In my first blog post, I talked about my first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage and second pregnancy and subsequent post-partum depression. This post continues the story…
So there I was, pregnant with #2, #1 still a toddler and my husband’s work schedule showing no signs of improving. I wanted to be proactive this time about dealing with possible post-partum depression, so I brought up these concerns at my next checkup and I was so grateful my midwife was no-nonsense about postpartum depression. She offered medication, but I didn't feel I needed it at that point, though I was scared I'd need it when the baby arrived. Our plan: start medication as soon as the baby was born. This way I didn't have to waste time to "wait and see" if postpartum depression developed, especially since I experienced it before. I was perfectly fine with this as I was still feeling a lot of guilt over those first eight weeks I suffered when G was born.
We got the medication plan out of the way, but I wanted a good therapist lined up too. This time, I wanted one with experience in working with pregnant and postpartum women. My midwife offered up a name but said that therapist was usually busy and didn't really work with women in my situation. The pediatrician told me to talk to my OB or family doctor. Since I pretty much got pregnant as soon as we moved to Fredericksburg, I didn't have an established doctor. Google was no help. I took my search to a public online forum and the kind commenters suggested support groups and talking to my OB/midwife. I dropped the search until my youngest, L, was about two months old and I found myself, alone, sobbing hysterically, trying to get him to go to sleep. In that moment, I felt exactly as I did in the early days of G's life. I didn't like it. I knew I needed to see a therapist.
Once again, Postpartum Progress came to the rescue. Their list of postpartum support organizations led me to Postpartum Support Virginia, which has a list of patient-recommended therapists who specialize in perinatal mood disorders. There weren't any in Fredericksburg, which really frustrated me. As much as I didn't want to, I opted to find a therapist in Northern Virginia so I could at least take my boys to visit their grandparents while I went to therapy. Luckily, she's awesome -- the best therapist I've ever had -- which makes the commute less daunting.
Since L was born, I have not been depressed. I have been diagnosed by my therapist with postpartum anxiety. A very real thing; however, I've never heard any of my OBs, midwives, or nurses mention the illness. It's not something they tell you to watch out for when you're given your discharge instructions after having a baby.
L is 15 months old. I have been taking Zoloft since he was one day old. I was advised by my midwife and my therapist not to stop taking it; that we'd reassess how things were going at this year's well woman visit. I've been in therapy for about a year. At first I went every two weeks, but now I make the trip once a month.
With each postpartum experience, I have learned. I learned signs. I learned about postpartum depression and anxiety. I learned I need to question my providers on how they treat these disorders. I've learned how to advocate for myself. I've learned I can get out of the Rabbit Hole. It just takes time.
Not everyone is so lucky. One in 7 pregnant and new moms will experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Of the estimated 1.3 million pregnant and new moms who experience these disorders, only 15% will get the help they need to get better.
Stigma. Shame. Fear. Lack of knowledge. Lack of resources. These are major factors that keep women from getting the help they need and very much deserve.
I've learned that when I take a huge breath and open up, it allows other women to open up as well. I hope that in sharing my struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety it will take away some of the stigma, shame, and fear.