Postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter

My name is Marjon van Overbeek. My coping strategy is and has always been to keep going, no matter what. “No fussing about.” “Other people have to cope with much worse.” “It’s not all that bad.” “Things will be alright.” But in the end, I couldn’t cope any longer. After seeing my GP repeatedly, I ended up at the crisis center of our mental healthcare service: postpartum depression!

One and a half years of struggling: from mini-psychoses to the crisis center of the mental healthcare service (GGZ)

At the time, my daughter was 18 months old. Yes indeed, I struggled for one and a half years, went to the doctor a dozen times, was already on a low dose of antidepressants and had started on EMDR. I went to a “regular” psychologist once a month, but they didn’t offer 24/7 availability in times of need. And yes, I could feel it coming: at a given moment, I was just totally overwhelmed: mini-psychoses followed and while I was in the probationary period of my new job and had to work from home one day, because there was no one to on-board me at the office, all hell broke loose. I started crying and couldn’t stop anymore. Together with my partner, I called my GP’s office who put me directly through to the on-duty GP, who told me: “Take another dose of your antidepressants right away and I’ll register your case with the crisis center at the GGZ.” Two days later, I went to their office for a consultation and was able to tell them my story. “I am glad you came,” they told me. You have a (postpartum) depression and we are going to help you.”

I felt well looked after by the people at the GGZ

One hears so many negative stories about the mental healthcare service: long waiting times, lack of interest, no adequate support. I, however, can only testify to the opposite. I felt that they took a sincere interest and listened to me. And isn’t that the most important thing when you are having a baby and are feeling totally down? Or in any other situation for that matter, even without a little one to look after. As “newborn” mothers, we are expected to wallow on a pink cloud, to think that everything is sweet and wonderful. But the situation can also be overwhelming, it makes you feel quite helpless, when you are trying to cope with a “crybaby” (in our case), and then you can go knocking on the door of the mental healthcare service. You only need someone who can see right through everything and ask you: “Are you okay?” “Can I help you in any way?” Or even better: “I will come by this afternoon to take your baby for a walk so you have some time for yourself.”

"I started crying and couldn’t stop anymore. Together with my partner, I called my GP’s office".

Different therapies during my postpartum depression

In the end, I was in therapy for a year: intensive home treatment (IHT, at your home), part-time group therapy, individual psychomotor therapy, group psychomotor therapy, EMDR with the psychologist, conversations with the psychiatrist and various antipsychotic medication and conversations with the outpatient nurse.

It was intense, but: I survived!

My daughter will turn five in six days, and I can now say: I survived! Even with a second child (crybaby). So, now with our second (cry) baby, I know what to look out for. I not only had a birthing plan but also a maternity plan or postpartum plan: who could help us doing what?

A second (cry) baby

On Tuesday morning, August7, at 7:30 am, I went to the hospital straight away. There we got a room, and I was hooked up to the labor stimulator. It felt okay, but not really! Soon the contractions became more regular, and they continued to come for quite a long time. “Pffff” – that was my word of the day. I had done a birth preparation course beforehand, and it came in very handy. I didn’t have many contractions, but the length of them was killing me. Each contraction lasted a minute and a half or longer. At around 9:00 am, I had 5 cm of dilation, so I still had a long time to go.

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Things were getting more and more intense

My son is now almost nine months old and unfortunately I have had to go back to the mental healthcare service for sleep medication, because I hear my son crying in my sleep (even though he is fast asleep). Are you aware that lack of sleep is the biggest culprit? Lack of sleep will make you more irritable, less able to cope with things, make you feel extra tired and it might even give you obsessions or hallucinations. During my postpartum period, I called the psychiatrist once a week, and he asked me how I was doing: “Sleep, sleep, sleep,…” he told me over and over again.

And then there is that sense of guilt: yep, it’s always there. Guilt because you are sleeping while your partner is rocking your child, guilt because you don’t want to hold your baby in your arms, guilt because you believe yourself to be a terrible mom.

You know what’s best

But your child carries your DNA in it. It is YOUR baby. Your baby could not wish for a better mom. You know what’s best for your child. And, you know what’s best for yourself.

Do I love my children, and have I eventually managed to form a bond with my daughter? Absolutely! Unfortunately, I cannot undo the past, it is what it is. But partly due to my therapy, I am now able to talk freely about it well and share my story on my Instagram account, among other things. More than anything, I felt so lonely during the dark days of my postpartum depression after my daughter’s birth. That’s why I started sharing how I feel, but I also share tips I come across online. Let’s be there for each other during this overwhelming period of “newborn” motherhood. And be kind to yourself!