Crystal's Story

Trigger Warning: depression, panic, anxiety, PPD, dissociation, PTSD

When I was three months pregnant with my son, I wrote a letter to his father. He was my best friend in the world, the person I had spent four months living in a tent with on the Nā Pali coast of Hawaii, and–although I didn’t know it yet–the father of my unborn son.

We had been dating for the past two and a half years in a tumultuous on and off sort of way, but we knew that despite the ups and downs there was some ineffable connection between us. 

We had even met in a serendipitous way; a friend of mine mentioned offhand that I should meet her roommate because we were so much alike. We ended up meeting by pure chance when he waited on me at a restaurant, though it took me weeks of dating him to figure out that he was the roommate my friend had wanted me to meet.

Our two and a half years might not have been so tumultuous if it hadn’t been for circumstances. I was only nineteen and he twenty-three, after all, and was successfully navigating graduate school until, shortly after we met, I took a three month trip to Europe alone. Before leaving, I abruptly stopped taking an antidepressant medication without a taper and proceeded to have one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life.

Despite how terrifying it was, I wouldn’t allow myself to return home prior to my already scheduled return flight, which by the time I was experiencing full-blown, constant panic, was two months away.

I had the idea that it would somehow make me stronger if I stayed (thanks, Nietzsche), that I could break my fear, and that if I went home I was giving in; I would be weak.

I retained this idea even after I came home. I continued dating the man who would eventually be my son’s father, moved to Hawaii with him, all the while experiencing a level of panic, depression, and anxiety that it is almost impossible to describe to someone who isn’t well-versed, whether by experience or profession, with this level of psychological dissociation.

After we both moved back and considered the journey (and at least in part, the relationship) a failed one, it still took me a year to write this letter to him, finally coming clean about what had happened.

All he knew in the entire two and a half years of our knowing each other and loving each other deeply was that I had once been on medication and I wasn’t anymore. It was a minute detail, a side note.

When I finally felt compelled to write this letter to him–because it certainly felt like some force beyond me–I was three months pregnant with our child and completely oblivious to it. Funny how love still finds a way.

Some might find this letter triggering, others might find it self-indulgent. I don’t dispute either, and I certainly took plenty of poetic license. What I can say is that it was the closest I ever came to successfully describing the pain and darkness that I was experiencing, making myself vulnerable to a person I loved, and finally being honest about how much I was suffering inside.

I have removed large sections that are very personal in nature, and any mentions of people or places. My hope is that this description will help others feel less alone in their experience, and also help those who have not dealt with mental health issues to understand what the experience can be like.

I call depression the “big lie” because it is the very thing that prevents those who are experiencing it from seeking help. Depression justifies our suffering, telling us we deserve it, it’s our fault, that others would be angry at us, or that we will be penalized, ostracized, or persecuted in some way. That’s why we hide it behind a very convincing mask. 

Breaking out of that lie, as someone who has experienced it several times, is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

From: Crystal 
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Subject: checking my pulse

……………………………………………..

I came home early from work cuz of my tummy. I drank a few sips of beer yesterday, trying to be social, trying to participate, and I guess it was a bad idea, because then I got a headache and kept waking up to run to the bathroom gagging, though nothing came out but little trickles of chemical bile.

It would have been so satisfying for something to come out, that feeling of purging, cleansing, but instead I just sat there gripping the toilet, welcoming the cold porcelain against my feverish skin, feeling like my body was trying to eject me from the inside out, nothing to expel but this vague disease and me, the carrier.

So like most days I woke up feeling exhausted, so reluctant to leave bed, almost not coming to grips with the reality that I have to, that I’m expected somewhere, there are people in whose daily narratives I figure; peripherally, at least. So like most days I get up feeling like I’m dreaming, dragging myself like a heavy object through my life that is a dream, a foggy cinematic.

I am the camera and what I see the projected image. I often wonder what images my lens will fall on as I move through the day, what colors and shapes and sounds will come together to form the illusion of reality in front of my eyes, to prove to me that I am, in fact, on earth, that I am human, that I am living. 

And when I wonder this, the thought is almost always followed by another; that regardless of the images the world composes for my entertainment, for my continued life-fiction, that all they really can be is fiction, and so why go through it again? And the why is because of beauty, and feeling, and aliveness, and love. And the why is purpose, and meaning, and will to live, and I wonder which of those I’m lacking; is it just one or is it all three? 

There is another thing that why is, and that is community, for it seems that social animals like us are built to share life, to cry and love and laugh together, and that purpose and meaning come naturally from sharing these experiences. This truism is an irony that circles in my mind, because it occurred to me as I was literally trying to create meaning out of thin air, after I had examined and rejected the shoddy foundations out of which we create meaning these days, in a splintering, secular culture that is barely a culture at all, and increasingly becoming a mass of people, and those people are individuals by golly because they won their independence and they’re keeping it, along with all the accoutrement. 

And I rejected it just for this reason, that it seems to me an undeniable failure. But my mistake was rejecting people along with it, to close myself and hide away until I came up with a better answer, and what pressure, and what loneliness, and what contempt I developed for the world. Me, who always meant to find a better way to love. 

So now here I am seemingly having forgotten how to do just that. Mostly now I long to love, but don’t do it directly. I long to love myself and the people around me, the people I’ve made alien, made other. I sit amongst them feeling half-human, feeling corrupted in some way, wishing I spoke their language, peering through a barrier I see is paper thin and yet solid as granite. That barrier is my pain, somehow, which is scabbed over with my pride. And I sit there begging inside that I can break through, searching frantically for fractures that might allow me to breathe, to shed the frigid barrier I’ve encased myself in, and then I’ll alight and say I’m finally here, I’ve arrived after all that struggle, pure me without all that extra heavy weight I was dragging along behind my feet. 

The same scenario a thousand times over. My life in loops. All ours are, actually, but you notice it more in some than others. Some are stuck in a kind of spastic rewind. We recreate the same people, our families and friends, the same scenarios, homes and places where stories happened, where we felt our lives were imbued with meaning.

But still, although I feel like I’ve been fighting so hard for such a long time, I’m still encased inside this false version of me. It’s false because it’s sad, I guess, and angry. It is only a thin layer of daily imagined despair, that projects itself outward just in the moments of waking, before I have a conscious chance to reign it in, and then it settles on me. I feel it in those moments as I transition from sleep, feeling something like peaceful and unharmed and perfect and then it descends, and my mind begins its loops of worry and defeat and loneliness and how can I do this, where can I draw strength when all these wells are empty, and my heart quickens pace and I think it has begun; another day of my disease owning me. 

I want you to know I’ve really been trying. That I told myself you have to get up, you have to be alive, animate yourself and maybe your body will remember how it loves to move, how the blood loves to circulate in your limbs. I’ll keep up maybe the adrenaline, the momentum will catch me one day, and I’ll be animated all on my own, from the inside out, without this material force that I have to draw upon. It really is a strange sensation to rely on your muscles alone to move, to have been abandoned by that lightening force from within that makes existing feel so easy and natural and desirable.

I feel more present now than I did then, I guess, but it seems that becoming more present has presented me with more pain. It seems that I traded a little of my nonexistence for reality and with it that pleasant numbing has subsided. It heartens me to feel, a little. I don’t want to be numb.

I want to feel to full capacity, the way I felt when I first moved back in February and I could feel the pleasure of the sun on my skin in such a real way, or the wind on my face while I rode my bike, just like a child, because it seemed the medication took away those other insidious feelings that colored my existence, the tiny anxieties that meet me when I wake up, the feeling of heaviness, lethargy, illness, of being half-alive, those feelings that cover up joy.

I think a lot about a potential future where I’m alive again and happy, and sharing my gifts and living among people, and participating in the world that I shunned for so long that’s really not so bad but could do with some improvements. I’ve never felt more genuine joy than when I give, but now giving feels empty, I feel I have very little to give.

You and [mutual friend] really shocked me. The first time we all hung out at your house I could feel myself leeching, feel myself sucking in the life in the room like a black hole. And I thought, it’s only for now, they’ll forgive me. There’s something wrong. It’ll be past soon. And then you can give again, you won’t be taking. 

I just kept thinking, why the hell do they love me so much? This weak and tiny version of me; how could they love me this way?

But I think about how that feeling will reignite in me and I’ll do things for all these people, how I’ll be strong again, the caretaker that I know myself to be, the person who uplifts her friends and encourages people and gives permission. A leader, someone who sets examples, who nurtures, who loves so well.

I’ve been taking tiny steps, trying not to run ahead of myself because one day I feel momentum and maybe even a little inspiration, and then my heart falters and I forget what I was excited for, and this up and down goes on for days, always more days of emptiness than fullness, the lifted days almost a little taunting. 

But even if I can’t carry over the enthusiasm, the true will, I still mimic it. So slowly maybe as I feign interest in making a life and it begins to take shape around me, I can get a little boost from watching my own hand create. Because really, that’s what depression is; the loss of the creative impulse, which is ultimately the impulse to sustain life. 

And isn’t that ironic coming from me, considering what I do, what I’m passionate about, what I write about? Do you even remember that person anymore? 

I wish I could watch it like a movie, so I could have proof that it actually happened. It’s fading away. I trust those memories less and less, the memories of happiness, memories of feelings that I doubt my capacity for. I’ve seen so little evidence lately. I feel like I might just fade away, flicker on the periphery, become a part of the backdrop in all the other dramas, let mine fall by the wayside, until I disappear totally and exist only and briefly in memories. A girl you used to love, I wonder what happened to her? And the answer is that, as James Joyce puts it, one by one we’re all becoming shades.

As much as I feel that way, I keep hoping. That in another month’s time this medication will kick in, and I’ll remember how I’m simply okay, that I don’t have to believe the whispers in the back of my mind, all that psychic chatter that winds me up like a toy, that ties me in knots, that steals me away from the present. I wonder so often how things would’ve been different if I had stayed on it, I ask God to show me the film of that alternative cosmic reality. 

Do you know that place you go when you’re lost in thought, when someone has to nudge you to bring you back? That’s where I live, most of the time. It’s another realm, I think, maybe the one they call the Hungry Ghost. It’s made up of hallways where we wander, looking for something lost, and those lost things are our thoughts, empty wind thoughts that we chase down hallways. And every time we chase them we leave the present, the human realm, and enter into a realm of wind. 

The wind scatters our thoughts like paper, it chills us, and the more we wander the more nervous we become that we won’t find our way back through the labyrinth of hallways to reality, to rejoin everyone in the humanity. This feels like a cold place, a place we don’t belong, where we are unsafe and far from home. Some people wander so long they forget they’re looking for anything, they just keep wandering and watching their thoughts blow by on the wind, and mutter to themselves under their breath, for company.

I feel like I’m running for the end of the hallway. I see the other side, sometimes reach a hand through, then I’m dragged back by thoughts that have taken root too deep in my mind. I’m struggling against the wind. I’m starving for light. For fresh air and sun and warm embraces that express real love, real joy, we’re glad to have you back, Crystal. 

