My postpartum depression story begins with the pregnancy of my second child. I had a mild case of the baby blues with my first and, at the time, I was very worried about my mental state. Little did I know, it was nothing compared to the dark path that is postpartum depression…
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**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
The pregnancy test came back positive shortly after my only sister got engaged. I was devastated. Now, I was going to have to stuff my postpartum body into a breastfeeding-friendly bridesmaid dress. I wouldn’t get to drink and party all night. It sounds selfish and it was. But I really wanted that one last hurrah before becoming a mother of two.
I should have been thrilled that I was pregnant again because before conceiving my first child, I miscarried twice. I grieved for those babies and would have given anything to meet them. And if I had gotten pregnant after my sister’s wedding, then I would have been thrilled, but…
the timing could not have been worse.
I contemplated terminating the pregnancy but just couldn’t do it. So I secretly hoped that I would miscarry instead.
For a while, I ignored the pregnancy. I didn’t count weeks or read books like I had done with my first. I, once again, suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, which made me resent the pregnancy even more. Being so sick meant that I couldn’t take care of my toddler son or cook for my husband. The guilt started to pile up. At the end of my first trimester, the baby was thriving and I was sick, dehydrated and depressed.
I sought help for what my doctor described as prenatal depression(depression during pregnancy). I saw a therapist once a week, but I don’t feel like I got much out of our sessions. If anything, it was just a safe place to cry for an hour. When my doctor asked if the sessions helped, I lied and said yes because I didn’t want to be difficult.
Somehow I managed to fake smile through the 9 long months. I chose to deliver at a birth center with a midwife. I never told them about the prenatal depression. They were mothers themselves and they thought of birth as beautiful and natural – I didn’t want to be that one pessimistic mother with mental health issues.
My daughter was born in 2 hours and 4 minutes from the start of the first contraction. I barely made it to the birth center, in fact I was certain I would deliver in the car on the way there. It was the single, most traumatic experience of my entire life.
The first few months after she was born were similar to the 9 months of pregnancy…
I didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t feel too much about it. I fed her and changed her and did all the things for her that I needed to do but I didn’t connect with her nor did I feel any desire to. I made sure to keep busy so that I didn’t have to spend too much time with her. I played with my son while I nursed her and rarely made eye contact with her.
I wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t happy either. I felt zero emotions when I was with her.
My sister’s wedding came and went and I fake smiled and showed off my beautiful baby girl and put my hand over my heart when everyone told me how blessed I was.
And then, I wasn’t so busy anymore. And all of the emotions that were locked up over the past few months wanted out. Instead of feeling nothing – I felt everything – as though I was carrying the world on my shoulders and I couldn’t bear it.
My three month old refused to sleep.
She refused to be put down.
She refused to drink from a bottle.
She cried if anyone touched her, smiled at her or looked in her direction.
She and I were just two miserable beings who cried all day long.
Except when people came to visit. Then she was fine, and I was fine, and everything was fine. At least, that’s what we told them…
But when no one else was around, when it was just her and I, crying together… those were the moments I feared the most. In my exhausted state, my mind would take over think things like:
I should have gone through with that abortion.
Things would be so much better if she never existed.
Would she stop crying if I just threw her out the window?
Maybe I will run away and never came back!
And then I would punish myself for being such a terrible mother.
I didn’t know that it was postpartum depression. I truly believed that I was just a bad person.
My husband, who had been there supporting me through all of it, (and feeling helpless I’m sure) finally told me that something wasn’t right.
I spoke to my doctor. He agreed that it was postpartum depression and advised me that if I was to start anti-depressants, it meant that I would have to stop breastfeeding. [The fact that he gave me a choice in the matter meant he truly had no idea how bad it really was. If I had actually told him all the things that were going through my mind, he would have demanded that I start anti-depressants immediately.]
But I had already convinced myself that I was a terrible mother, and stopping breastfeeding just to take some pills was something a terrible mother would do. So, in an effort to try to do right by my daughter, I chose to keep breastfeeding instead.
When my daughter was 6 months old, my husband and I decided to move 9 hours away from our hometown. In my right mind, I would never have agreed to the move because I needed the support of our families more than ever. But in my postpartum depression mind, I wanted to be far away from anyone and everyone.
That was 5 years ago and my battle with postpartum depression is ongoing.
Over the years it has gone from very, very bad to non-existent and I don’t know if it will ever completely go away. I try my hardest to maintain a good self-care routine but there are still things that make it better and things that make it worse.
I still take anti-depressants daily and while I hope that it won’t be forever, I realize that I will never be the same person I was before postpartum depression.
Believe it or not, I am thankful for the struggle.
I look at my gorgeous, brilliant, 5 year old daughter and I am thankful that a greater power guided me to keep her.
I am thankful that I am not haunted by the dark memories of the worst days.
I am thankful that my husband and I were given “bad times” to get through together.
And mostly, I am thankful that my struggle inspired me to help others.
Thank you for reading my postpartum depression story.
If it inspired you in any way, then I am glad to have written it, as hard as it was to do. You can read more inspiring stories about postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders here.