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.

Claire's Story

Claire.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could go on...

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

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



Jamie's Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer's Story

Jennifer-copy.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Illness Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of:

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

Please Ask For Help:

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

You're No Different:

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

You Deserve Happiness:

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

Practice Self-Care: 

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

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

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

Abgail's Story

Abigail.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adina's Story

Adina.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sammantha's Story

SammanthaC.jpeg

I was quiet about my postpartum depression for a long time after I had my son. And nearly just as long, I was also in denial. The moment it hit me that this was my reality was the moment I realized I just wanted to leave my life and my miracle baby, and never look back. My husband and I were engaged in May 2015 and June we found out I was pregnant. We moved our wedding to that August and right after we were married, I was on a plane moving with him to another country that same week we said "I Do."

My son was born January 22, 2016, and it was the happiest time of my life...for about a whole two hours. As I stated previously, I had moved to be with my husband after our wedding. I'm American. He's Canadian. So there I was, just myself, new baby, husband, and all his family. I never thought I would need my mom so much during this time.

As soon as my mother-in-law came to the hospital, she immediately went into some weird baby obsession. This wasn't a normal new grandma-first grandbaby thing- it was far beyond anything like that. I tried to brush it off as she was just excited, but at the time my husband and I had to live with her, and once we got home, things were a million times worse.

Not only did I have the flood of hormones raging through my body that we all experience after giving birth, but I didn't have my mom. Instead, I had someone who was constantly invading my personal space, and not letting me experience anything of being a new mother for myself. My son would cry in the middle of the night and this woman would come from the other side of the house and take my child from me and say, "You're not doing it right."

She would just come and take him out of my arms (or even anyone else that was holding him's arms) at all times and call him "her baby." It even got to the point where she would argue with me that in her culture, grandchildren call the grandmother "Momma," not "Abuela" (Spanish for grandma) and that's what she would want my son to refer to her as.

It was the darkest and most miserable time of my life to say the least. I would daydream about running away and leaving my husband and son and never looking back. Anything to escape the prison of emotional hell I was suffering in. That being said, I am by no means saying I was only the victim in this situation. I could only take so much and I eventually snapped at her and told her that although he is her grandchild, he is my son and she was to stay away from us unless I told her otherwise.

I wasn't very nice about it. I will own up to it. Thankfully, we were able to get a place of our own by the time my son was six months old, but sadly it was too late and I was too far into my depression. My marriage was strained, as my husband felt like he had to choose between his mother and me (I never gave him that ultimatum, I'm not an evil person, I swear). I felt like I wasn't the mother my son deserved because that's constantly how I was made to feel in our previous situation.

A few months had passed since we moved into our own home, and while I wasn't crying 24/7, I still felt really angry all the time. When my son was 11 months old, I finally admitted that I needed to talk to someone, and went to see my family doctor. I was prescribed medication to help control my anxiety, and I began talking to god again, and started to dig myself out of my depression.

This is something that I continue to work on daily. I remind myself of my worth. I remind myself that god gave me this child because I am the BEST mother for HIM. No matter what your postpartum depression experience is like, you're not alone, as lonely as it feels sometimes. There is light at the end of the darkness, and you are worthy. This too shall pass.

Erin's Story

ErinRileyCole-B.jpg

Just shy of eighteen months ago, I gave birth to my child. Quickly after her birth, I developed symptoms of postpartum anxiety, later tumbling into depression, which then collapsed into a nervous breakdown riddled with confusion and a desperation for help. I thought I had truly lost my mind. I was so sick, I thought I was going to die.

I had shut many people out during my recovery due to shame, an immense amount of fear, and my mind telling me I don’t deserve their support and that I will never be better. My mind told me many lies, but I survived.

I survived crippling panic attacks, paranoia, suicidal ideation, toxic shame, obsessions, starving myself, out-of-body experiences, the ridicule of friends and family members who didn’t understand...I survived helplessness in a period that could have been the happiest time of my life.

I look back at photos of the first year of my child’s life and feel so much sadness because I know that the mother I see in these photos is in so much pain, feels deeply lost, and scared for her life. No one could really understand what was unfolding inside of my mind no matter how much I expressed my suffering. Not even my own therapist who had been with me since three months postpartum was aware of the nose dive my mental health was about to take. I was alone in my fight against a terrifying darkness.

I would have never thought that giving birth would lead to that sort of thing happening to me. I didn’t even know something like postpartum mood disorders existed before I took a birth class. Thankfully, there was an end to my suffering that didn’t involve the end of my life.

To this day, I am in therapy and navigating my trauma, giving myself the childhood I did not have, nurturing my needs and reminding myself that for my child to have a fulfilling childhood and future, I must also give myself those things. I remind myself that though it may not feel like things will get better today, they do get better in time. Every bit accumulates into recovery.

I am blessed. This I know. I have my life, my child, a future, and that is so much more than I could ever ask for. All of this was nearly taken from me by the darkness. I am grateful that I have made it this far. I feel like I have myself back again.

Rebecca's Story

Rebecca-P.png

Written by Rebecca Piekanski My daughter was born in July 2014 after nearly 30 hours of labor. Despite the pain and exhaustion, I was in baby bliss. The next few weeks were magical. She was everything I had imagined and I felt blessed beyond words. But something changed. By four months, I started to feel overwhelming anxiety creep into my body.

