Renee’s Postpartum Depression Story

Breastfeeding problems can contribute to postpartum depression in a variety of different ways. 

Often, we think of moms who are unable to breastfeed.  But even those who successfully breastfeed can also find themselves suffering.  Sometimes, breastfeeding dependency can make us blind to other problematic symptoms.  Renee from This Anxious Mum shares her story about how her breastfeeding dependency led to sleep deprivation and other side effects.  It became so important to her that she didn’t notice the bad shape her mental health was in. 

This is Renee’s story.
Renee's Postpartum Depression Story
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.

I Drank the Crunchy Mum Koolaid – And It Made Me Self-Loathing

Of the many things I thought I’d cherish as a new mum, I NEVER counted on breastfeeding being one. I’d been firmly in the camp of “no thanks” for breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding, which I deemed “gross” and “only for hippie weirdos”) whilst pregnant, and I didn’t anticipate that changing.

Well, well well.

Nobody was more surprised than me when I became somewhat of a massive breastfeeding advocate. Of the many pivots my brain did in that short time between pregnancy and the fourth trimester ,this was perhaps the most significant in mine and my daughter’s life.

Despite being born at 32 weeks gestation and not mastering the sucking reflex until 34, I was able to maintain an exclusively breastfeeding relationship with my daughter for 10 months. The idea that I was the sole source of her nutrition was something that provided a great comfort to me, especially when I felt so utterly lacking in every other department.

I surrounded myself with other “breastfeeding buddies” and joined a multitude of breastfeeding support groups, eager to help new mums. I got in wars with other women over bottle vs breast and I openly judged anyone who, in my eyes was “depriving their child” through either their choice or inability not to breastfeed. I had a back pocket full of facts and sources about breastmilk and mother-child attachment.

How to Ensure Successful breastfeeding with postpartum depression
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“This is all that’s important,” I told myself of my breastfeeding dependency.

It didn’t matter that my little girl, Elliott, woke over 10+ times an evening to feed.

It didn’t matter that her own father couldn’t help her sleep and that she would only settle for me and my boobs.

It didn’t matter that I felt constantly “on call” and that the hyper vigilance was affecting any little sleep I was getting.

It didn’t matter to these women I surrounded myself with either because we were good mothers.  And being a good mother meant being completely there for your child, day and night, even to the detriment of your own health.

I made snide comments to my husband about “those bottle-feeding families” how backward! Why would you willingly bottle feed when it’s so much extra washing up?!  What about the maternal bond? Don’t they care?

As is common in these groups, I created a little toxic echo chamber for myself where I felt both safe and held as well as completely petrified of being shunned for any juxtaposing beliefs. I had (at least in my eyes) isolated myself from the majority of society, whose beliefs I openly and vocally deemed harmful.

Every day I was scrupulous about combing through my words, both written and verbal, to make sure I wouldn’t offend anyone and ultimately be thrown out of my friend group. I began to feel trapped in my parenting choices and completely alone.

Self-care is often touted as the remedy for any and all ailments of the new mum. The problem is it was so freakin’ hard to fit a fart into my day, let alone a quiet yoga session or bubble bath.

Self Care Routine for a Stay at Home Mom
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As my daughter got older and more interested in things that challenged her fine motor skills, I found myself covered in tiny bruises in the stupidest of places after she had fed. She’d pinch, bite and slap me. I was no stranger to depression and anxiety, even before I had a child. I was convinced that I’d successfully shielded myself from postpartum depression, as though I was engaged in a game of hide and seek with mental illness, where I had a killer hiding spot.

Cracks began to form. Completely sleep deprived and emotionally depleted, I began self harming again, not even having the awareness to notice if my daughter was present. One evening I self harmed while holding my daughter. It was an unsafe environment and I needed help.

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression - What is the Connection?
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After my complete breakdown, I found myself in the local Mother and Baby Unit where I spent 5 long and emotional weeks. As well as engaging in therapy and using skills for myself alone, I also worked with an Occupational Therapist to help my relationship with my daughter, and things began to change.

My breast-obsessed, bottle refusing baby began to take a bottle of expressed milk. I told myself it was just a necessity now and that once I was better, I’d go back to being her everything, on call, always.

A large part of our breastfeeding relationship was feeding to sleep. I would feed my daughter for every nap and night sleep. Some nights she slept with my nipple in her mouth. And as much as I delighted in her little soft body and baby breath, I resented the loss of my bodily autonomy.

I had never intended to stop bed sharing, but a condition of staying a patient at the MBU is no “unsafe sleep.” My husband and I squeezed hands under the table when the admissions nurse mentioned this condition of admittance.