I keep imagining that this will all pass. That I’ll look back and laugh a little. Because I know it’s just on the other side. That I only feel pain from moment to moment. That any new moment could offer peace and love and happiness if I could just remember that alternate route, that groove in my brain that’s lain dormant, the synapse that’s atrophied from negligence. 

When I was on medication I saw how clearly it was a choice, that I chose to be happy from moment to moment, that I chose not to descend into this dark escapism. That’s why I tried so long without it, just make the choice Crystal, just make the right choice, choose to be happy. Fake it til you make it. Don’t tell everyone you’re sad because that makes it stronger, makes it more real. 

It seems though, that the drug gave me the fuel I needed to make those choices, or to even experience the pleasure of those choices in the moment. Because I tried, I went to yoga religiously and I got up every day and I kissed you and threw all my love into it but still, some element was missing. Some element that made those things matter, made them more than moving my body from place to place and reacting to the movie screen.

The element, I guess, is love. It’s really like a fuel, the life-force. Another thing they call depression is an energy crisis, a lack of love. Like small animals and babies who have all the conditions for health, nutrition and sunshine and exercise, but despite it all they whither away because they don’t have enough love. Nature takes them back to rest in love until conditions can be more favorable to live in it. It’s called failure to thrive. 

I wonder sometimes if it happened so long ago for me, something when I was young that I’ll never get back, that gives me this sense of being unsafe, uncared for. And it became so normal that I didn’t notice until I really couldn’t get out of bed anymore, and the alarm bells were so loud I couldn’t brush them aside, tell myself I was being lazy. I saw I was really letting myself fade, failing to thrive.

Despite every strength that I have, my gifts, my capacity for life. And I wonder if it’s not just a little musing on the part of the divine, a little evolutionary experiment. To give me every natural tool for success, for self-sufficiency, and then to throw in one curve ball, one that eclipses everything else and makes me weak, weak in the strangest way, weak in the soul. And then my life, the test. To overcome this weakness of my will, this urge for death–because one way or another I think in this life I’m meant to die–or to buckle, to collapse and never rise again, let the earth take me and become God’s abortion. 

But really, my urge for death is an urge for God. The only thing I ever really crave. I think I feel life too acutely, feel my body dying as I occupy it. And I feel everyone else’s pain, too, it rises up from the asphalt in waves, like heat. Sweltering. It presses on the back of my mind, their cries, their suffering. It’s like the hands of the dead in the river Styx, clutching at my ankles, pulling me down. 

But only because I stopped to listen to their moaning, only with the best of intentions, a light heart and a child’s compassion. I forgot to steel myself against the world when I attempted to save it, to make my mind firm, like a fortress. I did it in a different way, that killed me. I did it to my heart instead of my mind.”

If you are in need of help, please tell the people you love. Tell everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are eloquent or justified or even coherent. They want to know, and they want to help you. If you don’t share your pain, you rob them of the chance to even try, and you rob yourself of the possibility of support and compassion. 

You are not to blame, and not matter how you feel, you are not alone. 

Originally published on Lessthanperfectparenting.com

Reeham's Story

I had an amazing first pregnancy and worked until 38 weeks. I remember at my 39th week checkup, the doctor measured my baby at 9.7lbs.

I was due for induction at 41 weeks, which ended with an emergency C-section after 12 hours of labor. I could barely remember how I felt due to being on so many drugs. I remember hyperventilating in the surgery room and lying to the doctor that I was just cold.

After the pressure of getting cut open and having my baby boy Ezra pulled out, my mouth opened and tears overflowed from holding in all my emotions.

Little did I know what awaited me in the recovery room. I was told to let the nurses know when my pain was a 6-7 after feeling so numb after the surgery. I couldn’t even ask for pain medication in time. They didn’t put Ezra on me right away. I struggled to breastfeed and was unable to carry him on my freshly cut abdomen.

I remember having to care for him through the day and nights at the hospital, constantly changing, rocking, and feeding him. At this point, I was so out of it. The nurse noticed how pale I was and that I wasn’t eating, which contributed to the loss of my milk supply. Then, I had to get a blood transfusion during my stay before going home.

The first night, I almost dropped Ezra. I remember rocking him on my living room couch. He did not fall asleep until six am. I only slept for an hour. I couldn’t even recover from my surgery because I had to keep getting up to pick him up from his crib.

Fast forward, and as I learned my baby, things got a bit easier. We developed a sleeping and feeding schedule and I was able to get a full 5-6 hours of sleep around six months postpartum.

What I thought was the baby blues turned out to be postpartum anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand why I cried every night and had panic attacks. 

I hadn’t left the house unless it was for errands or to meet family. I was also always the one with my baby most of the time before going back to work at five months postpartum and suffering from lack of sleep.

I remember relying on the Internet to Google questions I had and what I was experiencing. I felt unsure of myself and embarrassed. No one told me that my behavior was different. I had to keep things to myself as to not show my tears, which usually came out as anger.

I recently started accepting all these changes after having Ezra and letting others know I haven’t been okay and have started doing something about it.

Working and taking care of a baby after work is exhausting. I remember voicing my concerns and realizing I need to befriend those who have also gone through a similar journey so I can feel understood. It can be hard explaining my experience to people who have no idea what postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are. I now realize it can affect anyone and just how important it is to have support. I have read books, spoken with other moms, read articles and started therapy for the first time.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so I recently published my first book of poetry and feel very proud of sharing my thoughts with the world, knowing they resonate with so many others. My hope is to overcome the challenges I face as a new mom trying to keep it together while working and and balancing being a mother, daughter, partner, sister and friend.

Candice's Story

So here I was, a new mom to a beautiful baby, who had just crushed this labor thing. Never mind that my plans for a water birth were screwed, or that I was hooked up to a monitor. I had planned everything about motherhood. I would be badass mom, lose all the baby weight, and effortlessly get on with continuing my studies. Sounds perfect to me. But you see, there was this thing called postpartum depression. This was the one thing that I had not planned for, at all. Sure, I had vaguely heard about it, but that just wouldn’t be me. I was born for this. I did the labor thing, and guess what, I handled the pain. 

So here I was, new baby in hand (though not on the boob as he refused to latch), ready to face this motherhood thing. I was on cloud nine, in my baby bubble. I was super happy. A little too much so, which I suspect was due to that fake oxytocin-pitocin. It was pumped into my veins post labor, because no one wanted to have postpartum hemorrhaging, right? Nothing could go wrong. Except it did. The baby bubble popped and the happiness was replaced with overwhelm. Why wouldn’t the baby latch? I couldn’t wash bottles fifty times for the day. I needed to shower. When would I eat? Damn, this baby poops a lot. Sleep disappeared. I started crying a lot. Who the hell told me I was capable of being a mother? Here I was, oceans removed from my support system, and a new baby to care for. I suddenly felt that I couldn’t do it. I could not care for a new baby. 

Where was that inner badass mom when I needed her? I had no idea. Instead here was a mom who was flat out depressed. It was my husband who pointed out that I might have postpartum depression. I told him he was crazy. A late night google search proved him right, and I was in shock. I was depressed. My trusted OBGYN could fix this right? Wrong. All she did was offer drugs and a sad postpartum story of her own. I thought that knowing what I had meant that I could cure it. Boy, was I wrong. I searched long and hard for solutions, but they were hard to come by. There were to be a lot more tears, intrusive thoughts and a strong feeling of doom that surrounded my existence.

Exercise, journaling, an online support group and eventually therapy helped. I struggled for over a year, but it got better. The darkest hours faded, and I started to truly smile again. To the mom suffering from postpartum depression, I see you. I am you. Postpartum depression was the scariest thing I have had to go through. It will get better. There are now times that I wistfully think about making my son a big brother, knowing very well that this can happen again. I guess that that inner badass mom didn’t go anywhere after all.

Marissa's Story

Postpartum Regret Vs. Postpartum Depression

The taboo truth about moms who hate being moms…

When my daughter was born, I found myself hating being a mom. The transition into motherhood was incredibly difficult and not at all what I expected. I felt so lost and alone.  

As one mother I encountered in a support group said, “I had a baby to add to my life, not take away.” 

I couldn’t agree with her more. 

There were many things that went wrong that I thought were going to be so wonderful.  

After enduring a long labor that went nothing like my well thought out birth plan, my daughter was placed on my chest and screamed nonstop for the next hour. This was not the soothing and loving experience I had seen in the movies. 

I felt no bond with my daughter, and as time went on I feared that I would never experience that close bond I saw other mothers having with their babies. My daughter’s high-intensity screaming continued daily which made our time together very difficult. Breastfeeding was challenging and I gave it up at four months which left me feeling defeated. 

As I finally came to terms that this feeling of despair was not going away, I began to question what was going on with me. I had heard about postpartum depression, but I couldn’t relate to it. I thought that maybe I was just in denial, but now I know I was in fact experiencing regret and I was not suffering from a mental illness or postpartum depression. 

I actually remember saying, “I’m not depressed. I just don’t like this!” 

The problem is I did become depressed and I can’t help but wonder—if I had been validated, truly understood and learned some practical solutions (like hiring some help), if my depression could have been prevented.  

The reason I’m passionate about sharing my story is that I think experiencing regret after having a baby is more common than what is shared and talked about openly. A mother can experience regret without it being a symptom of postpartum depression.  

Looking back, I wish I hadn’t felt so lost and alone in feeling this. I was ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t know where to turn. There didn’t seem to be any books addressing this and the books on postpartum depression helped, but still didn’t quite fit. 

I would have loved to have heard from a professional or another mother, “Given everything you’re experiencing, of course you’re feeling regret. You’re not a terrible person for feeling this way.” 

Instead, what I heard was, “This is just the postpartum depression talking and once you’re better you’ll enjoy being a mother.”  This statement just didn’t make sense or resonate with me. It was as if I couldn’t possibly be experiencing regret without having a mental health diagnosis.  I also asked myself, “What if I never found myself loving the job of being a mother? What then?” 

Today, as a postpartum mental health therapist, I help many moms who are struggling the same way I did. Some are not feeling as joyous as they thought they would be. Others are overwhelmed with caring for a fussy baby. Some really are suffering from clinical postpartum depression. And others report regret, feeling they made a mistake the same way I did. 

I strive to hear and validate what each mother is really going through without immediately giving them a diagnosis.  Additionally, I help with solutions to get them feeling like a confident and happy mom. 

If you are experiencing regret, despair, depression, anxiety or anything in between following the birth of your baby, know that you are not alone.  

Know that what you’re experiencing may simply be a reaction to the event and day to day life of being a mom not living up to the hype. 

Bio: Marissa Zwetow is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author, and owner of Postpartum Happiness. Marissa became passionate about helping mothers to both prepare and adjust to a new baby after experiencing postpartum regret and understanding what it takes to be on a healing journey to find acceptance, meaning, and happiness in the role of motherhood.  To receive your free copy of 12 taboo postpartum truths: What you may need to know, but probably haven’t been told sign up here. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Crystal's Story

I loved being pregnant. I felt beautiful and special and very full of life, literally. I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to have a home birth, and I trusted my body to take care of everything. After all, women have been doing this for millions of years.