I was familiar with anxiety. I had lost my nana a few years prior and weathered an abusive relationship. I’d been going through counseling for almost two years. Yet, this was completely different. I would find myself awake in the middle of the night obsessing about sleep. Quite ironic. I started to feel detached from my daughter. I’d look for ways to leave her with my husband so I could escape. I lost my appetite and rarely felt like showering. Nursing became extremely difficult. My body was so tense and stuck in panic mode that I couldn’t let down. I literally dreamed of escaping.

One morning I placed my daughter on the changing table and stood motionless. Panic attack after panic attack paralyzed my body. I called my mom, a nurse, and told her, “Something is wrong”. She had me call my doctor and after a lengthy discussion he prescribed medication. I won’t name medication names, because everyone is different and I don’t want to influence anyone. Anyway, I was completely unsure and confused about what the fuck was going on. I had a period and was basically finished nursing. My hormones were all over the map and I felt like I was going crazy.

The next day I broke down. I couldn’t do anything but cry. The world had smashed before my eyes and I felt trapped. My doctor had me come in and talk face to face. I cried hysterically in the exam room. I thought they would take my daughter away. I didn’t understand why I was deconstructing when I should be fucking happy. What happened to the unicorns and rainbows? My doctor explained the hormonal changes happening along with the newly added stress. I’ll never forget the sincerity in his voice when he said, “You can do this.” We started benzodiazepines until my antidepressant kicked in.

Over the next few weeks I started to slowly feel better. Bit by bit I felt pieces of myself come back together. I started to eat again. I could actually smile and laugh. I rekindled the relationship with my daughter. I felt like I had climbed out of the hole. I eventually weaned off medications after nearly a year, and my husband and I decided to try for baby two.

Fast forward to January 2016. We had relocated two hours from our hometown for my husband’s job. In June 2016 our son arrived. Merely 24 hours after birth, I felt like a switch was flipped inside of me. The anxiety came rushing in along with overwhelming sadness. I didn’t want to leave the hospital because I didn’t want to take care of my son. When the midwife came to go over my discharge instructions, she could see something was wrong. I confessed my emotions and we agreed to start medication. Sadly, she was hesitant to use my former “silver bullet” because she was concerned with its safety while nursing.

My new medication seemed to work quickly. I had energy and my mood improved, however I was still anxious. Therapy helped, but I still felt off. After a few weeks we opted to increase my dose. My body didn’t agree. My anxiety went through the roof. I literally felt wired and out of control. I had panic attack after panic attack. My doctor agreed to switch antidepressants; however, it still wasn’t my former medication.

Slowly but surely I started to feel better, or at least manageable. Part of my heart ached because we were far away from friends and family. I was always close with my parents, so this move broke me. I cried to my husband in desperation to return home. My soul felt unsettled. I wound up increasing my medication dose to help with the heartache and the increasing anxiety as hormones started to flood back into my system. While I felt decent on this antidepressant, I still didn’t feel complete.

Finally, January 2017, a prayer was answered and my husband was transferred home. I was elated to be back in our hometown. It was a huge relief to have friends and family so close. By September, I was feeling well enough to try to wean off medication. We even discussed having a third child.

This is where life throws a fucking curve ball right to my face. Within days of weaning, I started to have withdrawal affects. I didn’t realize what was happening at the time (and wouldn’t find out till later) because I never had this issue with my “silver bullet” medication. I had brain zaps, GI upset, mood swings, anger outbursts, and nonstop anxiety attacks. I just assumed it was just the return of my anxiety and depression, especially since my mother had open heart surgery scheduled. Yet, this was different than anything I ever experienced. I felt like I had lost all control of my body and my mind. I was waking up in a state of panic daily. I finally called my former doctor and we started my favorite antidepressant. But the withdrawal damage was done.

My mom underwent open heart surgery and had major complications. She is lucky to be alive. The experience of seeing my mother on a ventilator clinging to life iced the cake. I had a complete breakdown. I felt suicidal. Every inch of me wanted to escape this world or at least the current state my body was trapped in. I looked at my husband after a sleepless night and said, “I need to be hospitalized.” He didn’t understand. And I couldn’t find the words to explain the mayhem flooding my body and mind.

I had my aunt and cousin take me to the hospital that morning. They wanted me to visit my mom in ICU (she was heavily sedated) hoping it would bring me peace. But I knew I needed to be in a safe place and work on myself. I told them I didn’t tell my dad about my crisis. After all, he needed to worry about my mom. And so I headed to the ER with my cousin.

I was going through the intake questions with a nurse when I saw my father enter the room. Reluctantly, I let him stay and listen. How do you say out loud that you wanted to die in front of your parent? Especially when he was steam rolled by the intensity and seriousness of my mom’s surgery. Even though it was gut wrenching, I told the truth. I cried hysterically and apologized to my dad. In the sweetest, most nonjudgmental tone, he simply said, “There is no need to be sorry” as he held my hand. I had a crisis counselor evaluate my situation and suggest inpatient care.

I was in the hospital five days. I’ll spare the details of the inpatient psychiatric unit because I understand the value of them. And I believe each person’s needs are different. My stay provided me with a medication adjustment and the addition of an atypical antipsychotic. I learned a few coping skills, but more importantly the psychiatrist there showed compassion and understanding. She was even sweet enough to research postpartum resources. She recommended seeing a psychiatrist instead of my primary care doctor for medication, and also suggested visiting Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Health as they specialize in postpartum mood disorders.

