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Family Matters

You Aren’t the Only One: Dealing with Postpartum Depression

January 1st, 2015

Photography by Nicole Cormier Photography

By Jennifer Kennett

I remember the joy of seeing my positive pregnancy test like it was yesterday. My husband and I hugging and crying happy tears. We told everyone almost immediately — we could barely keep the news to ourselves, we were just so excited to be adding a little being to our family. That was the experience with my first daughter. Of course I expected a similar reaction with our second baby, but it wasn’t the case. It was a hectic day and I had picked a fight with my husband knowing that something was off - I took the test while he prepared dinner, neither of us talking to each other. When I saw “pregnant”, my first reaction wasn’t joy — not even close - I immediately thought, “What did we just do?”

When I think back, I feel like that’s where I set the tone for my entire pregnancy — which wasn’t an easy one. The delivery didn’t go as expected either, I hadn’t anticipated that the epidural might not work or that the OB/GYN wouldn’t make it back to the hospital in time. After a frantic — although quick — delivery, the nurses handed us our teeny, tiny baby girl. Born at 40 weeks and 3 days, our little Emilie Violet was just that, little — a mere 5 lbs 6 oz. The doctor had lots of questions for me and dropped the bomb that it looked as though Emilie had stopped growing around 35 weeks. Very little information was given after that and we were left to make our own assumptions and piece together what may have happened.

What I didn’t voice at the time was that I blamed myself — fully and completely. I barely slept that night thinking about what I might have done (or not done) during my pregnancy that could have done this to our poor baby.

I felt myself pulling away from this sweet little baby that just needed her mom — but I kept thinking ‘if I wasn’t good enough to carry her in utero, what makes me able to take care of her on the outside’.

I fake-smiled my way through the first couple of weeks and pretended everything was okay, all the while beating myself up constantly on the inside.

I seemed to be doing okay until around the two-week mark. Then the colic set in.

I was already feeling down and inadequate, but now our little baby was proving that I couldn’t do anything to keep her happy. There was very little time during the day that Emilie wasn’t crying. I ended up sending our oldest daughter, Annabelle, to daycare every day just so I could focus on the baby and really, so she wouldn’t have to deal with the crying as well.

Any day I spent with the both of them involved tears from all three of us. I remember one day where Emilie just wouldn’t stop crying and Annabelle ran to the corner and hid - I wished so much that I could join her.

I was embarrassed to visit my friends or have anyone meet Emilie. Not only would they be subjected to the wails of our newborn, but I would burst into tears any time someone asked me how I was managing. I think the answer was clearly “not well”.

I toyed with the idea that I might have postpartum depression (PPD), but didn’t really believe it myself - I worked hard to cover my depression with sarcasm but I’m pretty sure everyone saw through that facade. Except for me. My mom asked me if I was depressed one day after I commented that I didn’t enjoy the newborn phase, I snapped at her and was so embarrassed that she mentioned it in front of my stepdad and my husband. In reality, I think I was more upset that I wasn’t doing a good job of hiding it as I thought I was.

One morning I woke up to Emilie crying and I thought, “I just can’t do this anymore” and I had a horrible thought of what it might be like if I just ended things for myself right then. That morning I had my first anxiety attack. I was around seven weeks postpartum — and close to the peak of colic (it peaks at 8 weeks and usually trickles off around 3-4 months) I just kept thinking that there was no way I could survive another 2 months of this.

My husband tended to the baby and when he came back to our bedroom, I was curled up on the bed shaking. I begged him to stay home from work; I didn’t tell him the dark thoughts I was having.

Those thoughts scared me, as suicide wasn’t something I have truly ever considered. I have experienced depression in the past, but PPD was far worse than any previous experiences. After all, you can’t easily change that situation when it’s your child that’s causing the issue. And then you experience the dreaded "mommy guilt” — what kind of mother doesn’t want their child around?

I took some action that day. I called Public Health’s on-call nurse. I sobbed over the phone as she walked me through the Postpartum Survey. As I answered the questions it became more and more clear just how depressed I truly was. When she asked if I had experienced suicidal thoughts it was one of the hardest things I had to do to admit “yes”. She took immediate action and referred me to a therapist with Mental Health - who followed up with the phone call and made me commit to a suicide contract stating that I would seek help immediately if I had those thoughts again. I was devastated that it had come to this. I met with the therapist the following Monday and I saw a doctor at the walk in clinic to discuss my options. The more I opened up to people and was honest with what I was experiencing, the more understanding people were. I was terrified that they would look down on me, tell me that I was a terrible mother and that my daughter deserved better — all the things I told myself. Instead I was met with kind faces and understanding - I don’t even have the words to express the relief when the doctor replied, “that’s tough” to my telling him about Emilie’s colic.

I realized that the stigma I believed came along with depression was all in my head.

My depression didn’t immediately halt that day, but each day got better and better. Within one week, I wasn’t crying all the time. At 10 days, I remember picking Emilie up and smiling to myself as I smelled her sweet little head. By two weeks, I was laughing and acting like myself again. A month later, Emilie grew out of her colic — and whatever doubts I had about a second child were washed away. Underneath all of that crying was my perfect medicine, my sweet and beautiful little girl. Life definitely isn’t perfect now, but I have embraced the chaos of our daily lives! I still rely on medication for my anxiety; however, I have cut it down to 1/4 of the dosage I was originally taking. I have learned to take it all day by day and to give myself a break and allow myself to make mistakes.

There are so many resources out there to help new moms, all we have to do is ask (even though that is the hardest part!). Many companies in town offer an Employee Family Assistance Program to their employees and spouses/dependents. Both Public Health and Mental Health will send you in the right direction for help and talk therapy.

There is even a Facebook group called Fort McMurray Postpartum Emotional Support Group - they also meet every Thursday at 9:30 AM at the Evergreen Christian Reform Church (during the school year). All of these resources are non-judgmental and it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t the only one experiencing it.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately by visiting the Crisis Nurse at the hospital or calling the SOS Help Line 780-743-HELP.

Support and awareness are the best treatment for Mental Illness.

Jennifer is a Fort McMurray Child, born and raised. She is an active part of the local parenting community and currently a stay at home mom to her two daughters.

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