Sunday, July 10th, 2005
Observations About Postpartum Depression
When my wife was diagnosed with postpartum depression we didn’t keep it a secret. Hiding only stigmatizes, as if a person should feel ashamed to have this medical condition. Disappointed? Shocked? Saddened? Sure. Ashamed? No way! To get better you have to be able to talk about it.
My wife fretted for a few days, then e-mailed friends and family so they knew what she was experiencing. Virtually everyone responded smashingly. We received a number of phone calls, and invitations came in that got her out of the house spending time with friends. People were very supportive. We learned that a lot of friends had also experienced depression. We even discovered that postpartum depression runs in the family — her sister had it. The sister even shared that their mother, who is now deceased, also experienced it thirty years ago.
My wife got on medication and began seeing a therapist. Although that continues, when asked to quantify her recovery, she said she is 90 percent better after four months. I notice the difference.
Our one casualty is the loss of a close friend who cut off contact. Through others, and eventually directly from the friend, we learned the friend didn’t want to be around my wife because she was depressed. This “friend” needed to surround herself with happy people because my wife “had nothing to offer” and “couldn’t give back in friendship.” This rejection inflicted a deep wound. Over a long and tearful night we rationalized the shallowness of fair weather friends and that even the most joyful person would be rocked by this type of human-inflicted trauma.
My wife’s only regrets are that she wishes she didn’t need a pill to make her better, and that if we had recognized her depression earlier (the depression began five months before birth) she would have enjoyed her daughter’s first months more. Given the massive change and sleepless nights a baby brings to new parents, it was easy for us to think the depression was just stress.
If we had it to do over again, we still would go with full disclosure. Better to know who your real friends are and be strengthened by their power than to surround yourself with people who merely find your presence convenient.
- Depression before and after pregnancy fact sheets [4women.gov] from the National Women’s Health Information Center.