By: Jessica Aldred
At 2:11 am, exactly 10 days after I delivered my perfect, healthy and gorgeous baby boy that I sat straight up in my bed and couldn’t breath. There was no nightmare, no pain from my c-section or anything really legitimate that woke me that night. It was just an all out panic that I couldn’t explain, couldn’t contain and couldn’t overcome. I remember waking my husband out of a dead sleep because I just didn’t know what to do, I was freaking out! Once he came to and got a grip on what was going on, he looked me dead in the face and asked me “Where’s the baby?” I was speechless. My husband- the most supportive person in my world, the man who I couldn’t pay to read any of the Father-To-Be books I had bought him with any of our children- in that moment, questioned if I was having Postpartum depression issues. I couldn’t believe it. I was floored. The baby was peacefully sleeping next to my side of the bed and I was horrified on top of my panic that he would think I would harm the baby.
The night went on and he went back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I sat awake in our living room watching reruns of whatever I could find on TV in the wee hours of the morning. Each time exhaustion would creep in I would startle myself awake in a cold sweat and start the cycle over again. This went on for six solid days. I caught maybe an hour of sleep here and there I guess. I had to be getting some sort of rest or I’m not sure I could’ve functioned as I did during the day. But as each night approached and the sun started to set, the tears would well up and my heart would beat faster. Something about the nights, the dark, the uncertainty of what the overnight hours would bring, brought on a sense of all out panic that I had never felt before.
I’ve always been an anxious person, but this was different. This was sheer panic and no one could help me. I came to find that it was a subset of Postpartum depression called Postpartum Panic, or Sundowner’s, and that lots of people suffer from it. I didn’t want to hurt the baby, which I think is the first thing that comes to even the most naïve parenting mind when they hear the words Postpartum depression. I just couldn’t handle myself, and particularly at night. I was breastfeeding at the time so I couldn’t take any medications to help really, and honestly I’m not sure that they would have. For someone whose sole hobby in life is napping, not being able to sleep and being full on afraid to do so was a lot to handle.
What made it worse is that no one seemed to understand or wanted to understand. While there were some who reached out daily to ensure I was doing okay, there were others that literally said, “What is Panic?” Are you kidding me, in 2014 someone does not now the definition of that word or its implication. A simple web search would have yielded a basic definition. The idea that it didn’t exist or I was making it up infuriated me in my already tender state. I quick web search today told me that 1 in 8 women suffer from Postpartum depression and upwards of 80% of woman suffer from some form of it.
As the months passed and the hormones flushed from my body, I began to sleep again. The panic subsided and I was left with my normal over-extended level of anxiety. We’ve adjusted to life with three children. Well, as much as we can with three active little boys. I often reflect on those long 10 days and think, how terrible it must be to have to deal with that every day. I was actually lucky to have it be linked to the hormonal spike/decline during the Postpartum timeframe. The concept of panic is not something just felt when you haven’t studied for an exam or before a big public speaking engagement. It’s a real gut-wrenching level fear that you often can’t explain. While my story goes on, I hope that this basic snip-it of it inspires someone else to educate himself or herself. I hope that it helps someone else to be more sympathetic and to be that great friend who reached out daily to ensure I was okay, but most importantly that it helps another mother, another woman, another person to feel less alone in their suffering.
Have you had any experience with Postpartum Depression? If so, how did you cope with it? What resources did you find helpful in overcoming it?