1 in 7

Tonight I am attaching an article that I wrote for another mommy blog. Unfortunately they ultimately decided that perinatal mood disorders are not something that they are interested in posting about. In fact, they never even got back to me regarding a decision.

Which is okay.

This is a hard topic to talk about, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t.

Too many moms suffer in silence. Too many.

So here is the article:

1 in 7

I never saw it coming. I already had three perfectly normal pregnancies and births and had recovered quickly. I didn’t expect anything different this time around. My doctors never talked about it, never told me that it was possible to have such a horrific experience postpartum, even if you have a history of perfectly normal recovery periods….

The anxiety had started to build in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. We had just moved, already had 3 kids, and were navigating a pretty hectic schedule and the holidays were coming up. I assumed my anxiety was directly related to the fact that the baby was coming, and that it was nothing to be concerned about. After a whirlwind birth, that included almost no labor and only 30 seconds of pushing, I was left feeling a bit in shock in the hospital. I felt different. Nervous. Worried. Alone. But, even then I thought perhaps I was just worried about juggling 3 under 3 with another one in elementary school. Maybe I was nervous about transitioning to such a big family. Perhaps I didn’t like being in the hospital. Whatever the reason that my nerves were going crazy, I tried to ignore it and get back to normal.

Fast forward 3 days and I am in the emergency room for a massive panic attack. I thought I was dying and I was so scared. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the four month hell I was thrust into. The world around me felt foreign, everything scared me, panic attacks happened daily and I sat up at night just waiting for morning to come. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I dropped 30 lbs. and truly thought that my life was ending. 24 hours a day my mind thought things that I never could have imagined on my own. I was afraid of myself, afraid of the next thoughts that would come, afraid that I would never regain control of myself. I feared being locked away in a hospital, away from my kids and husband, the people I loved more than myself. But, mostly I was afraid that one day I would wake up and realize that I wasn’t able to handle it anymore. I didn’t know how long I could survive living like that, but somewhere deep inside, I knew it wasn’t long. I needed help. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I feared that I would never again be the person I was before.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum panic disorder. Finding help was very challenging, as therapist after therapist didn’t have any experience in treating these perinatal illnesses. Even my obstetrician was at a loss for what to do. I felt like I was the only person in the world suffering like this. I didn’t know what my next move would be. But I KNEW that I had to do something.

After so much prayer and out of desperation, I admitted to everyone around me, everyone I knew, everyone that asked how I was doing what was going on with me. I wrote about it on my blog, posted about it on Facebook and talked about it every chance I got.

And something amazing happened. Women began sharing their stories with me. Their illnesses started the same way that mine had, seemed to follow the same pattern and they had felt totally alone. The similarities between cases were unbelievable, and the number of women who have admitted their experiences to me have been astounding.

1 in 7. That’s how many women will experience a postpartum mood disorder at some point in their life. Less than half of those women will seek the treatment necessary to be on the road to recovery. They will feel ashamed, embarrassed, scared and alone because as a society we have placed a stigma on these illnesses that makes women afraid to admit that something is wrong. We expect moms to be able to handle it all, we set incredibly high standards for ourselves and if we can’t meet them we beat ourselves up for it. We push ourselves to the brink. We suffer in silence because we want others to think we have it all together.

The harshest reality is that suicide is the number one cause of death in the first year postpartum for women. Suicide. Women are choosing to take their own lives because they are so scared, lost and alone.

I am sharing my story because I want any woman reading it who has experienced this to know that they are not alone. You are NOT alone. There are so many of us are suffering alongside of you, even if it is silently.

My progress gets better every day. I found a doctor willing to work with me and take my suggestions and follow up on my treatment ideas with research of her own. I take a combination of anti-depressant medications to help stabilize myself. I try to be kind to myself. I celebrate goods days and I tolerate the bad ones. I know that someday I will fully be back to my old self.

As moms, we need to rally around each other and offer support. We need to remove the stigma of perinatal mood disorders and recognize as an increasingly common reality of giving birth. We need to push doctors for mandatory screenings and we need to tune into ourselves and recognize when something isn’t right.

But, more than anything, we need to speak up. Speak up if a mom you know isn’t acting like herself. Speak up if you have survived this illness. Speak up if you are suffering and you need help.

This journey is unfair at times. It is hard and it takes so much out of you. It’s exhausting, frustrating, scary, nerve wracking, and painful. But there is one thing that it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be lonely.

Recently I have been informed of some tragic events, both in the news and not, regarding postpartum mood disorders and various outcomes.

My heart breaks for these moms who didn’t reach out, who didn’t have help, who no one checked in on to make sure that were okay. 

Let’s make a pact.

A pact to look our friends in the eye who have just had a baby and ask the hard questions. Give them an opportunity to open up, without judgment, about how they are really feeling. You never know, it could save a life.

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