I assumed that motherhood would be the same. I thought that once my child came into the world, some fundamental biological transformation would happen within me and I would suddenly become a Mom with a capital M.

That wasn’t the case. I found that, on the other side of my beautiful, perfect labor, was just me, a scared, uncertain little girl suddenly tasked with what is arguably the hardest job in the world. Serious pressure.

I had no legitimate life experience, no career, no money, and had never even taken care of myself. All of a sudden, I was holding this little creature, and I had to figure out how to take care of both of us.

All I could see was my expectation of who I would be as a parent, which was extremely unrealistic in retrospect, and the huge gap between that and who I actually was. I was scared shitless.

Although I loved being pregnant, I had been dealing with serious anxiety, and my transition to motherhood was no less difficult. It was, by far, the steepest learning curve of my life.

At the time, I didn’t recognize it as postpartum depression, as I’m not much for labels. But I can’t deny that I felt disconnected from myself, the world, and most difficult to admit, from my son.

Stuck in the Negative Cycle:

I was simply terrified. It’s hard to feel loving and connected when you’re that scared. And now that time has passed, lessons have been learned, and my son and I are more connected than ever (most of the time), I can look back and forgive myself for not being there–in my heart–for my infant boy.

I spent the first three years of his life frantically trying to “wake up” out of it, to be the mom I knew I should be.

I recall a friend, an older mother of several children, coming to visit after the birth. She asked me, “Isn’t it amazing? Aren’t you just so in love?”

“Yes,” I told her. But I was lying.

Inside my stomach turned at my hypocrisy. Here I was with my newborn son, and no, I didn’t feel “so in love.” I felt terrified, I felt resentful of my responsibility and the world that had prepared me so poorly for it. I felt alone, helpless, and full of guilt.

Sure, on the outside I still did the things I thought were important. I practiced labor meditations pre-birth. I had a beautiful, perfect home delivery with a birth tub, midwife, and my doula best friend (now a midwife herself).

I breastfed. I wore him. I did skin to skin contact. I–regrettably in some instances–followed the protocols of attachment parenting to a tee. I omitted refined carbohydrates from his diet for the first year of his life and didn’t use harsh soaps on his sensitive skin.

Letting Go of Being The Perfect Mother:

Starting to see a pattern? My constant sense of inadequacy as a mother led me to strive for perfection and yet always fell short of it because I was missing the very point; be here, with him, now, no matter who you are.

Little did I know it, but I was already a good mother. I just had to relax and allow myself to be her. Sounds simple, but it certainly wasn’t for me. And it still isn’t.

Unfortunately, that relaxing and allowing didn’t happen until my son was about three and a half. And even then, it wasn’t an instant transformation with trumpeting angels and blinding gold light.

It still, to this day, takes effort. Not an effort of striving and reaching toward my image of what a perfect mother–or a perfect person–should be, but the altogether more subtle and more unfathomable effort of surrender.

There are times when I lament those three and a half years lost, years during which I know my son was searching for me while I was busy searching for myself. And yet, I know there were still plenty of times when, despite everything, our hearts met.

Times when I sang him to sleep, times when he chortled like an old fat man at my animal impressions, times when he covered himself and the kitchen floor in pureed sweet potato and blinked coy eyes at me as if nothing at all was amiss.

The Turning Point:

What did it for me? It’s difficult to pinpoint. That said, I attribute my accidental career as a preschool teacher as a huge catalyst. Nothing helped pull me out of depression more than smiling, hugging, and playing with toddlers all day-even if some days the smiles were forced.

But that forced engagement allowed me–required me–to come out of myself, out of the constant monologue of my harsh inner critic and into the real moment to moment world of play. It made me childlike, in the best sense of the word, and that reawakening of my playful, carefree self was exactly the “me” my son had been looking for all along. And, incidentally, so had I.

I’m not saying I’m like this every day. And now that I’m working in a different field, a fast-paced one that is very adult and much more intellectual, it’s much more challenging to come home and meet my son in that playful place.

But the weekend comes around and he’s there waiting for me, ready to bake cookies, ready to help me turn the laundry basket into a dump truck, ready to plant seedlings on our sunny balcony, and to be my “coach” when I exercise, substituting his not-so-little body for my weights.

His childlike nature, which allows me to descend from adult land where everything is oh-so-important-and-urgent-and-essential, is my saving grace. When I remember to allow time to stop, to play with matchbox cars, to turn our couch into a landing pad, that’s when he and I are both nourished. That’s when I connect to him and to myself.

So in the end, I can forgive myself for my flaws, my motherly and not-so-motherly imperfections. The beautiful thing is I’m freed from making myself into the facade of what a mother should be and I simply get to be human. That’s all he needs me to be.

If he can grow up and know me as a real person-my flaws and my vulnerabilities, as well as my strengths, passions, and gifts-and in turn come to know and love himself as a real person, then I can say I succeeded as a mother.

Because it’s being human that’s the true struggle, the seemingly obvious but elusive quality of authentically being. And if we can give that gift to our children in a world that increasingly steers them away from it, there is no greater expression of love.

Originally published on my blog: www.lessthanperfectparenting.com.

Alexis's Story

It was a beautiful fall day, one that felt more like summer. 33 weeks pregnant with my second boy, I was doing my best to get as much done as possible while my oldest napped. This pregnancy had been so different from my first. Leo was such an active baby (a fact that remains true today). Little did I know that this day would be the beginning of a very terrifying chapter in my life.

When the bleeding started, I went into shock. I called my husband who told me to call 911 immediately. Surely, my baby was gone. After an ambulance ride and hours without answers, my sweet Leo entered the world at 2:29 AM. At 33 weeks, I was told his lungs wouldn’t be ready for the world so hearing his brief cry was as sweet as hearing his heartbeat for the first time. But it didn’t last. Leo was whisked away to the NICU where he would call home for the next 21 days. I’ll never forget my husband and I sitting alone in the hospital room just minutes after his birth wondering if all this was real. When a nurse finally came in, she tossed me some parts and said “start pumping.” This was the start of my journey through postpartum.

I was, without a doubt, in survival mode. I didn’t have a single second to think about what I’d gone through or to begin to process because my babies and my husband needed me. I went through the motions of balancing hospital and home-life like a champ. Family and friends were surprised to see how well I was doing and honestly, I was too. But as soon as Leo’s health improved, I crumbled. I started to experience dark thoughts that terrified me so much that I was afraid to be alone with my kids. Imagine holding this beautiful miracle, who you wanted so badly, and suddenly having violent images of how you might go crazy and harm him. Your worst fears playing out in your mind on a constant loop. Sure, I’d heard of postpartum depression but no one ever told me anything like this could happen! The thoughts became so frequent and the fear so intense that I started to avoid objects that could be potentially dangerous, wouldn’t give my babies baths and, on particularly bad days, would make my husband stay home from work. I was living each moment with a horrible sense of dread that something terrible was about to happen.

Soon, I was overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and shame. I thought that if I told anyone about the scary thoughts I was having that they would surely take my children from me. So, I remained a prisoner in my mind. I would wake up each morning praying that my brain wouldn’t already be playing the horror movie that had become my existence. But it was always still there. The pit in my stomach, the terrifying images, the “what-if’s”…I was in agony and a shell of the me I used to be. These feelings were coupled with intense guilt. Guilt for the extra burden I was putting on my husband, guilt for avoiding my children and guilt for ever having the thoughts at all. My unwanted thoughts started to convince me that I must be some sort of evil monster and that my sons deserved a much better mother. There were many days where the hopelessness I felt was so deep and heavy that it made me question if I would ever get better and even how much longer I could go on this way.

But this was the face of Postpartum OCD. Somehow, by the grace of God, I found the courage to ask for help. However, like many moms, I immediately felt defeated by the number of weeks I’d have to wait to get an appointment with either a therapist or a psychiatrist. I desperately started searching Google for a local support group or anything that could help me make it through. I stumbled upon Postpartum Support International’s website and saw where they had a warm line for moms to call. On Friday night, before a holiday weekend, I called and left a message with my contact information. By the next morning, a local PSI rep had already contacted me. She quickly put me in touch with Sarah from Moms Mental Health Initiative, a local group I’d never heard of. Here is where my story begins to change.

Within hours of my first conversation with Sarah, I was sitting in a therapist’s office. Not just any therapist, but one who was educated in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and who was sensitive to the unique symptoms and vulnerability that moms like me can face. The amount of relief I felt after that first appointment is indescribable. Sarah also added me to Circle of Hope, MMHI’s online peer support group. The amazing women I connected with in Circle of Hope openly shared their experiences and offered an outpouring of advice and encouragement.

I’d like to end this post with “and she lived happily ever after.” And while that’s true, my days aren’t without struggle. The reality is that recovery from this disease is not linear. Just when you’re basking in the light, a dark day (or few days) slaps you upside the head. But the difference is that I’m no longer walking through the darkness alone. I have a safety net of amazing people, resources and love around me. And some days, just knowing I’m not alone is enough.

So, I see you mama. You’re tired, you’re beaten and you are terrified. But stay strong. Keep fighting and know that through this you will learn that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible. That this trial will show you strength you never knew you possessed. What you’re experiencing is real but it is also treatable. If this sounds like you, I hope that by sharing my story you’ve been inspired to ask for help. Or, if you already have, I hope it’s given you the courage to keep going. You will get through this and you will get better. And someday it might be your story that gives another mom hope.

Originally featured on Moms Mental Health Initiative's website (September, 2018).

Kate's Story

1.     Describe yourself in three word:  Multitasking, altruistic, sarcastic.

2.     Describe Bumble Baby in three words: New mom resource

3.     I created Bumble Baby because: There is such a need for resources for new and expecting moms - one that gives real life advice and products that WORK! I am a NICU nurse and many of the families are craving any wisdom to help get them through the transition into parenthood and the transition home. I have learned so much from my experience as an RN and mom and love to share what has worked for me. My goal is to make the road of motherhood a little less bumpy.

4.     I’m empowered because: I use my knowledge and experience to help others. There’s no better feeling.

5.     I empower others because: I remind them that YOU CAN DO IT, you can get through the hard times and come out better on the other end.

6.     Putting yourself first is: Something I have always struggled with. It’s just my nature as a caregiver in every aspect of my life - my career as an RN, an oldest child, a wife, and a mother. I am slowly learning how to put myself first and reminding myself that it’s okay and necessary.

7.     I take care of myself by: Working! HA! Time away from my kids helps to me to be a better mom. Some people are meant to be SAHM moms, I am just not one of them, and that’s okay. This is something I have learned over the last 2.5 years since entering motherhood. I need time to use my brain in a critical thinking way and be surrounded by adults and children who aren’t my children.

