Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Postpartum Depression

by heather

 Postpartum blues effects up to 85% of women in the period after they have given birth. Postpartum depression is a more severe condition that effects up to 25% of women. “Symptoms include sadness, fatigue, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, reduced libido, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability.” No kidding. Suddenly you have a bundle of joy who needs constant care and attention, doesn’t let you sleep, siphons off your energy, doubles your load of housework and reduces the time that you have to do it. Not to mention it’s a pretty big change for your body. Giving birth/having surgery and recovering from it is very physically demanding, and then there’s the hormone imbalances too. And if you’re like me there’s a pretty big change in routine. I went from working full-time to spending my days sitting on the couch breast-feeding. Instead of seeing friends, coworkers and other people on a regular basis you stay inside because you don’t want your baby to get sick and you feel like you are constantly breast-feeding. And you can kiss your personal time goodbye. No wonder women get depressed after having babies. This motherhood business is a challenging undertaking.
 I share my story in the hopes that it will help someone else. The first couple weeks after I had my baby I was feeling pretty good. I was so excited not to be pregnant anymore. No more sciatic pain, no more gallbladder issues, my back injury resolved, my varicose veins were improved, and no more of all those other pregnancy inconveniences. Not to mention my baby is so sweet and beautiful and I am so excited to have her here. At about two weeks things became more difficult. My baby stopped sleeping through the night, my three year old was turning from mischievous to terror. I was dropping weight fast because while trying to meet the demands of three small children I just didn’t have the time time to make myself three balanced meals a day. People were complimentary, and I would be polite, but think ‘Are you crazy? It’s not healthy to drop 26 pounds in two weeks.’   I was discouraged with my inability to keep my house clean, and take care of the needs of my family. I thought ‘What is wrong with me that I can’t do this? Many of my friends have more kids, and they can still maintain a clean house.’ I adore my children, but was struggling to cope with them. I craved peace, quiet and enough time to sit down and eat. At work at least there are federal laws that demand that I get a lunch break. One day I calculated I had about 700 calories in the entire day. (And normally I eat a lot more than that. In high school my husband nicknamed me “The Vortex” because I could eat him under the table at a time when he had regular swim practices.) That same day someone called to check on me and gave me some unrealistic advice. Not very helpful. It just made me feel frustrated and that people didn’t understand what I was going through and had higher expectations of what I should be doing than I could possibly achieve right now. I started having thoughts of killing or hurting myself on a regular basis. I wasn’t prepared to take any such actions, I just felt unstable. I thought about calling my doctor, but decided against it because I work with him on a fairly regular basis and I’d rather he didn’t think that I was crazy. Besides that I was pretty certain that my problem could be better fixed by methods other than taking medication.
 I talked to my husband and let him know that I had a problem. I told him I needed more help with the kids and the house and that I just needed to eat better. He made a point of helping me out more and regardless of the chaos going on made sure that we had a regular date night. I found that as long as I could get three healthy and satisfying meals a day and few good snacks, I was happy and doing ok, with or without sleep. I made some energy bars and some meals with leftovers that could be reheated quickly (and also supplemented my diet with a daily dose of ice cream). When my baby was almost four weeks old, I started taking my kids to a weekly play group again. (With work, it had been over a year since I had had time for that.) It felt so good to talk to other adults again. I discovered that my neighbor who I have always thought of as one of those “supermoms”, had struggled with postpartum depression too.
 Just when I thought I had this business under control my baby developed reflux. She was vomiting quite a bit and irritable. There’s something about being covered in vomit on a daily basis that’s just depressing. And there’s something so frustrating about having your baby cry all the time and not being able to fix it. So I cut out all of the “naughty items” from my diet. There are more things that I can’t eat, than items that I can. (This included my energy bars, because those had cranberries, peanut butter and chocolate chips.)  Once I made these adjustments she was a significantly happier baby, throwing up less and sleeping more, but I felt like I was starving. I looked at my very well-stocked pantry and felt discouraged because I could eat almost nothing in it. The few things I can eat are pretty bland and tasteless. Once I woke up to feed her in the middle of the night and cried myself to sleep afterwards thinking about the mint brownie ice cream in the freezer that I couldn’t eat. Sometimes I would think about slashing my wrists or hurting myself in other ways, but would step back and realize “I don’t really want to do this. I’m just losing my mind because I’m hungry.” Not to mention that would just be an extra mess to clean up.
 Last week I had my six week check-up and mentioned that I was having struggles with postpartum depression. My doctor made a few jokes and asked if I wanted a prescription. I don’t need drugs. I need FOOD and CHOCOLATE. Can you write me a prescription for a chef and a maid? Do you think you could clear that one with my insurance? (Not that there is anything wrong with taking medication if that is what you need, but I’m pretty sure that I need calories, not pills.) Oh well, too bad for me. My baby is seven weeks old and my diet is still a huge stumbling block. It’s hard to have energy and feel happy when getting balanced nutrition is so difficult, but I am pulling through. Now that we have her reflux under control I am able to eat a few more things. I’m coming to terms with the fact that food is more about the nutrition it provides than actually having any taste. I don’t feel like hurting myself anymore and  I know that I can get through this.

