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What I'll Do Differently If I Have Postpartum Depression Again

Photograph by Twenty20

I went into motherhood with my fair share of arrogance. I knew I had it nailed, and was completely blindsided when I found myself struggling to get through every single day . After writing about it last month I was overwhelmed by the amount of women thanking me for speaking up, and blindsided once more by a mom who asked me a simple little question: "Do you think you'll have another baby?"

Throughout everything, I hadn't really stopped to think about the possibility that I could go through it again, and while I know it may not be the same and that I may not have the wits to know what I need, I spent some time brainstorming what I would do differently the next time around. Here's what I came up with:

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I would read less about symptoms, more about people.

For me, postpartum depression seemed to settle deep in my bones, and being wide awake pumping at all hours, I had plenty of time to Google any alternative that would prevent me from having to admit I was depressed and felt like I was failing. Last week, I decided to search other moms who had suffered, and found myself in great company: Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox and more. These women not only shared their pain, but put words to things I was just figuring out how to express, and immediately I felt connected and relieved. Knowing that other moms have overcome all the negative thoughts and anxiety can be a powerful reminder to hang in there one more day.

I would sleep.

I was so fixated on doing everything right—from pumping to creating memorable mobiles that would stimulate my son's two-week-old brain—and I drove myself crazy in the process. While I don't think sleep would have prevented my depression or cured it, it's scientifically proven that lack of sleep wreaks havoc on both body and mind. If necessary, I would even consider pumping and dumping if I had to take sleep medicine, although my herbalist advised that Valerian is safe to use while nursing.

Next time, I would ask for help getting things done much earlier...

I would ask for help.

I sought out help from professionals to deal with my feelings, but when I returned home, I still felt overwhelmed at the thought of trying to do everything . Next time, I would ask for help getting things done much earlier—including bringing over my mother-in-law who I'd naively planned to come help out only when I went back to work.

I would put myself first.

The first time I went to the chiropractor at four months postpartum felt like the ultimate betrayal to my son. I was leaving him at home, with nothing more than his dad and two bottles of pumped milk, to selfishly get my hip put back into place so that I could nurse without that sharp, pinching pain. In retrospect, I want to roll my eyes at my old self, but I do remember how hard it was back then, and how I had to force myself to walk out the door. They say it's easier with Baby #2, but next time, I will make sure that my body is well—even if it means crying through each appointment.

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I would go on meds.

I was so obsessed with breastfeeding that stopping in order to take meds was completely out of the question. I was so dogged in my belief that I put my nose down and kept on trudging through every single day. In hindsight, I might have been a happier mom, wife and daughter if I'd made the jump to meds (even homeopathic or herbal ones, which I wouldn't touch because I didn't know if they'd mess my kid up), which could have made up for the fact that we weren't exclusively breastfeeding. Luckily, I had enough support to make it through, but so many moms told me that meds made them feel whole again.

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