Maryse Bélange was used to stressful situations. A television news producer by trade, Maryse thought she knew how to handle a busy and demanding lifestyle. When she decided to have a baby, Maryse used her strong and logical approach to work and applied it to her life-changing decision.
“I don’t think I was naive about becoming a mother. I knew that having a child would make me re-evaluate my values, my priorities and I was quite ready to do that,” she explains. “What I did not know was that my hormones would play a bad trick on me.”
With her first child a poor sleeper – just two naps a day at 20 minutes each – Maryse experienced the severe exhaustion that many new moms and dads can identify with.
However, she soon felt that something was not quite normal.
Maryse had expected to be thrilled by a trip she took soon after childbirth to British Columbia to view the breathtaking sight of the Sea to Sky highway – something that usually instills awe in its in visitors. Instead, she felt empty and could not experience what should have been an “awesome moment.”
Maryse notes that there are many other PPD symptoms that women experience, including:
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Guilty thoughts
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disorganized thoughts
- Feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother
- Changes in sleep
- Withdrawing from partner, family, friends
- Thoughts of suicide
She describes this time in her life as “hell” – with being robbed of the initial stages of motherhood the hardest thing about suffering with PPD.
“My first son was as affected by me as I was by my depression,” explains Maryse. “He became a very demanding little baby. Asking for food was his only way to ask me ‘Mommy, do you love me? Do you? Because I can’t feel it.’
And so he was asking frequently to feed – his only way to try to establish some kind of connection with me.”
Maryse had the added stress of having a limited support network as she and her husband did not live in the same city as their families.
“That was hard…I did not get a break when I would have needed one,” she says. “I did not get to nap during the day, and I was on feeding duty all night as well.”
Instead of seeking external help, Maryse did what a lot of women who experience PPD do – continue on. But when her son was about eight months old, Maryse told her husband that he would “be just fine alone with my son, that he would be able to manage the situation, but I had enough…I didn’t want to be in hell anymore.”
Thankfully, this breakdown became a turning point for Maryse and her husband, enabling them to have a second son a couple of years ago. So how did she get through her PPD?
“For my second pregnancy, I was well informed, I knew what symptoms to look for and I had my [support] team taking care of me.”
Maryse says that she now understands that she was not alone in her plight with PPD and was not a bad mother, attributing her PPD to a chemical imbalance due to a hormonal change. In addition, she believes that there several risk factors that predispose some women to having PPD, such as:
- A family history of depression
- An unwanted pregnancy
- Being in a relationship that is unsupportive, violent and/or abusive
- Experiencing stressful life events during a pregnancy, such as the death of a parent, moving or changing jobs
- Common stresses such a finances and the added responsibility of becoming a parent.
Noting that treatment from a healthcare professional is the most important thing a woman can do to cope with PPD, Maryse is also adamant that PPD treatment is just as important to both mothers and their babies.
“Research indicates that depressed mothers have more negative face-to-face interactions with their babies, have less eye contact during feeding, are less playful and are more withdrawn than non-depressed mothers,” Maryse says. “Infants of depressed mothers typically look away, react with more crying, sadness and fussiness, and have more trouble sleeping. The negative effects of the depression on the infant will be lessened if the woman receives treatment early.”
Maryse’s Recommended PPD Solutions
- See your doctor
- Contact an association like the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario
- Call a support line
- Join a peer support group