Coming home was difficult. I was in a better place but still scared shitless. I wasn’t entirely sure of what the fuck happened with my mind and body. However, my husband was amazing. He was ready to divulge into whatever was necessary for my recovery. For the first time, I felt like he understood. My dad was incredible too. He gave me strength and encouragement. I started cognitive behavioral therapy with a new counselor, had a visit with the nurse practitioner at the psychiatrist’s office, and eventually went for a consultation at Penn. It was at Penn after a lengthy discussion with the doctor over my symptoms and weaning timeline, that we discovered I had endured serious withdrawal symptoms from the former SSRI. I was thrilled we had an answer for the pandemonium my mind and body had endured. I even had Gene Sight testing done to see which medications work best for my genetics.

Shockingly enough, both medications I had trouble on were contraindicated with my genetics. My “silver bullet” SSRI and atypical antipsychotic: both complementary with my genes. It’s been three months since hospitalization. But to tell the truth, the wound is still fresh. I’ve come leaps and bounds, yet the trauma still resonates in my bones. Each day it slowly dissipates, and it requires tons of work on my part. I’m repeatedly reframing negative thoughts and learning to accept emotions without thinking the worst. I’ve dedicated time to meditation and increased my physical activity. Yes, I have many good days. Some are even fabulous. I’ll willingly admit that the bad days are fucking terrifying because I don’t want to fall back into that darkness even though I now know what triggered it. And frankly, thinking four months ago I was ready to try for another baby and now I’m tip toeing my way to progress feels like another punch in the throat. But my journey isn’t linear. And I’m trying to see the silver lining in the fucked up shit storm that happened.

So, my dear mamas and anyone reading this, let me be the first to say: Take care of yourself. If you need medication, don’t be ashamed. I take thyroid meds and I don’t think twice about it. Yes, I had trouble with two medications, however everyone is different and without my current medication I’d be screwed. After two babies, my hormones and my brain have been through the wringer. I’m perfectly fine with taking my medications because it’s what my body and mind need at the moment.

Medication + Counseling + support system = Happy mama

Rebecca's Story

RebeccaReddy-B.jpg

I’ll never forget the fear that overtook my body when they were wheeling us out to the car. I had heard women joke about being nervous for the actual act of driving home with their newborn for the first time, but this was different. It was completely overwhelming. It was paralyzing. I was beyond terrified. I couldn’t understand why any of these medical professionals thought it was a safe idea for me to be in charge of this small human's life.

Couldn’t they see I wasn’t good enough?

It was hour 48, and it had already started. 

The first night home from the hospital was quite possibly the worst night of my life. It gives me such sadness to look back on that night and say that, but it is the truth. Now, I would give anything in my world to get that night back, to redo, to appreciate what it was and to relive every moment.

My sweet boy cried all night. He didn’t sleep for what seemed like more than 10 minutes. He constantly fed. I was exhausted. Physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I began to grieve my old life. I began to regret the decision of making this perfect child.

I remember lying awake for the 10 minutes he had fallen asleep and pondering which family member I was going to have to leave him with, because clearly I was not made for this. I couldn’t be his mother. I wasn’t good or strong enough to be so. The days and weeks to follow were harder. Each night without sleep and each day of denial made my soul die a little. Each text and call to request meeting the baby gave me incredible anxiety.

I knew as soon as anyone walked into our world they would spot me. They would see me for who I truly was, a sham of a mother. They would realize I was not meant to do this and that this precious little man deserved something so much more.

I couldn’t sleep, even when the baby started sleeping for a couple of hours here and there. I was awake. Wide awake. Worrying. Thinking. Crying. Grieving. I would allow my sister to come over and hold the baby so I could shower just so I could cry. I would lay with the water hitting my curled up naked body and I would cry for as long as I could get away with until she would start to worry.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of incredible girlfriends who wouldn’t take no for an answer. They started showing up. They were sniffing me out. They had children of their own. They knew the battle had begun. They answered my constant texts of questions about breast pumps and pacifiers. They started showing up every day. Every. Single. Day.

They brought us food and let me take walks. They yelled at my husband because he wasn’t being supportive enough. One of them, Samantha, came to hold the baby for four hours in the middle of the night, so I could sleep in my own bed at night with my husband, like my old self. It was life-changing.

I remember her waking me up at 2 am because she was leaving and the baby was hungry. I was out of pumped milk. I grabbed her hand and told her I was scared for her to leave. I didn’t even have the confidence to be alone with my own child. She left. He ate. And then he went back to sleep. I woke up realizing my mental state had become out of my control.

And that morning when I talked to Samatha to thank her for what she had done, she confirmed to me she agreed. It had. Our pediatrician who happens to be a good friend as well had been receiving calls, texts and emails with question after question at all hours of the day and night. I couldn’t make a decision. I didn’t have an inch of confidence in myself to care for this baby. After four weeks of continued questions it came to a head.

I texted him at 4 am. I told him I couldn’t do it and I needed a friend. A few hours later he was at my door. He talked me down off the ledge. He held the baby. He told my husband we’d be ok. And then he handed me a pill. When I told him my plan was to fix this without medications and how I was worried about the side effects, he grabbed my hands and looked me in the eye, “It’s beyond that Beck. It’s a chemical imbalance now.”

