Without warning (PPMD Story 3)

"One afternoon when things were at their worst a friend stopped by and pretty much dragged me out the door to a local mall and to a Well Baby Clinic. God how I wanted to run out of that room. There were so many blissful women comparing notes and milestones. It caused one of my worst panic attacks ever. My friend, wouldn't let me leave. I tried to distract myself by reading the posters on the walls. "

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Note: These stories have been submitted by women who have experienced PPMD and want to use their experience to help others. Any names have been changed for privacy reasons.


Without warning (PPMD Story 3)

We just knew it was going to be a boy. From the moment that second blue line appeared on the test, my husband Don was sure that I was carrying his son. We couldn't have been happier. It was what I had always wanted. Everything was going as planned.

Of course there were a few concerns along the way, some spotting, a false positive maternal serum screening scare and a grueling thirty hour back labour.

Finally, almost two weeks late, Thomas came into our lives. He was big and beautiful, and totally terrifying to me. I was completely unprepared for the upheaval in my life. Sure I knew it would be hard and I would be tired but no one told me that I wouldn't instantly fall in love with my child and that I would resent my husband for working and I would feel so alone.

It's amazing how a person can put on such a cheerful face when inside they are void of any emotion whatsoever. That was how I spent the first part of Thomas' life. Numb. That is the best word to describe my state of body and mind for the next year.

Sleep was impossible. Even when my son was starting to have long stretches of rest, I couldn't convince my body to relax enough to even lay still. I would pace the hall frantically, waiting for him to start crying or worse stop breathing. The degree of exhaustion I was in is indescribable. Everything seemed to be lacking in colour, if that makes any sense. The world around me was a constant shade of grey.

I know Don didn't have any idea how terrible things were for me. He was involved in a new family business and his day started around 4 am and didn't end until around 6 pm (if I was lucky). That was seven days a week. I didn't want to burden him. My family lived several hours away and all my close friends were busy with their own children. Of course they would call and try to get together but I always had some excuse or another.

Soon after Thomas was born I joined a new mothers group. It was difficult to watch other women and their children interacting so easily and happily. I honestly tried to fit in as well as perhaps soak up some of their delight in being a new mom. It didn't work. I usually felt even worse after a meeting.

By the time Thomas was nine weeks old I had to stop nursing him. My appetite as completely gone and I knew that I wasn't eating enough to keep my milk supply up. Don took over the night time feedings so that I could get some rest. The only problem was I couldn't. His solution to my insomnia was to exercise, to get out and get active. That was rather difficult when every time I left the house I was struck with an anxiety attack.

I found that around the time I weaned Thomas the despair really took hold. I was having a hard time dealing with the day to day tasks in raising an infant. Just getting me dressed took a lot of effort and trying to entertain a two month old was out of the question. Most days when Don would come home, I would be sitting on the floor or on the balcony holding the baby and crying "I can't do this." He would just take Thomas and tell me to go and lay down. All I needed was some sleep.

I felt guilty asking anyone for help with the daily chores or cooking. I was ashamed for feeling this way and was sure that no one would understand why I couldn't just snap out of this mood.

I was to the point where I didn't want Don to leave the house. I was actually afraid of myself and what I might do to Thomas or myself if I was left alone too long. Suddenly, thoughts of harming the baby were popping into my mind. I can't even bring myself to talk about some of the images; it makes me ill just thinking back on them. Soon after, thoughts of suicide starting creeping in. I thought that Thomas and Don would be better off without this crazy woman in their lives.

One afternoon when things were at their worst a friend stopped by and pretty much dragged me out the door to a local mall and to a Well Baby Clinic. God how I wanted to run out of that room. There were so many blissful women comparing notes and milestones. It caused one of my worst panic attacks ever. My friend, wouldn't let me leave. I tried to distract myself by reading the posters on the walls.

One in particular caught my attention. It was about post partum depression and psychosis. There were symptoms of both listed. I had all of the symptoms for depression and actually a couple for psychosis. I felt as if someone had knocked all of the air out of me. I knew I was suffering from anxiety but I had no idea that it was linked to post partum depression. For the first time since giving birth I felt a small ray of hope.
The moment I got home that day, I called our local health unit. The nurse was very calming and reassuring. After I promised her I wasn't going to hurt myself or the baby she had my designated nurse call me back. We talked for a long time and she advised me to call my family doctor immediately and tell her what I was experiencing. She called me everyday for quite awhile.

