Sam Scheider shares her journey through postpartum depression/ anxiety and how her Life Group supports her through the ups and downs. Learn more about Life Groups at TMUMC.ORG/life.
"How are you?"
This is a question new moms get all the time. I had my third baby in December. When I would get that question I would smile and say "fine," then turn around and wipe my tears. I felt like people were asking how things were with the boys and the baby as far as everyone adjusting, not about me. Having a newborn, 2-year-old, and 4-year-old was harder than I imagined, and I felt like I was drowning.
When Hattie was 5 days old I had been rocking her for a couple of hours early in the morning when I felt a sharp pain throughout my whole body and I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't breathe. I put Hattie down, laid down, and cried harder than I ever have. I knew my hormones were still off and thought eventually things would get back to normal. I spent my days crying without being able to stop, but also trying to hide it from everyone. I would shut myself in the nursery with Hattie and cry uncontrollably. I lashed out at my 2 and 4-year-old for no reason. I was not myself. I knew it had gone beyond the typical baby blues and was moving into darker territory.
I constantly felt immense shame. Shame about how I talked to my kids. Shame that I honestly did not know why people ever had kids, and as much as I knew I loved mine, I was sure that I would tell all my childless friends that they should never have kids. Guilt that I was unable to help the boys when they needed me because I constantly had a baby attached to me.
I still didn't want to talk to anyone about it because this was my third baby and I felt like I should be able to handle everything. I had done it twice before, why should this time be any different? I also felt like other people had postpartum depression much worse than this. After all, I didn't want to harm myself or my baby, so I thought I could get through this by myself.
I think that's what was confusing to me at first. I didn't check off every box for postpartum depression (PPD), but I checked off a good amount. I also had never really heard of postpartum anxiety (PPA) and didn't really know those signs that I should have been looking for. I have a mix of both PPD and PPA, which I now know isn't unusual.
I was so in love with this new little baby girl and so thankful for her, but so heavy and sad at the same time. I was thanking God for my sweet baby but questioning why he gave me all this emotional weight when I wasn't strong enough to deal with it.
I carried on my normal routine of going to our Life Group, my Moms Group, having people stop by the house, and visiting with family. I think on some level I wanted to be found out. I didn't want to be the one to diagnose myself. I wanted someone to look at me and say, "Sam, you are a great mom. You are strong and doing a wonderful job, but I think you need a little more help. Help that needs to come from your doctor. You birthed this beautiful baby and your body is still unbalanced. There's nothing wrong with that, but you will be able to care for yourself and your family if you get help." But I hid it so well that why would anyone think to even suggest that?
Finally, after 6 weeks someone saw through my smile. We were in Life Group on Sunday night and a friend asked how I was doing. She didn't buy my typical response, so she looked me in the eye and asked me again. I burst into tears and said I wasn't okay and things were different this time than they had been after I had the boys. Before when people asked me how I was doing, I didn't think they were truly asking how my mental state was, which is so important. I felt the weight of the world on me and I was crumbling. Several of our Life Group members shared stories about their own postpartum depression. They offered advice and best of all, a safe place to share and a shoulder to cry on.
I realized I had to learn to give myself grace. I knew that it was going to be tough to parent 3 kids, but I didn't see how much I needed to tell myself that I was doing a good job, and everything was okay.
The next day I saw my doctor and a Christian counselor and started taking medication for postpartum depression/ anxiety.
I think people are sensitive to postpartum depression. So many people are ready and willing to help, but there was no way for them to know I needed help. I hid it because I was ashamed and that is very common. I think the most important thing is to spread awareness. Yes, the hospital and doctor's office give you a basic list to look over and check off boxes to make sure you are okay, but there is so much more to it than that. I share my story often because I want other people to benefit from it. I want them to know that getting help does not make them weak, it is the best thing they can do for themselves and their family.
Every Sunday evening, I am blessed to be a part of my Life Group, a group of parents that are all walking this journey with me. They have seen the ups and downs and prayed over my family numerous times. They show up and ask the tough questions and respond with grace and love. I have been doing much better spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.