Please note that this post contains references to suicide and depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988 or chat the lifeline.
Within the first three weeks of my daughter’s life, I thought about taking mine. I felt trapped with the 24/7 responsibility of a baby. I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep when I had the chance. And I rarely had the opportunity to sleep because I was breastfeeding. I thought about giving our baby up for adoption. I thought about returning her to an imaginary baby store. And I thought about taking my own life because things were just that hard. I had postpartum depression (PPD).
I was fortunate. I ended up seeing an OBGYN in my practice who was six months postpartum and had experienced PPD herself. My appointment and conversation with her was the start of me feeling better and the suicidal thoughts disappearing.
This was all five years ago. When I found out I was pregnant this past March, I knew that I wanted to avoid having postpartum depression if at all possible. Our second daughter is now seven weeks old. I am here to tell you that just because you have postpartum depression one time, it does not mean you will experience it again. Here’s what I did (and am still doing) to help me avoid postpartum depression with my second daughter.
I knew that it is easy for things to be ALL about the new baby because of how helpless and time-intensive babies are. I needed something to help me stay connected to real life/the outside world. My daughter helped me with that. I made sure to drop her off at kindergarten as much as I could—like I did before—for a continued sense of normalcy for her and me. I also met a friend for doughnuts two weeks after. It only lasted an hour, but it was enough. I made sure I didn’t ignore friends’ texts and even attended a holiday get-together. Once again, it was only for a short amount of time, but just being with people helped me feel more grounded.
I scheduled out appointments with my therapist. When people asked what we needed, I didn’t hesitate to say food or meals. DoorDash has became our best friend. I let my new OB/GYN know that I had experienced PPD. I reminded my daughter’s pediatrician about what I went through five years ago. Knowing that everyone knew what I might be experiencing again helped me feel better.
This is where I know I’m lucky. My husband was able to take six weeks off of work to support me after my daughter’s delivery. We knew my postpartum depression happened early on last time, so we wanted to make sure I was well-supported the first month and got enough sleep. It also helps to know that the newborn and infant phases are just that: phases. I know that my daughter being up throughout the night will not last forever. I know that breastfeeding her while my husband and daughter eat dinner–and my food grows cold–is only a temporary inconvenience. Because I had experienced the newborn phase and made it to the other side, I have a perspective that helps.
Postpartum depression is ugly. Merciless. And it doesn’t discriminate. Just because you had it once, though, does not mean it will happen again. If it does, though, reach out. Let your family and friends know. See a counselor. Take medicine. Know that your life is valuable.