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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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at AliMcJoy.com, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.

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