PunditGirl was about 12 months old when she arrived home with us, so she was pretty much sleeping through the night. I smugly thought that I had escaped the infamous mommy sleep deprivation.
You’ll be pleased to know that my smugness caught up with me — PunditGirl didn’t sleep through the night from about the age of 2 1/2 until 5. I am now intimately familiar with this universal motherhood experience!
I did not expect the depression, though. Since I was not pregnant for nine months and didn’t have all those crazy hormones racing through my body in the lead-up to my name becoming “Mommy,” I was not prepared for the hugeness of the feelings that would sweep over me.
Yes, I was incredibly happy that I had finally been able to become a mother. And PunditGirl was an amazingly inquisitive and busy baby. But why didn’t I feel those happy feelings more?
I felt depressed and irritable and abandoned and angry. For months.
In the blink of an eye, I went from a woman who had worked for 20 years to achieve the nice office with the good title to the one with spit-up all over me and no one to see or talk to from six in the morning until after six at night. As my new PunditBaby napped, I wandered the house wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, occasionally checking to see if there were any old Xanax in the medicine cabinet, prescribed, but not taken, after a particularly bad break-up with a former fiancee many years before.
I know some people are going to say, well, that’s not really postpartum depression.
Maybe I didn’t have the requisite hormones coursing through my system to make it a clinically diagnosable condition, but I’m here to tell you that I had it, whatever you want to call it, and it was directly related to my sudden and complete immersion into the world of motherhood — a world that was as foreign and unforgiving to me as if I had been dropped into the middle of the Sahara desert with no water or shade.
I know I’m not the only adoptive mother who was in the same boat.
However we experience it, it is real. And it’s time for more people to realize that it’s not just some weepy woman thing that will go away on its own. For some people it does, but for many it’s more than that.
Why is it that if there’s a condition that is unique to women, it gets short shrift in the medical community? Lack of treatment for postpartum depression is just one of them. But finally, there are some people in Congress who want to do something about it.
That’s why I’m blogging today for the Mother’s Act that’s been introduced in Congress to help raise awareness about postpartum depression among mothers, require health care providers to screen mothers for the symptoms of postpartum depression and train professionals to help diagnose and treat this depression.
Maternal health is neglected in many ways — this is one of the more subtle ones globally.
If you can, take a minute today to E-mail or call your Senator and ask for their support of the Mother’s Act.
I know we probably can’t count on any support from Tom Cruise, but maybe the rest of us can pick up his slack.