Brittney's Story

When I sit down to write this and look back on the past year, I am in disbelief. I have severe postpartum anxiety as well as postpartum depression.

I looked in the mirror on March 10, put on my makeup, and did my hair to put on a brave face for my son’s seventh birthday adventure. We planned a family day followed by an ice cream cake and presents. I went on Instagram and saw my husband’s post for our seven-year old’s birthday. I knew at that moment my husband gave up on me. He gave up on our marriage. 

He wrote the words, “No matter what, I will love you.” I started to cry even though I didn’t have time. I needed to go get my youngest ready for the outing. Throughout the entire day, the elephant was in the room. I knew I needed to put a smile on for the kids when on the inside I was praying that what I read was a bad dream. 

That evening my life was changed forever. Needless to say, the next morning I made an appointment to get some help. My husband of seven years no longer loved me and wanted the kids and me to leave. 

I sat in the doctor’s office which felt like forever. I sat there and the whole time I was thinking, “Be strong. Don’t cry.” But, when the doctor came in, I broke down. She brought in a therapist and I spilled every emotion I felt for the past two years. 

I confessed that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed as my husband because I would not hear the baby. The baby always had to be clean because If she got sick, I was to blame. I confessed I didn’t care where or what my husband was doing because my kids replaced him. I confessed no one could love my kids like I could. I confessed I put on a happy face every day, only to fall asleep praying I would be healed in the morning. 

Three hours later I left with all my mascara washed away, green eyes (they lighten when I cry), and a large brown bag with medications to help me get through the next few weeks. 

I currently sit 1500 miles away from my husband. We are legally separated. My family took us in, no questions asked. I take my Paxil and on the harder days, my Klonopin. I see a therapist once a week. My oldest loves his new school and my youngest started preschool. 

There is hope. I can do this. I am strong for myself and I want my kids to know you can always get help. It’s been a very long time, but I have hope, I have a mission. I wake up and don’t fake it.

Alex's Story

How A Severe Panic Attack Changed My Outlook On Motherhood and Marriage 

On a Sunday afternoon in April 2018, I sat on my couch, hungover from a date night out with my husband. I didn’t have the energy to play with our 10-month-old daughter, and I was overwhelmed by guilt. My head pounded. I gently felt the protruding egg on my forehead, still confused as to how I got the injury. Where did I fall? I can’t remember. This is bad.

My husband played on the floor with our daughter as I forced myself to eat a slice of pizza, attempting to quell the nausea I felt.

I am a terrible mother. I shouldn’t go out and drink like that, what is wrong with me?

As I tried taking another bite, something felt off. I set it down, staring at the floor, my hands shaking. My tongue felt like it was swelling up in my mouth. My throat tightened. I could hear my heart pound erratically in my chest.

I looked at my husband. “Something is wrong,” I said, clutching my abdomen.

Tears welled up in my eyes. “My stomach feels tight. I can’t breathe.”

This wasn’t anything new. After our daughter was born, I began experiencing mild panic attacks for the first time in my life. My husband had always talked me through them, so he began repeating the same mantra he had used so many times before, “Take a deep breath. Look at me. It’s okay.”

But this time it wasn’t okay.

As my rapid breathing intensified, I felt my lips tingle, and my face went numb. My fingers curled up into what looked like stiff claws, unable to move. Nothing could move. My husband tried to help me up, and I fell to the floor.

My entire body had become paralyzed.

My husband frantically grabbed his cell phone and dialed 911. “Something is wrong with my wife. I don’t know what’s happening. She can’t move or talk,” he said through tears. His voice shook. As a way to ease my anxiety, he had always told me not to panic about anything unless he panicked. And he was panicking.

Not long after, an EMT appeared over me, checking my blood pressure. “You need to breathe. Take a deep breath,” he said.

No kidding, what do you think I’m trying to do?

I looked over at my baby girl. She stared back with widened, confused eyes. Unsure and petrified of what was happening to me, I began to cry harder.

Is this the last time I’m ever going to see her?

Unable to walk, my hands still clenched into tight, mangled fists against my chest, they carried me down the steps of our house. They placed me into the back of the ambulance while my husband stood in the street with our daughter, telling me everything was going to be okay. The doors shut and I was frozen, both physically and emotionally with fear.

When we arrived at the ER, they explained that what I had experienced was a severe panic attack. I slowly began to regain feeling in my hands and legs, and I was thirsty. So thirsty. They gave me a cup of water, left the room, and I was alone. So alone.

With my mother at home with our daughter, my husband and father showed up not long after. I could see the relief on both of their faces after finding out I was okay. I was okay. I just needed help for something I should’ve gotten help for a long time ago.