8.     Mom win: I have two healthy children!! 

9.     Mom fail:  Potty training waaaaay too early.

10.  Motherhood is: An evolution of self love.

11.  Best parenting advice you’ve gotten: Let it go. You can’t control your kids. The more you try, the more they rebel!

12.  Worst parenting advice you’ve gotten:  They will learn to sleep on their own.

13.  Before I became a mom, I wish someone told me: That it’s sometimes a scary and dark place to be.

14.  Moms need each other because: No one else understands and can empathize better.

15.  Three things I can’t live without are: My sleep, sweets, and my Dyson cordless vacuum (haha).

16.  When I’m not doing mom or work things, I’m: Outside!

17.  The books I swear by are: Moms on Call and F-Factor.

18.  My last meal would be Sweet Mandy B’s cupcakes. 

19.  When life gives you lemons, put them in your favorite drink.

20.  I want my children to know: you are the only two people in the world that I know who carry my blood. It amazes me every time I look at you and I see ME. (I am adopted).

Kate’s Story

It honestly feels like a lifetime ago. At the same time, the postpartum depression is present in my every day life as little reminders of the darker days still exist all around me. The sign on the highway. The bracelet I wear every day. The resentment that surfaces and resurfaces at times. The immense sadness and guilt is overwhelming.

I have always been self-sufficient; maybe to a fault. My nature is to be the caregiver - I am the oldest child, the oldest of many cousins, a wife, a mama, and a NICU nurse. Even my own mother always says that I am, “The one she never worried about.” Was that all just a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The symptoms started during my pregnancy with my first, Finn. This was a difficult pregnancy. Looking back, I believe I had undiagnosed gestational diabetes, as Finn was over 10 pounds when he was born and I gained a steady 75 pounds before birth. I was swollen, working full time 12 hour shifts as an RN in the NICU, and suffering through loud nights in Wrigleyville as the Cubs played in the World Series. This mama was exhausted physically and mentally and in definite need of support from my loved ones, which until the day of my due date, I felt that I had 100%.

Then, everything shifted. My nine year old cousin was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue of his facial sinus cavity, on my due date. To say we were all devastated was an understatement. My family is very close knit and came together for my aunt, uncle and their family in an incredible way that I will never forget. 

But for me, I felt, well…forgotten.

Three days later, Finn was born. 10 pounds, 1 ounce of a hunk of love, and right to the Neonatal ICU he went for meconium aspiration and low blood sugars. This is where he spent the first week of his life. My family juggled time between visiting my cousin in his first round of chemotherapy at the adjoining Children’s Hospital (incidentally the same hospital where I work) and seeing Finn in the NICU. I quickly slipped into a postpartum hypomania, barely sleeping, wired, and switching off shifts with my husband, but never feeling exhausted. I actually felt like I had a good handle on things. This environment was familiar to me as NICU nurse - but I felt out of body. Almost as if Finn was a patient and not my own baby.

Then, BOOM. We were home. Finn had tongue tie and my nipples were raw and bleeding. I went to latch him and the pain was so unbearable that I actually screamed, “GET HIM AWAY FROM ME” and I pushed him toward my husband’s lap. I resented myself, I resented Finn, and resented my husband for not feeling a bond straight away with the baby. I resented my family for supporting my aunt and her family during this unbearable time. I resented my friends who didn’t have kids. And I COULD NOT voice it. I couldn’t say it out loud. I felt as if my pain wasn’t worthy.

“You don’t have CANCER. You can GET OVER IT”. 

“You CHOSE to have a baby. Many people can’t!" 

“This is supposed to be the happiest time in your life!”

“You have everything you have ever wanted! Why aren’t you happy?”

“SNAP OUT OF IT!”

I thought this time was supposed to be so joyous, bringing a new life into the world. It wasn’t. No one was checking in with me, because on the outside, I was fine. I always was, remember? I’m the one they didn’t have to worry about. The support system I always knew as my own had crumbled below me. I felt guilty asking for help when I could also see the deep pain and suffering of my family. I couldn’t burden them with anything else. 

I went back to work and my “childcare,” my mom, fell through as she couldn’t commit to helping me one day a week. She had to help my aunt, at her beck and call. So I had to cut back at work and resign my position, the one thing that got me out of the house and using my brain and not feeling trapped. The one thing that made me feel “normal.” I slipped deeper and deeper.

Things escalated when I was only working three days a month. My husband was like a deer in headlights - no idea how to deal with my mood swings, my chronic crabbiness, and my exhaustion. Then, I got my period. And, WOO! Feeling much better. Hormones stabilized a bit and Finn was a great sleeper. Why not add another one to the mix? Pregnant on the first try. Finn was 7 months old.

So, let’s tell my family! And the phone rings. My cousin’s cancer has spread, the chemotherapy isn’t working. What? How? I can’t do this AGAIN without them. But I just can’t ask for help. I am not worthy. 

I completely checked out. I didn’t ask about my cousin. I didn’t support my family. I simply just couldn’t - I was frozen in depression. The two most joyous moments in my life were completely overshadowed. And deep down, I really understood. But I needed support, and it just wasn’t available. I sunk deeper and deeper into a depression. I was completely numb. Cancer is such a tangible disease - confirmed by labs, imaging, effects from chemo. No one could “see” or quantify my PPD and I could not work up the courage to speak to the depths of my suffering. I wasn’t worthy. 

He passed a month later.

My family rallied around my aunt and her family. Supported them unbelievably. The community came together so beautifully. There I was - a shell, a ghost of myself. But I am not worthy. I have my child, they do not. Their baby is gone forever. Snap out of it. I still carried so much resentment, how can they not see that I am suffering, too? 

Then, my daughter arrived. We didn’t know the sex beforehand, and when the doctor said,  “It’s a GIRL,” I was absolutely terrified. I don’t know how to love a girl! What if she turns out like me? 

And the cycle began again. Hypomania. Depression. No bonding. Not telling anyone. More depression. Crying all day. Crying in the shower. Outbursts. Exhaustion, but unable to sleep. Crabby. Snappy. Not responding to my friends. My actions screaming for help, why is no one helping me?! Why is no one hugging me and telling me it’s going to all be okay? I am not worthy.

The heaviness of the depression slowly pulled over me like a down comforter. Just enough pressure to keep me from moving. Every day was a struggle. I would force myself to get out of the house, and then have crippling social anxiety, and hurry home. I couldn’t look my parents in the eye. No one once asked me how I was doing. “The one they never worried about.” I am not worthy.

And then, I got my period at seven months postpartum. WOO! The depression lifted somewhat, but still lingered. I was feeling a bit better but not back to myself. This lift gave the fog a bit of clarity - I needed help. I called my OB and started antidepressants that day. I AM WORTHY. 

And to be honest, I don’t know why I waited so long. I don’t think I was mentally capable of moving forward with the depth of depression I was in.  It took a good eight weeks to feel the positive effects of the medication. I feel better, and it’s been about six months since I started medication and eight months since I started therapy. 

Some reading this story may not truly understand how I could react the way I did during an incredibly hard time for my entire family. I write this story because I know there is someone out there experiencing a similar situation; not feeling worthy of expressing their suffering in fear of burdening others. I am here to tell you that YOU ARE WORTHY. 

My entire life, I was surrounded with a large web of support all around me. I am lucky to have never before struggled with mental illness. But what I have learned is that a large support system does not make you immune to postpartum depression. Growing up in an affluent household and having everything you have ever needed and wanted doesn’t put you at an advantage. Have amazing friends, a caring partner, a best friend as a sister, close relationships with your parents, healthy children, a happy home does not mean you are not “allowed” to have postpartum depression. PPD does not discriminate. PPD is ruthless. PPD kicks you when you’re down. PPD whispers to you that your emotions are worthless, that your suffering doesn’t matter to others. PPD makes you angry and yearn for the person you were before, for the life you had before. PPD is now forever a part of me. But I will not allow PPD to make me feel that I don’t matter. 

The resentment I carried for so long has slowly lifted; I am able to see more clearly why  I felt the way I did for so long. I resented those I always expected to pull me out of whatever hard time I was experiencing. But I slowly learned that the only person who was going to pull me out of the darkness was ME. I needed to make the change.

Take that first step mama, and ASK FOR HELP. It’s by far the hardest step you’ll take. You can do it. I believe in you!

Today, I feel forever changed; I will never be the same person I was before and I am becoming at peace with that. It’s been a slow process. I need to remind myself that it won’t happen overnight. More and more every day, I see that I AM WORTHY. 

And mama, YOU ARE WORTHY, TOO. 

Oriana's Story

Growing up, literally all I wanted was to be a wife and mom. When I got married and then got pregnant, at first I was ecstatic. I loved babies so much. I was known as the ‘baby hog’ to our friends. I loved cuddling new babies and helping new moms postpartum. I wanted multiple children and had names picked out for my first two.

Then I got pregnant.

And at first I was over the moon. It was a girl! I was living my childhood dream! I took all the obligatory photos, pregnant and cheesing.

Then it began. I didn’t know much about mental health at the time, so I just handled it the best I could.

In my first trimester, I started having anxiety that became worse and worse every month of my pregnancy. I started having OCD intrusive thoughts that felt like magical thinking (just because I thought it, it must be true). One such thought was that I WOULD miscarry.

I became scared to eat everything. I constantly sought reassurance and avoided to prevent this from happening. My intrusive thoughts became darker. I imagined the baby getting hurt and it being my fault. I had a nightmare so vivid it felt real and it worsened my intrusive thoughts. I dropped my baby-sitting job (pregnancy is just making me tired!). I stopped cuddling friends’ babies (and if I did, I had extreme anxiety the whole time).

By the end of my pregnancy, I was terrified to even put my hand on my stomach because I’d be hurting the baby. I spent the last trimester alone, completely isolated and googling my fears and intrusive thoughts 80% of the time. I was literally a shell of myself.

And yet, when I had prenatal checkups I hid it all. No one could know I was already a bad mom or they’d take my baby away for sure. I lied my way through screenings and buried my screams for help.

Then it came time to give birth. I was overdue. Way overdue. It threw a wrench in my birth plan. I’ve always been a low-key hippie. So naturally, natural birth appealed to me. I had a midwife and a birthing house to give birth in. No hospital, no drugs. 

The midwife said she couldn’t naturally induce me anymore because of my blood pressure, so she sent me to their back up hospital. I went in for a prenatal check up and left calling my husband, telling him we’d been instructed to go to the hospital and give birth today, with the on-call male doctor.

I didn’t want a male doctor. In fact, that was high on my priorities list. But now I had one, and my midwife wasn’t allowed to be at the hospital with me.
I was in labor for roughly one day and one night, giving birth around midnight. I was induced. The doctor sped up the pitocin drip without my consent. He wanted to go home.

I wanted to labor without an epidural, but finally caved to getting one. A nurse mocked my attempt at giving birth, telling me, “She was glad I was getting drugs because I couldn’t do it otherwise.” To be insulted and told I was once again failing at something at such a vulnerable moment had a real impact on me.

When the epidural was placed, they couldn’t get it right. They had to redo it several times. And then it failed. Twice. 

Before going to the hospital, my membranes had been swept leaving me feeling raw and in pain. This made cervical checks hell. My labor didn’t bother me much. Cervical checks did. I would lay writhing and screaming when they were done. And everyone’s unspoken consensus seemed to be that I was just overly dramatic. I was not. The membrane sweep made it more painful than my contractions.

