Jill's PPD Story

I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression when my daughter was 3-months-old. I knew that I had the Baby Blues, but they just didn't seem to go away and I felt like it was getting worse, not better. Many things contributed to this, and when I look back I can't help but say "no wonder I was depressed."

I had a very difficult birth experience with Erin. On top of the fact that she was 3 weeks early and I was completely unprepared for it, I dilated so fast (went from a 2 to 10 in 10 minutes) and without pain medication that my body was ravaged and it took a long time to recover. I was in a fog and completely exhausted. I had great difficulty nursing and remember crying and crying because it wasn't working. My daughter was jaundiced and "they" (medical professionals) kept telling me that she needed to get fluids in her so she'd pee the jaundice out, basically.

Well, she wasn't getting fluids from me and I was so scared to try a bottle because of the fear of nipple confusion. We had to go to the pediatrician the first few days we were home to test her jaundice levels, and if they didn't go down she'd need to go under the lights. Finally one night out of desperation I gave her a bottle and she just sucked it down and the next day her jaundice level was down!

I cried and cried because she never did that when I tried to nurse her. I decided to pump exclusively, and can't tell you how difficult that was, and how I felt like such a failure. Every time I pumped, I sobbed, because I couldn't nurse my daughter and my husband was feeding her while I pumped every 2 hours. It was awful. At this same time, my mother-in-law was having radiation treatments for cancer and her health was deteriorating.

When my daughter was 3 weeks old, my mother-in-law was on the brink of death in an ICU ward. So there I was with my new life: a new baby, pumping away, sobbing, and visiting my dying mother-in-law in the hospital while also simply adjusting to new motherhood!

I quit pumping when my daughter was 5 weeks old and my husband went back to work (he had been home to take care of us and his mother). A lactation consultant told me that feeding needed to be a positive experience for both of us, and it was like a light bulb went off. Things started getting better. I didn't have to go back to work so I felt good in that aspect.

Little did I know that I would also mourn for my old "working" self and that adjusting to being a stay-at-home Mom was one of the most difficult challenges I'd faced in my life. We eventually settled into a routine and my mother-in-law's health improved and was moved to a nursing home facility to re-learn how to walk. We spent a lot of time visiting her and making sure she spent time with her granddaughter.

On the day of Erin's baptism, when she was 3-months-old, my mother-in-law passed away. She attended the baptism and it was the first time she had been out of the hospital in 3 months and it was so special for her. We knew we didn't have much time left with her, but still thought we had a few months, so it was quite a shock since she seemed so healthy and happy at the baptism. I took on the role of the "strong one" and tried to do whatever needed to be done for my husband and his family and thought I was handling it all quite well.

However, after the funeral when everyone else went back to work, there I was, alone, and it all just hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I was in a haze and could hardly function. I just sat on the couch and either cried or stared blankly for hours. I didn't want to do anything with my daughter. I just wanted to sleep. I couldn't eat. I didn't want to do anything that brought me joy.

Every time I talked to my Mom, I cried about how miserable I was and how I didn't understand why I was feeling like this. She convinced me to call the doctor and he called me back right away. I cried when I talked to him, too. He asked a lot of questions and was really helpful and understanding.

He gave me a prescription for Celexa, which seemed to really help. It helped take the edge off, and I felt like I was human again. The fog lifted. It did make me really tired and I was afraid that it was interfering with caring for my daughter, so I quit taking it after a while.

Truthfully, I probably shouldn't have stopped, because there have been several times since where I have felt those familiar feelings again. I'm learning to recognize them, and am learning what to do about it. Many times it's because I'm tired, but mostly it's because I haven't taken care of my needs for a while.

I am learning to take time for myself and to get out of the house and do something enjoyable. If it means I go somewhere every night as soon as my husband gets home, that's what I do. I write in a journal and list 3 things I'm grateful for. Sometimes I'm just grateful for making a doctor appointment because I had adult interaction!

That has been the biggest lesson for me. My daughter needs a happy Mom, and I need to do whatever it takes to give that to her. It's hard, and some days are really tough, but each day is a new day and things are getting better.

Jill Hussong
Mom to Erin, born 6-27-00

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