The very next day, I talked to my doctor. I explained to him what happened and my concern, and he replied, “I understand. Panic attacks that severe are no joke. You really feel like you’re going to die.” I nodded. He was right.  

He prescribed me anxiety medication, which, up until that point, I swore I’d never take. It was time to stop fighting it. Time to stop suppressing my problems. It was time to admit that I couldn’t handle this alone. In no way did that make me a bad mother. It made me an even better mother.

I began seeing my doctor regularly. I learned that arguments with my husband, drinking, and worrying about my daughter were all triggers for my panic attacks. While everyone is different, figuring out what triggers your attacks is a key step in moving forward.

As odd as it sounds, the terrifying panic attack I suffered ended up being the best thing that could’ve happened to my well-being. I had finally gotten help. It motivated me to be the best mother I could be, and to ensure I never put my family through something like that again. I began exercising, cutting down on alcohol, and listening to meditations every night before bed. I stopped being so hard on myself. I felt at ease. I felt liberated. I had a brand-new outlook on life and motherhood.

The experience also sparked new life into my marriage. My husband and I had gotten into so many arguments, usually caused by my “worrying about ridiculous things.” He began to understand how anxiety affects the brain, and how my thought process was completely different from his. We talked at length about how it affected both of us, and how to communicate moving forward. He practiced more patience, and I practiced ways to ease my mind before pouring out every single worry that consumed my brain.  

If you’ve ever felt alone in your postpartum anxiety, please remember, you’re not. Motherhood, as amazing and rewarding as it can be, is tough. So tough. As a mother, you feel as though you’re supposed to be able to handle it all with grace—the stress, the long days, the sleepless nights, the worry—and it’s impossible sometimes.

Speak up to your family and friends. Speak up to your doctor. Speak up to yourself. It’s not embarrassing or weak to ask for help. Trust me—you don’t want to realize you should’ve done something sooner while sitting in the back of an ambulance.

You’re a mother. You’re strong. And admitting when you need help will only make you stronger.

Barbra's Story

Scarred: An Open Letter from a New Mom  

He stood there, stoic as ever, as my tears crept into the conversation. In his eyes, at least, I was a relatively low maintenance pregnant patient. But, this was the one outcome I had communicated wanting to avoid at all costs. The phrases “measuring large,” “shoulder dystocia,” and “narrow pelvis” knocked around my brain like a bad game of ping pong. A game I didn’t sign up to play. Was I really prepared to put my baby in danger for the sake of the experience? As easy as the decision should have been, it simply wasn’t. After what felt like thirty minutes, but was probably only two, my husband and I went to schedule our C-section.

After nine months of research, numerous classes, and an abundance of well-meaning advice on natural labor and delivery, we had one week to get used to the idea of the surgery. As if to shield us from what we could discover about the recovery period, my water broke early, with contractions coming fast. Was this a sign? Maybe I could do this naturally. 

Within ten minutes of arriving at the hospital, those dreaded phrases pervaded our ears again—”measuring large,” “shoulder dystocia,” “narrow pelvis.” All medical professionals involved were once again advising the C-section. It was scheduled to take place in thirty minutes.

Growing up, I had romanticized this moment more times than I can count. As an adult with strong feminist beliefs, I’m still not ashamed to admit that having the opportunity to become a mother was always a number one goal and desire of mine. To say this birth experience was far from what I imagined is an understatement. While I know I would have been in awe of the less-than-glamorous, raw realness of a natural birth, what came next veered so far from any coveted expectation I had in mind.

I’ll spare the play-by-play, but from the clinical, colorless operating room to the medication that made me feel listless to an unexpected blood transfusion, I truly hated everything about this experience. I feel such guilt even admitting that because the process resulted in the birth of my beautiful, healthy son, and I know just how lucky I am to say that. But, due to the circumstances, I don’t even remember holding him for the first time. 

I felt robbed. There was no skin-to-skin, no overwhelming, magical moment of joy as they pulled him out of me. My husband will disagree. He experienced all of those feelings. He was the first one they called over to meet him. He was the first one to hold him. He was the first one to kiss him. Of course, there was a part of me that was thrilled he had the opportunity to relish in those moments of firsts. But, there was also a realistic part of me that was envious as I lay naked, strapped down to a table, in what felt like a very literal surrender of what would be my life’s most precious moment.