He made me feel safe to swallow the tablets I had filled but were too scared to take for over a week. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I didn’t want the baby to feel any side effects. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do this on my own. In the 14 days to follow, I struggled even more as my body worked to find its new balance. I couldn’t sleep again, even worse than before the meds.

I questioned if they were the right decision. And on day 13, I broke. I couldn’t get out of bed. I begged my husband to take me to the ER to be sedated. I felt as though I didn’t want to be on the planet any more. That leaving for good would be the only way to insure my son's life be positive and happy.

So, like any good village the people around me rallied. They held the baby. They allowed me to cry and break down. They kept him safe all night while I got more than three hours of sleep in a row in over eight weeks. I remember waking up and for the first time since Noah was born, feeling slightly normal. I remember looking at him and wondering where this perfect child had come from.

I remember not feeling anxiety when he cried. I remember feeling like I knew what to do. For the first time, I felt like a mom. And for the first time, I enjoyed it. From there on out, the days got easier, happier even. I fell deeply in love with my little man. We bonded. Connected. Formed a routine. I quickly realized how lucky I was to have such a team of wonderful beings surrounding us.

I wouldn’t have survived those early days without them. They saved my life. They saved Noah’s life. They gave me the gift of being able to live in the present. To enjoy and hold dear the most important title I will ever be known for, Noah’s Mom.

It almost doesn’t feel right to write something so short about a time that was so all-encompassing, a time that should be special and sacred and healing which instead turned out to be terrifying and spastic. Each day was a battle. Each day was a decision to keep moving forward. If it weren’t for these people, this village of mine, I’m not sure where we would all be. I owe these people my life. I owe them my happiness. They supported me and lifted me up at a time when I assumed nobody would. They understood me even though my emotions were not understandable. They loved me unconditionally and more importantly, they saw the love that would develop between my boy and me and they went to battle for me to enjoy it.

Between meds and therapy and friends and tears, we’ve survived to month 15 and because of these people and their support, I have been able to enjoy every single day since day 14. I haven’t missed a smile or a tear or a tooth or a cold or a milestone because even though I go to therapy, and even though I take a pill, and even though I still cry at times, I am present. I am strong. I am capable and most importantly. I am Noah’s mother.

In the midst of the postpartum fog, try to remember you are not alone. It is totally normal to feel how you are feeling. And, if you reach out and ask for help, it does get better.

Liz's Story

Liz-M.jpg

Even though my daughter is already six, and postpartum life has been for the most part, wonderful, I want women to know how I suffered.

Many people look at this picture of a me at nine months pregnant and see nothing unusual or alarming.

If you look at me, I look happy, excited to meet the baby growing inside of me, ready to take on motherhood. But what you don’t see is that secretly (from mainly friends) I was suffering.

Many people had no idea that I had to quit my job because my antenatal depression and anxiety took over my life and I truly could not function.

Many people didn’t know that there were days where I would lay in bed all day until my husband got home from work. I didn’t watch tv, I didn’t read, I didn’t sleep. I just lay there staring out the window thinking of how badly I wished I hadn’t gotten myself into this situation.

I couldn’t eat, so I had to supplement with Ensure protein shakes. I couldn’t sleep, so I would lay in my dark room every night listening to my husband sleep soundly and my brain would be racing.

I canceled more plans than I would like to even admit.

I faked it when people would excitedly talk about my baby.

I could barely make it to my own baby shower.

I couldn’t even pick out a name for my daughter who I desperately wanted for years.

And, the biggest secret of all. I started antidepressants and Xanax when I was 20 weeks pregnant. And I thought I was poisoning my baby.

A lot of women I know have amazing, blissful, perfect pregnancies and then when the baby is born, the switch turns and they start suffering.

Not for me. I hated every second of pregnancy with every fiber of my being. I hated the thought of becoming a mother and losing my past life. I didn’t want this baby to be born.

But, that switch. It went off the second I saw her emerge from my belly. I felt love. I felt happiness, I felt joy.

That little baby, six years ago, gave me exactly what I didn’t think I needed or wanted.

I didn’t understand. How the hell did I have a horrible, stressful, scary, suffering pregnancy but my baby made it all right?

I was convinced I’d have postpartum depression. 100% convinced. There was NO way I would enjoy this baby.

But miraculously, I didn't. Something happened on the day she was born. I wish I could explain it, but my life changed for the better in every way possible.

If I had the support I needed during pregnancy and didn’t feel deep shame and disgust, then I wonder if I would’ve been able to actually enjoy it.

People talk about postpartum depression more than antenatal depression. PPD is no joke. But I want to bring awareness to anxiety and depression DURING pregnancy. Because so many women suffer in silence way before the baby is even born.

Nadine's Story

Nadine-H-.jpg

My journey started back in December 2016, at 26 weeks and 5 days gestation we suddenly had to goodbye to our son Oliver. We as parents had to make a choice, to continue with the pregnancy or interrupt our little boy,s life. As a mother, you never want your children to experience pain and suffering and we were told his cardiac heart abnormalitlies were so severe that his chances of living outside my womb would be slim to none.

Two weeks after his passing, I started to have scary intrusive thoughts about my son who was four at the time. I spoke to my GP who very coldly dismissed me.

I had to take my healing into my own hands and I searched for help. I finally found a clinical therapist who through cognitive therapy, assured my fears were a normal part of postpartum depression.

