PPD or just stress of returning to work?

Niki - posted on 07/16/2011 ( 4 moms have responded )

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Let me start by saying that I have a history of depression and anxiety and am currently taking sertraline for it. I am concerned that I may be experiencing PPD, but I'm also wondering if it could be just a combination of the stress of returning to work next week, being the primary caregiver for my child for the last 16 weeks and getting only 2-3 hours of sleep at a time for the last 4 months. Plus my LO has been crankier than normal the last couple weeks.

For the last week or so I have been more irritable and fatigued. LO has been fighting sleep something terrible lately and today when I picked him up from his crib crying he started to cry even more intensely. I had to lay him down and walk out of the room it bothered me so much. I immediately broke into tears and called my husband to come home right away. And then I felt bad that I left him to cry in his room alone.

I am looking forward to going back to work, but not leaving my son. I work 12 hour night shifts and I know that the nights I work, I will only get to see him for about 1 1/2 hours that day. Luckily, I only work 2-3 nights per week. But we cosleep and I breastfeed and I just don't want to give that up. I worry that he will wake in the middle of the night wanting me and I won't be there. My mom worked nights when I was a kid and it was very hard on me; I can hardly believe I will be doing the same thing to my little boy.

My husband is in for a crash course in baby care because so far he has only had to watch him for a couple hours at a time and usually I am home.He seems to need a lot of instruction from me even though we took the baby care classes because I didn't want it to end up being me telling him what to do all the time. I get frustrated because his life doesn't seem to have changed by having a baby and mine doesn't resemble anything of what it used to be. I have basically provided every need for my son for his entire life, I have to ask my husband to do anything and sometimes he gets short with me when I do. I know he loves our son, but he really has no clue how stressful this has been on me even though I love LO to pieces and am so happy to have him. I also worry that LO can feel my stress and that is why he is fussier than normal.

I am looking for some feedback about if others think this could be PPD or just stress. I get out of the house, I crave being around other people, but the irritability and increased fatigue have me concerned. I know I ultimately have to contact my doctor, but it's the weekend and I could use some insight now. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!

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Helene - posted on 07/19/2011

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Hi Nikki -
I admire your honesty about your situation and feelings. What you are experiencing might just be sleep deprivation, but we can't discount some type of postpartum depression. First let me assure you that being bothered by your baby's crying is an absolutely normal reaction. Human beings (specially mothers) are wired to react that way to a baby's cry. Think about this. Crying is the only means a baby has of communicating with people around them, and nature has imprinted in mothers a very strong emotional reaction to a baby's cry.

I do believe babies can sense stress but not as much as we think they do. They do crave closeness as that is the only way they can feel loved. Maybe he is being sensitive to your mood, maybe not. If you are fatigued and sleep deprived you might to feel up to meeting the baby's needs and that is a very normal reaction.

Do you have any other support other than your husband that can help you taking care of the baby while you sleep? You would be surprised of what a couple of nights of sleep can do for your well being (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

Getting the support of a family member, trusted friend, or postpartum professional would help you during this time of transition. Your life has dramatically changed, no doubt for the better, but even good changes can turn our lives upside down. Congratulations on getting past the first four months (sometimes dubbed the fourth trimester).

Also, make sure you check with your pediatrician regarding your baby's fussiness. It might be that he might be having colic or reflux or some other minor condition causing him to be fussy. It is hard to console a fussy baby when you need some consoling yourself.

There are many local mom support groups in practically every state of the US. "Craving" to be around other people is a healthy sign. If you were depressed you would probably be avoiding people. It is also understandable that although you are looking forward to be around people, you are concerned about leaving your baby.

Please try not to feel guilty about being stressed. You are not causing your baby's fussiness.

I have posted below some signs of PPD from Postpartum Support International (http://www.postpartum.net/), fyi.

Feeling sad or depressed
Feeling more irritable or angry with those around you
Having difficulty bonding with your baby
Feeling anxious or panicky
Having problems with eating or sleeping
Having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind
Feeling as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”
Feeling like you never should have become a mother
Worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself

If you recognize any of these symptoms as being something you are experiencing now, please get some professional help. At PSI you can chat with a professional (http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/...).

As far as the transition of you going back to work, it might help if you can start doing some of that now. Babies usually start sleeping about 5-6 hours at 4 months so if you give him lots of holding time and establish a bedtime routine so that it is your special time with him, then your husband can take over any overnight feeding, should your baby wake during the night. Another possibility might be talking to your employer about changing your shift for a little while until the baby is solidly sleeping through the night. Those are just some suggestions.

I hope and pray for the best for you and your baby. Please keep us posted. If you want to reach me directly let me know and I will send you my info so you can at least talk to someone. I am also a postpartum doula and experienced PPD so I can totally relate.

I want you to know that from what I can tell in this posting, I know you are a good mom. Your baby is lucky to have you!

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4 Comments

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Niki - posted on 09/04/2011

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Thank you, Katherine! The return to work actually went better than I expected. LO transitioned to his crib very easily and he and Daddy have bonded with their time together. It's been exhausting, but I now appreciate the time I have with him even more. I am more patient with him when he is having a crabby day (although he's happier now that the world is more interesting to him) because I know that there are times when I'm not there. It turns out that what I said before he was born is true, I am a better mommy because I work.

Katherine - posted on 09/04/2011

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Hi Niki congratulations on making it to 4 months!!! Its about the time all us new mums crash. 4 months of no sleep is a killer!!! Can effect you in every way. You are just normal for feeling how you do. Going back to work may be hard at first, but in the end be good. will make your husband relise what you have been doing and appreciate the tirdness you are feeling. My advice is see how work goes and give yourself a few weeks to see if you are feeling a little better. If no changes or things worsen could be pnd. You are proberly just worried about the change of going to work, and coping with a new baby. Your world changes completly when you have a baby and everything you are feeling is perfectly normal. Men are a different species remember they have no idea what its like. Like to see how your huby copes with no sleep for 4 months. Your tirdness will be making you more senstive to your babies moods. Do see your doc as he could have reflux or something that is easy to fix and will make the world of difference. Best of luck and remember you are doing a fantastic job. Don't feel guilty about working nights you need to do what is right for you and your baby will adjust - remember happy mum happier baby. best of luck

Niki - posted on 07/20/2011

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Thank you for the advice & reassurance, Helene! I'm going to see how the next couple weeks go, I'm usually pretty cued into my flags for when my depression/anxiety is worsening and when it's something I can work with and when I need extra help.

I returned to work this week for training classes for a new computer system and just having a couple breaks has really helped with my patience with him. I start back with nights next week. Unfortunately, the nature of my job doesn't really allow me to switch to day shifts. But I actually think nights will work better for me, since he will go to daycare during the day on the nights that I work. I'll probably get more sleep by working nights :) Plus this forces my husband to participate more which will help with the resentment I have toward him at times.

I'm also going back to work with a lot of other moms who have done or are doing what I'm doing. I really think I will be a better mom because I'm working even though it is hard to leave him at times. Thanks again!

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