The next few days spent in the hospital were a complete blur. I knew we had visitors. I knew my son was being taken care of. I knew I had a list of tasks to complete, schedule the first pediatrician appointment, call the insurance company to sign him up, schedule flights for an upcoming trip with his date of birth. I was more concerned about my to-do list than anything else. I could control my to-do list. I knew I was supposed to be tracking any passed gas. I knew I was supposed to be breastfeeding. But, I had no milk. I knew I felt worse than I should have. I knew something was wrong. 

What I didn’t know was that I was completely unprepared for C-section recovery. I had only known a handful of women who had the surgery, but never once heard them describe the pains of the process. Only the joys—the birth of their children. And, that’s fair. Why would they voluntarily recount how challenging those first few weeks were? It all becomes about what the pain resulted in. But, because of that, and in conjunction with my out of control hormones, I felt…crazy. 

Why was I in so much pain? Am I weaker than all of these other women? How did they make it through this? Why is this so difficult for me? It didn’t help that none of the family members visiting had ever undergone a C-section themselves. Their concern and inadvertent judgement was plastered all over their faces. Phrases like “postpartum depression,” “belabored recovery,” and “not bonding with baby” were tossed around irresponsibly. Now I felt crazy, angry, and defensive.

I remember crying while my mom held me up in the shower and washed me. I remember hating hearing my husband referred to as “super-dad” because he was solely caring for our son while I recovered. I remember wondering if my son even needed me. I remember looking down at my unrecognizable stomach and my scar, thinking I was the ugliest person. I remember convincing myself the chronic pain in my neck, the inability to move, the constipation, the trapped gas, and the insomnia would last for the rest of my life. I remember second guessing if I was ever meant to be a mother.

What I came to understand from other women is that the first two weeks of C-section recovery are the hardest. It takes a full six weeks to feel like a functioning person again, but once you make it past those first two weeks, you can do things like hold your baby because your abs will finally allow it, get out of bed swiftly to answer your baby’s cry because you can finally lift your legs to move them to the side, and change your baby’s diaper because you can finally stand for that long.

I wish I had known this earlier. I wish I had known that as dire as it seemed, my body would heal, and the first time I would be able to properly care for my son, I would never look back. I wish my family would have known that there are few things worse than making a new mom feel inadequate, as unintended as it was. It’s natural to worry, to be concerned, but I should have never known that they were. I wish I had known that I would bond with my baby in so many ways other than breastfeeding. I wish I had known that my little boy and I would soon fall so madly in love that it would feel as if we shared a heart. 

New moms are at once the strongest people you will ever meet and the weakest. They are at once warriors and defeated soldiers. They are not machines. Their state of being is fragile and precarious as they internalize and try to make sense of what their body just accomplished – all with the pressure and intensity of caring for a newborn. And, after that initial moment in time passes, they will pack up their birth stories, whether they were traumatic, magical, or anywhere in between, and carry them along for the rest of their lives. 

My story is far from traumatic or magical. But, it’s one I’ve worked hard to make peace with and claim as my own. And, as I lie awake in the middle of the night in my son’s nursery, watching, for the 77th night, the gentle rhythm of his tummy rise and fall, it’s one I can finally feel proud of.

Kate's Story

Trigger Warning: Postpartum psychosis and thoughts of suicide

Me: “I’ve shaken my baby!”

I hadn’t. I was psychotic, having delusions and was crying for help. As a doctor, I knew I was ill but as a mother, I wanted to protect my baby. 

What followed was a horrific series of events involving paramedics, police, social services and A&E. At the time, I believed people, even my then husband, were trying to kill me and other times I was rational, knowing I was ill and dealing with the consequences of my self-allegation. I was admitted to a psychiatric ward and my baby and I were separated, something I deeply regret. I had been exclusively breastfeeding and had to hand express my breast milk into a sink on the ward. I slept with medication and was discharged. 

An initial CT scan of my baby’s brain showed a possible injury. Social services told my family and me to get legal representation and I was not allowed to be with my daughter alone. An MRI disproved the first scan. No apology, we were still under social services and a family member had to be with me at all times for a number of weeks. I understand why social services acted as they did from a professional point of view, but the effect on my mental health was catastrophic. 

I recovered, desperate to get back to normal life but suffered another psychotic episode where I was admitted to the hospital again for a number of weeks. I was many miles from my family and again separated from my baby. I suffered crippling depression, at times wanting to end my own life thinking of hanging myself in the shower or putting my head in our gas fire. 

As far as I was concerned, my professional life was over. I referred myself to the General Medical Council and thought about handing in my notice but was talked out of it by my ever-supportive GP trainer. 

My baby is now almost five and I have clawed my way back to my life and confidence. I work as a GP for part of the week and am looking at doing other work supporting mothers who are suffering or recovering from postnatal mental illness. 

