"Depressed" is a word that I earlier used so comfortably to express my thoughts about simple things— "Oh! I'm so bored, it's depressing" or "Continuous rains depress me." But January 2014, a month after my baby boy was born, changed that for good. The word "depression" took an entirely new turn in my lexicon when I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (depression post childbirth).
My beautiful baby was born on the 19th of November by C-section, after attempting a normal delivery for almost three days. I was ready to endure the pain of a natural delivery and hoped for one, just as my gynaecologist did, but my baby was strongly determined to come out of me just the way he wanted. Enduring the pain and anxiety of delivering my first child is probably the reason why as much as I was thrilled to see my baby's face for the first time, I could not stop crying from that moment on. I am known to be overly sensitive by nature and my family thought I was just overwhelmed by the entire episode of childbirth and that it was just a passing phase.
I felt so inadequate as a mother that I was unable to take care of my child... I could not feed him or change a nappy.
There are many things you prepare for when a baby is born. I had learnt from my friends, relatives, BabyCenter and tons of Googling, a bunch of things to be ready with for the newborn. But though I had washed new baby clothes and stacks of fresh diapers and wipes, what I wasn't ready for at all was the absolute lack of sleep that accompanies the birth of a child. From trying to get the newborn to latch for breastfeeding (sometimes in vain) to rocking him when he cried at midnight, I felt quite inadequate to handle it all on my own (I did have my mother to help but the responsibility of a new mom is immense.) I felt a deep sense of empathy for my newborn, who was completely dependent on me for life, but I could not stop crying.
Almost a month later, after his naming ceremony, I started feeling anxious again and this time I felt a constant burning sensation in my stomach that just refused to go away. I felt a deep sense of insecurity that my son would be taken away from me forever. My mother reassured me that women go through a lot of change during childbirth—physical, mental and hormonal—and she assured me that the feeling would go away and that I'd be fine.
Exactly a month after delivery, I met my gynaecologist for a routine check up and all I could do was cry out loud into my open palms in front of her. I felt so inadequate as a mother that I was unable to take care of my child. I loved my son to the core but I just could not get my mind to act on it. I could not feed him or change a nappy. My gynaecologist, who quickly understood the problem, referred me to a good psychiatrist immediately.
The doctor prescribed medications to bring my sleep patterns back to normal. My sister and mother took care of my baby when I was allowed to sleep through the night. Getting good sleep improved my state of mind a lot. After three-four months of medication and help from loved ones, I was able to take care of my son on my own again.
I felt a deep sense of insecurity that my son would be taken away from me forever.
Today, I cherish the time I spend with my three-year-old. It thrills me when he gives me a bite of his favourite chocolate without me even asking for it or calls out to me to accompany him watch an aeroplane fly by. We paint, do puzzles and even have tea together in the balcony of our home. I'm exhausted at the end of the day but I wake up the next day looking forward to do it all over again.
I also do things that I really love, such as conducting small bake sales, writing, art and craft work and jewellery designing, whenever I get free time.
I have to thank my lovely family for how well I am today. And of course my husband, who stood by me through it all, never doubting even once that everything would be back to normal. And my little boy... watching him grow has been the most satisfying feeling I've ever had.
From experience, illnesses of the mind are harder to cure and come out of than any physical ailment. But getting timely support helped me come out strong. Stronger than ever.
How my depression manifested:
1. Constant crying episodes for the smallest of reasons.
2. A state of confusion; difficulty in making even simple decisions.
3. Lack of interest in things that I normally love to do
4. Not eating properly.
5. Burning sensation in my stomach.
Things that helped me:
1. Consulting a good doctor on time.
2. Good sleep.
3. Eating healthy meals at the right time.
4. Daily exercise and yoga.
5. Constant support and reassurance from loved ones.
Things that I would've done differently:
1. Expressed my feelings and concerns to my spouse much earlier.
2. Agreed to a Caesarean section much sooner rather than enduring pain unnecessarily and unfruitfully.
3. Chosen a less conservative hospital where the mother or spouse would be allowed in the labour room.