Postpartum Depression Isn’t a Bad Word

shared by guest author Bethany Oggenfuss

When I hear “postpartum depression”, I instantly recoil and flash back to the months following the arrival of my first child. Those months were filled with what seemed like never ending sadness, anger, fear, anxiety and uncertainty. That first year postpartum should’ve been the happiest time of my life; in actuality, I was being consumed with dread. Postpartum depression isn’t a bad word… and medication isn’t a bad thing.

My postpartum depression stemmed from a nightmare-ish first pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery. Hyperemesis gravidarum, preterm labor, 10 weeks of bedrest, and postpartum hemorrhage, to name a few things my body survived.

My birth story with my first child is long and scary, and ultimately ending with postpartum hemorrhage and four units of blood transfused. Going in and out of consciousness, not sure of where your newborn baby is, just frighteningly aware that they are not on your chest anymore. Watching the faces of fresh student nurses concerned and helpless as your OB is trying to find and stop your bleeding. Feeling as though you cannot breathe, and ringing so loud in your ears you’re not sure anyone can hear you speak, because you can’t hear yourself. The feeling of fear coursing through your body, knowing this was not in your birth plan. This was not how the “happiest day of your life” was supposed to go. That is birth trauma. And mine consumed me.

I woke up everyday excited to be a Mom, but went to bed every night in fear. Every noise in my house, every sound my baby made, every sleepless night consumed with worry. There was a time I would not leave my house, or let my baby out of my sight. It was at my 6 week postpartum appointment that I mentioned to my OB, that I just didn’t feel “right”. During that appointment she diagnosed me with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I was placed on medication to help me regain some control of my life.

Although I was living for months in survival mode, I was able to find pockets of peace. Breastfeeding my child in a quiet room. Hearing my child’s first laugh. Finding humor in being peed and pooped on. Making time to eat a hot meal. Taking a nap and waking up feeling rested. Taking a warm shower.

Fast forward two years. Me and my husband decided we’d like a second child. That decision was not made lightly given my pregnancy, birth and postpartum history.

I was slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I was happy. I cried happy tears when I found out I was pregnant. My second baby was a girl. I had my boy and my girl and I couldn’t wait to see them together.

Although this pregnancy was planned, and eagerly anticipated, I dreaded the thought of labor and delivery, for fear of a repeat experience. To my surprise, I was in labor for only 7 hours, and pushed for 6 minutes. No tears, minimal bleeding, golden hour, and I was walking within hours. It was the birth story I so longed for. My perfect baby was here, and we were both safe and healthy.

When I was being discharged from the hospital I asked them for a prescription for an antidepressant that would be safe for breastfeeding. My OB and I had discussed this many times, and they supported my plan to get ahead of a potential problem. I wasn’t going to let myself fall into that pit of despair again. My kids deserved better. My family deserved better. I deserve better.

I am now 6 months postpartum after my second child’s birth, and am happy. The medication I am on is visibly and actively helping me. I think this is the “happiest time of my life” that everyone refers to. I do not dread getting dressed everyday, or cooking a meal, or brushing my hair. I am allowing myself to rest. I am playing with my toddler. I am snuggling my baby. I am giving myself the opportunity and understanding to be a better wife and mother.

I hope one day I am able to forgive myself for so much during my first year of motherhood. But for now, I’m just enjoying being woken up by hearing “mama, wanna hear about my dream?”