I experienced PPD with my first child - I had no idea that there was anything wrong with me. Yes, I was not my usual self, but there were many other things happening that exacerbated the stress, and I attributed my emotional state to those changes: I quit the job I had at the time to be at home FT with my child, we moved three times by the time he was 2 years old (one move was an 800 mile move to another province), and part of me just assumed that this was my "welcome to motherhood" and that I was having a problem transitioning from being "me", to being almost wholly responsible for my child. I felt guilty for wanting to have time to myself, and my circle of friends reinforced that by implying that to have time to myself would be "selfish". It took until after my son's THIRD birthday to feel like myself again. I would not wish that experience on anyone.
With my second child, five years later (yes, I was terrified that it would happen again) nothing like that happened. It was night and day. That's when I realized that something had gone dreadfully wrong with the first postpartum period.
What is it they say about tempting fate?? We had our third 17 months later, and I had clues during the third trimester that things were going to hell - at about 33 weeks I started having panic attacks and started obsessing about the baby's gender, terrified that if I had a boy I would get PPD again; I wanted the pregnancy to "go away" - I didn't want to see the baby, hold the baby, or even name the baby. About the same time, we went through a stretch where it seemed like every week there was another crisis. Our car broke down, the washing machine flooded the basement, I had difficulty remembering things and concentrating. I brought it up with our doctor and he flagged my chart for possible crisis intervention. Finally when the baby arrived, things were peachy until about 6 weeks postpartum. I remember very clearly making a pot of macaroni and cheese for dinner, the kids were demanding attention, the baby was crying, my husband couldn't understand why the house was upside down and the laundry wasn't done. I had never felt so overwhelmed and out of control in my life. I felt like an animal in a trap - with an overpowering urge to escape. It took every ounce of energy I had to get up in the morning, and I was sleep deprived beyond belief. I would cry for no reason at all. I felt worthless. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I had nobody in the entire world who could understand what I was feeling. I didn't want to commit suicide, but I did want to "disappear" and never be seen or heard from again.
My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist who specialized in treating women with PPD. I started on meds and stayed on them for about a year and a half. It took time, and a great deal of support, but I got better, and started nursing school when my youngest was two years old. I'm the go-to person on my Mother Baby Unit when it comes to PPD. I've done in-services for staff, and for students at the Nursing School, as well as spoken at prenatal classes. Last year I was on the Review Committee for a professional publication about PPD. I helped get a local support group off the ground too, and make sure all my patients and their partners hear about PPD before they go home.