“How is your mood, Brianna?”
It’s a question I have been asked by my midwives and doctors countless times since having my third daughter, Eloise.
With a history of postpartum depression, and very severe perinatal depression during my pregnancy, my healthcare providers knew the questions to ask and were diligent in asking them during my pregnancy and postpartum care.
Dara Semedo, a local mom of a two-year-old son is another mom who has struggled with postpartum depression, and is open about her experience in order to help others. She was eager to share her story with with me and Mom of the House readers, with the hope that it will be helpful to many new mothers, and those supporting them.
Brianna: Can you share with me a bit about your experience with postpartum depression?
Dara: It started very shortly after I had my son. At first it felt like the general baby blues, like everyone warns us about. There's that huge hormonal shift from pregnancy, now into motherhood, and we all kind of just feel ‘blah’.
Then it just kept snowballing, until it became this huge overwhelming and awful thing. I call it my big, grey monster. It wasn't always an awful, big, black storm cloud, just this crummy grey and looming storm. You know, the ones where they just hang over the city without doing much other than making everything feel grey and gloomy?
Everyone hears Postpartum Depression and we think of the movies and TV shows where it's always crying and unhappy, but it isn't always like that.
Brianna: Can you share a bit about how it felt for you?
Dara: I was one of those women whose main symptom wasn't depression. Sure it was there, but it wasn't my main issue. Anxiety was. Oh boy, was anxiety an issue for me.
When my son was eight-weeks-old, I can remember texting my husband that I wasn't okay. I was terrified of everything. It was just before Christmas. I felt that I should have been excitedly awaiting my son's first-ever Christmas. instead I was terrified of the sounds happening in my house. The building settling in the cold night air, the pops and rattles that plumbing makes, even my cats jumping off the couch downstairs.
All these sounds were clearly signs that someone had broken into my house and was going to do horrible things to my son and myself, and there was nothing I could do about it. I also had OCD type triggers. I needed to constantly check if doors were locked, elements on the stove were off, the heat was at an acceptable temperature, and that there was nothing even remotely close to the vents.
Brianna: Wow, that doesn’t sound like the typical symptoms that some may call postpartum depression.
Dara: Exactly. In recent years they've changed the terminology from PPD (Postpartum Depression) to that of PPMD (Postpartum Mood Disorder), because they have identified that there are so many different facets to what has been only known as PPD. The prior terminology kind of alienated moms who had anxiety, rage, OCD.
Brianna: It seems like your experience with PPMD has really grown you as a mother and a woman. You are also involved in awareness and helping other mothers locally. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
My experience has allowed me to really see how difficult things are for those of us in the mental health system. So many of us fall through the cracks, even if it's just regular mental health, let alone something so very specific and not well understood like PPD.
It's made me so much more aware of the struggle of moms who are trying to juggle so much at any time, and who compare themselves to unrealistic expectations in media and online.
I've also since become a member of the Guelph Community Health Centre’s PPD Support Group, where these women have become very close and personal friends.
Brianna: What would you suggest friends and family do to support a new mother, especially one that they may suspect is struggling?
Dara: Let them know they aren't alone. There are many other women out there struggling with the same kind of things as you are. Give them support, offer to go with them to a doctor's visit to discuss how they are feeling. If you've struggled yourself, share your story. Sometimes we just need that one last little nudge to do something about it.
And Moms, if you're suffering with something, please reach out. There are supports available. The number one thing I have learned is that it’s okay to not be okay.
Thank you Dara for taking the time to open up and share your experience!
Guelph Community Health Centre (GCHC) offers Postpartum Mood Disorder Services, including a weekly support group with childcare, and a monthly support group for partners and those playing a supporting role. To find out more, visit here.
If you are in need of someone to speak with right away, Here 24/7 offers around the clock support for anyone in need. You can call any time, night or day, at 1-844-437-3247.