Today I’m doing something a little different. I never have guest posts on my blog, because as a lifestyle blogger it would be kind of weird for someone other than me to write about my life. However, one of my favorite people in the word recently wrote something and I think it’s really important for me to attach a megaphone to her voice to share it with you all. She has decided to remain anonymous, but I think that many of us can see ourselves in her words. One of my favorite things about blogging is how supportive you all are, so please… if this touches something in you, leave my friend a comment. Thank you! – Joules
“You Must Be So Excited!”
A story about postpartum depression.
I wrestled with the idea of posting this publicly. We live in a society where mental and emotional disorders are dismissed and smiles are painted on faces to avoid admitting to someone else, or maybe even to ourselves, that we aren’t always happy. For me, this was especially the case after giving birth to my daughter.
My husband and I tried to conceive for quite some time. I’d never wanted anything more in life than to be a mother. I was scared to even take a pregnancy test, as if I were safe so long as I held my breath with hope. The test would be the exhale and it was so terrifying that I put it off for nearly eight weeks. I remember how elated we were to see the lines on those sticks and my pregnancy was fantastic – I didn’t have any serious complications and had never felt better. Labor was a different story: Baby Girl put me through four days of intense labor and decided to enter the world through a slice in my abdomen. I wanted a vaginal delivery, and although I went into the experience telling myself I’d be fine so long as my baby was healthy, I cried when I was told a cesarean was medically necessary. It wasn’t what I wanted. My baby is thriving, but over 7 weeks later, I’m still sore and in pain, I still can’t get up from some positions without help, some parts of my body are still numb, and I’m still bleeding. I’ll have most of these issues for several more months, and some forever, but my paid leave is over and I will return to work in one week. Welcome to motherhood in America.
When the doctor pulled my daughter out of me, I cried. My husband cried. It was the most powerful moment of my life and I was completely overcome with emotion.
The day of delivery was a whirlwind to say the least and there is really no actual sleeping while in the hospital. M was born at 12:30am. By the time we got to our room and were left alone for even a minute, it was after 5am. Our nurses and doctors were great, but it was exhausting to be constantly interrupted for tests and checks for both M and myself, and to take care of a baby, especially after not having slept for the four days prior. Also, fun fact: New parents have absolutely NO CLUE what they’re doing. Read all the books you want, go to all the classes you want – You have absolutely no clue what you’re in for until you have your own baby and are thrown into the fire, and that’s just the hard truth that nobody tells you. And therein lays the problem: The stuff nobody tells you. There’s a lot I could tell you that nobody will about the baby, but I want to talk about the baby’s mother. I was not ready for what I would go through personally. I expected to be on Cloud 9 and that was absolutely not the case. I think it’s crucial that we talk about that possibility often and openly with pregnant women and with moms.
I didn’t want to leave the hospital; I felt safe there. When we did get home four days after M was born, I did not sleep. I did not eat. I did not shower. My husband stayed home an extra week from work, and my mom came to be with me when he wasn’t home. This went on for at least a month. We contemplated draining our savings accounts to hire a nanny because I just could not function and my husband worried for the safety of our daughter if I were to care for her alone.
I obsessively Google searched everything imaginable related to a newborn, frantically seeking a magic answer to the pain of the ultimate unknown that is a baby. I struggled with anxiety and depression years before M was born, but they shoved their way unwelcome into this time in my life and made themselves at home in my mind, in my skin, in my gut, in my hands. I did not want to hold my baby, I did not want to care for my baby, I did not want to wake up with my baby, I did not want anything to do with my baby. The dark truth I didn’t want to admit was that I wanted to get rid of her. I wanted to throw my beautiful, innocent baby girl at the Wal-Mart greeter and run. I contemplated putting her up for adoption. Instead of feeling adoration for my daughter, I felt resentment. She was the heaviest seven-pound weight I’d ever picked up and could never put down. The sheer responsibility was suffocating. I felt stuck, trapped, and like my life was over. I was being held prisoner by a warden that couldn’t even burp on her own. I truly felt that I’d have to get rid of her or die in order to feel better. It was the darkest time of my life and I was so, so ashamed. My now deflated body felt too heavy for me to move. I desperately wanted my old life back and fell face-first into a depression deeper than I’d ever felt before. I cried almost all of the time and I was drowning.
My sister took me to see my obstetrician five days after M was born and she gave me a prescription for an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication. I’d been on those types of medications before and was so embarrassed and upset that I needed them during a time that should be the happiest of my life. That’s the trouble with “should.”
I reached out to other moms – some I hadn’t talked to in over a decade (thanks, social media), to ask if I was crazy (I wasn’t). Most of these women had experienced some type of postpartum depression (PPD) themselves. The truth is, MILLIONS OF WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD STRUGGLE WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY. But being told that other women struggled with PPD didn’t comfort me. Normalizing it didn’t help me feel attached to my daughter. It didn’t make me the mom I wanted to be or a human being I was proud to face in the mirror. It didn’t make me a good partner for my husband. All it did was make me angry. It made me angry to learn that women don’t discuss this, that we don’t know to expect this, and that no mental health professional kicks everyone else out of the room to really talk to the mom one-on-one about how she’s feeling before she leaves the hospital. It made me angry that, although every part of the mother’s physical and emotional being has gone to war, the first time a woman is asked how SHE is doing is at her six-week postpartum checkup. That all too often, PPD is written off as the “Baby Blues,” blamed on the postpartum “hormone dump,” and, as a result, women are not getting the help they need during what is likely the most difficult time in their life. I want people to stop telling postpartum women that they must feel so excited or happy to be a mother and instead ask open-ended questions about she’s actually doing.
Becoming a parent is utterly life-altering in every way you can think of and millions of ways you could never imagine. Babies cry when they’re tired, when they’re hungry, when they’re too hot or too cold, when they want to be held or put down, and sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes you can calm them but sometimes you won’t be able to and you’ll end up crying right along with them at 3am because they don’t sleep when you want them to. Babies need you to do every single thing for them because they are truly helpless. You’re exhausted, you’re emotional, and your hormones are going haywire. It takes forever to get anything done and your house may never be clean again. After months of people falling all over you during pregnancy, nobody cares about you anymore. It’s about the baby. Everything is about the baby. You are not yours anymore, you are for the baby. And it’s hard. Because you’re still a human being, you’re still a woman, and you still need to be cared for, too. You’re fragile, you’re trying to find your way in a completely new world, and you’re doing all of this in a body you likely don’t recognize anymore. But that’s forgotten.
I choked down the pills. I dragged myself to counseling and was formally diagnosed with PPD. When I was medically cleared to drive, I forced myself to leave the house with M. One day I drove to the end of the street and turned around because I couldn’t handle leaving my neighborhood. Eventually, I sobbed on the way to and from support groups and walks with other moms. I walked my dog. I started sleeping some, and, after a few weeks, I woke up once or twice not wanting to die. Some days I feel happy and want to be actively involved in M’s life, and some days I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and faking it until I make it, but I get up every day and do my best and the good days are finally starting to outweigh the bad.
M began part-time daycare this week and my heart is broken. I was late to board the Mommy Bus but I’ve become so incredibly attached to my baby and it is the most painfully beautiful love I’ve ever known. I can’t get enough.