My name is Jen Schwartz, and I’m a medicated mommy. Yes, I take antidepressants as a result of suffering from postpartum depression when my son was born. Two days after arriving home from the hospital as a new mom, I realized something was very wrong. I began to wish for a reason, any reason at all that would take me back to the hospital where others could take care of me and I wouldn’t have to take care of my new baby. I started crying all the time, became paralyzed by anxiety and wanted to stay in bed and sleep forever. I didn’t want to be a mom. I couldn’t take care of a baby. I thought I made a terrible mistake. Three weeks into motherhood, I still didn’t believe I would ever get better, but with the support of my husband and family, I found a therapist specializing in postpartum depression and began taking the right combination of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines. To my neighbors, I was just the lady walking laps around the block while sobbing on the phone to my mom because moving around calmed the anxiety. I tried to go through the motions of bonding with my baby with help from my husband. At five months, I took my first solo outing with my son and by month six, I spent even more time with him and I started to see my old self again. I began to socialize and exercise again too. Most importantly, I smiled and laughed more. Finally, at a year, surrounded by friends and family, I looked around at my son’s first birthday party and said to myself: “I got this. I’m his mom. I love him, I can do this, and I’m happy.”
Rather than feel guilt or shame for having postpartum depression, I choose to celebrate my recovery. My son recently turned 3 and I love being his mommy. I may be a medicated one, but I’m also a fighter and a survivor. Here are nine reasons I’m grateful for my year-long battle with postpartum depression.
1. I realized my own strength.
At first, I felt helpless. I never thought I would get better, but I went through the motions of doing what needed to be done to treat the postpartum depression—self-care, medicine and therapy. As time passed, I witnessed my true strength emerge. I transformed into a woman who decided to fight to get better for herself, her husband and her baby. Every day when I look in the mirror, I now see a warrior mom looking back at me.
2. I found my identity.
During my pregnancy I envisioned who I would be as a mom (thanks social media)—a champion breastfeeder who immediately fell in love with her baby, a supermom making her own baby food, crafting, constantly cooing and carting her baby everywhere. When I actually became a mother, it was nothing like that. I didn’t enjoy any of those things. I thought something was wrong with me and it took lots of therapy to convince me there wasn’t. I felt stripped of my identity, but surviving postpartum depression allowed me to forge a new one. I had the identity of a mom who embraces and doesn’t apologize for who she is, rather than obsess over who she thought she was supposed to be based on the social norms of motherhood.
3. I learned self-acceptance.
Breastfeeding didn’t work out very well for me. I didn’t immediately fall in love with my baby or motherhood. I hated crafting, never made my own baby food, couldn’t do everything on my own and I never cooed. As I started to get better, I learned to accept these things about myself. I wasn’t like my best friend, the talented crafter who breastfed all her children for an entire year. I wasn’t like my own mom or mother-in-law. I was just me, the mom who fought to beat postpartum depression and fell in love with her son. That was enough.
4. I learned to speak my truth.
When I was going through postpartum depression, I remember trying to find other women’s survival stories, but I struggled to find ones I related to. I wanted to know I was normal, would get better and was not alone. When I finally got healthy, I decided I could be this voice for other moms. I would openly and honestly share the details of my battle with postpartum depression. I wouldn’t pretend that motherhood came natural to me or I loved every minute of it. I would never make apologies for what I went through and who I became.
5. I let go of guilt and shame.
I initially struggled with feelings of guilt and shame for missing so much of my son’s first year of life. Even when I think back on it now, the memories are fleeting because I just wasn’t all there and I wasn’t myself. Then, I remind myself the postpartum depression wasn’t my fault and I can’t change the past. My son was well cared for and loved during that time. I got better, fell in love with him and became the wonderful mom I am today.
6. I became aware of my limitations.
After beating postpartum depression, I became extremely self-aware. As much as I understand the benefits of giving my son a sibling, I now know this is something impossible for me. My family is complete as a unit of three and adding another child to the mix would break me and probably my marriage. I’m not built to be a mother of multiples and so I choose to give my son a happy, healthy mom rather than a sibling.
7. I realized who my true friends are.
While I suffered and fought the postpartum depression, some friends stuck by me and others kept their distance. One friend wrote me off for not making the effort to socialize enough. Another came to my house almost every day, got me dressed, took me for walks, helped me bond with my son and put me back to bed again. My long-distance friends called and texted each week to check in. These are the friends who remain my closest today — the ones who communicated behind my back to keep up with my progress and celebrated when I got better and became myself, “their Jen,” again.
8. I grew closer with my own mom.
My mom became my rock during that first year of motherhood. I called her every day. Most times, it would be to cry hysterically and lament how I would never get better. She told me she would never let me stay that way. She helped me research therapists until I found the right one. She promised me during every phone call I would get better in time and she was right. She was one of my biggest cheerleaders then and continues to be even now.
9. I chose to help others.
This year, I finally decided to start writing, something I wanted to do after getting healthy. I wanted to write honestly with a side of humor about motherhood and surviving postpartum depression, with the goal of giving moms permission to be themselves, be happy and let go of the fear of being judged by others. The truth is, we love our children, but being a mom is hard. Sometimes we don’t take to it immediately, sometimes we want to quit and be alone, and some of us need medication to get through it. I wanted to make that journey less painful and more authentic for moms everywhere.