Post-Weaning Depression :: One Mom’s Story

Post-weaning depression is a not often talked about, but very real mental health condition. 

When my fourth son came into the world, I thought I was prepared. I naively thought, “I must have seen it all by now. I’ll be ready for this.” I am pretty sure he came fourth to humble me. And he most definitely humbled me—big time. Baby boy #4 was probably my toughest pregnancy, causing me to need a hernia repair while having my third c-section. When he was only a few months old, he contracted RSV. That was new. And scary. Then he started having bloody stools. I may have sort of freaked out. It turned out to be a milk protein allergy. Another first! So this humbled mama weighed the alternatives and decided to go dairy-free and keep breastfeeding. I now know that dairy is my favorite food group. But until he passed an allergy test at 14 months that confirmed he had outgrown this allergy, I went dairy-free and breastfed this boy.

Weaning him was easier than I anticipated {finally! something went better than expected!}.  I feared that since he had been breastfeeding longer than my other boys, he may refuse to transition. I was relieved that he transitioned so smoothly. But my relief was short-lived. I can’t explain it exactly, but it was like a heavy, dark cloud moved into my heart and mind. It hurt. I cried a lot. I had no energy {and did I mention I had 4 boys under 5 then? Yeah, not a good combo}. I started to realize something was definitely wrong when I couldn’t even hang up Christmas decorations. I LOVE Christmas! Not even ornaments on the tree. Nothing.

Post-Weaning Depression :: One Mom's Story | Houston Moms Blog

Instead, I spent the whole Christmas season feeling like someone else. I mean, I have always been happy. Like I probably annoy people with how happy I am. My perpetual smile had earned me the nickname “Smiley” in high school. Not my favorite, but it stuck. I was the one people came to when they were down. And now here I was, a shadow of myself. I went through the motions of the holiday season, all the while feeling heavy {literally and figuratively—I was still holding on to lots of baby weight}, trapped in the bottom of a muddy pit out of which I could not climb.

I felt so alone. I was forcing myself to get up and take care of my kids, fueled mostly by mom-guilt and feelings of duty, but I was just scraping by. It took me a couple months of this debilitating darkness before I could think clearly enough to realize something was definitely not right. I talked with my husband. He convinced me to call my doctor. I called my OBGYN and scheduled an appointment. I think I sat in her office and said something like, “I can’t lose this weight and I feel tired and kinda sad all the time.” Honestly, I was afraid that if I admitted just how sad I felt, someone might accuse me of being an unfit mother and I’d lose my babies. And even though I was struggling to love myself, I always felt deep and abiding love for my children. They felt like my only light and my biggest burdens all wrapped up in cute, sticky-fingered miniature bodies.

My doctor thought that maybe I was experiencing some sort of thyroid imbalance, so she ordered some bloodwork. The results came back normal. A nurse called to tell me. I quietly cried on the other end of the phone, careful to breath away from the microphone so she wouldn’t hear. I didn’t schedule another appointment with my doctor. I didn’t see the point. But my clouded brain started to piece together the fact that this darkness moved in about the same time I weaned baby #4. I started scouring the internet for information about hormonal changes after weaning.

This was the first time I had a name for it :: Post-weaning Depression.

It made so much sense. My hormones were a mess. I had weaned a baby and had a dramatic change in my diet {I was eating glorious dairy again!}. Plus I had four young boys so I wasn’t sleeping well or taking care of myself. And I was miserable.

Just having a name for it was empowering. I convinced myself that I would climb out of the pit. And it was a challenging climb. Some days, I could see light and I felt closer to the surface. Other times, I slipped deeper into the pit of post-weaning depression and felt like the climb was impossible.

Post-Weaning Depression :: One Mom's Story | Houston Moms Blog

Since I was developing another hernia post-pregnancy, I’d mentioned this concern with my doctor as well and she said I had diastasis recti. So of course, I researched that, too. I found a system that worked for me. I followed it religiously, hoping for progress. It was like someone had thrown me a rope. Don’t get me wrong, climbing a rope is still hard {I am not a Ninja Warrior}, but it is far easier than climbing up a muddy wall. I worked hard. I exercised daily, even if it wasn’t convenient or comfortable. I ate better. For the first time since becoming a mom I was intentionally taking care of myself. I carefully considered things I used to do in those years BC {before children}. I planted flowers, enrolled in a creative writing class, and learned to play a song on the piano. By the time our sweet baby boy #4 was ready to turn 2, I was me again.

Sort of.

Because now I knew what it felt like to be completely hopeless. I knew firsthand how much depression hurts. And I could never forget it.

Looking back, I wonder if I should have done things differently. Maybe I should have seen a specialist. Maybe I should have spoken up sooner. It is easy to look in retrospect and think, “Man! Why didn’t I __________?” And you are probably thinking some of the same things. But in the middle of all of this, I was doing the very best I could. If I could go back in time and see this darker, heavier {in every sense} version of myself, I would probably have encouraged her to go talk to a mental health professional. Maybe validating my feelings months earlier could have saved Christmas that year. And while I am hoping to never have to repeat such misery ever ever again, I am profoundly grateful for the habits I gained and the strength I built. If you are going through Post-weaning Depression, reach out. Don’t be afraid or ashamed. Hormone imbalances are REAL, and may or may not adjust on their own. If you have noticed a friend is distancing herself or a shadow of who she was just a few months ago, don’t give up on her. She needs you. We all need each other.

Post-Weaning Depression :: One Mom's Story | Houston Moms Blog

 


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