One thing she kept telling me was that this was only temporary. I would recover, I would soon bond with and love my child and no I wasn't a bad mother. Her constant encouragement and kind voice probably saved my life. My doctor took me in right away and I was sent to a psychiatrist who helped me deal with my depression and anxiety. Soon I started to have good moments here and there. Then came good days. Since I decided not to take any medication, my recovery took longer than it should have and I had some really dreadful days once in awhile. But week by week the grey cloud slowly started to lift. And soon that little boy with the big smile found his way into my heart. I fell head over heals in love with Thomas and my husband all over again. It was like waking up out of a coma, I had to learn how to sleep and eat and laugh.
There was something I discovered during my recovery was that I wish I had been warned about during my pregnancy. A personal or family history of mental illness is an indicator that a new mom may be at risk for post partum problems. As a young teen I had suffered from anorexia nervosa. It brought on many ailments. One of which was agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces. I suffered incessantly from panic attacks, every time I left my house. It took about two years to recover from this devastating disorder but with a caring mother and one dedicated doctor I finally did.

Don and I didn't think we should have another child. But when Thomas was nineteen months old my mother in law suddenly passed away. I saw how important it was to have family around to help at times like this and we decided to give Thomas a sibling. Soon I was expecting again.

This time I was proactive. I called my nurse who reassured me that not every birth will result in PPD. I should talk to my family doctor and see what she recommends. I started seeing my psychiatrist in my second trimester. I took all the help I could get.

Don left the business and went to work for himself. He was home much of the time and took wonderful care of me and Thomas. Once Matthew arrived he took the night shift every night so I could get enough sleep. Thomas stayed in daycare full time and I had a wonderful aunt who would come over to help with the housework and pick Thomas up at the end of the day. My mother and father came for the first couple of weeks to keep me company and to let me rest and bond properly. I can't tell you what a difference it made.
I can honestly say that aside from the usual baby blues, I breezed through Matthew's first year. Even with the colic and nursing (I breastfed for eight months) I never felt any of the anxiety or depression with this birth.

I know that it was the lack of post partum support that caused my illness with Thomas. Most new moms feel that they can't ask for help, they feel it means that they are failures as women, especially in these days of the "super mom". It is unrealistic to assume that they can do it all. I think society as a whole owes it to new moms everywhere to help out as much as possible. It should be one the most remarkable, happy and memorable times in a woman's life. It shouldn't be a time one tries to forget.

Thank you for listening to my story, I hope it helps some of you to understand some of what it's like for too many women.

Warning Signs of Post Partum Depression:

obsessive/compulsive thoughts
crying for no apparent reason
over concern for the baby
feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and inability to cope
anxiety/ panic attacks
difficulties in your marital relationship
lack of interest in sex
feelings or acts of aggression toward the baby or and older child
depression that ranges from sadness to thoughts of suicide
inability to relax or sleep especially when your children are sleeping

Warning Signs of PPP (Post Partum Psychosis):

a loss of contact with reality is experienced for extended periods of time
hallucinations or delusions
thoughts or actions related to suicide and/or the death of your baby

If you experience any of the above symptoms you need to seed IMMEDIATE medical help.

Risk factors for PPD:

history of abuse: physical, emotional or substance
family or personal history of a post partum mood disorder
family or personal history of psychiatric disorders
high risk pregnancy, or previous problems with infertility
recent tragic events: deaths, loss of job, miscarriages
difficult labour and delivery
health problems connected to the baby
lack of support system
hormonal sensitivity or history of PMS
relationship difficulties
financial stress

What a Partner Should Do and Say:

"I love you."
"It's not your fault."
"You're not alone."
"You will get better."
"You can still be a good mother and feel terrible."
"Our baby will be fine."
"Tell me how I can help you."
Change diapers, play with your baby.
Keep track and assist with feedings.
Provide nourishing meals; encourage friends to bring food.
If there are other children, help care for them. Reassure them that mommy will be okay.
Be attentive to mother's appetite, sleeping patterns, feelings, energy level.
Listen to her.


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PPMD Symptoms
If you or someone you care about has any of these symptoms, get help, call or visit:

  • Your healthcare provider (family physician, midwife, nurse, OB/GYN, psychiatrist)

  • Your local Public Health Agency: Service Ontario 211 www.serviceontario.ca
    Telehealth: 1 866 797 0000 or TTY 1 866 797 0007

  • Mental Health Helpline: www.mhsio.on.ca or 1 866 531 2600

  • Life with a baby www.lifewithababy.com is a non-profit group of mothers available in some communities of Ontario and online that help mothers  connect with other one another for emotional and practical support. They offer events and programs such as play dates, time out for mom and family outings.

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