Here are some things I recommend trying if you are having struggles with postpartum depression:

  • Talk to someone, your spouse, a friend, your doctor, someone. Talking helps. (If you have no one else, shoot me an email. I’ll listen.)
  • Get some sleep. Let your house go a little. It’s ok. When your baby is sleeping, squeeze in a nap. Your physical and mental well-being are more important that the state of your house. (This one is hard for me. I have a hard time relaxing when my house is a mess.)
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of water. If you are breast-feeding, you should continue to take your prenatal vitamin, drink two liters of water and eat an extra 300 calories per day.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. No one is. Supermoms are a fairy tale.
  • Get out of the house. I highly recommend joining a playgroup. In talking to other moms you will discover one of three things: 1. The other moms are going or have gone through the same thing. 2 Other children are more difficult than your own, consider yourself blessed. 3. Your children are more difficult than your average child, consider yourself strong. 
  • Exercise. I know this is hard to find time for this and I personally don’t do enough of it, but if even if you can put your baby in the stroller and go on a walk, it helps. (Although don’t overdo it, you just had a baby.)
  • Try to do something for yourself on a weekly basis. I would say daily, but if you’re like me that just ain’t happenin’. Take a long bath, paint your toes, read a book, have a bowl of ice cream.
  • Remember that this condition is temporary. If it doesn’t go away, get some professional help. There is no shame in getting help so you can take care of yourself and your family.
If you are having problems with postpartum depression, let someone know. You need help and support (not to mention food and sleep). Being a mom is hard work. Being a mom to multiple small children is even harder.  Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it all, because no one can. Find a friend, family member or neighbor who can listen, give you a break or even just do lunch with. It’s amazing how therapeutic it is just to talk to someone else about the problem. For other resources go to www.depressionafterdelivery.com or www.postpartum.net

4 Responses to “Postpartum Depression”

  1. Camille says:

    Have you thought about stopping nursing? It might make both of you happier.

    Also, I agree – being a mom is exhausting. I had postpartum and I wasn't really depressed so much as very, very angry. And apparently, that's normal too.

  2. Dixie Mom says:

    All good advice. I wish I had known more about this when I had my babies. I know I missed a couple of years of their life…can't get it back…to the darkness of consuming postpartum depression.

  3. Heather says:

    Camille- We've finally found a reflux medication that works for her, and I have yet to successfully get her to take formula. Also to get a formula that is both soy and dairy free costs around $450 for a months supply- when you buy it in bulk. And when that stuff comes back up it is the most vile substance I have yet to encounter. I think we're happier where we are.
    Cheryl- I'm so sorry for you. I wish more people knew about ways to help with this.

  4. Kendra says:

    Thanks for your post and sharing your personal experiences with us. I have felt a lot of these same experiences with my little one. It's good I really love him because I am one tired mama! :)

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