I can’t even count how many times they were done, and most were done with no prior checking with me. I just recently read that is considered obstetric violence. That was incredibly validating. My birth looked so normal and mundane that I never really felt validated being traumatized.

I wish my story was brighter or more hopeful but at least if it’s anything, it’s real. Moms hide this stuff. They try to fit in to society’s very limited view on motherhood. But sometimes this is motherhood. It can be scary and isolating and lonely. And I hope my story at least helps other moms to not feel alone.

When I got pregnant, I put a lot of pressure on myself to give the baby the perfect childhood I didn’t have. My siblings and I were rarely touched or hugged.

So, when I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to cuddle my baby. I had a whole Pinterest board filled with 3,000 ways to hold and cuddle your baby (baby wearing! Skin to skin shirts!). Then the prenatal experience I described above happened. My Pinterest board got deserted in favor of all consuming obsessive, fearful thoughts. Motherhood turned dark and scary.

I was high off motherhood for about a week (I’ll contribute that to hormones). And then it went right back to how I was during pregnancy. Except now instead of being terrified to ingest anything or touch my stomach, I was terrified to be alone with the baby and terrified to hold her. Terrified that I was responsible for a tiny human.

I barely baby wore and had major anxiety when I did. I didn’t hold her half as much as I wanted to. I stopped breastfeeding. I barely left the house. I made obsessive lists of random, inane things (household cleaners that wouldn’t hurt the baby) and binge-watched tv, trying to keep my mind just occupied with anything so I could ignore intrusive thoughts.

It. Was. Hell.

Her first smile in my memory is marked with me feeling like she didn’t deserve me for a mom.

Lots of emotions fill me from postpartum-anger, sadness, and guilt. Guilt that I didn’t bond. Guilt that I didn’t cuddle enough. Guilt that I didn’t breastfeed. Guilt that my mood darkened the home. It’s honestly a lot to try and put in one post. So, for now I’ll just say, it took a really, really long time for the thoughts to start slowly fading.

I’d be lying if I said they were completely gone now. But they’re getting so much better, and I’m so much better than that dark point in my life.
There is hope. There is always hope. Reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help seeing the light.

 

Courtney's Story

I have suffered from anxiety and depression off and on since college. I had PPD after the birth of my daughter in 2016, but an anti-depressant did the trick. I was able to wean off of it within 8 months and was pregnant with my son by the time my daughter was 16 months old.

When my son was born in April 2018, I thought it would be much easier since I wasn't a new mom, but it wasn't. He was a much different baby than my daughter and I felt like a brand new mom all over again. My husband was in a new career as well so he only had a week off with us. Since I had PPD before, I knew at 2.5 weeks postpartum that what I was feeling wasn't just the baby blues. I saw my OB and he prescribed the same antidepressant I was on with my daughter. The problem is, the meds don't full kick in for weeks and I was a mess.

I became a zombie. I couldn't sleep at night because I was so full of anxiety thinking about when my son would wake up next. I couldn't nap during the day unless I had someone watch him. I couldn't sleep when he slept and I started feeling resentful that my whole world was turned upside down. I would just sit on the couch and cry. I wasn't eating either and dropped down below my pre-pregnancy weight really quickly.

When my son was 4 weeks old, I had my first full-on panic attack. He was sleeping in his infant car seat on the coffee table while I sat there staring at him, just waiting for him to wake up and was paralyzed by what I would do when he woke up. I called my mom to come over and help me and called my OB. He gave me some quick working meds for the anxiety and ordered me to sleep through the night over the weekend. My mom and husband took over baby duties for three nights. I slept and felt a bit rested, but was still in a deep depression, compounded by intense guilt for not caring for my son.

Just a few days later, the day after my 31st birthday, I sat on the couch sobbing and feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had no idea who I was. All I knew is that I wanted this feeling of hopelessness to end. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I wanted to die. My mom and husband agreed it was time to go to the hospital.

As I sat at the ER in a paper shirt and pants with everything bolted to the room and an attendant watching me from outside the room, I realized I hit rock bottom. I sobbed as I explained how I felt to a behavioral response counselor. My mom teared up when she heard me say the only reason I had not taken my own life was that I didn't want to leave my daughter without a mom. I didn't want to live and I could tell it broke my mom and husband's hearts and so the guilt piled on. After discussions with the doctors and consultations with my support system, I was released to leave with the stipulation that I would see a psychiatrist the next day and enroll in an intensive outpatient program. My mom and husband thought time in the hospital would make me feel more guilty for not seeing the kids. I wasn't allowed to administer my own medication, so my husband hid my pills and gave them to me each day. I felt like a child.

My first day of group therapy (an all women group) was hard. I never imagined I'd be in a situation like this before, but it was where I needed to be. For three days a week, three hours each group session, I was forced to work on myself and give myself grace, which is something I've never been good at. I saw a psychiatrist weekly as part of the program who monitored my meds. My mom and husband did most night feedings for several weeks, but group therapy helped me let go of the guilt, eventually.

I completed 160 hours of group therapy during my maternity leave and learned coping skills, how to ask for help and how to stop beating myself up for being human. I learned what my triggers were and what to do when I felt triggered. It took time and baby steps to start to feel like I wasn't a complete failure.I still see an individual therapist and my psychiatrist on a regular basis and have officially been off the benzodiazepine that I felt dependent on for months.

I'm a work in progress. I have healthy days and sometimes unhealthy days, but I try not to beat myself up when I do. I journal and try to allow myself to feel emotions instead of pushing them away and try to teach that to my kids as well. I no longer feel resentment towards my son and have the amazing connection with him that I desired so much when he was born. He is a mama's boy and I love it.

I share my story in hopes of helping others. It's ok to not be ok. I'm almost a year into PPD and I still have tough times, but I know I'm worth it and understand that to be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I have to take care of myself. My personal motto comes from the movie I watched hundreds of times on maternity leave, The Greatest Showman.

"I am brave. I am bruised. I am who I'm meant to be. This is me."


Ingrid's Story

Ingrid-R.png

I don’t even know where to start. Fuck. I have no idea who I am or how I got here. I’m sad, lonely, depressed and ashamed of all the other feelings I have. I also am 40 (in five months), have two kids under two and currently am a stay at home mom. My kids, their dad and I are living above a garage in a 550-square foot apartment. I also have the original baby - my dog here as well. Talk about ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag. This is not what I thought my life would be like.

Five years ago, I was a bad-ass bitch. I had a great job making great money. I had an apartment for me and my road dog Axl. I had a nice new pick-up truck that was fast as fuck. I had everything. I was freshly divorced from a ten-year marriage and loving my life. I casually dated here and there when I felt like it. Nothing too serious. I had what I wanted. Freedom. Self love. Great health and a few great friends I could depend on. Everything was fucking awesome.

I was dating a guy and it became pretty serious. We became exclusive. Neither of us had kids. We had talked about having kids but didn’t settle on a firm yes or know. We decided in January of 2015 I would go off the pill and let nature take its course. My famous last words were, “We know how to go to work every day, how to pay bills and how to live as adults. Why not have kids? It’ll be the scariest, craziest shit we’ve ever done.” He agreed. 

We talked about how we wanted to raise our children. Faith systems. Discipline. We really tried to talk about things we thought were important. Ha! I know, right?

So, then my period was late. August 31, 2015 at two am I took a pregnancy test and there were two little lines. Fuck! I smoked at the time and I went outside and had a cigarette. Fuck fuck fuck. What the fuck am I going do I thought? I know we said we’d see what happens but I NEVER thought I’d get pregnant. Married for ten years and never any birth control. No kids. Holy shitballs. I finished smoking (last cigarette I ever smoked) and woke up my boyfriend.

I said, “Hey I’m pregnant.” He said, “Jeez it’s about time” and we went back to bed. I felt mildly better

. We decided we didn’t want to raise our kids in the city we lived. Too big. Too hot. We wanted a slower pace with more opportunities for our baby to be a dirty little kid than our city had to offer (if that makes any sense). My parents had a very large piece of property with an apartment (no kitchen, just a bedroom bathroom and sitting room) over their shop we could live in until we got established and on our feet. That was the plan. Have the baby and move. Easy right?

My pregnancy was good overall. I barely got sick. I was tired AF all the time but it was whatever. I was still working 55+ hours a week. I’d knock out on the couch as soon as I got home. My doctor considered my pregnancy high risk because I was over 35. Everything went awesome.

I had my baby boy in April 2017. It was weird. I didn’t cry. I just kept saying, “This is so weird. So, so weird.” 

It was an adjustment when we got home—breastfeeding and he refused to latch to the left side. So, I pumped every day after feeding so they’d stay even sized. Yeah right! Lies! It was a shit show. I had no fucking idea what I was doing. What was going on. I had postpartum depression. My boyfriend had no idea and it didn’t help that I couldn’t explain what was wrong.

I went to my doctor and told her. She gave me a prescription. It was expensive and didn’t work. I stopped taking it shortly after I started. 

I officially quit my job in July 2017 and we moved in September. We opted for no birth control because we wanted another baby. Besides, I was breastfeeding and the chances of getting pregnant are slim to none, right?

WRONG. I got pregnant. Obviously. That was in November. I still had signs of PPD from my first pregnancy. I never lost the weight from my first pregnancy. I still felt like a piece of garbage. 

Again, pregnancy was okay for me. I couldn’t tell where Mom tired ended and pregnant tired began so it was whatever.

My boyfriend and I struggled with our decision to move and with everything really. I struggled with the move. I missed my friends. I missed my job. I missed everything. But we moved away for our kids so they could be safer. The sacrifice was made in the best interest of our children. 

We’ve been here almost a year and a half. I had my daughter in July 2017. Postpartum depression hit hard this time and I’m now taking something to combat the demons. What it doesn’t help me with is the overwhelming feeling I have every night that I’m doing this all wrong. That my kids are going to be messed up because some days aren’t the best.

The feelings of loneliness and disgust for what I’ve become are too great to hide completely. That I was dumb to have them so close together. That my daughter gets more attention than my son since she’s younger and breastfeeds and he hates me for it. That I’ve lost the bad-ass bitch. She’s gone and I have no idea who or what I am anymore.

So, I sit here on the floor playing blocks with my son and holding my daughter. Wishing for more. More of me to come back. More inner peace. More self-love and acceptance. More anything of me to come back or at least show up in the window and say, “Yo Ingrid, I’m right here. Come get me.”

I wish I could say I loved being home with my kids. I wish it was fun and fulfilling and I wish I wish I WISH it made me happy. But it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have the opportunity to do it but I’m over it. I miss work. I miss adult social interactions. I miss my old get up and go grab a coffee and have Thai food with my friends. I just miss me. I know there’s a new me with pieces of the old me somewhere. I just have to find them. And I will. Because I’m a bad motherfucker and I’ll get it right.

Nicole's Story

I have two beautiful boys, two and five years old. They are my absolute whole world, my pride and joy. My first was a very happy, easy going baby. We had no issues with breastfeeding and weaning him, eating, potty training, etc. Except, he never slept through the night until he was no longer nursing. He was such an easy baby and I felt very lucky.

