On October 31, 2011 I gave birth to a beautiful little girl, named Claire MacKenzie. My husband and I were very excited to finally meet our daughter. I had a natural childbirth at the Grey Nuns hospital in Edmonton, with almost everything going according to plan. Within 24 hours we brought her home.
It definitely took a little while to adjust to the concept of being a mother! I remember my first day alone with her, after our families had gone back home to Saskatoon and my husband had returned to class. I had a strange feeling that because I’d had this baby for two weeks already, she was probably due back at the library! Even the idea that she was mine, and that caring for her was my new life seemed so odd.
Like most women, I experienced the ‘baby blues’ after birth, with crying spells and mood swings as my hormones settled down. Unfortunately, my difficulties did not resolve within the usual 2 week period and developed into postpartum depression. I lost weight very rapidly after giving birth – all of my pregnancy weight plus another five pounds within ten days. I had lost another five pounds by my 6 week checkup (note that I was not trying to lose weight and had only gained 22 pounds while pregnant). I had trouble sleeping during the day because I felt anxious, and at night I would lie in bed and have flashbacks to my labor and delivery. I had nightmares about hurting my daughter and frequently felt overwhelmed, guilty, agitated, and stressed.
I have had multiple episodes of depression in the past, but I was still a bit in denial. Because Claire was my first child, I wasn’t sure at the time if what I was experiencing was normal for new moms. A public health nurse and my OB/GYN brushed off my symptoms, but when I was given an official screening for postpartum depression when Claire was 2 months old, it confirmed my suspicions.
There were several components to my recovery. I started taking sertraline daily (contrary to popular belief, you do not need to choose between nursing and using medication, as there are many antidepressants and antianxiety medications that are safe to use while breastfeeding). Additionally, I attended a PMDA support group as well as other moms groups, such as La Leche League. I also saw a counselor at my public health office.
Today Claire is 26 months old and my whole family is doing well. I still take care to look after my mental health (medication, exercise, adequate sleep etc.) but I have been stable for over a year.
Remember that postpartum depression will get better! The length of time it takes to recover varies from person to person, but it will happen. Remember that there is so much joy in parenthood, and you will find it, even if your road to get to that place feels long and rough.
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