(excerpted from a comprehensive article by the Mayo Clinic; see the complete information here)
"An estimated 10 percent of new moms experience a severe form of emotional distress known as postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby..."
Mothers of preemies or women who have had very difficult, complicated pregnancies may be even more prone to the deep anxiety and intense emotions that go along with postpartum depression (PPD).
When you consider the roller coaster ride that preemies take their parents on, the sudden (unexpected) shift of hormones, the limited contact the mother is allowed with her baby, and the strained quality of some personal relationships during a crisis of this kind, it becomes more clear why preemie moms are particularly vulnerable to PPD.
My own struggle with PPD started a couple weeks after C's birth. I was getting very little sleep (about two hours a night), eating very little, and having a hard time keeping down what I did eat. Between running around, not really eating, and pumping every few hours, I lost weight until I was well below my (healthy) pre-pregnancy weight. I never really felt detached from my child, nor did I ever entertain thoughts of hurting her. But I was crippled with guilt. I wondered what I had done wrong that I couldn't sustain the pregnancy. I felt inadequate in caring for either of my children. My activities were limited because of my surgery and that made me feel like an even greater failure. I was exhausted, yet I couldn't stop going. It was a horrible cycle.
One evening, I headed back to the Ronald McDonald House after visiting my daughter. It was during rush hour and I had to cross a four-lane city street. My mind was wandering and I vividly remember this thought jumping to the fore-front:
"What if I just stepped out in the road?"
I immediatly stepped back. My heart started racing. The very thought terrified me to the core.
And for that, I am very grateful. It is because I was so incredibly frightened that I sought help the very next day. It was not easy to confess that thought to my husband. It was not easy to take several hours to get myself evaluated rather than sit at my baby's bedside. But it clearly had to be done.
Tomorrow, I'll talk a little bit about taking that step, what happened, and the start of my recovery.