My second on the other hand, while he was still a happy baby, I knew from the start he would be more difficult. He didn’t take a bottle or pacifier and his nighttime sleep for a few (long!) months were awful. He would wake every 0.5-1.5 hours and would not want to be put down.

I was exhausted and felt negative feelings I never felt with my first, which made me feel so guilty. There were times at night I felt I could cause harm to my son and not because I didn’t love him, but simply because I felt defeated.

I didn’t know what else to do to comfort my son and get him to sleep through the night. I longed for the day when things would get easier, when he would finally sleep for longer periods, when these awful feelings would go away.

While I never received professional help, I truly believe I was suffering from some form of PPD. I was very lucky to have a husband and family members who were always there to support and help in any way they could. Thankfully after a few months, things did get better. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever feel and think the things I did, but it does happen.

Dana's Story

Dana-WalkerB.jpg

My 3rd battle with PPD.

With tears in his eyes, my husband took our daughter from my arms and walked out of room 4101...leaving me in the Perinatal Pyschiatry Inpatient Unit at UNC. I remember saying, "If I asked you to take me home, would you?" He shook his head and said, "No." I knew I had to stay, but I felt alone, abandoned, ashamed, afraid...what kind of mother leaves her 9 day old baby? How could this possibly help me?

The night before I went to the hospital was my lowest point. I felt completely hopeless, everything seemed so dark. I felt like a robot...I ate when Jarrod told me to eat or when someone brought food. Honestly, everything from that week seems a little "fuzzy." I tried to act like everything was normal...that afternoon I took my sons to school to meet their teachers. We went to Staples to get some school supplies. I figured if I got back into a regular routine everything would be fine.

Nighttime was always hardest for me. I would try so hard to keep it all together during the day, but at night I couldn't keep pretending and would fall apart. I would hold Jarrod and cry for what seemed like hours. I felt so bad for him because all he could do was hold me and tell me it would be ok. Because I had been through this twice before, in my mind I knew it would be ok...but when you're going through a deep depression it seems like it will never end...it feels like it will NEVER get better. It is the darkest, most suffocating feeling that you can imagine. It wasn't rational and didn't make sense to me. I looked at Abby and was filled with so much love...how could I also be filled with overwhelming sadness at the same time?!

That Thursday night as Jarrod held me while I cried, he said, "I just want my wife back." He loves me so much that he was willing to do whatever it took to help me get better...even if it meant taking Abby and walking out of that hospital room.

Danielle's Story

I was 18 years old when I got hooked on pain killers. At 22, I decided I wanted to get my life together—that there had to be a better way to live.

I packed my bags and left my home in Brooklyn. I went to a treatment center in New Jersey and stayed for three months. When I got out, I moved to a sober living house and shortly after met my husband. Six months later we got an apartment together and were madly in love. I was nine months sober and was loving life. That’s when he proposed to me and we decided we wanted a baby.

We had a magical wedding when I was eight months pregnant. I was glowing. My pregnancy had gone smoothly and I was just ecstatic to be having a baby boy with the love of my life. My delivery also went smoothly. I was in labor for 12 hours and pushed for two. When I held my baby for the first time I couldn’t believe it, he was so little. And he was so perfect.

But I just didn’t “feel” right. They sent us home two days later., I was nursing my son constantly. My husband was back to work 12 plus hours a day, six days a week and I was alone with my newborn in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I was tired. I was scared. And I was lonely. It didn’t take long for me to recruit my mom to come help me.

I figured I had the “baby blues,” but quickly realized it was much worse. I was looking at my son and felt so many emotions. I was resentful. I was angry, sad, confused, and so scared. I started fights with my husband because I was angry he was getting to work and sleep and I was miserable. I was sad because my son deserved a better mommy. I was confused because I thought I’d love being a mother and I was just not loving it at all. I just wanted to run away and find a place that wasn’t so dark.

At three months postpartum, I decided to see a therapist because my life was falling apart. It seemed that he had no idea I had postpartum depression and neither did I. He said to just relax and push through, that soon my hormones would go back to normal and I’d be just fine. So I tried that. And it didn’t work.

I was constantly crying, yelling, even leaving my house alone to just go sit on the beach and cry and hate myself. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was hurting my husband, my mom and most importantly my innocent child. It wasn’t his fault I was a terrible mother. A few weeks later my husband gently asked me if I thought maybe I should talk to my OB-GYN. He read about postpartum depression and that might be what’s going on.

Usually I would’ve screamed at him and stormed out. But I knew he could be right. I hadn’t eaten in weeks, I couldn’t sleep and I was beginning to feel very suicidal. The intrusive thoughts were deepening. So I went to see my doctor. He told me this was totally normal and a true reality for a lot of women. I was so frustrated that no one had spoken to me about this sooner.

He put me on Paxil and I decided I wouldn’t kill my self for eight weeks, in hopes the medicine would work. But if not, I would end my sad existence. About four weeks later, I started feeling more like the old me that had been so lost.

I started to pick up my son just to hold him. Then I started taking walks to the beach with him. Then, I felt like I was on cloud nine. I was so in love with my baby boy. I cried happy tears. I fell in love all over again, with him and with my husband. I told my mom she could go home! This was huge. I stayed on the medicine for several months, then weened off when my son was about 18 months.

I love being his mommy and my marriage is stronger than ever. I just remember how dark that place was. I had all the people who loved me right there and I felt so alone and so defeated. I never imagined there would be a way out. If there’s one thing I’d like any struggling mother to hear, it’s that there IS a way out. You won’t be in the darkness forever, and you are NOT ALONE. You are not a lost soul! There is no shame in taking medication. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

I’m so grateful my husband convinced me to see my doctor. I truly believe in my heart that I wouldn’t be here had I not gone and asked for help. Here I am, almost six years sober and a wonderful mommy to a beautiful four-year old boy. #WeDoRecover



Chelsea's Story

My first pregnancy was magic. I think I had “the glow” or at least I felt like I did. Getting pregnant was easy, I experienced little physical discomfort initially, and I went into it with no fear, no judgement, and no reservations. Even better, my partner wholeheartedly supported me and was in awe of my confidence and fearless attitude. I read everything Ina May had to offer, watched the “Business of Being Born,” found a midwife, practiced yoga and pilates everyday, and began meditating. My mantra: Your body is meant to do this.

This period in my life was probably the best to date. I spent nearly all of those nine months nearly anxiety-free, which was significant for me. Since late childhood I had been riddled with anxiety and at its worst, it could be debilitating, though like any mental health disorder, my anxiety ebbed and flowed. Then I got pregnant. In the past my anxiety often manifested around issues of health and illness, so I thought the unfamiliar terrain of growing a person inside me would trigger it, but instead it eased my fears. My pregnancy temporarily lifted a weight off my shoulders. 

So, after nine nearly anxiety-free months, there I was, in the delivery room, happy as a clam--or as happy as you can be while in labor. My ten-pound son graced the Earth with his presence late one morning in May and for the next two days, cloistered in our room at the birthing center, the world was bliss. Even the hospital food tasted good. The morning of our discharge, I held our son and looked out the window onto the bay. The days prior to my son’s birth were dark and dreary and spring had not yet sprung. The weather that day, however, was sunny and beautiful.

And yet suddenly, I felt a heavy weight drape over me. 

Tears began streaming from my eyes. When my husband asked me what was wrong, I said, “There’s just so much bad that we won’t be able to protect him from. It’s so scary and I love him so much. I wasn’t expecting it to feel like this.” 

Our arrival home was anything but pleasant. Our dog was what I thought to be, too curious, about the baby and my first instinctual reaction as a mom kicked in. I immediately whisked myself and our son upstairs to our bedroom and stayed there for the next twenty-four hours. It was there, in our room, that I felt safe. Sitting on our bed, tears ran down my face. I felt fragile again. My husband comforted me by ordering take out and spending the rest of the evening in our room, with our precious boy nestled between us, watching The Newsroom

Honestly, the next two weeks were a blur, but what I do recall is telling myself, and possibly my husband, over and over that my varying moods were normal, a part of being a new mom, and that I had nothing to be sad or scared about. My son latched without trouble and he was an easy baby. While we were exhausted, pure joy filled me when I looked at this little being. Outside of this bubble however, I was a different person.

Two weeks after our son was born, my in-laws came to town and I was in really rough shape. I was angry, upset, and territorial. I hid away in our room every chance I got, saying that I needed to breastfeed or my son needed to nap. My husband was, rightly, upset about the way I was treating his parents but I didn’t care. I think I was screaming for help.

The next year and a half had its ups and downs. We were happy but something still wasn’t quite right in our home. Around five months after giving birth, I finally spoke to my midwives who referred me to a therapist specializing in women’s health and postpartum depression, which I was diagnosed with. I saw the therapist for a while and when I thought I was better, I ended treatment. It probably won’t surprise anyone when I say that I wasn’t better. Not in the least. 

The breaking point of my postpartum depression (PPD) came around a year and a half after giving birth, sometime in late October. That’s right, a year and a half after giving birth. The summer had been really stressful for our family. My son fell down a flight of wooden stairs unscathed, I came down with a bought of pneumonia that lasted a couple months, and my son was admitted to the hospital for three days for severe dehydration from an unknown virus. During this time, my health anxiety and depression were at an all time high. Notes that I wrote in a journal to myself were filled with hatred for my husband, for myself, and some of the darkest thoughts I’ve ever carried. The only thing that brought me solace was the thought “well at least I had no negative feelings toward my son.”

Finally, tired of surviving by sheer force of will, and with the nudging of my husband, I went back to see that first therapist. After two more months, she believed that I needed more than just talk therapy. According to her, my PPD was exacerbated when I gave birth and my childhood traumas percolated to the surface, making my experience even more excruciating. She recommended I see someone who specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

At 20 months postpartum, in January of 2018, I started EMDR. A methodology used first to treat veterans experiencing PTSD, EMDR is now used to address all sorts of trauma-related issues. My childhood trauma is a complex type of trauma. It is layered and some of my triggers are still existent. To say the least, EMDR is a tough therapy. You face your trauma head on. Buried memories resurface and you face those, too. It was hard and exhausting but it was worth the forty weeks therapy.

After four months of treatment, things really started to improve and I was able to commit to doing more for myself. By the summer of 2018, life was really good. My husband and I supported each other's career goals, began working on a better way to communicate and went on a lot family trips and vacations with friends.

Finally in August of 2018, I was done. Not just by my standard this time, but by my therapist’s, too. I had faced, overcome, and accepted all the trauma I had ever experienced. That deeply rooted sadness, the heavy cloak of anxiety, and the negative beliefs about myself were gone. I was not only healed from PPD but from lifelong anxiety. 

“You did the work,” my therapist would say, and I did. I’m not a perfect mother but I’m the mom I envisioned myself to be: selfless, unfettered by fear and anxiety, and accepting of my past without letting it define me.

Claire's Story

Claire.jpg

I suffer from PCOS and was told I would struggle to conceive. As a result, we started to try in my mid 20’s as we knew we could be in for a long journey.

