I am a 32 year old mother of a beautiful baby girl. My daughter officially turns 6 this July, but unfortunately, her first year of life will be a year that I will never forget. I decided 4 years ago to share my story with other women, in hopes that it can help even one woman or family in coping with Perinatal Mood Disorders. After searching the infinite internet in hopes of finding other women with similar stories to my own, I was shocked to read about the numbers of women diagnosed with my same condition. Their stories were right in line with what I experienced after having my daughter. 

I will begin by saying I have always thought of myself as an honest and upfront girl, a “tell you like it is” woman, but to find the right words to correctly describe my feelings after my daughter’s birth, is incredibly difficult. At that time, I felt like a failure as a new mom, as a friend, and as a wife. I didn’t want to ask for help. I thought these feelings would just go away. My body was so very sick at that time, and I didn’t even realize the struggle that lie ahead of me.

I had a wonderful pregnancy. I wore high heels up until the last 2 weeks! I was never sick, never depressed, only filled with pure joy about becoming a mother. I remember when my husband and I would sit together at night after work and talk about how blessed we were to become parents. I felt like I was on top of the world. In the hospital, I felt great. I had a perfect delivery…I think I was on a natural high to be honest. These feelings were shattered in the weeks following the birth of our daughter, Abigail Grace. Once we got home, it was a completely different story. In the beginning, I was told by family and friends, that I must have a bad case of the “baby blues”. I willingly accepted the fact that I would possibly be unhappy for a few weeks. But, over the next month, I began to spiral downward into a deep feeling of complete helplessness. I didn’t cry that often. I would just sit and stare at this strange little person and feel pure anger, confusion and panic. How could I look at my own child and feel no love or joy? I felt as if I was having an out-of-body experience. To say that I was in a “fog” was an understatement. 

Along with my emotional rollercoaster I was riding, my daughter was showing signs of Colic. Not only did my daughter cry often, she didn’t sleep very well. My mother and mother-in-law began taking night shifts with Abigail. I honestly had no desire to feed, change, or interact with my daughter. I would run to the grocery store and not want to go back home. I began avoiding all of my friends and anything that required interaction and getting out of the house. I was inching further and further away from the image of what I thought was a good mother, and yet I felt nothing. 

My mother finally convinced me to call my family practitioner, who in turn called in some sleeping and anxiety medication. After that failed, I then called my OB and told her I needed an appointment as soon as possible. I believe they could tell by the tone of my voice that I needed help quickly. At the appointment, my doctor told me that she believed I had early signs of Postpartum Depression. I wanted to look at her and say, “You think!” Thank Goodness someone had finally given this “black cloud” that was haunting me a name. I was put on a SSRI based medication and my 4th round of sleeping medication, which was continuing to fail to do its job. I was a walking zombie. I would drive down the road for hours and forget where I was going. I would have conversations with people and remember nothing. I would believe on occasions that Abigail was suffocating or choking so I would just sit and stare at her for hours in sheer panic. I was watching myself go through the motions of daily life, but not really living in the present moment. 

Four months after Abigail was born, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis as well as Postpartum Thyroiditis. I was explained by my endocrinologist that sometimes these 2 disorders go hand in hand. My thyroid, which is considered the “motor” of our body, basically crashed and burned. My feelings of nervousness, rapid heartbeat, hair loss, weight loss, fatigue and delusions, were related to my “motor” going haywire. 

A little over a year after having Abigail I began to feel close to the old Christy I knew. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the long dark tunnel I was stuck in for so long. Now, I look at Abigail with glowing love and light in my eyes. She is my heart, my soul, my everything. It is the relationship I always envisioned having with my child. 

I believe whole heartedly that I was intended to share my story in hopes that I may help another mother in desperate need of some answers, so I became a co-coordinator of PSI (Postpartum Support International). I think no matter what your faith may be, no matter what your beliefs are, you cannot truly overcome this disorder without help from others. Postpartum Depression and other Perinatal Mood Disorders are not a hot topic of conversation with new and expecting mothers. I was certainly not well informed of them, but I don’t believe any book or article can prepare you for what these disorders truly entail. It is often difficult to admit that you need help, but there’s too much at stake not to reach out to someone. 

Statistics show that 1 in 8 women are affected by Postpartum Depression. Some studies even show the numbers to be closer to 1 in 6. These are huge numbers taking into consideration how many children are born each day in the world. I am honored to share my story with any woman that needs the encouragement to take another step and get through the day. Accept help whenever you can and take some time each day for yourself. Remember with help, strength, and love, you WILL get better and you will get the opportunity to be the mother you had always strived to be. 

For Our Children, 

Christy Raley