Now almost two years later, my son is six and my daughter is eight months, and I am continuing to heal.

Six months ago I decided I needed to help with the healing for moms in my community. Now I am currently studying to receive my masters in counseling psychology so I can lend my ear as well as my heart so other moms have a safe place to land.

Kelly's Story

Kelly-K.png

Written by Kelly Karr My husband I met in May of 2006 and three years later on June 12, 2009 we got married. A couple months after his eight month deployment, we found out we were expecting our first baby, only to be told at our first appointment, our baby had no heartbeat. I opted to have a D&C.

A few months later we were pregnant again, everything looked good up until our anatomy scan, on Feb 15, 2011, where we were told again, our baby had no heart beat. I was induced and she was born at 21 weeks on February 18, 2011. She had died at 16 weeks. We did an autopsy and the results showed she had Turners Syndrome and a cystic hygroma. In July, we got pregnant again. The pregnancy was uneventful and our baby was born April 13, 2012, healthy, and happy.

Postpartum was hell. The doctors gave me medicine that I had a bad reaction to that landed me in the ER. After this, I didn’t want anymore children. I suffered with Hyperemesis Gravidium with all three pregnancies and it had taken its toll on my body. Three years later I got diagnosed with an under active thyroid and an auto immune disease called Hashimotos Thyroiditis.

Two years after my diagnosis, and my oldest now being five, out of the blue my period was late. I was freaking out, no way could I be pregnant. I took four tests and all came back POSITIVE.

At our first OB appointment, we decided because of our history, to do the genetic testing at 14 weeks. But, before we could get to 14 weeks, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum from HELL. The puking was non-stop, but the worst in the evening. How was I supposed to grow a human, take care of myself, my four-year old, the house, the errands? I called the doctor’s office over and over and over when none of the medicines for the nausea were helping. Finally, Phenergan worked. Finally, relief and I was able to eat.

Up until this point, I swore up and down that we were having a girl. We had picked out girl names and Lindsee and Kelsea were our top two. I had no boy names picked out. We got the genetic test results back. The baby had no abnormalities and It’s a BOY! I felt my heart sink. I didn’t want another boy. This is my last pregnancy. I want my little princess.

Weeks passed on and I came to accept this baby growing inside me was a boy and I started to bond with him, reading stories and talking to him, putting music to my belly so he could listen. The pregnancy continued uneventfully up until 36 weeks five days when I went to my OB appointment only to find out my blood pressure was elevated and I had protein in my urine. We were told to go to the hospital immediately to be monitored. There, my blood pressure stayed up but then declined back to the normal range. They wanted me to come in on Monday to be induced because I would be 37 weeks. I had preeclampsia and leaving the baby in any longer than that could kill us both.

Monday came and I was nervous and scared. This is not the way I wanted my last delivery to go. We got to the hospital and the induction process started around 11 am. The labor was intense and luckily, I had an amazing nurse who helped me focus and get through the contractions. My husband was there for me like he had never been before. Holding my hand, reminding me to breathe, helping me get to the bathroom and back to bed.

It seemed like forever to get to four centimeters but when I did, they agreed it was time for the epidural. Once the epidural was in, the right way this time, I could finally relax and breathe. They continued to check me and monitor me. At about eight pm I coughed and something felt off like I needed to push. My husband called for the nurse. Sure enough the baby was ready, but we had to wait for the doctor to come back up the elevator to deliver the baby. It felt like forever and I wasn’t allowed to move, no coughing or laughing. One whole minute of pushing and our son was born at 8:17 pm. He was perfect and healthy. My first labor had been 32 hours so this was considered fast since it was about nine hours.

I felt great (or so I thought) the week after having him, but the fact I wasn’t eating, barely sleeping and with my hormones dropping, it really started messing with my mind. I couldn’t sleep unless I was holding him, so we slept in the recliner with a hippy pillow to keep me from dozing off and him falling or slipping down into the chair. My mother in law came over so I could sleep but when I woke I felt anything but rested. My mind would race and I’d have a panic attack.

I lost all 30 lbs. and then some the first two weeks. Food of any and all kinds was not appealing and was revolting. My husband got me protein shakes just so I could have something in my body. By the end of week two, we both knew something was way off. I was having thoughts about killing myself but I felt guilty for having the thoughts because my children needed me and my husband needed me.

I couldn’t leave him to raise our kids alone. I called my OB and they told me to come in immediately. I was put on a short-term antidepressant to kick the panic attacks and a long-term that would take up to six weeks to take full effect. I took the short-term once we left the pharmacy and within 20 minutes, baby and I were both asleep in the back seat while my husband drove us home. At my follow-up appointments, my doctors all seemed to act like I was making this up. It took a female nurse practitioner sitting down with my husband and me and asking what I felt, what I needed, and how much was I eating, how much was the baby sleeping. I begged for my husband to be able to stay home from work (he works third shift) and she got his work release papers signed and he was home with me. I still was doing most of the night feedings, but it was nice to not be alone like I was when our first son was born. My husband and I decided for my sake, both physically and mentally that for now we are done having children, at least children of our own. At about three months postpartum my husband went, on his own free will, and had a vasectomy.

Through all the craziness, my husband stuck by my side, reassuring me that this is just a phase and it’s my hormones and not me. I still felt like a shitty mom and shitty wife no matter what anyone said. I felt like a burden. My husband had to miss work for six weeks and my oldest son had to watch his mother slip into a deep depression, which in turn made me a super bitch to him and everyone around me.

