This is What Postpartum Depression Looks Like
In my birth story blog post earlier this year I wrapped up by saying I would talk about my recovery once I had completed the process, yet here I am almost nine moths later still recovering. It took my body longer than I had expected to heal, but when Jens was about three months old I realized that something else was wrong. We went to Mexico to baptize Jens and it was one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life. Being around my siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and mom is like medicine for my soul, but seeing everyone come together to meet Jens and spend time with him was a dream. Jens is the first Escobar great grandchild and our family had a lot of love to give him. His baptism symbolized a lot for me and I began to realize that parenting the first few years is more for the parents than it is for the children since they do not remember a lot of these special moments. A new chapter was being written as we stood in my aunt’s house and the priest poured the water over this tiny little head. Ivana and Santiago, Jens’ godparents, both prepared speeches for Jens and shared these words that he is still too young to understand, but he will soon come to realize how lucky he is to have these amazing people in his life to guide him.
Coming back home from this incredible sense of community and support, I suddenly felt alone. My husband has his own business which makes his hours atypical on a day-to-day basis. He can be home at 10am some days and not come home until 10pm. I started to feel a heaviness in my heart that was very difficult to put into words, so I kept the thoughts to myself. I was still struggling with the disappointment of not having a natural birth and was unable to look at my scar. I sat at home going through Jens’ routine over and over while looking for ways to keep my mind busy. I started teaching yoga again when Jens was seven weeks old, and I told myself I would feel better after I could start to teach more often. I was able to drop Jens off at my moms house to go teach but I began to develop an anxiety about whether he was eating enough or sleeping enough when I was not there to do it myself. As I remember these moments and share them in writing it seems ridiculous to be anxious about feeding schedules, pumping times, milk ounces and nap times, but it was so consuming I could not stop myself from obsessing over his routine. Thank God we were blessed with a good baby and my maternal instinct kicked in to follow his natural pace. He never gave us trouble with anything, yet as I was breastfeeding him all I could think about was if he was getting enough ounces to make it until his next feeding. I won’t bore you with too many details, I will say however that somehow in all the madness I went from feeling a constant anxiety to having thoughts of suicide really fast. Needless to say I have postpartum depression.
The first time I had these dark thoughts they made so much sense. My head felt heavy and I thought there is no way that I am ever going to feel better. We had a close friend take her life earlier this year and it somehow made sense to me that she would do that if she felt the way I was feeling. I remembered asking my OB about signs of PPD during my six week check up and he told me to call him if I felt depressed so he could prescribe antidepressants, and there was NO WAY I was going to do that. Anti depressants would mean I would have to stop breastfeeding to take some mind-altering substance which would surely come with a secret dose of side effects. I told myself it would get better once Jens would sleep through the night and I could finally get some rest, which he did at four months thanks to sleep training with the help of my husband. I then gave myself two weeks to feel better, and I thought I was over it for a while until my birthday when I realized I was still in this dark space. So began a never ending spiral of telling myself I would feel better when (fill in the blank); when I can get professional confirmation that I had an unnecessary csection, when I can spend more time with my family, when I can teach more yoga classes, when I can stop breastfeeding, when the weather gets better, when I can go to therapy, when my husband can do the things I ask of him, when we can get help around the house, when my husband and I can spend some time together, etc. Nothing helped and I quickly realized that life goes on regardless of how I was feeling and there was always going to be something external that I was relying on to try fix me.
About three weeks ago I hit another low point and I began to think that getting on medication was the only way out, but I felt like I could still try one more thing. Yesterday I began shirodhara with my yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner Debby Andersen. Shirodhara is used in Ayurveda to stabilize the nervous system and hormones; you lay on a massage table with your tilted back and a little pot pours warm oil on your forehead, at the third eye, for about 45 minutes. After the session my hair was dripping in oil so Debby wrapped my head up in this super stylish wrap and I made my way home to my baby boy. Along with shirodhara I am also working on stabilizing my Vata Dosha with herbs and will be doing a Panchakarma cleanse to rid my tissues of toxins and detox my mind. I have to take my herbs three times a day with warm water before meals and they are not exactly tasty. They taste very earth but you eventually get used to it. I will chronicle my journey for the next few weeks because I am determined to shake myself of this heaviness and go back to feeling like myself.
I share this story because I do not think that there is enough awareness about postpartum depression out there. I started going to therapy about a month ago and I learned that there are many forms of PPD; PTSD, OCD, and anxiety are the only a few ways in which it can manifest itself. I’ve also learned that PPD can last for YEARS and although 1 in 7 women come forward with symptoms of PPD, many go through it without ever seeking help so it is hard to know how many women are really affected by it. I think that a big reason why women chose not to seek help is because it is hard to know that you are depressed if you do not know what it feels like and because postpartum care in the United States is non existent.
For those who know someone going through PPD remember that patience and consistency are key. Use this period as an opportunity to step up to the plate and show that person some extra love; If she feels love through spending time with you, make time for her outside of the norm so she feels special; if she feels love through physical touch, give her extra hugs; if she feels love through service, look for ways to make her day a little bit brighter by being attentive. The title of this entry is as real as it gets. Just because someone is smiling on the outside, it does not mean there are not internal struggles going on in their minds. During this portpartum period it is more important than ever for women to be in touch with their intuition and their truest self. It is so hard to find “me time” for new moms, but in retrospect if I could do anything differently I would have looked at the first three months of my baby’s life as the fourth trimester; focusing on nutrition and mental health through meditation and light yoga to restore my body from growing a human and delivering him.
For now I am choosing to focus on this recovery journey through Ayurveda and am excited to grow as a woman, mother, wife and yoga instructor through this experience.If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward for the opportunity to help others create a safe space for themselves to get past any depression or anxiety.