January 11, 2021 Medical Conditions

Postpartum Mental Health: One Woman’s Story

Sometimes, it’s not just the “baby blues”

You did it – you had a baby! Congratulations, momma! Ten fingers, ten toes, that new baby smell. Swaddled up in a blanket with skin too preciously soft to describe. Absolute perfection! Everyone in your world is overjoyed as they experience this delightfully teeny family member. Everyone, that is, except for you.

You’re thinking, this is totally normal. Right? All new mothers get some sort of “baby blues.” Don’t they? And yes, many women (up to 70%) are troubled with a mild form of depression after they deliver that usually dissipates within a week or two. But are your glum feelings big? Not so mild? Not going away?

An estimated one in seven women experience postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA) anywhere from a few months to even over a year after giving birth. It often goes unrecognized and untreated, leaving a mother with feelings of sadness, emptiness, intense anxiety, inadequacy, and excessive worry.

One of our extraordinary team members here at CDPHP was kind enough to share her own personal experience with postpartum mental health.

Cecily’s story

I have been with CDPHP for four years, and I love my job. I have two children – a son who is eight and a daughter who is two. When my son was born, I didn’t really know anything about postpartum depression or anxiety. So, I just put my head down and got through it. I had great days and hard days, but I didn’t know that I could have sought help to get everything more balanced.

Throughout my early years as a mom, I now know that I was experiencing anxiety. My stomach would hurt, my heart would pound, and I would get sweaty. I thought I had a hormone issue. My doctor didn’t ask at appointments, and I never shared. In the years after my son was born, I sought talk therapy at various times and always found it helpful. 

Fast-forward to my daughter’s birth in November 2018. I was older and more tired – after all, I was balancing a newborn baby, a Kindergartener, and a full-time job. When my daughter was born, the idea that I could have PPA or PPD was in the back of my mind. I had moments of sadness or feeling overwhelmed, but as a mom of a newborn and a school-aged child, I thought it was normal. I don’t need help – I’ve got this! I certainly didn’t have time to dwell on it. Then my father, who had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer shortly before my daughter was born, passed away in March 2019. This was a traumatic event and I was sad and a bit more anxious. But it was a normal reaction to all that was going on. Wasn’t it? 

In November 2019, all of a sudden, it just became too much. I would pick up my children after work and feel more and more anxious as we drove home. My anxiety mostly centered on the idea that my children would get sick. I was constantly feeling them to see if they were warm. What did that note from daycare or school say? Was that a cough I heard? No play dates until after flu season!

Finally one night, just after my birthday, my husband had a late meeting. I was walking around my house holding my daughter while my son watched a television show. I was uncontrollably sobbing, so afraid that my daughter was going to get sick. While my daughter wiped my tears away with her little, chubby hands, I called my good friend. She talked to me until I calmed down. My next call was to ask my husband to come home. I then contacted my midwife’s after-hours service, and they made an appointment for me the very next day. I would love to say that was the end and it was all fine. But that wouldn’t be true.

The next day, I went to my midwife’s office. I was sobbing the entire time. Honestly, they didn’t have much to offer me. She called a psychiatrist they frequently work with, but they had no openings for months. She said I could check myself into a hospital for help, but I refused, thinking I’d be held there and my children would be taken from me.

I ended up going to urgent care, and the doctor prescribed a medication to hold me over until I could see a psychiatrist. This wasn’t ideal, but after 20 calls and NO openings, I was desperate. I took the pills and kept making calls.

About a week and a half later, I saw a psychiatrist. He said given all I’d experienced, he was surprised it hadn’t come to a head sooner. He told me he could absolutely help and recommended talk therapy along with medication to manage my anxiety. I also met with my therapist within a few days and started weekly sessions.

Was the medicine an immediate cure all? No, but it helped so much. It helped me manage the anxiety, and it helped me change the narrative in my head. The talk therapy has helped me to see the root of it all, and how I can better cope. Spoiler alert! It’s all going to be ok, and if it’s not, I know where to look for help. 

Today, I am so grateful to say that I am Cecily, and I am living with anxiety. I have anxiety, but it doesn’t have me.

Are you a new mom feeling like Cecily did?

CDPHP can help. If you’d like to speak with a licensed mental health counselor on the CDPHP Care Team, call 1-888-320-9584. You can also talk one-on-one with a CDPHP Care Team nurse or care coordinator by calling 1-800-365-4180. They can help you address your health needs by working closely with your doctor. Or use the Valera Health app, which has live chat options, among other features, such as personalized resources and care reminders.

If you’re depressed or having thoughts of harming your baby or yourself, alert your physician immediately.

Sarah Bowman
About Author

Sarah Bowman joined CDPHP® in November 2020 as a communications specialist. A life-long lover of words, Sarah brings the team 20 years of editing and writing experience gained through her positions at a digital media company, public relations agency, and book publishing house. She attended The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY where she received her BA in Public Communications. Sarah currently resides in the Capital Region with her husband and son where she enjoys long family walks, Broadway shows, and finding the next great streaming series to binge.

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