Months of therapy and now on my fourth different medicine, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the shitty postpartum depression tunnel. But, I still have my bad days where I want nothing more than everyone to just shut up and leave me alone; don’t touch me, don’t make a peep, just leave me be. Let me wallow in my own self-pity. Just let me have some time to myself and for the love of god keep your penis away from me!

I still struggle daily and some days I just want to give up and run away, but I love my children more than life itself, and I know one day they won’t be living at home and I won’t be this young. I have to live in the moment, stop worrying about what will happen tomorrow or the next day or day after that.

I hope someday to have answers to what is really going on with my mind and body, but until then all I can do is wait, be with my kids and my husband and hope that something will help or fix my issues.

It’s hard to struggle when you look around and see all these happy, energetic, care-free parents. I wonder what I did to deserve feeling like a shitty parent, to not have the energy to go all day, or to not snap and lose my shit more times than I care to admit. All I can do is try every day to be the best me in that moment and not hate myself for losing my temper and patience at the end of the day.

"When life gets you down, you know that you got to do? Just keep swimming! “ -Dory, Finding Nemo

Lauren's Story

Lauren-Bonner-.jpeg

Written by Lauren Bonner All my life I wanted nothing more than to be a mother. I knew I would spend my days being the best mom I could be. AND the best wife I could be. I won’t mind waking up with my baby because I’ll love spending time with him. I’ll take the five minutes to put on makeup and look refreshed for my husband. I’ll live and breathe being a mom, because it is what I am meant to do.

And then I had my son. And my world was flipped upside down.

On his second day here, Wes lost his voice from screaming so much. I was exhausted from laboring for 20 hours, ending in a c-section. I thought to myself, “He has to sleep, right?” (Little did I know I’d ask myself that question countless times over the next three years). He was not an easy baby and that took its toll on me.

During the first few weeks, we got into the routine of eat, sleep, diaper change, repeat. I thought I was getting the hang of things. But around five weeks, the exhaustion set in and I knew something wasn’t right. At my six week checkup, I confessed tearfully that I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding as much as I thought I would. I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted. The midwife told me the feelings may pass, but to call the doctor if I didn’t start to feel better.

For weeks, it was hard to get off the couch. I would go days without showering, only realizing it when my hair was a giant, tangled knot. There were days when it was 6pm and I didn’t remember eating anything. I figured I was just busy with the baby and forgot to eat. Then I realized I COULDN’T eat.

I was nauseous all the time. One day I tried to eat two crackers, but could only finish one and a half. I would choke down supplement shakes to try to keep up my milk supply. I would dream about food, only to wake up unable to stomach a meal.

The anxiety was debilitating. I couldn’t go to the mailbox without feeling like my heart was going to explode and it was hard to breathe. I used to be such an outgoing, social person, and now leaving the house knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t leave the house alone with Wes until he was about 4 months old.

But all of this wasn’t the worst part. The worst were the feelings (or lack of feelings) I had. I felt like I lost myself. I used to be Lauren and now I was just Wes’s mom. I felt like I’d never do the things I used to love doing like taking a quiet bath, reading a book or relaxing on a beach.

I would rock my baby as I breastfed him and think to myself, “You need to love this baby.” I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be his mom. Surely, I wasn’t good enough for him. Maybe Brian could find a better wife and mom for Wes?

Life just got so hard. The hardest part is knowing you won’t always be able to protect your baby. There were going to be tough times ahead and I didn’t think I could handle the stresses of raising my son. I remember thinking to myself:, “They say you blink and your baby is grown...” I closed my eyes hard for a moment and then opened them, hoping Wes would be 18, moving out, and it could be just Brian and me again.

I was exhausted and hated waking up in the middle of the night. It felt impossible to find five minutes to put on makeup and try to feel “normal.” Most of all, I didn’t like being a mom. That’s when we knew I needed to get help. I made an appointment with my doctor and started taking antidepressants. It took a little while, but I started to eat again and see the light at the end of that terribly dark tunnel.

When I felt better, I had to deal with the guilt. How could I have thought those things? I started seeing a therapist, which helped tremendously. One of the things I hated was that I didn’t have a strong connection with Wes at birth.

I realized how much social media skews reality. So many times I had read, “We want to welcome (baby). We are so in love already.” Really, are you so in love? Why is she so in love and I’m wondering why my baby is still screaming and doesn’t sleep? When Wes was 18 months old I told my therapist I was there--I love Wes more than anything in this world. I would do anything for him. I finally feel that connection.

She replied, “Well, you’ve known him much longer now.” And it clicked. I realized that motherhood isn’t perfect. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and this is why I try to be transparent about my struggles. I’ve learned that there are a lot of moms that have gone through the same things I have. You don’t always have to LOVE being a mom. You don’t have to be perfect. I simply take everyday as it is.

My husband was an amazing support throughout all of this. I know it was hard for him to see me like that. His once independent, strong-willed, fun, energetic wife, losing weight, curled up on the couch, and afraid to leave the house. He did everything he could to help me and I’m forever grateful for that. Now, I feel like he can sense if something is off (sometimes even before I do) and will take the kids to let me relax or take a nap.

