I’m not entirely sure where to begin.
It’s not that I have trouble talking about my experience. I’m a fairly open book.
I guess it’s because I’m still somewhat in shock.
It came, seemingly, out of nowhere.
The feeling of panic.
The feeling of dread.
The fear that I wouldn’t be able to care for my son.
The fear that something terrible would happen to him.
The desire to flee.
These feelings weren’t new to me, but I hadn’t felt them in over a year.
My postpartum depression had returned.
As I racked my dysfunctional brain for some reason, some cause for this resurgence, I came across an article on Facebook – “Weaning and Depression Linked in Many Women.” The more I read, the more I realized how common this seemed to be.
The CDC tracks postpartum depression in women, and recent estimates suggest that anywhere between 9.8 and 21.3 percent of mothers in the U.S. report regular postpartum depressive symptoms.
But no research exists on the connection between PPD and weaning.
From an emotional standpoint, it makes perfect sense.
You’re severing an incredible bond you’ve built with your nursing child, and you’re losing that intimacy and connection. It can be a traumatic experience for both mother and child, especially if you’re forced to wean before you’re ready.
From a scientific standpoint, it also makes perfect sense.
Breastfeeding produces prolactin, which causes feelings of calm, well-being, and relaxation. It also produces oxytocin, or the “love hormone.” When you stop nursing, you lose those hormones, which can cause major shifts in mood.
The faster you wean, the more dramatic those hormone shifts can be. Mothers with a history of depression are also more likely to experience it after weaning.
So that’s me. I weaned my son in a matter of days, thinking that it was better to just get it done, but within a matter of days, I was a total wreck.
I literally couldn’t stop crying. I laid in bed all day. I didn’t want to eat. I slept a lot. I did the bare minimum to care for myself and my son.
Then the guilt set in. Guilt that I was sending my son to his grandma’s house every day. Guilt that I wasn’t cooking our meals. Guilt for so many things beyond my control.
In hindsight, I’m thankful I had postpartum depression for the sole reason that I could immediately recognize it when it happened again.
And I knew to seek help. As much as I dislike prescription drugs, I knew this wasn’t something I could fix on my own.
Thanks to my doctors and the support of my friends and family, I am taking medication and going to therapy sessions to get through this season of life once again.
I beat it once before, and I know I can do it again.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, whether you have a newborn or a 3-year-old, please reach out and get professional help.
In the meantime, here are some resources to educate and empower you.