You carry your child for 9 months anticipating the day that she gets here. That day comes and you cry tears of joy as you hold this miraculous creation for the first time. You get visits, calls and texts of congratulations. How perfect is life during these moments? You realize as the days go on that your excitement starts to wither. You’re sleep deprived, irritable and self care goes out the window. What happened? Isn’t having a child suppose to be a happy time? These are questions you ask yourself amidst a ton of others. I know because I’ve been there, twice now. Postpartum depression is real, and I’m here to tell you its okay.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Once baby gets here, we all go through a period of adjustment. Your responsibilities just increased heavily and you have a tiny human that is 100% dependent on you. You may find yourself questioning your capabilities, having emotional outbursts of tears or anger, or you might just feel unhappy. Sounds like a case of the baby blues to me. This is short-lived and eventually your bundle of joy will turn your frown upside down. You’ll find yourself submerged in the joys of motherhood. But what if you don’t?
When you realize that what is affecting you goes deeper than normal new parent exhaustion and stress, it is hard to ignore. You may notice that your feelings of incompetence, unworthiness and sadness may worsen instead of improve. This could very well be signs of actual depression.
- constant feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
- loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy
- loss of interest in self care
- overeating, not eating (excessive weight loss or gain)
- overpowering feelings of guilt
- sleeping problems (always tired, fatigued or trouble falling asleep and staying asleep)
- being uninterested in your baby
- disconnection from those around you and/or family and friends
It is possible that you may even experience more severe feelings such as wanting to harm yourself, your child and/or those around you. If this is the case, please seek professional help. The suicide helpline is a great resource and confidential. This is not taboo and there is no reason to be ashamed. Your health and your child’s health is priority number one.
My Battle with Postpartum Depression?
Now I am going to be completely transparent with you guys so you know that these feelings are OKAY and you are NOT ALONE. We are normal, human and having a baby is a HUGE life transition. I personally have been afflicted with postpartum depression and it is something I had to work extra hard to pull myself out of this second time around.
From the beginning, having my daughter was something that I struggled with. My son was my world and I couldn’t imagine loving another child the same. I questioned whether I would struggle with favoritism, building a connection with my daughter and even with the emotions that Bug would feel once she was here. How do you go from dedicating all your time and love to one child to splitting that in half? More importantly, telling a toddler that he was going to have to share ‘mommy’ with someone else? Add in the fact that I was also experiencing relationship problems and other external stress factors, connecting with my bee throughout my pregnancy just didn’t happen. I dreaded her actual birth. This wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I tried everything to amp myself up for this great occasion and add excitement throughout the pregnancy, but it just didn’t happen. I was unhappy, isolated and I just felt hopeless.
Fast forward to my postpartum days and my feelings were still the same. I had this beautiful little girl looking up at me and I didn’t want any part of her. I forced myself to be present because she needed me. But she was so different than my son. She was cranky, she would scream (not cry, but scream) without resolve. I was crying practically every night right along with her and I questioned why I even put myself in the position to have another child. This wasn’t a joyous experience at all. Pretty crappy right? I felt like a horrible mother and was so miserable. To make matters worse, my Bug was going through some severe regression. This wasn’t terrible twos. He was purposely being disobedient, pulling out his hair and didn’t want anything to do with me. He didn’t want to kiss me, hug me or be anywhere near me. My feelings were hurt and I was mad that I even made him feel like this towards me.
I blamed myself for everything.
My days were so long. Sleep? That didn’t exist for me. Most nights I was lucky if I got a good hour. Here I was suffering from severe depression, ALONE! I had no one here with me to talk about my feelings, no one to help manage the load and I was embarrassed about the emotions I was feeling. The idea of coping seemed so far fetched and I just wanted to disappear. But who was I kidding? That wasn’t an option with two littles depending on me. They needed me to be here, more importantly, they needed me to be alright.
So how the hell was I going to fix it?
I started with reminding myself what a blessing my children were. So many women in this world suffer with infertility and losses and here I am with two beautiful healthy children. I knew some would love the opportunity to be in my shoes, stressed out and all, if it meant that they could have a child. Once I acknowledged that, I reached out for support. Yes, I opened my mouth and started telling people how I was feeling. I had to get rid of that shame. If I wanted to get better, I wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. For the longest time, I kept everything to myself thinking it would just go away. But in reality, I was making it worse. I realized it was okay to ask for help. Once I started doing that, the support came pouring in. My mother (who is my godsend) made it a point to come and help me as much as she could. She would take Bee for a while or sit with Bug so that I could just breathe!
I reconnected with my village and talked about my experiences. I learned that a lot of them had similar experiences and they offered great tips on how to get through it. They cooked, they came and kept me company, offered adult conversation all the while reassuring me that “this too shall pass.” They were confirmation that I would get back to enjoying being a mommy sooner than later. And they were right!
Here I am, 3 months postpartum and I can say that I am doing okay. Some days I still find myself struggling, but I take that in stride. I am able to identify my emotions early and handle them accordingly. If I feel overwhelmed, I’ll pick up the phone and talk about how I am feeling. I absolutely ADORE my daughter and couldn’t imagine life without her. Although I feel bad for some of the emotions I experienced early on I know that there was no malice behind it. I no longer feel like a horrible human or even terrible mother. I am a single woman raising two children alone. It is supposed to be hard. The important thing is how you get through it in the end. I am still learning, still messing up and still sculpting my image of what it means to be a mom. It is a roller coaster of emotions and experiences, but that is what being a parent is all about. There is no guide or handbook to being the perfect parent.
GET RID OF THE MOMMY GUILT. . .
There’s no such thing as being the perfect mom. You are going to question yourself and your parenting. Some days are going to be filled with regret, tears and shame but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to it. Postpartum depression doesn’t have to be such a negative. Admitting that you have it is the first step towards getting better. Don’t be ashamed to talk about the feelings that you are experiencing. If someone is judging you or you fear you’ll be judged for the way you’re feeling about your life, your child or your current situation reevaluate your support system. Holding in these thoughts and feelings doesn’t make them go away, it makes it worse.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You are not invincible, and no one expects you to be. If you are feeling overwhelmed or disconnected, reach out to someone. A simple walk or cup of coffee without interruptions will do wonders for your mood and emotional health. Even having the time to shower or brush your teeth (because lord knows there are days when that doesn’t even seem feasible) will help de-stress. There are also great resources for women experiencing postpartum depression to utilize online if needed. So it is important to remember that it is only temporary and you will see your way out of it.
Take each day, one at a time. Leave yesterday where it is, don’t worry yourself with what tomorrow may bring, and be present in the NOW! Each day create a small goal for you to accomplish. For instance, if you are struggling with connecting with your child, take 5 minutes for just the two of you to cuddle, sing or read together. Although they are only an infant, they absorb everything. If you are struggling with feelings of incompetence, make a list of 5 things you did right throughout the day. That could be changing a diaper, successfully nursing or getting baby to gradually sleep longer. It all counts. If you feel unhappy, try to find some time in your day for YOU. Engage in something that made you happy pre-baby. Your happiness is priority. You want happy babies, you gotta be a happy mama. It starts with YOU! And you can get there, I promise.