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I Thought I Had the Baby Blues, But It Was Something More

Photograph by Twenty20

My son was born just over seven years ago. I still remember the day. It was a scary moment because of my C-section, but after that I just couldn’t get enough of my new baby. I felt a bond right away.

A few weeks flew by, and everything was still going great. After those first few weeks, though, I was getting some bad anxiety. I remember thinking, “This must be normal after giving birth. It'll be fine.” Little did I know, it wasn’t going to be fine. The anxiety eventually got so bad that I was afraid of anything happening to him. (My normal mom worries quickly became too intense and too much to handle.)

It was as if I couldn’t control my anxiety. I was scared to death of him ever getting hurt, and I watched everyone’s move, making sure they did everything right. These anxious feelings were so overwhelming and exhausting, and it was starting to get the best of me. Unfortunately, I fell into a depression. This wasn’t just baby blues. I felt this depression and anxiety for at least two to three years, with the first year being the worst. I remember I wasn’t even eating for a while during the first year. I was just too depressed.

I quickly lost myself, and I wasn’t the person I knew anymore. I felt that although I was with my son, I wasn’t mentally with him. What I thought were the baby blues turned out to be postpartum depression.

So what's the difference?

Baby blues are short and never last more than two weeks. If you experience anxiety, depression or are just feeling down in general for more than two weeks after delivery, according to clinical psychologist Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D, it’s time to get some help. With up to 80 percent of moms experiencing some sort of stress or weepiness after their baby is born, you’re certainly not alone. I wish I had known that.

What you can expect from the baby blues:

  • Feeling weepy and crying a lot
  • Feeling emotional or vulnerable
  • Mood instability
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Inability to concentrate

PPD, on the other hand, is the most common postpartum mood disorder. Approximately 15 percent of mothers deal with PPD. It’s not your fault, and you did nothing wrong to cause it. PPD is thought to be caused in part by a major hormonal drop after giving birth. That hormonal shift will affect your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and send you on an emotional roller coaster, or so it feels.

One of the major pieces of advice I wish I had taken was to nap when my son napped. Why? Because sleep deprivation is one of several factors that has been linked to PPD. Don’t get me wrong, my husband was my rock through this process. He would have gotten up with our son in the middle of the night, but I chose to wake up before he did because he was the one going to work in the morning. I was thinking of others before myself (a common story with moms). But if you have the help, take it. Let others wake up, if they're willing to one or two times in the night.

Some signs of PPD:

  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, irritability
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Inability to focus
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive worry about your baby’s health (this one caused major issues for me)
  • Baby blues symptoms lasting more than two weeks after you give birth
  • Symptoms causing you to be unable to function
  • PPD usually presents itself in the first two to three months after giving birth, but could appear any time after delivery

As moms, we need to talk more about baby blues and PPD. The more people we can make aware of this topic, the less others have to suffer in silence.

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