Make a post-partum depression plan, please

I fell asleep the other night wondering whether I should continue to blog. I used to blog to help me process things – going through the drama of being newly single after a divorce, living on my own in a new city, dating again, falling in love, getting engaged, planning a wedding… and the meaning of marriage and partnership and how to make it all work. These were all things happening between adults, so I felt comfortable that I could share my part of the story and as long as I was being honest, all would be (mostly) right with the blog world.

And while I still think that’s the case, I just don’t have the oomph anymore. Maybe being on meds has mellowed my angst and thus, my need for constant introspection. Maybe growing and producing a kid has given me perma-mama-brain and thus, limited my ability to think in paragraphs. Maybe life is too good to pause and write about it and even if I did, how interesting is yet another, “Oh, hey, life is good!” post?

My husband and I still fight, though we’ve learned to let things go better. I used to wonder how you let things go. Tell me the steps you follow, please, because I’d like to know how to do that. Turns out you just turn your head, close your mouth, and let it go. Yes, it’s still there festering sometimes. Sure, in forty years we’ll be arguing over how he doesn’t even notice when I do things and don’t bitch about them or how I never, ever scoop the litterbox. (He doesn’t; I don’t.) I sometimes step into “Why did I choose this life?”, but the spiral doesn’t really get momentum.

Yup, this is probably all meds.

Almost seven months ago, I made the best decision I will likely ever make for myself on behalf of my son: I told someone I thought I needed meds for depression. Until that day, while I’d often visited a therapist, I’d not let myself be willing to try anything, but for my son, I said the words.

My best friend just had a baby and I was thinking about what I’d tell her, if she were me, back before I had my son. (Following?) I think I’d tell her – and you, if you’re facing your first child – to have a plan. We’re all told about the risks of PPD, but if my experience is an indicator, new mamas will go through hell before admitting they might maybe quite possibly perhaps needs to do something – even something this critical and far-reaching in effect – for themselves.  The thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about was how my son would grow up if he didn’t see his mama smile.

So I ask you: what’s your thing? How would you know you weren’t yourself? What are your own personal, unique, just-you red flags? Take a moment and think about them, then write them down, then send them to a close friend or your husband or mom.

Here’s what mine would have looked like:

The normal me, when under stress or overwhelmed, asks for help, polls people for input, researches (but only until it’s too much), gives up, cries, texts (but hates talking on the phone) and blogs. Music makes me swoon. Dancing makes me smile. I do what I have to do if it’s for good and not evil.

While I don’t know what the mama me will do, if you notice that I’m not doing more than two of those things, please remind me of this letter. Remind me that depression deprives not only the mama but also the family and the baby of the joy and happiness they deserve… even if most of the day is suck, some of the day should be good. Not okay or not-as-bad, but good. Something, somehow, at some point, should make me break into a smile I can’t help, the kind that comes from my soul, not my head. And if at any point I’m not doing things for his own good because I can’t bear to put him through it, I need help.

Please, go make your list and send it to someone. I’m mourning the first nine weeks of my life with my son right now. I was such a mess, it’s amazing I managed to get through the day much less while providing him some semblance of a good life. I did, but I feel like I missed it all because I was in such a fog.

It’s hard to tell someone you think they need psychiatric help, but this way, they’re not telling you, you’re telling you.

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3 thoughts on “Make a post-partum depression plan, please

  1. I had a history of depression and eating disorders when I was in high school and college, so I was worried about PPD. I talked with my husband about it a few times before we had our son, though I’m not sure he’d have been the one to see it if I had had PPD. I ended up doing okay. There were times I worried, especially when I found myself getting really frustrated with the early morning wake ups, and stress over the crying, but setting my son down in a safe spot (when I was alone) and walking outside for a minute to yell, cry or hit something, really helped.
    I think it is really important to have a plan. Talking about it before my son was born, helped me to be more honest with others after he was here.

  2. Great post. And an excellent idea. It also takes the burden off your family of saying, “honey, maybe it’s PPD.” Sometimes people get defensive. If you’re the one telling you, as you said, they’re only carrying out your wishes and assessment. Hopefully it would allow one to be recognized and get help sooner.

    I’m so sorry you feel like you missed out, but it’s so clear that you are joyful and appreciative now, and that’s what matters. If your journey included weeks of fog, well, that’s probably not how you would have planned it, but it belongs to YOU. No one else gets to take your journey or live your life or mother your child. I know my journey has had some twists I turns I would not have included if I had been the author, but they’re part of me and I wouldn’t trade where I am now for anything. I hope you’re not too hard on yourself for too long about it. You did the right thing and gave Javi the gift of your smiles 🙂

  3. Thank you for posting honestly about your PPD experience. Reading it helped inspire me to get on meds 12 months (!!) after my son was born. I should have been on meds most of my adult life and I mourn all those years I was too blind to see that. Things are much better now, thankfully.

    I really appreciate your blog and have followed you here from your Weddingbee days. I’m glad you have less angst, but hope you still check in from time to time!

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