 My recovery has been slow with setbacks, but I have a renewed sense of appreciation for life, my child, my family and friends, and my career. A number of agencies and professionals have been crucial in my recovery- private counselling, the mighty NHS, the Samaritans, and Action on Postpartum Psychosis to name a few.

I am starting to share my story as it feels important. Important to reach out to others that might be suffering. Important to let them know they will get better no matter how hard it is. 

This illness was particularly difficult for my husband and our marriage broke down. Care-givers need more support and people in general need more education about the nature of maternal mental health illnesses. 

I also want to share my story with other health professionals to let them know anyone can be affected, even doctors. We need to look after each other and strive for the best care for families in the vulnerable perinatal period. 

Since I was ill, new mother and baby units have opened and thanks to documentaries such as Louis Theroux: Mothers on the Edge, awareness is increasing, but there is still work to be done, particularly around stigma and barriers to seeking help. 

Adrian's Story

Oh man where do I begin. It’s now been five months and I still can’t get over how my labor and delivery went. I truly believe that played a big role in how I feel now. So to start off, I am a military spouse. My husband was currently at sea when our 8.6 pound baby boy decided to come at 37 weeks.

I was in denial that I was going into labor and sad because my husband didn’t know what was going on. Mind you, he was still out at sea with no phone connection. I started having contractions Wednesday night all through Friday morning when I had him. Rewind to them admitting me, my contractions were back to back, the pain was like no other, and my husband was missing everything, including my new mommy emotions.

His family thought it was okay to stay over night in my room while I’m sitting there crying and begging for my husband. Around seven centimeters, I decided to get an epidural. Of course ladies, our privacy is thrown out the window. His sisters stood in the room while my legs were spread in the air and made sure to look down there every time the doctor would check. I was furious but I honestly had no energy to say anything because I was already on an oxygen mask due to my baby’s heart dropping.

So now it’s time to deliver. I had my son without my husband and everyone came and left, which I was so happy about because I needed my alone time. Then, five pm rolls around and I’m learning how to breastfeed and all the new mommy things they teach us when his WHOLE entire family comes in my room while I’m topless and learning how to feed my baby. I covered up quickly and still I didn’t say anything.

During this time I am waiting for my husband to finally come meet his son. Now it’s 10 pm and my husband finally arrives, but his family is still there. I wanted him to meet our son by himself but that didn’t happen. I know what I signed up for when, “I married into the military,” but being pregnant and not having your husband for the entire thing was truly hard.

My bond with my son became stronger because I knew I had a piece of my husband with me. My son was born in December 2018 and it is now June 2019 and I still feel hate, anger, disappointment, literally every word you can think of towards his family. I get anxiety when his family asks if they can see my baby. I get anxiety when people hold him. I cry if his family suggests, “Oh just leave him here with us.” I truly feel like I have postpartum PTSD and postpartum anxiety. My big question is, “How can I overcome this?” I feel like I’m not ready to let this go, but I know I do need to be the bigger person, but is being the bigger person worth losing my sanity?

Karen's Story

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at ten weeks. I felt broken for a long time after that. I didn’t know how to grieve a baby that I never got to hold. 

My first son was born a year later. He didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time for his first six months of life. I felt crazy. I couldn’t stop crying, and the guilt was suffocating. How dare I feel so awful after I lost my first baby? I had what I wanted now. I wasn’t allowed to be depressed. I kept quiet, and eventually my hormones regulated and the depression started to melt away around eight/ nine months postpartum.

My second son was born nearly three years after that. He was a much better sleeper, but the depression still hit, hard and fast. My depressive thoughts told me constantly that I couldn’t do it, any of it. I’d have moments where I’d lie awake at night with tears streaming down my face. It felt like the thoughts were holding me captive.

Then they turned into suicidal thoughts. I’d imagine driving off a cliff, taking a bunch of pills, or putting a razor blade to my wrist. One night after my baby and toddler had finally gone to sleep, I sat outside their bedrooms, sobbing. The suicidal thoughts crept back in and they calmed me. 

That scared me senseless. I forced myself to get up off the floor. My whole body shook as I walked into the kitchen, and it took all the courage I possessed to tell my husband what had just happened in my head. He held me while I cried and then helped me make a plan to get better.

Rachel's Story

My PPD story begins in 2011 after the birth of my first baby. At 41 weeks pregnant and under the care of a doctor who was not patient or helpful in discussing my options, I was induced. I had no communication as to why (except per the weeks) and all my intuitions screamed that he was not ready to come out. But, as a first time mom, I was too frightened to question a seasoned doctor and I went along with it. 