Surprisingly most of all to me, she took to a crib as though she’d been waiting for it, sick of sleeping next to someone. Changes seemed to take place slowly and then all at once. Four weeks into our stay, our baby seemed to turn into a little girl.

How to Avoid the Stress of Sleep Training
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She ate finger foods like any other child her age and slept alone. I felt guilt, unlike anything I’d ever known. Our bed-sharing, breastfed baby, who refused solids, sleep and bottles were no longer, and it was my fault. I felt rejected and as though by partaking in these parenting practices, I was failing my daughter and her future development. The real struggles with this guilt and misplaced identity came after our hospital stay, on the day she turned 11 months old.

I began having migraines that couldn’t be helped by any painkillers I tried. Visiting the GP she prescribed a wafer type med that’d knock them out fast. One caveat being – I had to stop breastfeeding. I cried in my doctors’ office, I cried even more at home. Not because I felt I was depriving my daughter but because I felt I was depriving myself of something that I  found comforting.

The truth is, my daughter hadn’t wanted to breastfeed for weeks and I was barely producing milk. She’d latch on if I initiated a feed but she’d lose interest within a minute or two, contented just to pinch the skin around my neck and make me self conscious. This loss, I realized, was all mine.

I held my little girl that night and breastfed her for the final time.  I set up a self-timer and took photos of the “event” as though I was commemorating a loss. I woke the next morning fully anticipating a battle involving tears and tugging at the collar of my t-shirt.

There was nothing of the sort from my daughter, who was perfectly contented with her bottle and after all that worrying, the tears were all my own.


Author Bio:
Renee Shaw - This Anxious Mum
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Renee is a maternal mental health blogger who believes in the healing power of words. When she isn’t writing she’s playing dinosaurs with her toddler. 

You can read more from Renee on her blog This Anxious Mum – http://thisanxiousmum.com

This is Why I Write About Postpartum Depression

Ever wonder how I came to write about postpartum depression and act as an advocate for maternal mental health?

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with women suffering from all kinds of mental health issues after giving birth.  It’s for those women that I write about postpartum depression.  I spend my days creating resources, infographics and researching, all the while wishing I had access to this same information when I was heavily battling postpartum depression.

Recently, someone asked me how and why I decided to write about postpartum depression.  It got me thinking about my journey to becoming a maternal mental health blogger and advocate. 

And so, in keeping with the Running in Triangles tradition, here is my story.
Why I Write About Postpartum Depression
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

I always wanted to be a writer.

From a young age, I knew that writing was one of my strengths.  Not only did it come naturally to me, but I loved doing it.  Having the ability to tell an entire story just from words felt like a superpower.  The English language gets a lot of criticism for it’s wide array of spellings, meanings, synonyms and slang words.  But I think having so many different words to express a single emotion is one thing that makes it great.

Throughout my life, I struggled to find the right path for my writing.  Books, journals, diaries, poems, short stories… all started and forgotten about.  I knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know what I wanted to say.

My first mom blog.

In my late teens and early 20’s I took to the internet to showcase my writing on sites such as My Space (and other infamous ones that no longer exist).   I enjoyed having a space to write knowing that someone else other than myself might actually read it.  

I started my first, real, mom blog in 2013.  At the time, I was in the thick of postpartum depression and needed an outlet for my emotions.  But I didn’t write about postpartum depression.  I wrote about recipes and crafts and funny things my kids did because that’s what all the other mom bloggers were doing.
10 Mothers Who Lost the Battle to Postpartum Depression

The story that changed my life.

A few months after starting my fluffy mom blog, a news story from my hometown hit headlines – two young children found drowned in a bathtub and the mother had gone missing.  They suspected postpartum depression (or psychosis).  I became obsessed with the story and constantly checked for updates to see if she had been found.  The online comments were filled with things like “I hope she’s dead” or “what kind of monster does that” and “she doesn’t deserve to be a mother.”

I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think about anything else other than poor Lisa Gibson and her two babies.  I still cry at the mere thought of it.  Yes, it’s tragic and heartbreaking, but that’s not the only reason I cry. I cry because it could have been me.  At 4 months postpartum, I was fighting suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and imagining drowning my colicky baby in the bathtub.  But I was not a terrible mother, I was just sick.

Two days later, Lisa Gibson’s body was found floating in the river.  It was a tragic ending but I felt relieved for her.  She was finally free of the mental anguish she was likely consumed by.  Would she have even wanted to live after finding out what happened?  The story tormented me for weeks, and the public reaction was even worse.  No matter what I did, I could not silence the voice in my head that kept saying, “do something about this.”

