How Exercise Helped me Cope with Post-Partum Depression

I was in great shape and training for a half marathon when I found out I was pregnant. I had perfect intentions of being active and eating well through my pregnancy. My follow-through was unfortunately not as good as my intentions. I was almost completely sedentary and ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and very little of it came from my garden. I gained 50 pounds and felt awful, mentally and physically.

My Sister-in-law and I found out we were pregnant with our first babies at the same time. In fact, our due dates were only a day apart. It was awesome to have someone to go through everything with me. When my nephew was born 12 weeks premature and passed away 39 days later, there were no words to describe the emotions. I spent the rest of my pregnancy in a fog. My heart was so heavy with guilt and sadness over the life lost. I couldn’t talk about it so I tried to ignore it and hope that it would go away.

Shortly after my son was born, he developed what was referred to as extreme temperament colic and reflux. He cried incessantly for hours on end, sometimes 10 hours a day. It was exhausting. I felt very isolated and didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it because in my mind, I had no right to be upset. After all, my son was alive and healthy. It quickly became obvious that I was suffering from Post-Partum Depression. I felt absolutely nothing toward my child. No love, no connection. I had trouble sleeping and had a horrible fear that I would accidentally hurt him in some way if I lost control while he was crying.

Recognizing that I needed help, my midwife referred me to counselling to give my an outlet to talk freely about my struggles as a mom, my grief over the death of my nephew and ways to cope. It felt good to talk about it but it wasn’t doing much to lift my spirits.

After I was given clearance to resume light physical activity (I’d had an emergency c-section), I started walking during the day with my son. Winter was just turning into Spring and the fresh air felt wonderful. My son would fall asleep after a few blocks in his stroller which gave me the added bonus of some peace and quiet (and him, of a nap, something he didn’t do much of at the time). As I got stronger, I would walk farther and started some light running at the gym a few days a week.

5 months post-partum walking thru the park

Something happened.

I felt alive again.

I just plain felt again.

7 months Post-Partum after a quick jog thru the ‘hood

Over the coming weeks my fog lifted. Exercise saved me. The counselling helped unbottle the emotions I was avoiding dealing with but exercising brought me back to life. It gave me an outlet to do something constructive with my negative energy and turn it into a positive. Walking became a daily ritual for my son and I and after I was able to score a sweet deal on a jogging stroller at a garage sale, our walks turned to jogs.

8 months Post-Partum, rockin’ and rollin’

My son is a year and a half now and I am expecting baby #2 in early 2012. I still have moments where that fog threatens to roll in, but overall, exercising and eating good whole foods not only gave me an outlet to cope with my depression, it also allowed me to overcome it without medication. After baby #2 comes and winter once again turns to Spring, I’m looking forward to doing what Fit Boy and I love doing most: walking and jogging…with a double jogger this time.

If you’re wondering why I don’t have any more recent pictures of us running together, well, we spend are time chasing now, usually me running after him :)

Stephanie

Stephanie is a mom of 2 boys, avid runner of countless miles with or without her kids in tow. Vegetarian, Christ-follower and all around reeker of awesomeness, Stephanie will start training to make her marathon and triathlon dreams come true after the birth of her third child this fall.

One Response to How Exercise Helped me Cope with Post-Partum Depression

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for speaking so opening and honestly. I think a lot of women feel like they are “failures” in some way if they go through things like you did. And sounds like you had something like “survivors guilt”? Totally understandable. I think I would feel the same way.

    I suffered from depression for most of my life and doctors chose to medicate me–which caused weight gain and a feeling of numbness for about a decade. I stopped the meds and started exercising, lost the weight and realized that EXERCISE can cure depression. It totally worked for me. I am so much happier as a fit person!

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