After 18 hours of experiencing the most painful induction process that included a foley balloon, Pitocin, vomiting non-stop, a morphine injection, and an epidural that caused my uterus to contract and hold for over two minutes. Alarm bells firing off, I received another injection of a muscle relaxer to help calm the contraction. Now I had four types of drugs in my highly sensitive body, had been laboring for over 12 hours, and was so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I was stalled and the doctor on call decided it was time for a C-section. My son was born at two am and I was barely able to stay awake. I have blurry memories of his birth and the entire process and as soon as he was placed in my arms I remember thinking, “Is this my baby? How do I know he is mine? I didn’t even see him be born.” The attachment was not instantaneous. 

Immediately, people who loved me reassured me about my grief over not having my ideal birth by saying, “At least you have a healthy baby.” This made me feel guilty for my grief but also didn’t sit right with me – I had a cousin with spina bifida, friends who had birthed babies with down syndrome – does that mean they don’t get to rejoice because they didn’t “have a healthy baby?” Overall, this was my introduction to being at the mercy of medical professionals, experiencing grief instead of joy at the birth of my child, and feeling like maybe this whole birth thing was more complicated than I had ever expected. My transition into motherhood was shocking as well – my husband had to return to work within three days of me coming home from the hospital and my family was on the East Coast. 

I spent the next two years struggling with what would finally be diagnosed as postpartum PTSD. I have nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, vivid feelings of violation in my abdomen, and baby blues. It took therapy, reading the book, Emotional Recovery from a C-Section and writing out my birth story to finally find healing. 

My next pregnancy ended in miscarriage at nine weeks in which I never went into labor to deliver the fetus, but after weeks of waiting ended up with a D&C. This only increased my depression as I wondered if my body was broken. I got pregnant soon after and was determined to no longer be the silent mom. I advocated for myself in finding a doctor that was trained by midwives and supported VBAC’s. I read books and hired a doula to help guide my journey. She served as a therapist and helped me feel like I was not alone (or crazy) in any of my experiences. With her help, the patience of my new doctor, and the grace of God, I went into labor at 40 weeks, five days and delivered a beautiful little girl without any drugs or interventions. I felt redeemed and a huge part of me healed. I then began navigating the journey of raising two children while continuing to grow my private practice as an MFT.

Surprisingly, I got pregnant with my next baby when my daughter was only one. It was a shock and made me truly consider how I would balance three children under four years old with family across the country, a husband who traveled frequently for work, and a thriving private practice. I began to wonder if I could do this, worried if my mindset would impact having a positive birth experience, and struggled to be pregnant and sick while raising two babies. Depression set in, triggered by my preference to be in control and making decisions as well as the overwhelming feeling of how to balance it all. 

I hired my doula again and was able to have a vaginal delivery, although with my water already broken, it was a raw and painful labor process. My son was born (we hadn’t known the gender prior to birth) and although he was beautiful and so wonderful, I have to admit my heart had been set on a girl. I rolled with it but, again, when I am not in control my depression creeps in. 

I began to settle into life with three kids after making the difficult decision to take a year sabbatical from work. Around six weeks old, my son didn’t start the typical transition of sleeping through the night – getting up five, six, seven times a night fussing. I was sleep-deprived and, after having children, became aware that my hormone levels had not evened out like they had in the past. I felt constantly on edge. If someone brushed against my skin, I flinched. If a child had a temper tantrum, I would rage in anger and scream. Almost every single morning, after getting everyone buckled into the car for a preschool drop off, I wept and cried while driving to school. I remember being at a stop light with my head in my hands just sobbing while my oldest son watched from the back seat. He was so confused and, to this day, I feel the most regret over how my months of postpartum depression affected him. I had no idea that part of postpartum depression included anxiety. I would suddenly feel my heart start pounding out of chest, my heart racing and difficulty breathing. I sometimes would have to put my head between my knees to even it out – but nothing helped. 

I finally reached out to my OB and requested medication. Within three days of starting medication my symptoms had almost completely dissipated. I saw a therapist who did meditation and helped me control my thoughts using visualization. I read books and reached out to others – I was so ashamed to be so vulnerable since I was a clinician who “should be more stable than this.” But now it is the part of my story I am the most proud of. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate. It is something completely out of your control. There is no shame when there is no personalization. I was a victim to poor hormone levels and also had to do some deep work on letting go of my expectations, preferences and perfectionism. I had to embrace my journey, my vulnerabilities, and my neediness in order to get stronger. I sought out authentic people and still do, to this day, because to be genuine in our stories and open in our journeys is the only want to decrease the stigma surrounding the truth of life postpartum.

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