Postpartum Depression Resources in Canada 1
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The first time I spoke up.

I couldn’t just sit by and spectate anymore.  I knew why people said the things they did… they didn’t understand it.  I couldn’t be mad at the online commentators because postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders are NEVER talked about.  And unfortunately, Lisa Gibson would never get the chance to tell her side of the story.

But I could tell mine.

And that’s what I did.  I sat down at my computer and just wrote.  Tears streamed down my face as I choked on the giant lump in my throat.  I would write something truthful and then immediately delete it.  What would people think of me?  What would others say?  Would they take my kids away if they read this?  I would imagine Lisa Gibson floating in the river and I would write it all over again.

Nearly every single sentence had me second guessing the decision to share my story.  And every time, I would picture Lisa Gibson or repeat the hateful online comments and push onward.  Finally, it was finished but I was struggling to publish it.  Once I hit that button – everyone will know.  Will people treat me differently?  Will I get hateful comments too?  I felt sick to my stomach as I hit the “publish” button, but it was done.  There was no going back now.

Prenatal & Postpartum Depression - Vanessa's Story
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The reaction to my story.

Once my story went live, I thought I would feel better.  But it was the opposite.  I was consumed by anxiety.  I couldn’t sleep.  Was this a mistake?  Is it too late to take it down?  I waited for the mean comments, for the misunderstandings and the judgement.

I got nothing but love.

Those who knew me reached out with complete empathy and the sincerest praise.  Friends that I saw in person told me how moved they were by my story.  I started to get comments and emails from women who experienced something similar.  They all said one in thing in common… “me too.”

Fast forward 5 years later.

After sharing my story, I finally felt fulfilled and stopped writing for a while.  I couldn’t go back to blogging about nothing when I had just said so much.  I decided to take control of my postpartum depression and began treatment.  I even had another baby without experiencing a postpartum depression relapse

Five years after hitting the publish button on my postpartum depression story, I found myself as a stay at home mom looking for a side hustle.  Mom blogs had not disappeared, in fact they seemed to be taking over the internet.  Moms were replacing their full time jobs running their own blogs from home.  Could a blog be a way for me to turn my writing into a full time career?  I had to give it a try.

How to Start Blogging About Postpartum Depression
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The Early Days of Running in Triangles

Running in Triangles was initially targeted towards moms of three kids (hence the name).  I had learned that, in order to be a successful mom blog, I should write posts that were helpful.  So I started by sharing my best advice for sleep training and breastfeeding.  They quickly became popular and are still some of my top articles. 

I desperately wanted to write more about postpartum depression, but I was still afraid to say exactly what I wanted to.  Out of that fear came the post, 9 Reasons Why Moms Don’t Speak Up About Postpartum Depression.  It was the blog post that changed the entire direction of Running in Triangles.

Since the blog was now seeing a steady amount of traffic worldwide, I was able to reach a lot more moms with postpartum depression.  They started emailing me and commenting about how they related 100% to what I wrote in that post.  They said they wanted to speak up about postpartum depression but were too afraid and didn’t know how to begin.  So I launched The Postpartum Depression Guest Post Series, making it possible for moms from any background to share their stories in a safe place.  The following year, I featured 10 Questions About Postpartum Depression in order to allow even more women to open up about their experience.

Mothers Answer 10 Questions About Postpartum Depression
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The Reason Why I Write About Postpartum Depression

Throughout this journey, I have finally discovered the true path for my writing.  I write about postpartum depression to help educate others on what it’s like living with this mental illness.  I write for all those mothers who are unable to find the words to say it themselves. I write for those who can’t tell their stories anymore, like Lisa Gibson and countless other women who lost the battle to postpartum depression

I write about postpartum depression because not enough people do.  It needs to be talked about more, to be included in regular conversation.  It’s not a bad word or something to be ashamed of.  I write for future generations, in the hopes that they will take the time to learn about it and put an end to the stigma of it. 

I write about postpartum depression in order to empower women.  New mothers should be able to access facts and information, find resources and support groups and know their treatment options.  But too often, the medical system fails them.  There’s not much I can do to change that, but I can give mothers the tools they need to take their mental health into their own hands. 

And at the end of the day, if I’ve saved even one mother from drowning in the river, then it’s completely worth it.
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What Happens When Someone Incredible Gets Postpartum Depression?

We are all incredible people, no matter what our journey is with postpartum depression.

Some women who end up with postpartum depression have battled mental illness their whole lives.  Some may have gone through a depressed period as a teenager or following some tragedy in their lives.  Maybe they’ve witnessed a family member deal with it, or experienced some kind of childhood trauma.  PTSD can contribute significantly to depression and other postpartum mental health disorders.

