Crafting to Heal From Unexpected Postpartum Depression
by Kathryn Vercillo
Rachel Brown hadn't anticipated that becoming a mother would leave her in the grips of postpartum depression. She shared her story with me in an interview for my book, Crochet Saved My Life, which is about the health benefits of crafting. This is her non-fiction story, written in my words based on what she shared with me.
Rachel wasn't unfamiliar with depression. A family history of the condition made her achingly aware of the prolonged periods of pain resulting from this terrible still-stigmatized disease. However, she had not thought that she was going to be a victim of the condition and she certainly didn't think that it would hit her during a time when she expected to be happiest – after the birth of her much-wanted child. She was blindsided by the realization that although she was in love with her new motherhood she was also depressed by the situation surrounding it.
Post partum depression can affect anyone. Her family history of depression combined with a difficult infant made Rachel especially prone to the condition. Her son had terrible colic. He would scream and cry for twenty three out of every twenty four hours, causing her sleeplessness, stress, worry and feelings of inadequacy. She would look at her baby and see him as perfect and beautiful. She would be grateful that he was overall a healthy baby. But she was also entirely overwhelmed by new motherhood.
More than just having a needy baby to care for, Rachel was stressed out by the sudden understanding that the motherhood she had so longed for was not at all what she expected it to be. Sure, expected labor and delivery to be difficult but she hadn't realized that it would take her body weeks upon weeks to physically recover from the experience. She knew that having an infant would be difficult and would require changes to her life but she had not realized that it would take months upon months for her to even begin to resume the simplest tasks of a normal lifestyle. She had known that she would be tired but she had not understood the way that the tiredness seeps into every pore of the body and colors the mind in hues of grey. Rachel, like many mothers, had expected to be blissfully happy when her child was born and she was unhappily surprised to discover that this was not the dominant feeling at all.
Post partum depression hit Rachel full force and was combined with both insomnia and extreme anxiety. Rachel shared with me: "I simply couldn't relax, and couldn't stop my mind from racing with doubts about my mothering abilities, feelings of worthlessness, and even debilitating fears of unlikely events occurring like SIDS claiming my baby or him being kidnapped or harmed. I started having nervous breakdowns and panic attacks, and was frightened by how helpless I felt in the face of depressi...