Even The Doctor Missed My Postpartum Depression

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I was never going to stay home after I had my daughter. I planned my maternity leave from teaching meticulously.

Lesson plans in perfect order, my classroom organized so a sub could teach the beginning of the school year. I’d be back in my classroom by Halloween, and my daughter would be happy and healthy in the perfect preschool, but then I had her.

From the very second I met my little girl, I knew I wasn’t going back to work.

Which meant, in my mind at least, that all those years of college, the time I’d put in teaching in the smaller school districts to finally land a job in the bigger one, and the years I had spent learning to be the perfect teacher– honing not just my career, but my identity as a school teacher were all a waste.

Everything changed in that instant.

what postpartum depression is really like

Plans change, and that’s okay, but when life changes suddenly like mine did, it can put you in a tailspin. And when I was already hormonal and brand new to mommyhood, postpartum depression set in.

I had heard of it before, but I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t even really realize anything was wrong with me.

I just knew that I didn’t want my daughter to die.

She was too important.

Before her, the most responsibility I’d had was a plant– and it was plastic, and I accidentally left it in the car, so it melted.

When I visited my OB after her birth, he asked how things were going, and I answered the way I was supposed to. “Lots of diapers! I can’t wait to sleep some time in the year 2020! HAH!”

Plus, I was happy. I LOVED being a mom, and my little girl was the coolest thing on the planet.

Postpartum depression sounded to me like something to make you sad. Wasn’t depression when you couldn’t get out of bed?

I had to get out of bed.

If I didn’t, who would protect my baby?

postpartum depression

It isn’t his fault that he didn’t see my postpartum, it was easy for me to hide.

Each time we left the house, there was a small nail on the wall in our utility room on the way to the garage where I hung my keys. I envisioned accidentally tripping and pushing the nail into her soft skull every single time we walked past it.

It was this thought that ran through my head again and again  I couldn’t stop seeing it no matter how much I tried  no matter how much I blinked it away

Never mind that the nail was actually above my head, and I would have to trip UP in order for that to happen. Forget about the fact that nail was actually so small it wouldn’t have even hurt anyone.

That stupid nail worried me so much that I covered her head each time we walked past it.

Just in case.

And when we were at the mall, and she was safely secured in her carrier inside the stroller, I’d imagine her slipping through the bars of the bridge that went over the parking garage into the second story of the building.

What if she wriggled out and somehow rolled over to the edge without me realizing? It worried me so much I parked on the bottom floor.

Just in case.

There were so many weird fears like this  my day was consumed with them  I was constantly keeping her safe. Sure I was keeping her safe from real stuff, but all that other stuff was there, too.

In my mind. Consuming me.

When I sat in marriage counseling, telling the counselor about these fears, about how I was constantly scared for her life.

About how even right then, when we sat in his office, I worried that all the smoke detectors were broken at home and that my mother-in-law’s sense of smell wouldn’t be good enough to realize there was a fire in the house, he assured me that it was normal, and that all mothers worried their children would die.

This is where my counselor failed me, failed my husband, my daughter, and eventually my marriage. Because later on I asked him why he didn’t realize what was going on with me, and he shrugged and told me that it wasn’t his place to diagnose postpartum. He was there to fix my marriage. (He failed, by the way.)

But, I knew it wasn’t normal, and I didn’t talk about it again. Not to my friends, not to my husband, not to my mother. I just worried.

I worried for almost two years. I wondered if life would always be like this. If I would live in constant fear of things I KNEW posed no harm to my child, but that would scare me so much I’d freeze in fear.

Illustration of a silhouette of a hands under ice

The weird freezing in fear was the worst part, by the way. It was this complete paralyzation. Too scared to do anything, but also too scared not to do anything all at the same time.

It did go away, though.

The fear slowly faded, and I realized the haze I’d been living in. I realized that I hadn’t been my normal self, that something was actually wrong, and I searched for answers. The fear was still there, but so was I.

I knew I had to fight for myself again. For my daughter.

Pair of red boxing gloves hanging on wall

Everything I read, everything I researched led me to postpartum depression. But, still, I doubted, because that was the stuff that made moms go crazy and kill their babies.

I wasn’t CRAZY, I would never do those things. Postpartum was looked on as this taboo, terrible thing, and it wasn’t– my hormones were imbalanced as all hell and they were playing tricks on my mind.

It turned out that the only reason my hormones had got back into check was because my periods were so screwed up that I started back on birth control to regulate them.

birth control pills in box

I owe my body a solid on that one. Always listen to your body. Those periods were the way my body told me I needed to get it checked out. To get things fixed

Finally, I got the courage to tell my doctor about my fears, how they’d vanished with the birth control, how they’d stopped me in my tracks and made me take unnecessary precautions all the time.