Finally, two kids and three years later, I can honestly say I love being a mom. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most amazing thing. It’s not always fun, but the fun times are incredible. Postpartum depression and anxiety can happen to anyone. They happened to me, and because of them I am a stronger person. I still have bad days sometimes, but I don’t let them conquer me.

 

Loraine's Story

Loraine-Collins.jpg

Written by Loraine A Collins While it's true that 70-80 percent of women experience what is called the “baby blues,” only 15 percent of them experience a more severe, longer-lasting form of depression called postpartum or perinatal depression--a sadness often symptomized as fear, anxiety and a sense of hopeless. It is this gnawing sense of hopelessness that sometimes leads to suicidal and homicidal ideations. I, to my chagrin at the time, was among the 15 percent.

You see, I was of the mindset that such illnesses were either faked or for the weak of heart. How could I, a strong, independent black woman, and postpartum depression possibly be associated in any way? But, I soon realized it was very real and we did indeed make an acquaintance.

In 2003, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl —not to be overly boastful, but she really was beautiful. My 9 pound, 2 ounce light-skinned, chubby bundle of joy with a head full of hair, looked like the kind of baby you’d find on the pages of a cute kids magazine.

In fact, in January 2009, at the age of six, she wasn’t just on the pages of a magazine, she was gracing the cover of the The Parent Paper with a three-page spread inside titled, “Career Counselling For Kids.” Today, she is a sophomore in high school with a GPA of 3.87 and a leader among her peers.

I now have much to be proud of as a mom. However, I wasn’t always proud. There was a time I smiled to hide the void inside me and the tears I cried every moment I thought no one was looking.

I remember the day I felt all the fight in me go out and I decided to end it all for good. I was putting into action my strategy for permanent peace for both my daughter and me by filling the bathtub with water, when the phone began ringing incessantly. I remember being completely aggravated at the phone and then, when I finally picked it up, my response was not the nicest.

However, the caller–my sister–was completely unaware. She was too busy crying and informing me of her friend’s desire to attempt suicide. My sister was completely dumbfounded at how a God-fearing woman would be battling with such notions AND I was completely dumbfounded she chose that specific moment to call me and make me aware. After all, I’m the youngest of her seven sisters. She could have called any of us. But, she called me.

Sarah's Story

Sarah-Perez.jpg

Written by Sarah Perez “I have to get out of here,” I screamed as my mom and husband got their stuff together before taking me to the hospital. My daughter was just 2 weeks old when postpartum depression and anxiety came like a thief in the night.

My crying was endless. The daydreams of being childless and carefree overwhelmed me. Then the anxiety made it impossible for me to think of anything other than how I could cease to exist.

The first hospital visit I was just told to go home and get some rest. I was given a pamphlet on deep breathing exercises when I went to see a therapist the next day. They didn’t hear me. Something was very wrong.

I was not sleeping, eating, or taking care of my two-week old daughter. I didn't want to be around her. My postpartum depression was so bad and dangerous that I could not stay at home.

I live in Tennessee and was taken to the University of North Carolina Center for Women's Mood Disorders. I stayed in a five bedroom psychiatric unit for perinatal mood disorders and there is where I began my recovery.

I kept telling them I was never going to get better and they kept telling me I would get better. I clung to that. I stayed there for a couple of weeks going through all types of intense therapy. I felt safe and was terrified to leave.

Coming home was a struggle and I found myself day dreaming of living at the UNC hospital. I begged my husband to let me go back there numerous times. I was taken there on March 28, 2018 and I am still trying to overcome postpartum depression and anxiety months later.

Days feel like years sometimes. I love my little girl so incredibly much and my husband has been very supportive and loving but wow--I was not prepared for this. No one told me about this.

I feel like some sort of super woman when I realize that I am still alive and still fighting through this, all the while making sure my girl is the happiest little one on this earth. We named her Matilda when we found out she was a girl at 15 weeks pregnant.

Matilda means “strength in battle.” Who knew that is exactly what she is. I want my story to reach people in some way, but I don’t know how to turn it into good yet. I am not there yet.

But I will be.

Gabbie's Story

Gabbie-Ortiz.jpg

Written by Gabbie Ortiz Depression. My dark passenger. We weren’t strangers. We were companions. At the age of 21, I had accepted that my depression was a part of me. I learned to manage but no one told me about the mother of all depression (no pun intended)-postpartum depression.

I didn’t know I had postpartum depression. I thought I was just being a baby. I kept telling myself that I made the decision to have this baby so I should be able to deal with all the responsibilities that came with that. I remember my boyfriend coming home from work and I would cry hysterically. He was so scared. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was happening and it wasn’t until I started looking into postpartum myself that I self-diagnosed.

Of course our healthcare system seems to fail whenever it comes to anything having to do with mental health. I reached out to my OB only to get shut down. He said there was a fine line between PPD and the baby blues. He said if I felt like I was in a manic episode and I wanted to harm myself or my baby I should call 911. Instead of recommending me to a therapist to avoid getting to this point, he just hushed me away.

My baby is 11 weeks and I’ve been in therapy for about six. I don’t have a happily ever after. I can’t sit here and say that I saw light at the end of the tunnel and it’s all gotten better. I can tell you that it’s hard. It’s so hard and there are days when I still cry my eyes out.

