Bare with me…this is long but I didn’t want to break up my thoughts between several posts.
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this post for a long time and have even started a few drafts. In the end I’ve always hit “delete all” but it’s time and I’m ready. Part of my hesitancy comes from the fact that people I know personally read this blog, including a few coworkers. I would certainly hope that no one would unfairly judge, use this information maliciously, or view me any differently. Truthfully, I’ve become so good at internalizing that maybe this is a surprise? Mainly, my purpose for this post is to record my thoughts and hopefully show someone else that she is not alone. Postpartum depression is very real and very painful but it should not be a source of shame for a new mother.
When you’re pregnant you’re given all kinds of literature on the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. It was discussed in our hospital childbirth class and mentioned by my doctor several times. It’s absolutely normal, and often expected, for a new mother to feel the blues after having her baby. When this doesn’t go away after a few weeks, it starts to be considered postpartum depression. Before going on any further let me disclaim that I am not an expert and every individual experience is different. I can only speak for myself.
Being a new mother is one of the hardest things I have experienced in my thirty years. The teenage years sucked big time, but deep down I always knew that I could make it through. There were moments in my first few weeks of motherhood that I just didn’t see how I could ever get through it. I asked my friends when it would get better or easier. I remember sobbing to my mom several times “I can’t do this.” I could and I did and I am. By week three things were already much easier and when I went back to the doctor for my six week check-up I squeaked by with a passing grade on my postpartum depression evaluation.
I was able to laugh and smile and was feeling a lot more at ease in my new role as mother. I still had moments where I cried (a lot), but I just waited for those moments to pass and chalked most of it up to the lack of sleep. When I returned to work at twelve weeks I started to feel like my normal self again until I realized how overwhelmed I was feeling. I started taking my frustrations out on Scott and became really detached from everything and everyone, including Elle. Detached in a weird way—I never questioned my love or our decision to have a child or wished for my “old life” but it was like I couldn’t let myself fully enjoy. I felt crushed and panicked and anxious until I would finally shut down emotionally and mentally.
Things came to a boiling point about a month after I returned to work (maybe 16 weeks after Elle was born) when I realized that when Elle was napping or had gone down for bed, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I would clean like crazy—rushing around the house like mad woman—and when there was nothing left for me to do I literally stood in the kitchen with a blank stare on my face. I had completely lost myself. I looked at Scott and told him it was time. I needed to be me again. Bless his poor and patient heart—Scott agreed and I made the appointment to talk to the doctor. When I met with her I finally broke down and sobbed. Her two words of advice were to get some sleep (ha!) and take time for myself (double ha!).
It has now been almost six months since I made the decision to go talk to my doctor and I am so grateful that I did. It was incredibly difficult for me to admit that I was struggling—being a new mother is already so emotionally complicated that to admit one more fault is almost crushing, especially when I miscarried once and struggled for months to get pregnant with Elle. She is such an incredible joy and blessing–why was I feeling so…
I’ve done a little bit of reading about postpartum depression and it doesn’t necessarily seem to be related to hormones and even some men have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. Having gone through periods of depression in the past (none of which were treated), I wondered if I would be more prone to having more than just the baby blues. I’m not sure if this is truly the case or not—so much is unknown about postpartum depression and I’ve heard many women say that they are sure they dealt with it when their babies were born twenty and thirty years ago but there wasn’t a vocabulary to discuss it.
My cousin was sweet enough to bounce some questions to me to help me write this post and one of the questions she asked was what was postpartum depression like. I’ve already mentioned the disconnect between myself and others and feeling incredibly overwhelmed. But I think the biggest struggle was coming to terms with my new life changes. I didn’t know how to be a mom, a wife, and myself all at the same time. Looking back I can see that I thought I needed to be someone completely different from who I was before the baby—I didn’t know how to adjust just parts of my life. Because of this I completely lost myself. There is absolutely no way to prepare for how absolutely life changing being a mother is. But, what I now know is that I did not need to change, I just needed to grow. (I hope this makes sense—basically I can be the same person as I was, just enhanced?).
One of the things that I believe can exacerbate the depression is feeling alone and isolated. People would tell me that of course there will be adjustment and of course it will be hard, but I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to handle those adjustments or the difficulty. I felt like a failure for not having the answers or not knowing what to do when Elle was crying or upset or not sleeping or not nursing or… And I felt shame for feeling depressed and helpless. In the book What Mother’s Do the first chapter discusses the competition between mothers and sadly I see this to be true—it’s impossible not to compare your experiences to others and for me I wanted to prove that I was handling everything perfectly and doing just fine. It was so hard to admit that things were not OK and that I needed help.
So what has changed over the past five months? R-E-L-A-X. Yes, I’m laughing at myself, too. But really—like the doctor ordered: sleep and time to myself—with the realization that both won’t be like it was before Elle. Cutting myself some slack. Realizing that I can’t do everything that I want to do or even need to do, but that the world won’t end. Asking for help. Asking for help again. Relying on my incredibly supportive husband who happens to be the best dad. Sometimes I think that I rely on him a little too much, but I’ve learned that we really are partners. Taking deep breaths and not forgetting to take time to just snuggle and be in the moment.
Do I still have moments? Yes, of course—we all do, don’t we? But the key, for me, is that I feel like myself again. And with renewed strength. Do I worry that I will go through this again with baby number 2? Yes. Will it prevent me from having more kids? No. I can’t wait for the next baby to come and I know there will be struggles but I also know that I can do it. I’ll count on Scott to hold my hand, but now that I know the signs, I feel better equipped to take care of myself sooner rather than later.
I don’t really know how to end this post. I don’t have the answers and I don’t have any sage advice. Everyone’s experiences are individual and different treatment works for different people (I did not want to go into detail about this in the post, if you’d like to discuss you can email me). But what I do hope is that by sharing my own story that I will help someone else realize that she is not alone. There is nothing “wrong” with you for the way that you are feeling, but it can get better and my hope is that women can and will ask for help when they need it—in whatever shape or form that might be.
|I know this picture is flawed but I can’t help but love it.|
Deep breath…and Publish.
With a heart full of love,