woman and child in stroller on a beach at sunset

The sun will shine again: My postpartum depression story

When my husband and I decided to have a child I was a little unsure because I have endometriosis. I thought I would have a hard time getting pregnant or I wouldn’t be able to have any children. I ended up getting pregnant fairly quickly. We were so excited! I always imagined how happy we would be when my baby was born. I couldn’t wait to see him, hold him and give him kisses.

What I didn’t know is that it sometimes doesn’t end up that way.

Looking back, I realize that was having postpartum depression when my baby was born. I had never been around or taken care of babies before, and I can remember looking at him and thinking, “What am I supposed to do now?”

Some people say when you have your baby, things will just come naturally. You will just know.

That wasn’t the case for me.

I remember the first time I was alone with him in the hospital. I would always call the nurses in saying, “He is crying. I don’t know what to do!’

I felt so stupid. Here I was, a mom, and I had no idea how to take care of my son. My son was born a preemie, and we spent almost a week in the hospital with him. My mom had taken a few weeks off work to help me because my husband had to go back to work when we got home from the hospital.

For some reason, I would always get what I call “weird anxiety” at night or when she left. Even if my husband was there it would still happen. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to sound crazy.

The fact is, I was anything but happy. I remember thinking things would get better. These feelings would go away, and things would work out.  Little did I know it wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse.

‘I wasn’t myself’

Karen Bullock and her son.

Karen Bullock and her son.

I felt like I was living in a dream I couldn’t wake up from. I didn’t feel like a mom, nor did I feel like myself. I would often pretend to be happy and think maybe I would end up feeling that way.

Of course, that didn’t work either.

I was so overwhelmed and stressed taking care of a baby, working full time, trying to keep the house somewhat clean and fit in sleep when I could. I completely ignored everything around me, including my husband and myself. All of my attention was focused on my child.

Eventually everything came crashing down. I later realized that I wasn’t acting like myself.  It wasn’t right to try to be happy when you’re not and you have no idea why.  There was an instance when I wanted to leave and wasn’t sure why.

I would get angry out of nowhere when my child would cry nonstop, which sometimes led me to raise my voice at him. I knew it wasn’t his fault, and he couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to be like that at all!

I would get upset and start crying, sometimes for days or for no reason at all. My crying was so bad that I would have to miss work because once I started crying there was no stopping it, no matter how hard I tried.

I ended up calling my doctor to get an appointment. I started to suspect I was experiencing postpartum depression but didn’t know much about it. When I saw my doctor I filled out a depression score sheet.

It hit me that I lied when I had filled out the sheet before because I thought I would get better and had pushed all those feelings aside. This time I had to make myself tell the truth.

I was then diagnosed with postpartum depression and started taking medication. Even with medication, I was still missing work because of my crying. I ended up taking a leave from work until it got under control, which took about three months.

Overall the doctor has had to up my medication dosage three times because I would still be in what I would call “funk.” At times I still did feel not quite like myself.

The doctor also referred me to see a counselor. The first time that I had seen the counselor he told me that I was doing too much and I needed to ask for help. The counselor then stated that people with postpartum depression either go, go, go or they do absolutely nothing.

I was the go, go, go person.

I didn’t realize until talking with the counselor that my cleaning was obsessive, and that it was okay to not do the dishes all the time. I now have a chore list that I try to follow everyday so I don’t get too overwhelmed, which can cause me to have a postpartum “moment” the next day.

Also, the counselor noticed I wasn’t taking time for myself and that I needed to make sure that I did that every night. It was important for me to do this so I can be the best mom for my son.

The counselor had brought up the point that just going to sleep after my son is asleep is not taking time for myself. I needed to do something that I enjoy doing and need to make some time for my husband as well. I was given some suggestions on this as well as suggestions on what to do when I become too overwhelmed or get that random anger, rage.

All of the counselor’s suggestions have really helped me!  I have had to do a lot of self-reflection and soul searching to find out what I like to do, what works with me and what doesn’t. I have found that I enjoy doing things that I never enjoyed doing before I had a child.

A better tomorrow

After about nine months postpartum I feel like I am now in a really good place. I am truly happy and definitely feeling more like myself. I also feel like I have a real connection with my son now. Maybe all of this has made me a better person than I was before I had a child.

Unfortunately, no one talks about postpartum depression, and this shouldn’t be such a hush, hush topic. I wished there was a place where I could talk with other people about what I went through who might be going through the same thing.

When I looked for a support group in the Peoria area, I couldn’t find one – so I worked with OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center to start one.

I hope this can be a place where people know they won’t be alone, criticized or judged. There is help, and they will get better. I truly believe that I was meant to have postpartum depression so that I could help others and help bring awareness to the Peoria area.

The group meets once each month at the OSF Breastfeeding Resource Center. Learn more about the Postpartum Depression Support Group here.

About Author: Karen Bullock

Karen Bullock is an OSF HealthCare Mission Partner. After being diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of her first child, Karen looked for a support group in the Peoria area in addition to following her doctor's treatment plan. When she couldn't find one, she worked with OSF HealthCare to start one. The mom-to-mom support group began in 2019 and meets once a month.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity, Mental Health, Patient Stories