Health | National

Esinam Osei: Postpartum depression and me

I have had postpartum depression not once, but twice. My first experience was the most challenging.

My first pregnancy was extremely difficult; I had hyperemesis gravidarum, recurrent infections, multiple hospital stays, premature contractions, countless infusions, and injections. I eventually ended up on bed rest at the hospital for three months (till I delivered) and had to be on oxygen. There were many anxious moments. I missed the comfort and familiarity of home while on admission and I constantly lived in fear of my baby and I dying. I also felt bad for all that my husband had to endure in making sure that we were fine though he never complained.

Eventually I went into labour and delivered safely, but the horror of witnessing another mother die right by me in the labour room, minutes before I had my baby, left me traumatised.  

I was relieved when we were discharged and came home. Home, no matter how welcoming, presented another challenge. My husband and I were alone. And as first-time parents, it was quite daunting. A friend nurse came during the day for two hours to help but we were very much on our own and had to take turns doing everything. There was so much to learn and do. It was exhausting.

I started to think something was wrong with me when I began crying a lot and feeling not in control of my emotions and thoughts. Looking back now, I think the warning signs were there from my fifth month of pregnancy, but the will to fight and save myself and my baby kept me occupied.

Those feelings resurfaced right after giving birth. I remember the fear, the hypervigilance, the intrusive thoughts, – it was never-ending. I went days without sleeping. I found breastfeeding difficult. My baby’s cries were sometimes enough to induce a panic attack and there were times when I feared being left alone with him. It felt like I was losing my mind.

I wasn’t eating and was rapidly losing weight. I paid little attention to my personal hygiene. And I hated having visitors over because I felt disconnected from everything and everyone and found it draining.

I suspected what I had long before it was diagnosed. I worked in media, and I had researched and produced shows on postpartum depression (PPD) with subject matter experts and survivors. With this background, I knew my condition wasn’t ‘the baby blues”, but something more serious. But I didn’t know how to ask for help.

With my husband’s encouragement however, I agreed to help. He reached out to my son’s pediatrician and my gynecologist, who were supportive, and they marshaled their resources and got me the right help. My suspicions were confirmed after tests and conversations. I had postpartum depression. I never thought it would happen to me.

Therapy helped me greatly. Prayer played an extremely vital role too. My husband’s amazing support made the battle easier – he never invalidated what I was feeling and was my light in the dark moments. My journey to healing didn’t happen overnight but it did happen, and I thrived and enjoyed motherhood.

PPD changed my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. My experience however left me with a new level of compassion and empathy. I pay that forward by being a support system to other women. My key take away from that experience are that:

  • It can happen to anyone, and it is more common than we think.
  • You are not a bad mother or a bad person for experiencing it.
  • Never hesitate to ask for help. Help doesn’t mean you are weak.
  • Spousal support is critical in the recovery process.

PPD shouldn’t be a taboo subject and women shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. I share my story now in the hope that my vulnerability will give other women the strength to get help, because help is available.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.