Lots of tests and medication, but after nine months of Chlomid, we were told IVF was our only option. However, that month we got pregnant! I was sick throughout this pregnancy everyday, but somehow I did manage it and got lots of rest.

We were overwhelmed. We hoped the sickness was a good sign everything was going well with the pregnancy. It was tough. I tried everything and nothing worked. I had a healthy baby boy by emergency c-section in May, 2010. 

After having my son, I was full of joy. I couldn’t believe I’d made it through the pregnancy and I was so grateful and still am. We didn’t discuss another baby as this was something for the future we didn’t need to consider right now.

We didn’t use contraception because I didn’t have periods due to my PCOS, so I was in for a surprise shock when I found out I was pregnant 14 months later. I found out by that dreaded sickness feeling and I just knew it. 

This time it felt different. I had no energy. I couldn’t eat or drink. It just wouldn’t stay down. I slept for days. I had to move in with my mom because my husband worked away at the time and I just couldn’t take care of my son.

I had no energy to shower myself, get dressed, or socialize. I didn’t want to speak. I just didn’t have the energy. My poor son. I felt so guilty. I couldn’t even change his diaper or take him to play groups. I felt like I was letting him down so much.

This all became too much for me. I had gone from being such a loving, fun mom to a very depressed, low person. I was so anxious. I felt I couldn’t be alone at all. My mom had to work so she would drop my son and me off at another family member's home.

I was admitted to the hospital a few times and was given anti-nausea tablets.

I suffered prenatal depression, which I didn’t even know it was a thing. It was the worst thing I have ever experienced and the worst place I have ever been mentally. I never ever want to be back in that dark place again.

I remember the doctor asking me if I would take my own life. I answered that, “If I have to live like this forever and not be able to look after my own children, then yes.” I didn’t want to harm myself, but it was the anxiety and how low I felt. It was just so hard. I cried all the time and I didn't even know why.

I loved the kids. They were all I ever wanted. I was lucky to be pregnant again, but I just didn’t know how to cope. How would I handle my son being two and a newborn?

My c-section was booked and I gave birth to a beautiful boy. As soon as I held him, I fell in love and my prenatal depression went away. I can’t even explain it. 

After this pregnancy, I said never ever again could I go through that frightening experience. I have two healthy boys. I’m the luckiest mommy. 

Seven years later, surprise! I got pregnant again. I didn’t believe it, but after six tests, it was confirmed.

On the November 18, I suffered a miscarriage at 17 weeks. All the signs of a strong pregnancy were there. My scans were perfect. Why did this happen? 

I started to bleed a week before, like heavy bright red blood. I actually thought I was wetting myself. 

Saturday night came and I had period pain, so I took my painkillers and went to bed.  Two am came and the pain was unbearable and the bleeding hadn't stopped. We rushed to the hospital and never ever will I forget the bleeding. It was frightening and so painful.

The doctors finally gave me morphine.  I begged for something, just anything to stop the pain. They peeled my leggings and underwear from me and what I thought might have been the baby was actually a 200ml blood clot.

At 9:10am, I gave birth to our beautiful, sleeping baby. I couldn’t register what was happening as the doctor told me that I had suffered a miscarriage. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had been through so much hard work with a third round of hyperemesis.

I had the operation to remove whatever was left inside and luckily enough, I was discharged after four days in hospital. The hardest part was telling my children. I really didn’t know how to say. I felt I had brought this sadness into my family and watched their little hearts break. I was so sorry they felt this pain.

The baby was so beautiful at 17 weeks, but so small. Although the baby wasn’t alive, I still felt every inch of love. The same feelings as I did when meeting my two boys. It broke my heart leaving the hospital. I felt I was leaving baby all alone. 

I’m still on my journey by the support I have received from my family and friends is getting me by for now. I just wanted to list some of the comments and reactions I received that I just didn’t find relevant or useful through my hyperemesis and miscarriage journey. 

-Have you tried ginger? It definitely works when I have an upset tummy. 
-Drink plenty of water.
-She won’t eat or drink! It’s not I won’t. I can’t. 
-You must eat and drink. Otherwise you’ll have to go back to the hospital. 
-I suffered morning sickness. I just got on with it. 
-Is that what Kate Middleton had? 
-Staying in bed isn’t going to help.
-It will fly by--nine months and think of the baby.
-It wasn’t meant to be be. 
-Will you try for another? 
-Lots of people suffer miscarriages.
-You can’t be negative. It won’t get you anywhere. 

I could go on...

I would like to thank all the staff on ward 8 at the women’s hospital Birmingham who became like family after 4 months of moving in there almost and being on my journey. They genuinely all felt my pain the day I lost the baby. They all gave me support an comfort they really was amazing. 

If anyone would like to message me just to talk to someone who knows how it feels to suffer, please reach out. After everything I have been through, I want to help others.



Jamie's Story

By the time I was 31, I had lost my parents, including my stepdad. I lost my stepdad in 2007, my mom a month after my wedding in 2014, and my dad three months after our first child was born in 2017. I know I’m not alone in this, but it sure feels that way. 

These losses have become my identity and my hope is to try to use them for good. My mom was my best friend. I think with being an only child, the bond between a mother and daughter takes on a whole new meaning. She was the love of my life. My whole heart and soul. And she’s gone, which means that a huge piece of me is gone too and I know that I’ll never get it back. 

My grief journey has been confusing, frustrating and almost non-existent at times. Some days I think I’m still stuck in the denial phase, just pretending that they’re all on vacation together somewhere. It’s hard to grieve when you lose people so close to you, consecutively over the course of 10 years. 

What I can tell you is that these consecutive losses have created a woman I almost don’t recognize but have come to accept. The anxiety I experience on a daily basis has been the most drastic change in my life and this was only heightened when we had our first child. 

Nora came into the world in September of 2017 and in that moment, I knew why I was born. I also finally understood (as my mom always said) why she did the things she did. I’ve never felt more like my mom than when I became a mom myself. But, it also brought up tons of emotions for me because it seemed impossible that I would be able to manage being a mother without my own mom to help. 

In those first few months, I was so controlling about Nora. My dad lived five minutes away from us and so he was around to help out, but it wasn’t the same as having your mom, a woman, help. 

Looking back, I guess I’m not surprised that I ended up being diagnosed with postpartum depression. I think my brain and body were trying to trick me into thinking that I couldn’t do this without my mom and that I had made a huge mistake. Thankfully, I was self-aware enough to see that something wasn’t right, and I went see my doctor. 

I knew that I needed to take care of myself first to be able to take care of my daughter. After only a few months of meds, I started to feel somewhat back to my normal self. And just to be clear, my normal self is usually a woman with a million things on her to-do list, which just masks her true emotions of feeling lost without her parents. 

What’s funny is that I’m 32 years old, yet I still feel a yearning to have my parents here and  I haven’t felt like a daughter in a long time. People have a lot of identities – child, sister, wife, friend, etc. Being a daughter seemed to slip away once my mom left this earth and again when we lost my dad. 

Now, I feel that my whole purpose and identity is to be the absolute best mom possible, although I know I’m more than just a mom and I’m trying to figure out those other identities as I go along. 

Back to the anxiety – it controls my life and takes over my daily thoughts in a way that can be completely crippling. Because I’ve experienced so much loss in my life, I am convinced on a daily basis that something bad is going to happen to me, my child or my husband. This has created tremendous control issues for me. 

Having control makes me feel and seem strong. It also makes me feel like my mom. My experiences have shaped me and made me view life in a whole new light. I try to consistently be intentional and mindful about life and what I’m grateful for because even though I’ve seen a lot of loss, I do know that there are a lot of things I do have. 

I’m constantly trying to figure out how to really hold on to what I have now, in this moment, as opposed to fearing what will happen in the future. I hope this gives other mamas some hope and faith in how strong we really are as women. Loss is heavy and can bring us down hard, but if you can channel it into something that will lift others up, it can take on a whole new meaning in your life and the lives of others. And I’d like to imagine that nothing would make our loved ones prouder.

Jennifer's Story

Jennifer-copy.jpg

Without a doubt, motherhood is both the most exciting and terrifying experience that I have ever had. It's something new every single day. To be honest, reading about it when I was pregnant never really helped me. It only scared me more. When I had learned I was pregnant with Syrus, I was flat-out petrified, scared that I would somehow inadvertently ruin this little person's life. I thought that I had to make certain that I did everything perfectly, or else my son would somehow end up scarred for life from something I did.

Looking back, that also could've been my OCD at play. Take a mental illness and mix it with some pregnancy hormones, and not being on any medication at the time? That's one recipe that was a hell of a treat! But I digress. All I could think about, even after he was born, was that I would never be able to give him everything he needed in life. It broke my heart to think about that. I ended up becoming severely depressed due to postpartum depression, and I even attempted suicide, believing that my child would be better off without me, that my husband would find someone else, and Syrus would have a mom who could truly give him everything he needed, and take care of him the way he needed to be.

Luckily, I didn't succeed. At the last second, I got scared and told my mother what I had done. She told my husband, I ended up at the emergency room and was put into the behavioral health ward for the next two weeks, trying to find a combination of medicines that would work for me. I was eventually released into the care of my husband. DYFS became involved. I thought I reallyhad ruined my child's life and that they were there to take him away from me. I was certain that they would find me an unfit mother.

But, they closed the case. Within days of my release, they closed the case, on the condition that I attend intensive therapy and that my husband and I take parenting classes in order to learn from other parents our age. The classes went by and we did learn a lot from them, especially how to handle our own emotions when things feel like they're getting to be too much. But it wasn't the classes that woke me up. It was the therapy. For four and a half weeks, I attended an intensive therapy program, from 9AM until 3PM, every weekday. There were group sessions, therapeutic activities, and individual sessions with our respective caseworkers.

Each day, I would learn a little bit more about myself. But the incredible thing was, I didn't learn it through some deep transcendental meditation or introspection. I learned more about myself through the others in that group. I learned that I wasn't alone in what I was feeling. There were other mothers there that were my age, and they were just as scared as I was. Older parents, too. They had felt the same way I had when their kids were first born.

To be honest, I had always been scared of passing on my OCD to my son. It's not the typical forms of OCD that you hear about, like hoarding, or over-excessive cleanliness. I was diagnosed with Purely Obsessional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The short version of it is that I have these intrusive thoughts, that I have no control over, replaying over and over within my mind. These days, I have it under control pretty well with medications. But it was some scary stuff back then. If Syrus ever had any of these problems that I have? Well, I felt like I would never forgive myself, that it would somehow be my fault. What if he found out about my condition? What if he found out about the thoughts? I felt like I would die if that happened.

It took a good four years for me to be where I am today. Am I totally over-the-moon-blissfully-ecstatic happy? No, of course not. But I think that at this point in my life, there is a really good balance of good days, with the exception of the occasional bad day. But I need those bad days in order to reflect on how good it is, and how much better it is getting. Those bad days are important.

