PPD does not only affect new moms

Hayden Panettiere recently revealed that she is going back for more treatment for Postpartum Depression after completing treatment in October of 2015. The response has seemed to be overwhelmingly supportive, and her story is hopefully going to show how PPD can affect mothers of children older than a year. (Hayden’s daughter was born in December 2014).  Though the technical definition of Postpartum/Postnatal Depression concerns symptoms occurring within 12 months of birth, women can have recurrences after that and in some cases, symptoms don’t even become apparent until the child is over a year old.

After my second son was born, I felt much different than I did the first time. After a pretty instant bout of PPD with son #1, I felt like a different mother with son #2. My hormones were much more balanced, I wasn’t as hard on myself with my baby because I knew what was normal, and I had more people to reach out to in the mama friends I had made between births. It was strange, then, that when my baby was about 4 or 5 months old, I realized that I was feeling tremendous anxiety and negative feelings, but not around my baby. I was having postpartum anxiety, but this time, it was more directed at my oldest son, who was 3. Juggling having more than one child was not easy for me, and I took a lot out on my oldest son. Since the baby was helpless, I felt that everything that was going wrong was because of the preschooler, who understood the word “no” and could speak in sentences.

These feelings completely threw me off because my initial postpartum period had been wonderful. My baby and I were in a little love cocoon, nursing was much better than the first time, and though I wasn’t sleeping much, I was able to handle it better than the first time around. But my postpartum disorder needed a catalyst, and unfortunately, my 3 year old was it. I couldn’t understand so much of his behavior, and while we had our moments where I cuddled him, played with him, and loved him like mad, most of the time I just needed him out of the room. And then the guilt cycle would start. I would beat myself up for being so hard on him since he was only 3, I would feel like I was screwing him up because I was favoring the baby, and I felt like I was creating a self fulfilling prophecy every time I assumed he was responsible for some peer squabble.

But it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong, and in truth, the only thing I did wrong was not take a step back and recognize that I was experiencing a different form of the disorder I had after my first birth. Because it took a different form, I didn’t believe it to be PPD, but in actuality, it was, and I needed help. I would have also benefitted from backing away from my peers to take some time and reevaluate my needs but I never allowed myself to do so. Now I see so clearly how my disorder found me again, sneaking in a new route and invading my life in an unfamiliar way. It didn’t matter that my baby wasn’t a newborn and my feelings towards him were fine, it was still attacking how I felt about my parenting, how I saw my child, and how I felt about myself as a person.

I’m glad that I finally recognized that I needed help, and didn’t trick myself into thinking that PPD only looked one way. In the same way, I am glad Hayden Panettiere is taking the same steps, and that she can inspire other mothers to take a step back and get help when they need it.

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If you think you might be experiencing PPD, or know someone who might be, please click here for info on how to seek help.

Take care of yourselves, ~Suzi

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