A Mother's Love, A Mother's Burden

Learning to Recognize Postpartum Depression

Everything may look alright on the surface. You may not even recognize when you have symptoms of postnatal depression.

You know that immense, earth-shattering, all-encompassing love that a mother can have for her baby?

How about the feeling that motherhood is one of the hardest things ever?

Well, Serena Williams knows.

And so does Gwyneth Paltrow.

And Adele.

And Hayden Pannetiere.

The list goes on and on.

Because these powerful women and celebrities all have something in common.

And its not just that they’re moms.

It’s that they all took the stage to raise awareness about the hardships they experienced in their lives with their babies.

Their stories all work collectively to ‘un-shush’ a formerly closeted topic.

(I’m talking about postpartum depression).

Why?

Because they all had it. And admitted it.

And so did I.

But just like the majority of women who feel heavily taxed by early motherhood while they are going through it—none of us knew that we were suffering from depression at the time.

We only figured it out in hindsight: Which, of course, is maddening to think of: The fact that there was not more adequate education, information, or awareness surrounding the condition, to help us be able to identify it when it was happening to us. For had we been able to catch it sooner, we could have benefited from help sooner.

“I couldn't figure out why I was so unhappy,” famous model and actress Chrissy Teigen told Glamour magazine in her April cover story. “I blamed it on being tired.”

Just like we saw in Teigen's case, PPD often goes undiagnosed and remains "under-the-radar." But hindsight is 20-20. We've now heard similar accounts from several women in the spotlight--all speaking to the same experience--of not knowing what was wrong with them, after they had their babies.

“[I] felt like a zombie,” Gwyneth Paltrow told Good Housekeeping of her depression. She assumed she was a “terrible mother.”
“[I think] there’s a lot of misunderstanding—that—‘Oh, it’s [just] hormones—[so] they brush it off… [or think] it’s something completely uncontrollable,” actress Hayden Panettiere said On Live! with Kelly and Michael. “Women need more support.”
“I looked at Luna every day, amazed by her. So I didn’t think I had it,” Chrissy Teigen later said, in her story in Glamour.

Well, those celebrities and I—we are speaking up about this, because we want all moms to be able to learn from our mistakes.

We want YOU to be able to recognize the symptoms of postnatal depression, in case it ever happens to you, or someone you know.

Because guess what? PPD is NOT only characterized by what you ‘think’ it is.

It can be far more unassuming than you would ever imagine. And the symptoms of mild depression can look strangely ‘normal’ to the untrained eye.

Simply feeling overtaxed, stressed, overtired or overwhelmed in your life with your new baby, alone, can signal the presence of PPD.

It is important to understand that there is a wide spectrum of emotions and symptoms on the scale, which range from mild to moderate, and then, of course, escalate to more severe.

PPD could be experienced as having feelings of guilt, or hopelessness, or occasional weepiness.

It could come in the form of worrying a lot.

It could come in the form of anxiety or panic, sleeplessness or insomnia, increased moodiness or irritability, anger, resentment... you name it. 

Any unsavory physical symptom, thought, or feeling is on the table, here.

It may leave you feeling a bit down, or unhappy, or unlike your former self.  

And it can cause many women to wonder if they made a mistake; or conclude that perhaps they weren’t ready for this after all; or leave them wondering how they will be able to get through another day without first collapsing from exhaustion.

To reiterate: the above is not an exhaustive list.

There are so many different ways postpartum depression can manifest. It can look so different for each individual. It can look so different every time.

And the symptoms are not an "all" or “nothing" affair.

Any combination of the above, can manifest in your case. And it they all fall under the larger umbrella of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders: i.e., postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety--which are both sweepingly common conditions, affecting roughly 20% of American women.

Try not to be as shocked as I was (because: who knew?), when I finally realized that the Hell I had been through in my own postpartum life (complete with trouble sleeping and heart palpitations), was in fact, a sign of depression.

It came much to my surprise, just like it did for GOT star Lena Heady, when in a 2017 interview with The Edit, she said: “I saw a doctor for [a] medical check, and I just burst into tears. She said I was postnatally depressed, and I went, ‘Am I? Why is that?’”

The evidence is strikingly clear: We, as mothers, are not taught enough about postpartum wellness and un-wellness. We are largely uninformed, and unable to identify the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, even when they happen to us.

Postpartum depression can also onset due to several outside triggers, such as any major life change (like a move), career change, or traumatic birth experience—or come to women who have a history of depression, miscarriage or infant loss, trouble conceiving, or a history of sexual abuse.

Getting too little sleep, alone, can easily catapult you into a systemic depression—which is a circumstance that is largely unavoidable for new moms.

But most importantly: We want you to know that there ARE things you can do to prevent, or alleviate, these symptoms from happening.

So what are we to do?

First and foremost, prevention comes through education and support.

Alanis Morissette told People magazine that:

"After being diagnosed about a year-and-a-half after [her] first pregnancy, [she] was prepared to face PPD again (following the July 2016 birth of her daughter Onyx). "I was at the ready, whether I'm adjusting this hormonally or through vitamins or through omegas or allopathic medicine or whatever, I was ready to do anything [to prevent or alleviate it]."

And Sarah Michelle Gellar shared on Instagram: 

"Like a lot of women, I too struggled with postpartum depression after my first baby was born. I got help, and made it through, and every day since has been the best gift I could ever have asked for. To those of you going through this, know that you're not alone and that it really does get better.”

I echo their sentiments, 100%.

Let’s get you “at the ready.”

You are never alone. 

And it really can get better.

Please go to BetterPostpartum.com to learn more about what you can do to prevent or heal the symptoms of postpartum depression, or any perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

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