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How a first-time mom overcame postpartum depression

Karen Bullock was thrilled when she learned she was pregnant. Due to endometriosis she thought she might not ever be able to have children, so the news was exciting.

She couldn’t wait to see her son and cover him in snuggles and kisses.

But the reality of life as a new mom after giving birth wasn’t what Karen expected. She didn’t think she’d have to learn how to deal with postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression stories are actually pretty common. After all, it’s the most common pregnancy complication. Many women have faced the challenges of mental illness during what they thought would be a time of great joy.

Postpartum depression should not be ignored or overlooked. It can be dangerous and impact your ability to care for your new baby.

Knowing the postpartum depression signs and how to deal with postpartum depression is important.

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

Postpartum depression is common

> Know the signs and treatments

“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.

“Looking back, I realize that I was having postpartum depression when my baby was born. I had never been around or taken care of babies before. 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 wasn’t myself’

Karen Bullock and her son.

Karen Bullock and her son.

Karen didn’t feel like herself, nor did she feel like a mom. And pretending to be happy failed to make her actually happy.

She would constantly feel overwhelmed.

“I was so stressed taking care of a baby, working full time, trying to keep the house somewhat clean and fit in sleep when I could,” Karen said. “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. It 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!”

Karen also dealt with postpartum crying that was out of control. Once the crying spells started, she couldn’t stop them. And it would sometimes even start for no reason at all.

The crying got so bad she’d have to miss work because she couldn’t stop, no matter how hard she tried.

Getting help

Karen began suspecting she might have postpartum depression. But she didn’t know much about it.

Eventually, she called her doctor, scheduled an appointment and began her road to recovery.

“When I saw my doctor I filled out a depression screening,” Karen said. “It hit me that I lied when I had filled out the sheet before. I thought I would get better and had pushed all those feelings aside. This time I had to make myself tell the truth.”

Karen was diagnosed with postpartum depression and started taking medication. But mental illness is not usually fixed quickly. Even with medication, she still missed work because of crying.

She took a leave from work until it got under control. It took about three months.

“Overall the doctor has had to up my medication dosage three times because I would still be in a funk. At times, I still didn’t feel quite like myself,” Karen said.

“The doctor also referred me to see a counselor. The first time I saw the counselor, he told me I was doing too much and needed to ask for help. He said 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. It was okay to not do the dishes all the time. I now have a chore list that I try to follow every day 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. 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 brought up the point that just going to sleep after my son is asleep does not count as taking time for myself. I needed to do something that I enjoy doing and needed to make some time for my husband, as well. I was given suggestions for this and for what to do when I become too overwhelmed or get that random anger.

“All of the counselor’s suggestions have really helped me! I’ve 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

Taking stock of her journey after about nine months postpartum, Karen felt like she was in a really good place. She was truly happy and feeling more like herself.

Thanks to her improved mental health, she enjoyed being able to have a real connection with her son. It was what she had gleefully imagined when she first learned she was pregnant.

“Maybe all of this has made me a better person than I was before I had a child,” Karen said. “Unfortunately, no one talks about postpartum depression. Hopefully, my postpartum depression story helps people realize this shouldn’t be such a hush, hush topic.”

Karen hopes to help others feel comfortable getting help and sharing their postpartum depression testimonials, knowing they won’t be judged or shamed.

Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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