ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — From the baby monitor in the living room of her tidy Mount Pearl home, she could be heard talking to her three-year-old son, Jack, who had just awoken from a nap.
“Hey buddy!” Krysta Fitzpatrick Sceviour, 31, said in a soft and cheery voice. “Come downstairs and meet the lady.”
Moments later, she emerged with a smiling, adorable little blond boy, who hid behind his mother’s leg before warming up to company.
Sceviour’s husband, Scott, walked in with their two-month-old son Wyatt and gently handed him to her for a photo.
To anyone meeting Sceviour for the first time, the serene-looking brunette looks to have her life together.
But not that long ago she was so crippled with depression and overwhelmed with life she was crying uncontrollably and begged her husband to take her to the hospital to get help.
“After I had my second baby, the weight came off (me) really quickly, so people would look at me and say, ‘Wow, you’re amazing. You just had a baby, you’re in school, you’re such a superhero.’ On the outside, people would think I’m doing it all,” said Sceviour, a youth care worker who has four degrees, including two master’s degrees from Memorial University.
“But inside, I’m like, ‘You know, I’m not doing so well. I’m having a really rough time.’”
Trying to manage
Sceviour is battling postpartum depression — a condition in which hormonal and physical changes result in a new mother experiencing overwhelming, and often debilitating, feelings of sadness, anxiety and mood swings after childbirth. There can also be more serious symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of interest in the baby and even urges to harm the baby or yourself.
Sceviour never felt those extremes but realized her symptoms were serious enough to see a psychiatrist and get medication.
“I love my children and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t enjoying this more,” she said. “I wasn’t handling it as well as I thought I would, so I knew I had to do something.”
She first experienced postpartum depression after Jack was born in 2015, but assumed it was due to unsuccessful attempts to breastfeed and thought she could manage it.
“I found it very difficult to find joy and happiness in things that you normally would. I felt intense guilt,” she said. “But I didn’t think it was postpartum right away because you really only hear about extreme cases, like the case in the (United) States, where a mother had it really bad and drowned her children. To me, that’s what postpartum was. But I came to learn there are varying levels to this.”
It was only when Jack was eight months that she realized her feelings of sadness were getting worse, which is when she first sought psychiatric help. Sceviour said the next few years were enjoyable, with the help of mild anti-depressants.
When Wyatt was born in April of this year, she had no problem breastfeeding. However, a few weeks later, sadness once again overtook her.
“I cried constantly. My poor husband felt like he was walking on eggshells around me because I was just so irritable and I would misinterpret everything as an insult,” said Sceviour, who also felt bad about how Jack was being affected.
“I felt intense guilt and felt like the biggest failure as a mother. . . . I knew I didn’t want to spend the first year of Wyatt’s life being sad like I was with Jack.”
She again visited her doctor, who concluded Sceviour was also suffering from dysphoric milk ejection reflex, a little-known condition which causes a new mother to have depression and other negative feelings when her milk is released.
“It’s a lot to work through, but I’m trying really hard because I know how beneficial breastfeeding is,” she said.
While none of Sceviour’s close friends who were also new mothers experienced postpartum depression, she knew there had to be others and felt the urge to reach out.
In a powerful Facebook post, which she called The Great Depression, Sceviour opened up about her experience with postpartum depression. The response was overwhelming.
“What I got back was an amazing amount of love and support and the reminder that I’m not alone,” Sceviour said in the post, which got hundreds of reactions and comments from other women going through the same things.
She wrote the post on Father’s Day as a dedication to Scott, who she described as the most loving and supportive husband — “the hero in all this.”
But Sceviour realizes not everyone has the supports she does. She encourages any new mother who is experiencing feelings of sadness after having a baby to reach out to their family doctor and get help.
“Motherhood is so hard, but you aren’t alone,” she said. “Please don’t ever isolate yourself. . . . We’re all in this together.”