I never thought motherhood would be this way. I never even knew about postpartum depression until it swallowed me whole. But I’m fighting. I’m fighting back every day. I appreciate the moments when I feel love for my child. I appreciate the moments when I am kind to myself. I appreciate the fact that we’ve made it to the two month mark. The process is ugly but with the help of a therapist and the will to want to get better things will change. Not instantly, but you’ll see the progress.

It’s okay to feel like you don’t love your child. It’s okay to be afraid, overwhelmed or to regret the decision of being a mother. No one talks about how truly life-changing becoming a mother is. You can be an awesome mom and deal with postpartum depression. You can be an awesome mom and hate motherhood. I can’t say that I know what it’s like to overcome postpartum depression, but I know what it’s like to live with it and still enjoy happy moments with my child.

Casey's Story

Casey-LabanderoB.jpg

Written by Casey Labandero On April 6th 2017 everything I had ever wish for came true. I was happily married to my soul mate, we had created a beautiful home and a family of two boys and finally a daughter. Ava was my third baby, my most planned, anticipated and prepared for baby. All of my dreams had come true but I was not ok.

If I am honest with myself I had signs of anxiety while I was pregnant with my daughter. I could not handle anything confrontational. I left my job five months earlier than I planned because I could not handle it. I worried about being a mom to a girl often. I was a boy mom for nine years. I had never had a mother daughter relationship with my own mother and something inside me kept telling me I was unworthy of my daughter. I just thought I was having normal pregnancy hormones.

The day she was born I was so happy and grateful. Our family was complete. My nurse had told me not to put her in my bed because if she fell off the hospital bed onto their floor it would crack her skull. That's when my panic attacks, that I did not even know were attacks, started. I could not sleep while my husband held her so I could get rest because I was so scared something would happen. When the photographer came in to take Ava's photos I felt so panicked because she was taking her pictures on the bed without me touching her. I kept worrying my baby was going to fall off the bed. I remember my sweet husband trying to calm me and get me through the five minutes of photos that felt like hours.

When we were finally home I was crying all the time and still could not sleep while the baby slept or while my husband had her because of my worries. I just thought that was normal that I would feel better soon.

Six weeks went by like that. I was not sleeping or leaving my house. At my six week checkup with my OBGYN I told him what I was experiencing. He did not care. He just asked me if I wanted to stop nursing and of course I said no. Then he told me there was nothing he could do. He could not prescribe me anything while I was nursing and left the room. Then one day I woke up and I felt empty and scared. The worries that were in my head those weeks before were now on overdrive with no hope in sight. It was a constant replay of worries in my head and no matter what I did I could not escape them.

Every time I walked down the stairs with her I could see her falling. If we were in the kitchen everything in there that was sharp I could see hurting her. The thoughts were disabiliateing. I believed I had lost my mind. This was not ok to be scared of everything in our home. Then I was worried I was going to hurt her. I did not have a want to hurt my baby. I had an extreme fear that I would. Then I was scared for my husband to leave me to go to work.

The hours alone felt like torture. Then I had the fear of hurting myself. I could not leave our bathroom doors open no more. Walking by the bathroom gave me flashes of ending my life in there. Everytime I looked at her my brain would tell me how selfish I was to have her to only to leave her. Then the depression, shame and hate of my myself flooded me. I did not want to worry or be sad. I hated myself for being sad at such an amazing time. The anxiety and depression took my happiness. They made me believe my life was over, that I would never feel like once did again.

I went to my best friend that once struggled with postpartum depression and told her how I was feeling. I told her I was scared to be alone that something was wrong and she sent me away.

My body felt like a constant tingle and I was trapped in my mind on a hamster wheel of worries. The depression feeling was the worst. I felt empty and a feeling of dread nonstop. I kept trying to make myself feel better. I went for runs, I went outside, I did yoga and I got out of the house and stayed busy. Nothing I did helped and each time it did not help the depression would get worse. I was drowning inside and no one even noticed.

It took about three weeks of feeling like I was drowning with no way to help myself before I could not fake being ok anymore. My husband found me on the bathroom floor in a ball crying and just saying over and over again I dont want to feel this way. I am extremely lucky to have a husband that understood. He told me it wasn't my fault and that he thought I had postpartum depression. Finally!! Just hearing those two simple statements gave me a light in what seemed to be an endless dark tunnel.

I went to my regular physican and was prescribed zoloft and in less than two weeks I could feel my head finally raise above the water. I finally felt a little bit of hope that I could swim my way out of this storm. I found a postpartum specialist by calling the PSI hotline and starting seeing her every week then once a month. My daughter is 17 months old now and I can very gratefully say I am fully recovered from postpartum depression and anxiety.

At first I wanted to completely erase all memory of my struggle. Now I hope I never forget. Remembering how I felt and being able to feel better reminds me that I can overcome. Remembering that there was a time in my life where nothing made me feel happy or ok, not even my family, makes me appreciate every single thing that brings me joy now. I look at people different now, remembering there was time I was drowning on the inside and no one knew. Now I smile at strangers and when someone is unpleasant with me I do not take it personally because now I completly undestand that we never know someones struggles.

The lack of awareness to such a common problem deeply saddens me. My OBGYN could have treated me before it got that bad. I lost months of my life, my last baby's newborn time due to the lack of awareness and I want to help fix this problem. I was lucky my husband understood postpartum depression without that I might not be here. If you or someone you know is struggling please know that you are not alone or to blame and with proper help you will feel better. You will find yourself again! Not only feel like yourself but a even better self.