He shook his head, and apologized, “That’s postpartum depression, and I am so sorry I missed it. We still don’t know a lot about it and if I don’t ask the right questions, then I don’t get the right answers.”

It wasn’t his fault, or anybody’s really– postpartum isn’t something that looks the same in everyone, and it isn’t something that anyone can see, or even know if they are feeling it themselves.

The best thing we, as moms and women who have been through this and came out on the other side, can do for women with postpartum is to share our stories.

To tell our truths and be honest about what we REALLY felt after we had our babies and encourage them to do the same.

That’s why I am telling my story now, because maybe some mom out there somewhere is going through what I went through, and she doesn’t know why, and she feels alone.

You’re not alone, and if you ever need to talk, I am here for you.

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  1. When I had my first I was completely overwhelmed. I was 20 years old and my husband traveled for work when our son was 2 weeks old. I wanted to prove that everyone around me that I could do this, breastfeeding was excruciating, after breastfeeding my second I realize it was a bad latch. I wasn’t eating therefore my milk plummeted and I was incredibly self conscious since I gained 60 lbs during my pregnancy. Topped 200 for the first time in my life, I was always involved in sports as a child so weight wasn’t something I struggled with. I didn’t want anything to do with my son, and didn’t want to hold him I ended up failing breastfeeding, husband lost his job and we both went into a deep depression. When my son was 6 months old my husband got a job then ended up in the hospital on his death bed. Something in that experience woke me up and I realized I needed to do better. I was at my husbands side in the hospital for 3 weeks with our son. After that we moved in with my parents for him the heal and eventually he found work. He wasn’t physically able to even lift our son so me working wasn’t a option and he was allergic to his formula. It was bad and I still regret everything I missed those first 6 months. Now he’s almost 3 and we’re both present again.

  2. I loved this article. I suffered for two long years with Post partum and in the process my relationship fsiled, i lost many friends, almost lost my job.. i never envisioned hurting my son but always imagined the worst happening to him. I did however want to hurt and end myself because i felt trapped and that i couldn’t get out of it, i pictured the way i was going to end my life and kissed my son goodbye before doing it but my parents witnessed this and stopped me before hand and got me the help i needed. I’ve been making up for lost time with my son as i can’t remember the first two years of his life. I didn’t know that it was okay to talk about these vivid thoughts i was having. I honestly felt like a bad person. Post partum depression is no joke and i always tell my story to new moms in hopes that they would get help as soon as they start feeling weird or thinking “strange” things.

  3. I knew I had it. I just gave them all the answers they wanted to hear. It just kept getting worse until it was overwhelming. I kept wanting them to really ask, not just checking it off a list

  4. No, your counselor isn’t to blame for your failed marriage. Give me a break! The only people responsible for that are you and your ex. Come on, now.

  5. Hi! Im also on the same shoes as you. But the difference is that there’s no one that I could talk to. Regarding my monthly period, its also messed up. Before I had regular period but now its like every after two months. What should I do? Any suggestions to make it back to normal? Pls need your help. ? And what can I do in minimizing my fears? Im like crying every night with no apparent reason, just feeling sad. I need your advice.

  6. I really appreciate this post. I’m going through this and I didn’t know it wasn’t normal until I stumbled across this today. Thank you! X

  7. My PPD made me run away. I didn’t feel like I was needed… my daughter refused to breastfeed, no matter how hard I tried… the last time I tried with her, she looked at me like “This is awful. why are you doing this to me?!!” So she was bottle fed. She didn’t need me. My other two were obviously older, but I mean, anyone can care for children right? they don’t actually neeed me. Or so my PPD told me. So I came up with a very valid reason to get the heck out of dodge. I went and took a special interest course that ran a week long, and in my mind I wasn’t sure that I was coming back. it was shared accommodations, so I shared with strangers, and that was fine, but my roomies were in different courses that ended sooner than mine. I was all alone for 3 nights. It was bliss. But it wasn’t. And when I came home, I went and got medication to help me with the PPD. I didn’t have to stay on it. I’m no longer on it now, 6 years later. But it helped to pull me through the darkest days, and into the light.
    Post Partum Depression is so different for everyone. But it’s possible to get through it, and it’s not shameful, nor should it be stigmatized. It’s real, and it doesn’t mean you are weak. It’s a part of some peoples experiences. And if it weren’t for PPD, I probably wouldn’t be where i am today in that i probablay wouldn’t have gotten to that course, and I wouldn’t be on my way to a Master Spinner Certificate…. It was a blessing disguised as a curse.
    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jamie.

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