Let me tell you a secret.
I’m about to be vulnerable and share a secret about myself that not many people know. As you read about this secret, so do some of my family members and friends that will be hearing this information for the first time. Why is it a secret? Because it deals with handling postpartum depression, which seems to inherently involve shame.
In Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, she quotes Teddy Roosevelt who said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the
manwoman who points out how the strong manwoman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the manwoman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himselfherself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if heshe fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
So I take this leap and dare to share this secret with you mommas, who are in the arena with me.
The secret is that I took antidepressants for postpartum depression for a year.
That’s not the whole secret.
The whole secret is that I started taking them before I even gave birth in order to be proactive with postpartum.
This is the story of coming to that decision.
My family has a history of anxiety and depression. I have a history of anxiety and depression. As a first-time mom, I did tons of research on what to expect with pregnancy and birth. I learned that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression and that chance increases if you have a history or family history of depression. I thought about the summer after my freshman year of college when I first experienced depression resulting from extreme anxiety. I only ate popcorn and those giant Hershey’s bars with almonds. I sat up and watched TV all night (but only the Disney Channel or Roseanne because anything else made me feel uneasy) and I would sneak to bed when I heard my dad get up for work. I didn’t leave the house. I lost 15 lbs. I wasn’t okay. I was terrified of experiencing this with a new baby.
Making the decision took most of my pregnancy.
I started talking to a couple close friends that had had babies before me. I shyly brought up the topic. They told me stories of being afraid to leave the house, locking all the windows, fear, and regret. I asked about it in one of my birthing classes and the instructor talked about experiencing postpartum psychosis with her second child. That she was so obsessed with keeping germs away from her new baby that she would forget to feed her older child. I talked to every doctor at my OBGYN and they agreed that it was something for me to be concerned about with my personal history and strongly encouraged that I consider being proactive by starting an antidepressant before giving birth. The rationale was that it would take a few weeks to determine if I was dealing with more than just baby blues and then it would take a few more weeks for the antidepressant to take effect.
I also had to get my husband on board. He’s very supportive, but was really worried about what this might mean for our unborn baby. He was confident that I could handle it on my own because that’s what I do, I handle things. We also come from different backgrounds; anxiety and depression weren’t talked about in his family. It was when I stumbled on this article about having postpartum depression as a black woman that we had a turning point. Much of the story in it was familiar to him. We were able to come to a shared perspective.
I’m still coming to terms with the decision.
Even with all of this information (and multiple consultations with Dr. Google), this was a really hard decision to make. I felt like a failure and I hadn’t even given birth. I wondered if I was selling myself short as a mom. If I did this, I’d never know if I could handle everything on my own.
In the end, we decided that it was better to never know if I could handle things on my own postpartum than to find out that I couldn’t. This was the best way to take care of myself so that I could take care of my baby, who is happy and healthy and almost one. I’m being honest and vulnerable here, so I’ll be honest and say that there was a side-effect of the drug. For about the first 24 hours after she was born, my baby had little tremors as a result of withdrawal. I knew this was a possibility. When the nurse brought it up, I immediately knew that I was a failure! Then she asked if I’d drank a lot of caffeine when I was pregnant, thinking that was the cause. I did drink coffee when I was pregnant, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that. I’m working on not being ashamed of the rest.
I did experience the baby blues for about and they were definitely rough! I would get really anxious around 7pm every night because I knew I’d be up with the baby throughout the night and that my husband would be leaving the next morning for work. I cried all of the time, typically for no reason. Then about 3 weeks after giving birth, I was fine. It was like someone flipped a switch. It was then that I knew I’d made the right decision for myself and my family.
So I encourage you to be vulnerable with me and leave you with one more piece of inspiration from Brene Brown, who is another momma with us fighting in the arena.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
This is a story of what worked best for me and my family. Any decisions about medication or postpartum depression should be made with your doctor.