As far as parenting goes, I've learned to look at it as a learning experience, one that is ongoing and never-ending. Even after our kids have long grown up, we're always going to be learning something new about them. It's an experience that I now cherish. I look at each day with a new found hope and a renewed sense of joy for another day to see the smile on Syrus's face. To hear his sweet giggles when I tickle him, to embrace him when he wraps his tiny arms around my waist. I know that one day, he will learn about my mental illness diagnosis, and I'm not so scared of it anymore. In fact, there are things that I want to tell him, things that I want him to know, especially if he were to ever receive a mental illness diagnosis himself. I'm sharing them below:

Mental Illness Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of:

Even in this day and age, this can be incredibly hard for a mental illness patient to accept. In many areas, there is still a large stigma that surrounds mental illness, because so many people do not take the time to understand them. When people do not understand, they judge. But having a mental illness does not make you any less of a person, any less deserving of help, any less deserving of happiness and a good life. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It is just like any physical illness. Do not let the opinions of others drag you down. You know who you are, own that, work that, be that. You're a beautiful human being, with an incredibly loving soul. Don't let your illnesses outweigh the amount of beauty that you hold within your heart.

Please Ask For Help:

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. It is an incredibly brave thing to do. By asking for help, you are taking the first step in your recovery. Your family and friends love you very much and want to help you get better as soon as possible. Ask them for help, talk to them about how you feel. Don't be ashamed. 

You're No Different:

Close your eyes for a moment, and entertain this thought; imagine if you were to be lined up with nine other people who aren't living with a mental illness that you know of. Now, take a look around the room. Do these people look any different from you? Can you know anything of them just by looking at them? Are you able to see their suffering? Do they look sick to you? No. You are no different than any of these people. Do not ever let anyone make you feel as though you are any less of a person because you are living with a mental illness. You are amazing, unique and beautiful in your own way, just like every other person here on this great and grand planet.

You Deserve Happiness:

Don't ever give in to the notion that you are less of a person because of your illness. We aren't the illnesses we live with, they do not define who we are as a whole. There are so many unique parts of our individual personalities that make us who we are, and while yes, you may live with a mental illness, it's such a small part of who you are in relation to our entire being. What do you enjoy? Make time for yourself to do it each day. Come to love yourself. Know that you deserve love and happiness. Be proactive in keeping yourself healthy. Give yourself a break when you need it, and never push yourself past your breaking point. Smile often and love without limits.

Practice Self-Care: 

Always take care of yourself, first and foremost. In your life, you need to be the most important person. Never put yourself on the "back burner," so to speak. If you need five minutes to take a breather, you take it. If you need a personal day to get yourself back together and gather your thoughts, you do it. Do not ignore your body's signals. Do what makes you happy, enjoy the little things in life. Never deny yourself a chance at happiness. Every day that you wake up and step out of bed, no matter how much you don't want to, you are making great strides in your recovery. No step is too small when it comes to the path you're taking on the road to wellness. 

Be yourself. Don't ever try to hide who you are from the world. You deserve love, laughter, happiness, and more. Pursue your dreams, chase them with fervor. Never hold onto anger and rage. Practice forgiveness and accept friendships. Treat others how you want to be treated. Give love freely, spread it far and wide. 

And finally, laugh as much as you can because the world is far too solemn a place already.

Abgail's Story

Abigail.jpg

The day I found out I was pregnant with my fourth baby was probably the most stressful day I’ve ever experienced. I had to break the news to my husband.

Our fourth was unexpected. I was on birth control. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy emotionally. There was no joy like I had experienced with my first two. At the same time, this wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling because my third pregnancy wasn’t joyous either.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was sixteen, so it was no stranger to me and pregnancy only intensified it. My husband didn’t understand as he’s never really experienced depression in its all consuming nature. It’s a nasty sob!

On January 18, 2017, my darling little Brielle was brought into this world. I had extreme blood loss and was in bad shape.

Those next days in the hospital were scary. My mind was out of control. With each child, I could remember the day we went home. The overwhelming sense of fear that settles in on your drive home.

Those next weeks were consumed by fear and tears. I was so consumed with worry that there was something wrong with my baby because she didn’t look like any of my other babies had. I cried a greater part of the day.

My husband couldn’t understand why I thought one more child was going to be so hard. It seemed like I had the most difficult task ahead of me and I was less than qualified to handle it.

My anxiety was crippling. Driving my children to school and having to call my sister in law to calm me down and get me through my morning. No one could help me.

I was alone and at the same time surrounded by people. I knew there was so much to be thankful for but all I wanted to do was run away.

I increased my antidepressants because my kids deserved a mother who was well and I was going to be that for them. Slowly, joy filled my heart and the heavy emotional weight of fear and worry lifted. My sweet Brielle has been the greatest joy of our life.

She has completed our family, my heart. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I rely on antidepressants to keep my mental health in check. Motherhood is a lonely place sometimes and all we can do for each other is be there to walk this lonely journey.

Charlene's Story

Nothing could have prepared me for the days, weeks, and months that followed the birth of my son. Nothing. One minute I would laugh at the strange noises my little man was making. The next minute the tears would start. The “baby blues” are common, but what I was experiencing was something a bit more. I say that sleep deprivation was my biggest symptom of postpartum depression, but looking back it was the distance that grew between the world and me.

Everything seemed so hard. I wanted to breastfeed, but I felt like I was drowning every time I tried to feed my baby. I wanted to hold him close, but I wanted space. I wanted to feel an inseparable bond with my baby but “mommy” didn’t feel like a role that I fit in. I tried hard to do “mommy” things, not wanting to fail. I was so scared my son would think I did not love him. I overcompensated by kissing him more, hugging him tighter, singing to him, and rocking him. The harder I tried though, the further I was slipping away.

From day one in the hospital I was overwhelmed. I thought I had prepared myself for the birth of my son, but nothing can truly prepare your heart, mind, and body for this life-changing event. I was in labor for 19 hours ending with an emergency C-section. I was exhausted. I remember asking the doctor before surgery, “Are you sure my body can handle this?? Are you sure I will make it out alive?!?” Looking back now, I can see that my downhill spiral started before I even met my son for the first time. I was in a state of exhaustion, panic, and uncertainty.

My C-section incision opened up on day 11 postpartum. At this point, I remember asking my husband to promise me he would take care of my son if I died, and I was serious. I thought my time was coming to an end. Even when the doctors assured me I was ok and would heal, I didn’t believe them. I thought I would never get better. I didn’t really feel sad, I felt empty. I felt so disconnected with everything, like I was watching the world from afar.

Satan will try, and try again to steal your joy and he was having a feast with me. I developed severe insomnia. I did not sleep for more than 2 hours a night for 2 weeks straight. I did not know at the time, sleep disturbances are often one of the first symptoms of postpartum depression. The deeper the exhaustion became, the more broken I felt. My weariness left me feeling like I was failing at being a mom. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew my son needed me. Finally the protective instinct a mother has for her child led me to seek help. I needed to be the best version of myself for him and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.

Determined to get the help I needed, I found a psychiatrist that diagnosed me with postpartum depression. Part of me wanted to deny it, and part of me wanted to jump with joy that someone recognized it. I had seen so many doctors that just wanted to prescribe sleeping pills and tell me I was fine. It was refreshing to have someone clinically explain to me what I was experiencing.

We dealt with the insomnia first. Medicine helped calm my thoughts and allowed me to sleep. Reluctant to take the medicine, desperate for sleep, I struggled if this was the right choice. I needed sleep so desperately that I took the medicine. I slept. It was the right decision. Next, was addressing the underlying issue, the depression. Zoloft. I cringed when I heard the doctor tell me he would prescribe an anti-depressant. So many questions, emotions, and thoughts ran through my head during the two-week struggle I had over whether or not to take the medicine. I prayed for the Lord’s direction and guidance. I finally took the medicine. It helped, and it allowed me to become the mom I was meant to be.

Above all, I prayed and then prayed some more. On my knees, every night I prayed to God to help me feel the joy I was so expecting to feel. I prayed to God to listen to me, to hear me.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. He showed me He never left my side, even when I felt like He had deserted me. My Jesus, my savior, gave me strength when I had none. I was broken, and He molded me back together. He brought me through the muddy waters, lifted the cloud that had so deeply settled, and allowed the sun to shine. He brought me to my knees to make me better. I will NEVER say I am grateful for my postpartum depression journey, but I am forever thankful for my Jesus who helped me eventually feel the insurmountable joy every mother deserves to feel.

I write this post with the hope that if you are reading this and feel anything like what I have described, please get the help you so deserve. Postpartum depression tries to steal your joy but the Lord our God is stronger than all and with His help YOU win!

Adina's Story

Adina.jpg

I had a strong pregnancy. I planned for my home birth with my midwife and my partner. We took hypnobirthing classes and I took so many vitamins. I glowed, I gained weight, and I was excited for the birth. Birthing was going to be my shining moment. Until it wasn't. 

My membranes broke when I went into labor. 24 hours later my midwife advised me it was time to go to the hospital. I was upset but still confident that I'd have a natural labor. 60 hours after my water broke, following so many milligrams of pitocin, an epidural, and three hours of pushing; my son was born via C-section. 

This was heartbreaking for me. I was exhausted and angry at my body. But breastfeeding would be my light at the end of the tunnel. Until my milk wasn't transitioning in and the nurses at the hospital played into my anxiety by informing me of every ounce my son lost. Until I had to supplement for a couple of days with formula, which disgusted me. My body was still failing. 

Eventually my milk came in, and my son's ability to latch along with an SNS saved our breastfeeding relationship. But it was too late to avoid the depression that I sank into. I felt like a failure and I was so overwhelmed. I would cry in the middle of the night while he nursed and my partner slept soundly. I would cry during the day when everyone was at work. And when I went back to work too soon, I would cry on the way there and back. 

I couldn't find anyone to listen without telling me their opinion. I heard so many times that my son needed a happy mother. I never once heard that my love was enough, and that my sadness was okay. I was so in love with my baby, but I hated myself so much and that made the postpartum depression worse. 

One day my best friend sent me a picture on Instagram of a mom breastfeeding a toddler on the beach. I clicked on the picture and then on the #breastfedbaby. My world changed. My world had become so small and isolated after my son was born, and now it had the ability to grow again. I found a community of like-minded moms through these Instagram accounts and hashtags. It was a turning point. Every nap time, I'd pour through the pictures and quotes and comments. I felt the ache lessening slowly. 

I did find some local mom friends who are in the same stage as me. But in those few months where I could barely get dressed, let alone socialize, Instagram became my mom community.

My son is 9 months old now. I am stronger knowing that my depression is okay. I am allowed to not be okay. I am in a better place mentally than I was. Some days I feel dark and some days I hate myself. But some days I feel joy and some days I remind myself that I didn't fail. The growth of my son and our breastfeeding relationship helps a lot. 

I wish I had sought professional help for my postpartum depression and I urge other moms to. I was sad, angry, and anxious; therapy could have helped sooner. But just as I realized I was not alone, no mom is alone. Because there is a whole community out there for her that has been through their own postpartum journey. If we support each other and hold each other up, we can guide each other through postpartum.