Facing My Postpartum Depression
"What's the bravest thing you've ever said?" The little boy asked. "I need help." She replied.
I quietly battled myself in my mind for weeks and then weeks turned into months.
If you know me you know I am a very outgoing person, who loves to be around friends & on the go all the time. After delivering Cash I began to isolate myself but attributed it to needing to rest & heal after my c-section – It was okay for me to want to sleep all day and just be at home. After my 6 week post-delivery check in, I changed the narrative and told myself that I was in a rut, I was tired, you’re just having a bad week. You’ll feel like yourself again soon if you just sleep for one more day. But the months went by and I still didn’t feel okay. “Am I even in there anymore?” I’d think to myself.
You have a perfect baby, a baby you longed for and prayed for month after month. He grew inside of you - and you planned, and smiled, and the excitement built. He’s here now. You should be overjoyed, your heart swelling spilling over with gratitude. You have a loving husband, a brilliant older child who finally has the sibling he’s waited so patiently for… Why are you so sad? Why is it hard to smile? Why are you crying in the shower? Why can’t I find it in me to do anything besides lay in bed? The laundry piles up, the mess around the house getting worse, and I can’t find a single ounce of motivation to be the Type-A Go-Getter-Do-It-All Mama I know myself to be.
I’ll feel better tomorrow I’d tell myself. If I just get out of the house and do something fun, it will go away. So, I did. And it would get better for a moment. We’d get together with friends or family and I’d find myself smiling again. But then, back at home – the anxiety, the loneliness, the inexplicable sadness would settle right back onto my chest.
A weight on my heart that I didn’t dare to speak of.
There are people out there who have prayed for years to have what you do. People who go through hell to conceive a child. People who have sick children. How dare I take my blessings for granted? I should be smiling, I should be happy, I should be loving this new season. But I wasn’t. The shame I felt for feeling this sadness convinced me to bury the feelings inside me and pretend I was the happy Mom I thought should be. My experience after my first born was filled with joy & happy moments. You can imagine my confusion and desperation when the second time around was anything but.
Finally, after agonizing alone for almost 5 months the emotions were too paralyzing to keep to myself. My husband knew I wasn’t okay. After a particularly low day I looked in his eyes and knew I couldn’t keep it together any longer. My heart swelled open and I had to let it all out. I needed to be held. I feared what might happen if I continued to bottle it all up.
The statements that came out of my mouth I was so ashamed of, but I had to tell him. I needed him to know just how awful this dark spot in my mind had become. I cried and I cried, and I looked down at our baby in my arms.
I told my husband, “I keep wishing he would go away.” Yep, it was that dark. I loved this child with every ounce of my being, and at the same time my feelings of sadness and worthlessness had me wishing he was someone else’s baby.
I felt I was the worst failure of a mother. I didn’t deserve this baby. I couldn’t handle it. I wished for a remote that I could take and rewind back to the days when I had one child and I felt like super mom. Since Cash was born, I felt like I was failing John in every way. I wasn’t there to tuck him in, we were slipping up on his school work, I was too tired to give him the attention he deserved. I just wished I could take it back. We made a mistake. My heart couldn’t handle loving both of these children the way they deserved to be loved. I rattled these thoughts off as I sobbed in my husband’s arms. He held me tight and he listened.
I had uncorked the pressure I’d built up inside myself. I felt the weight lift little by little. I wasn’t going to let the shame convince me to bury my feelings any longer.
I knew I was suffering from postpartum depression and it wasn’t going to get better if I continued to try and face it alone.
I talked more and more – to my husband, to friends, to anyone who’d listen. And with every word I spoke, the darkness dissipated a bit more. I learned I wasn’t alone, and I began to see the light.
I read a lot about PPD. Over 3 million women are diagnosed per year. I am one of those 3 million this year.
As I learned more how common these struggles I’d been going through are – I got a little angry. This is the WORST best kept secret I’ve ever known. Why hadn’t anyone told me about this? About the risk? About steps I could take if I started feeling really blue?
Tell your friends who are pregnant or have newborns the honest truth about your months after baby. Society had me so convinced that life is always magic and rainbows when you have a baby. “Sure, there are sleepless nights, but you’ll be so filled with love that it won’t matter!”
Be there for your mom friends in the years after they deliver their babies. Check in on them and ask how they’re REALLY doing. It wasn’t until my husband asked hundreds of times if I was okay that I finally opened up to him and told him the truth.
I am still not through it. I am still learning to give myself grace, to let go of the pressure of perfectionism. I remind myself daily that my children are loved, they are fed, and they are safe – and that is enough. I remind myself that I am not alone.
Writing this was hard, but very therapeutic. I know after posting it I will feel extremely exposed- but my hope is that I can convince at least one person not to keep the sadness inside for as long as I did. You are not alone. This motherhood shit is really, really hard. You are the perfect mother for your children, and you will get through this -- No matter what the voices in your head are telling you.
Share with others without fear or shame. It is okay to feel sad, to feel lonely, to not feel like yourself. There were times I felt like many parts of me had died, I wasn’t sure who the person living in my body was anymore. Seek help. You can, and you will feel better. This too shall pass.
The biggest tips that helped me get through –
- Your kids need a happy mom, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Remind yourself that you do not need to feel guilty for prioritizing your mental health. It is more than okay to seek help from a professional, it is BRAVE.
- Don’t forget that YOU are still in there. You are more than just a mother. Feed your passions and pursue your interests. Make time for a creative outlet.
- Give your body what it needs. Take your vitamins, eat good food, and go see healthcare professionals.
- Find your people. Pursue the connections that are more than surface deep. Support your friends and find time for FUN. Even if its 20 minutes in the car singing & dancing.
- If you feel sad, inadequate, or jealous when scrolling Instagram and seeing glossy highlight reels of another person’s “perfect” life – unfollow them.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Do not let your home become a prison. It’s tough to get out of the house but you’ll always be grateful that you did.
- Keep moving – play with your kids, chase them around the house, go for a walk, exercise, travel!
- Find time for rest & quiet. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, meditate, focus your love inward. You deserve it.