Am I scared about postpartum depression? Yes, but I’m also feeling ready for whatever comes.
I’m 17 weeks pregnant, and I’m preparing to become a first-time mum. But not only am I preparing for the sleepless nights, the breastfeeding, the diaper changes, and the endless worries that come with having a new baby — who I love very much already — but I’m also getting ready to have postpartum depression.
I have bipolar disorder. Due to the fact I have only ever experienced hypomanic symptoms — which for me is generally a lack of sleep, feeling irritable, having big ideas, feeling impulsive, making bad decisions, and being overly energetic and motivated — versus a manic episode,
I won’t lie, I’m scared. I’ve had some depressive episodes with my bipolar disorder and I’ve felt awful. Down, numb, empty. And although I’ll have my baby to live for, to protect and to love, I’m scared of being a failure.
I want the first few months of becoming a new mum to be happy ones. I don’t want to be withdrawn or succumb to hopelessness. I want to feel like I’m doing a good job.
I was told I was high risk during a mental health appointment with the prenatal team, who wanted to discuss how they could support me during my pregnancy and to check that the medication I’m taking is safe for the baby.
Although there are incredibly minute risks — as with most things — I have chosen to continue taking medication to protect my own well-being and to make sure I’m as healthy as possible during my pregnancy.
I’ve also chosen to have therapy throughout my pregnancy so that I have even more support on a personal level and less medical.
I think it will be good to have someone to talk to about my personal concerns without feeling as on-edge as I do with a medical professional. Talking will help me express my worries, have rational conversations about these concerns, and to work on them before my baby is here.
In a way, I’m glad I’ve been told that I may experience postpartum depression. Because it’s meant I’ve been offered extra support throughout my pregnancy — something many mothers who go on to experience this type of depression don’t get.
It also means that I’m prepared and fully expecting what might come, which gives me a heads up and allows me to learn more about the condition, coping mechanisms, and how I can help myself.
Additionally, it means I can speak to my family, partner, and friends about it before it happens — if it happens — so that they know how to best support me.
I am terrified, but learning more about the condition before I’m diagnosed with it — if I’m diagnosed with it — means that I have time to come to terms with it. And, it has time to settle inside my head.
I feel if I had experienced it without warning, I may have been in denial, worried that if I opened up about what I was experiencing, I’d be seen as a bad mother or a risk to my child.
But knowing that postpartum depression affects between
I think one of the scariest things for mothers facing postpartum depression is that due to the condition, you may be viewed as an unfit mother and perhaps have your children taken away. But this is very extreme and so unlikely to happen, as I’ve been reassured by my mental health team and midwife.
Despite knowing this, it’s a strong fear and I think is likely why many mothers don’t speak out.
And so, I guess it’s a good thing that I was told before it happens — because it allows me to ask about things before they could happen. I’ve been told to always be honest with my team, and I’ve been able to ask for reassurance that I will still be a good mum.
So far, things have been going great and I’ve had really great reports on my mental health. Even when I think I’m not doing a good job I’m reassured that I am, but I guess that’s a part of battling anxiety and insecurity.
At the end of the day, every new mum wants to be a good one. Every new mum wants to protect their baby. And I’ve learned that I can still do this with postpartum depression. That it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That other mothers suffer too and they’re still wonderful women.
I know that when my beautiful baby is born, I will do everything to love and protect them. No matter how I’m feeling inside.
And I will ask for help, seek additional support, and do whatever I need to do to make sure my mind is as healthy as possible as I go through the early stages of motherhood.
Because luckily for me, I’ve learned that this is possible — and I don’t need to feel ashamed to ask for help.
Hattie Gladwell is a mental health journalist, author, and advocate. She writes about mental illness in hopes of diminishing the stigma and to encourage others to speak out.