And while that title may be trite, it’s true. And it’s never been more true for me than it is right now.
I had to finally admit something to myself that I didn’t allow myself to admit fifteen years ago after the birth of my son.
I suffer from postpartum depression.
There. I said it.
Just typing that statement felt like a huge release of emotion, baggage, and above all, it allows me to move forward with a plan.
Fifteen years ago, after the birth of my son, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I felt anxious all the time, sad beyond what may be considered the ‘baby blues’, hypervigilant, unable to relax and rest whenever my son would sleep during the day, and the inability to turn off my brain and not worry about the smallest detail. These feelings continued well into my six-week checkup, but when my OB doctor asked me if I was okay, I lied. I said all was well.
I shouldn’t have lied. I should have been honest. I should have admitted that I was having a rough time. Back in 1999, there was still a bit of a stigma surrounding postpartum depression. While I never had feelings of harming my son or myself, I just couldn’t shake the feelings of despair, inability to bond with my own son or derive any true pleasure from our new family unit. My poor husband at the time probably wondered a time or two if I was really going to make it. I still feel bad to this day that I put HIM through that.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I felt those same feelings creeping in as soon as we arrived home from the hospital with Baby J. I shrugged it off, thinking it was just a case of the blues, and that I would bounce back just fine. I mean, hey, my husband is going to be home with me for a MONTH. What the fuck is there to be depressed about? I’ll have plenty of help with baby.
But, it’s not quite the type of help I need. I know this now.
As the days passed, and the lack of sleep began to rear its ugly head, I could feel those familiar feelings once again. The anxiety. The hypervigilance. The inability to rest well during the day. The complete lack of coping when it came to bouts of inconsolable crying by Baby J.
Cue the tears. Cue the hormones.
As if we women don’t have enough shit to deal with, we have hormones. We women really do get the short end of the stick. Our bodies completely transform and we begin the hormonal rollercoaster during pregnancy, only to have it completely freefall shortly after delivery. This shit is real.
I can’t stop crying. Sometimes I cry for no discernable reason. Sometimes I cry then I forget what I’m crying about. The tears flow hot and heavy and my face begins to resemble a prizefighter who has just been knocked out in the 10th round. So. Many. Tears. The four walls of the apartment seem to close in on me. The monotony. The passing hours of clock-watching, planning for the next feeding. The mere thought of venturing out with our daughter sends my anxiety level to such heights, I can’t possibly wrap my mind around enjoying it. The thought of taking my newborn out in her stroller through a populated outdoor area makes my heart pound. Why? The crying. Always the crying. Even when I try my best, and pull out all the best tricks, sometimes she won’t stop crying. And yes, that stresses me out beyond belief. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit what other people think about OUR crying baby. I wish I had that mindset. I really do.
But, I don’t.
To my husband’s credit, he has pushed me in small ways to move beyond this irrational fear. We went for a nice stroll last week, and while Baby J screamed bloody murder for the first 10 minutes or so, she eventually settled down and slept for a few hours even after we returned from our walk. He encourages me to get out on my own sans baby to the store, get a manicure, pick up a coffee. He says it’s not optional. It’s mandatory for me to be someone other than a set of boobs for food.
I love him.
I should back up a bit. When my son was just weeks old, he cried. A lot. I mean, he cried upwards of 18-20 hours a day. Completely inconsolable. It felt like it lasted forever, but in reality, it probably lasted 4-6 weeks. With this experience forever etched into my subconscious, I tend to think that ALL postpartum experiences will be this way, even though all babies are different, and all experiences are different. This history does nothing to help my current state of mind.
So, with all that said, I have done something I should have done fifteen years ago.
I reached out to my doctor for help. I refuse to believe there is any shame in asking for help. I don’t want sympathy. I want solutions. I want to be better for me, my husband, and most of all my beautiful baby daughter.
I implore all of you who read this to reach out to someone you think might be suffering from postpartum depression. Offer to be a listening ear. Offer to stop by and share adult conversation. Offer whatever it is the new mother might need. But, don’t offer your opinion on what you think might be wrong, other than depression. Chances are, this mother doesn’t want to hear it. She also doesn’t want to hear from other moms who claim their postpartum experience was a breeze, and their babies never cry unless they ‘need something’. I’m convinced those mothers are in complete denial, or they are the biggest fucking liars I’ve ever met.
Life is too short for regrets, and I want to fully enjoy this beautiful baby girl that I have brought into the world. I want to be happy. I want to feel as if I’m functioning on all cylinders and most of all, I want to know that I did the right thing by reaching out and asking for help.
None of this would even matter if it weren’t for the loving support of the man by my side. My husband is my hero. He has lifted me up when I didn’t feel capable of doing it on my own. My husband is my rock. He inspires me to be a better mother. My husband is my best friend. He listens to me without judgment or disdain.
It feels good to come clean. It feels right. It feels like the best thing I could possibly do for myself and my baby girl, but most of all it feels good to come clean after all these years.
We will survive and we will all be better for the experience.