But others, like myself, have never faced a childhood trauma or battle with mental illness prior to becoming a mother. 

To go from living the “perfect” life to experiencing the darkness that is depression in such a sudden way feels like being buried alive.  While I no longer struggle with depression on a daily basis, it’s effects remain permanently.  I will forever mourn the loss of the incredible person that I was before postpartum depression took it all away from me.

This is What Happens When Someone Incredible Gets Postpartum Depression
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

I used to be an incredible person.

I had a really great childhood, with parents who loved me and loved each other.

My sister was my best friend and confidant.

Even as an awkward, mixed-race, home-schooled teenager, I never felt depressed or self-conscious.

I embraced my differences, stood up for others and voiced my opinions.

I loved to take care of people and when I started working, I delivered the type of customer service that got rave reviews.

I worked jobs that I loved and was successful at them.

I almost married the wrong man, but then met and fell in love with the right one and had a fairy tale wedding, just like a cliche romantic movie.

We renovated a house in the perfect neighborhood and got a couple of dogs before a baby soon followed.

Life wasn’t always perfect but it was pretty darn close to what I imagined “happily ever after” would be.
Prenatal & Postpartum Depression - Vanessa's Story
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Most of these things haven’t changed.

I still have an amazing husband and a family who love and support me.

I still have the perfect house with the two dogs and three kids.

I still have success doing work that I find rewarding.

Except that now, I have postpartum depression.

It’s been 7  years so I doubt it’s even considered “postpartum” anymore, but I will always refer to it as that. Because until I got pregnant with my second child, I was anything but depressed.

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For the past 7 years, I’ve had to fight every single day to be the happy, incredible person I was my entire life.

Things that came so naturally to me, such as talking to people or taking care of myself – are now things that I avoid at all costs.

Shopping dates and salon appointments were something I looked forward to doing with my friends. I loved fashion and beauty to the point of vanity.  But these days, I feel zero motivation to get dressed in the morning, so I wear the same sweat pants and stained T-shirt all week long.

And when I do dress up, I criticize everything about myself.  I count out grey hairs and wrinkles.  I pinch the rolls of skin on my stomach and make disgusted faces in the mirror.

Instead of styling my hair, I fantasize about shaving it all off.

I can’t look people in the eye anymore, or make small talk with cashiers and servers.

When I talk to someone on the phone I stutter and stumble and forget what I was supposed to say.

I silence my phone when it rings because I need to work up the courage to take the call first.

And if I see someone I know out in public, I duck and hide and hope they don’t notice me.

I’ve never felt as much hatred for myself as I do now and I’ve lost all my confidence to postpartum depression.
What to do when Postpartum Depression Makes you feel Suicidal
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I feel sorry for the people who have come into my life only after the postpartum depression because they never got the chance to meet the real me.

The fun me, who was hilarious and clever and the life of the party.

The powerful me, who loved to debate about  controversial topics.

The competitive me, who hosted game nights and Rock Band showdowns.

The inspiring me, who gave the best pep talks and listened to everyone’s problems with empathy.

Those people will say that I’m still like that, but oh, if they only knew. 
How to Avoid a Postpartum Depression Relapse
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Those who did know me before, walk on eggshells around me now, afraid of what might offend me or set me off.

I make people uncomfortable with my presence, because no one is ever sure what to say to someone with a mental illness.

I’ve forgotten how to break that awkward silence with pleasant conversation.

Friends that used to come to me for advice just feel sorry for me now.

They look at me and think I’ve let myself go… that I’ve given up.

But what they don’t see is that I’m fighting a mental battle every single day just to survive.
Intrusive Thoughts
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I loved who I was before postpartum depression.

I was happy and fulfilled and determined before postpartum depression. 

I was a people-person, a social butterfly, an extrovert before postpartum depression. 

And now, I am merely a shell. 

I look the same on the outside, but inside I am hollow and empty.  The amazing person that used to live in here is all shriveled up now, unable to move or grow.

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Life pushes me along like waves on the ocean, slowly rolling through the days and the months and the years.

I try to stop it, try not to move forward, but there is nothing to hold onto.  I am simply grasping at water.

I want to stay still, I want to press pause.  

I wish I could live in a glass box so I can watch life happen around me, without having to actually be part of it.

Participating in my own life is exhausting. 

I don’t want it to end because there is a tiny glimmer of hope still inside of me. 

I hope that someday I will feel the desire to live again and then I can come out of my glass box.

I hope that someday, I will be incredible again.

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