Parenting Now!

Surviving Postpartum Depression

I struggled with Postpartum Depression (or Perinatal Mood Disorder) from the time my daughter was 5 weeks old.

At first, I wasn’t convinced that I had a real problem; I just thought that I was bad at being a mom and I needed to buck up and get used to it. Thankfully, my husband encouraged me to get in touch with my OB, and I got the help that I needed.

Now that my daughter is 5 months old, I am finally feeling like I have conquered PPD! I don’t feel like a bad mom anymore, and I can see a happy future for my little family. Here is how I did it.

*I took medication. It wasn’t a magic bullet, and it took about six weeks to really start working, but it was step one to feeling better. Like any other illness, my mood disorder required treatment.

*I turned the TV off. Once my husband went back to work and I was home with the baby all day, it was easy to veg out on the couch all day watching reality TV. It didn’t help my depression, and it left me anchored to the living room with my brain on autopilot. Now that I’ve turned the TV off, it’s easier to get out of the house, clean, or even just play with the baby, and all of those things leave me feeling more accomplished at the end of the day.

*I got involved. We are lucky to live in a community that has some great resources for families. I started attending Story Time at the public library and Baby Connection at Parenting Now! There’s also Hike It Baby, WellMama, La Leche League, and various play groups and classes open to the public.

*I gave myself a break. I had a really hard time breastfeeding and I was pretty hard on myself about it. I had to let go of some of my original goals and focus on my baby, who was and is well-fed and happy. The energy I was using to stress about breastfeeding was better spent on self-care.

*I asked for help. I opened up to my family and friends about how I was feeling and told them the truth when they asked how I was doing. They kept me from isolating myself and helped me to keep things in perspective when I had a particularly difficult day.

Sometimes I still feel selfish when I spend time focusing on myself but ultimately, my personal health and happiness are central to the health and happiness of my baby. This whole experience has been a lesson in the importance of mental health to effective parenting, and working so hard for my happiness has made me all the more grateful for the relationships and resources that have made it possible.

Erin Bowling holds a master’s degree in Folklore, blogs casually and can bake a wicked batch of cookies.