Do any of these statements sound like you?
“PPD? Nah, it could never happen to me. I’d never let it. Especially now that I have a baby I’ve always dreamed of having.”
“I’m a strong person. I’ve overcome many challenges in my life, both on a personal and professional level. I can handle taking care of a baby. Plus, I’ve never been depressed before, so how would I get depressed all of a sudden now?”
“I’m busy enough as it is with preparing for the baby’s arrival. I’ve read all there is to read on infant care, breastfeeding, etc. I don’t have the time, or need, to read up on PPD. If it were that big a deal, then why have I never heard anyone I know say they’ve experienced it? Why don’t you ever see anything in the media about it? Must not happen a whole lot, so what are the chances I will get it?”
If you look at the Postpartum Support International poster, you’ll see the eye-catching statement that surprised me when I first saw it, as I’m sure it would surprise most people: “The #1 complication of childbirth is depression.” Like me, many people have heard of “postpartum depression” but don’t know what it means, at least not until it affects you directly.
Before I learned about 4-5 months after my daughter was born, 3-4 months after my first symptoms started, and 2-3 months after I learned I had PPD, I didn’t know anyone who has had it (and I’m not counting the likes of Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond either). In reading up on pregnancy, labor and delivery, I skipped everything that was titled “postpartum depression,” whether it be a pamphlet from the hospital’s childcare class you enrolled in or a chapter in a pregnancy book. I never thought it would be something that would happen to me. I thought I had succumbed and overcome many obstacles in my life without ever having depression, I would never let something like PPD happen to me. I thought it was all a matter of mind over matter.
The words “Knowledge is Power” have a deeply significant meaning here, because had I known that as many as one out of eight new mothers develop PPD, I would’ve tried to become familiar with what it is, its risk factors, and its symptoms BEFORE having my baby, and I would’ve never traveled that long, lonely and dark road during those dreadful weeks I was sick with PPD. It hit me suddenly and without warning, and since I didn’t know squat about PPD, my anxiety levels were through the roof. Insomnia led quickly to panic attacks, quickly debilitating me to the point that I couldn’t sleep, let alone function, without being medicated.
But I emerged smarter and stronger than I was before my PPD experience. For that, I am ever so grateful.