Carole describes the triggers that causes her postpartum depression (PPD) and how this diagnosis affected the relationship with her daughter.
My story is something that I didn’t really remember because it happened so long ago. Like some other women whose stories are closer in time, mine just became part of my life and I never really gave it a name until I started doing this work of postpartum depression.
My children are 38, 36, 35, and 31, and I had postpartum depression with my first and my third child, and I will just talk briefly about my daughter who was my third-born because that was the postpartum depression that I think had the most consequences for both of us.
Looking back, I can understand how it occurred. Just like anybody, your life isn’t always a straight trajectory, and we had many more stressors at the time of my third pregnancy and actually, I talked a lot about discontinuing the pregnancy. My husband was trying to get into medical school at the time and it just wasn’t going to be a good time to have another child, but I couldn’t make that decision.
So our daughter was born, but then she had some complications. She was very jaundice and had to stay in the hospital for a while. Thirty-five years ago the treatment for jaundice was telling women that they could not breastfeed, that something about the breast milk was bad for the higher bilirubin levels that cause the jaundice.
So, I was sent home, told to give her formula, and no one said anything about the possibility of pumping to continue my milk or of breastfeeding her later on. So, I was very surprised when about ten days later the doctors said, “Well, she looks better. Maybe you can start breastfeeding now.”
Well, I don’t know really if I had any quality of milk left by that time, but I did breastfeed her, but she was always very irritable, and for six months that breastfeeding was nothing like the other times that I breastfed.
It wasn’t easy. She was an irritable child. It seemed like nothing I could do could comfort her, and I had a strong negative feeling just being in her presence. It was not fun; it wasn’t joyful. It was just a duty and I just had to do it, but I didn’t feel close to her. I felt like she didn’t like me and that we didn’t know each other very well.
Finally, I weaned her at six months which was early for me. I usually breastfed over a year, and I felt very bad about myself because I had equated breastfeeding with motherhood and it was hard for me to feel like a good mom if I wasn’t breastfeeding.
I think the sadness and the level of out of sorts I felt that whole first year probably just eventually petered out on their own through distraction with my other children and all the responsibilities of being a mom. But I became aware that she and I didn’t have the close relationship that I had with my other children when she became a teenager, and throughout those teen years and even to today, her feeling about her life growing up is that she got the short end of the stick and that she didn’t get the same love from me that my other children got.
She had my youngest to compare with who, when she was born, circumstances were much better, and I didn’t have postpartum depression. And the youngest child was the baby and the joy of the family, so to speak. So, because of her positioning as the middle child and my early anxiety and depression because of her being in the hospital for a longer time and not being able to breastfeed, and not initially bonding with each other, she feels like she had a very different life and she and I still to this day do not relate to each other as well as I had hoped that we would be able to.
So, I can speak about postpartum depression from the other end of it. When people say they are afraid to treat it or the medication might hurt the baby or ”I should just be able to get over this myself,” I think about the fact that had I had a different experience, this daughter would have been a happier child and felt that she got the love that she wanted from me. And I really can’t turn back the clock and make that change anymore.
So, that’s my story, the one that was the most long-lived and dramatic for me, and I have a lot of regrets.
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