, always early in the morning and in the evening. It took about 18 months to get my life back somewhat. With a lot of patience, the right support, self-care, and medication, I survived postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.
If you are struggling with postpartum or perinatal mood disorder, or something just doesn’t feel right, there IS help out there. Speak Up When You’re Down has a 24 hour help line. There are therapists in your area who specialize in perinatal and postpartum mood disorders. Your family deserves a healthy you! You are not alone. There is help and there is support.