The Guilt of Postpartum Depression

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Did you know that most books and articles say that 10% to 15% of new mothers will suffer from postpartum mood disorders? These disorders can include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD and postpartum psychosis.

This is a very real and scary thing. I should know since I have dealt with it personally on 2 occasions. After both my sons’ births, I went into the very dark and deep hole of depression and anxiety. My son, Connor, was born March 8, 2008 on his exact due date. The pregnancy was perfect. All my doctor visits were routine, and I knew since 18 weeks that I was having a healthy bouncing baby boy.

It was an exciting time for my husband and I. I went into labor on Friday March 7; it was the start of a 2 day long process. 48 hours of 0 sleep and an epidural later, my son was born at 8 pm on Saturday. It should have been such a joyous and happy moment but it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my son with all my heart from the first moment I saw him but I had Nurse Ratched who stitched me up with no local anesthetic, and I didn’t get to hold my son until an hour and half after he was born. There was nothing wrong with either of us other than that I tore and got an episiotomy. Because of the delay and the long labor, Connor wouldn’t latch on and breastfeeding wasn’t happening.

They quickly whisked Connor to the nursery and fed him a bottle of formula. I ended up having a painful and frustrating hospital visit with bladder problems. Fast forward to when we got home. I was taking huge doses of pain medicine and couldn’t move. I wanted nothing to do with this tiny adorable baby that was in front of me. I still have huge guilt from those first weeks. Connor and I were both reduced to tears at every feeding time; my breasts were blistery and bloody messes.

I stopped breastfeeding at 6 weeks and I felt like the worst mother ever. I never wanted to hold Connor except when it was necessary. I walled myself off from the world and just wanted my life to disappear. At my lowest point, I cried all the time, wanted to give away my baby, and just die. I never suffered through thoughts of hurting my baby but definitely thoughts of hurting myself. It took me until month 3 to go to the doctor to talk to him about it. I did not want to get labeled with postpartum depression.

I felt like it was taboo and worried what would people think. What kind of horrible psycho mother was I? Oh man, was I in the wrong way of thinking. Postpartum depression is one of the worst and scariest places a new mother can be in other than losing a baby. The guilt of not being happy in the moment that should be the happiest can send you spiraling down further and further into the fit of despair.

Out of 4,317,119 births, which is the total number of live births in the United States in 2007 (Center of Disease Control), and take 10% of that number which is the lowest estimate of how many women that suffer from postpartum disorders, you will end up with around 400,000 women. To compare that with other disease: about 300,000 women suffer a stroke (Centers for Disease Control) and around 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer (National Cancer Institute).

That is how common postpartum depression is. If you or someone you know has it, do NOT delay getting help and don’t hide it. Please talk to a doctor, a counselor, or a loved one. Get HELP.

The “Baby Blues” last about 2 weeks after delivery and will go away but postpartum depression is different and will just get worse and worse.

Here are some warning signs:

  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Negative feelings towards your baby
  • Worrying about hurting your baby
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

My last plea, please please get help or talk to someone if you have these feelings. I had a severe case with both my sons. If I hadn’t had support and someone to guide me in the right direction, I do not know where I would be today.

You shouldn’t be alone, and you definitely should not feel guilty. You are not a bad mother for suffering through this. You will overcome this with support, talking about your feelings, taking time for yourself, and possibly medicine and psychotherapy.

Take care of yourself so you can enjoy your little one. Your baby needs a well and happy mama.

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