I suffered from severe PPD/A during my pregnancy and postpartum period with my first child. At that time, 26 years ago, there was very little information about postpartum mood disorders and although I had most of the risk factors there was no screening for PPD/A or monitoring from my doctor or even discussion around the fact that I was high risk. Consequently during my pregnancy I began to have terrible intrusive thoughts and did not understand what was happening. I thought that it was because I wasn’t equipped to be a mother and that it was somehow about my personal inadequacies rather than a condition that affects many women. If I had that information it may have made a difference in the outcome and manageability of my emotions at that time, and I certainly would have sought help sooner. I had a very difficult and traumatic birth experience, difficulties with breastfeeding, and a high needs baby, all of which I attributed to mean that I was not supposed to be a mom as I was failing at every step. My husband worked long hours and neither of our families lived here. All of this led to extreme stress for my partner and I. We were not prepared for the toll it took on us and we virtually had no support.
I know I would have gotten better sooner if I had treatment and support but left to my own devices I suffered for a long time, but eventually did start to feel better as my baby got older and around the one year mark I can say that it had lifted and I felt like I finally could enjoy my baby and motherhood. Not long after that I found out I was pregnant, and the nightmare returned. The same thing happened. I do think that if I had got help the first time I would have developed some self-help skills and strategies and possibly be on medication that may have pre-empted the next PPD/A with my second child. Instead with the 2nd baby things were compounded by the fact that I had not had treatment or support with my first. My experience was much worse as far as PPD/A was concerned. However, I did get support which made a huge difference. It took some time for me to get well, but I was not suffering alone, I had people who understood, who had compassionate and non-judgemental support though Pacific Post Partum Support Society groups. It not only saved my life but it changed my life in a profound way. Although I would not wish this experience on anyone, I am actually grateful today that I did go through it as the things I truly value in my life came from this dark time. Today I am surrounded by a community of support as a result of this experience and I no longer ever suffer through anything alone. I have a deep understanding of self-care and how all of us, no matter what, do not need to travel through difficult transitions in life without support. I came into a PPPSS group when my son was 3 weeks old and I’ve basically never left. I volunteered with PPPSS after my experience in group and have been a staff member since my son was 3 and my daughter was 5… 21 years ago!
I have had the privilege of working with postpartum moms for a very long time now. I have heard many stories, I have sat with women who share their scariest thoughts and feelings, and I witness their courageous journeys of recovery from a dark and difficult time to come through to the other side sharing their successes and the gifts they have received as a result…. just as I did.
We’re In This Together is a photography series, coordinated in partnership with the Pacific Post Partum Support Society and the Good Mother Project, that offers messages of encouragement, hope, support and love to new parents.
For more information on how you can share your message, please visit: http://goodmotherproject.com/were-in-this-together