This Is How I Survived PostPartum Depression
I knew I was suffering from postpartum depression when my first son was 1 week old. As soon as my son was born, I received so many phone calls from family and friends. In addition my mother and mother-in-law who were present during my labour and delivery did not leave my side.
Most women would say I am lucky and that I should have been happy, but I was not. In fact, the days after the birth of my first child were the most miserable for me. All of a sudden I had a small fragile baby, who I was now responsible for, who looked at me like I was the best thing in the world. I felt no love for him and did not feel the joy everyone else felt.
But how could I express my feelings to my husband and family? Childbirth in Nigeria is a greatly celebrated event, which makes any feelings of sadness at this time highly stigmatized.
Given such beliefs, it is not hard to understand my reluctance to admit to anything—like negative feelings surrounding childbirth—that would cast criticisms and shame on me as being ungrateful.
At the time I did not know what was wrong with me, however I should have realized something was wrong when I wanted to watch Television instead holding my one-day-old son. I should have realized something was wrong when I broke down in tears—when I shouted at my husband—as I tried to breastfeed my baby for the first time. I should have realized something was wrong when I handed our week-old son to her mother and walked away to buy recharge card from the Mallam down the road.
Looking back, I now know I cried every day after the birth of my son including the day he was born. The first night in the hospital I cried because I couldn’t sleep and because of the pain I was feeling in my vagina.
At the time I did not realise I was suffering from PostPartum depression, I did not even know what it was, my doctor did not tell me about it. My mother and mother-in-law were very worried and had our pastor come pray for us. By the day of my son's naming ceremony, my family were so concerned about me, they asked me to go to the room immediately after the ceremony so our guests will not see how red my eyes were from crying.
The sad truth however is that pregnancy-related depression is real and affects Nigerian women.
The most common problems are mood disorders, “baby blues” and full-blown depression. Depression during and after pregnancy occur more often than most people realize. Depression during pregnancy is also called antepartum or prenatal depression, and depression after pregnancy is called postpartum depression.
Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth. The percentages are even higher for women who are also dealing with poverty, and can be twice as high for teen parents. Ten percent of women experience depression in pregnancy. In fact, perinatal depression is the most common complication of childbirth.
While my own symptoms started on the day my son was born, symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year after birth. They differ for everyone, and might include the following:
- Feelings of anger or irritability
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Appetite and sleep disturbance
- Crying and sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
For myself and many other women depression can sometimes be impossible to explain. You move, eat, and breathe, so you know you are alive, but you can’t feel or what you do feel you don’t understand. It’s confusing and hard to understand and it is part of you that runs deep in your existence.
This is how some women do describe what postpartum depression feels like?
- Shut off from the world
- Alone, even with others nearby
- Tied in a knot
More than just feeling sad, some women express feeling angry, scared, stressed, embarrassed and intensely worried about their child and their ability to look after them.
While I was struggling with my feelings I decided to do an internet search and there I came across information on postpartum depression and how to deal with it. It was with this knowledge that I broke the news;
“I think I have postpartum depression,” I said.
I repeated those words to my husband, to my mother and to my father.
I begged my husband to take me to a doctor. I told him I cried every day. I told him I couldn’t take anymore. I told him I wanted to die.What I didn’t tell him, what I didn’t tell anyone, was that I had a vision of killing our son.
This is why I know that postpartum depression is real. I am a typical Nigerian woman and I suffered from it. I want other Nigerian women to know the signs of depression and postpartum psychosis and that you can help.
Depression convinces you you are hopeless. Depression isolates you and makes you feel completely and utterly alone, and postpartum depression is no different.
Amelia is 20 months old now, and I would like to say I have fully recovered.