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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written by Leah Robinson
When You Look At My Face What Do You See?
The face of a new mother...the face of a new mother to a two day old son.
These are the tears of said mother who lost a baby one year ago. These are also the tears of a mother to a two-day old son who cried for two hours straight. These are the tears of a mother who is diagnosed with postpartum depression two days after one of the happiest day of her life.
This is the face of someone who refused to be silent.
As I sit in my hospital room gazing at my newborn, I can’t help but feel sad and anxious. One of the worst feelings especially since I’m supposed to be happy. I am supposed to love being a new mom, but I dont.
This is a hard journey. I dont know if I am ready. Can I handle two kids? Am I strong enough for this? Am I going to fail?
It's been a long day filled with anxiety. I dont want anyone else to hold my baby. I dont want my baby to leave my room. I dont want anything bad to happen to him. I am the only one who can properly take care of him. I did it for nine months and other than Kyle, I dont want anyone else to hold him. I just want to sit here rocking him to sleep and cry. I am probably tired since I haven't slept well for a few days and I am still having pain from a new c-section. I wonder if I will ever feel “normal” or if these feeling will ever go away.
What you just read was raw. I wrote that the thursday after I had Saul. I held Saul alone in my room and cried. I was nervous that after having so many visitors that he was shaken without me realizing it. Where those feelings came from I have no idea. I broke down at two am and talked to a nurse about how I was feeling.
That night is a night I will never forget. Those feelings of not being able to control my emotions were awful! I talked to my doctor that night and poured my heart out. I told her how I had anxiety of something bad happening to Saul. I haven’t slept since I was nervous something would happen while I slept. That night I was diagnosed with postpartum depression for the second time in my life. And I was quickly put on medication that night for it.
Most of the time when people hear the diagnosis of PPD, they think the mother wants to hurt herself or her baby or does't want the baby at all. But, it can manifest differently in everyone. For me, I suffered from extreme anxiety that something awful would happen to Saul. I didnt want him out of my sight or anyone else to hold him.
It has now been one month since my diagnosis and honestly, reading that top part is hard. I wrote that at a very difficult time. I was at my most vulnerable and it's good to look back and see how far I've come in just a month.
As far as my anxiety goes, I am a lot better. Many people have held Saul since then and I haven't felt anxious. I even left him with someone twice so I could run an errand and I didn't feel like anything awful would happen while I was gone.
I do still have my bad days, but in no way do I feel how I felt that Thursday night. I am still getting medications adjusted since there are days I feel like I fake being happy. That I’m not as happy as I could be. That’s not a fun feeling to have, but I know with the right adjustment and time I will feel better.
Being on medication was something I wasn’t very happy with at first. I felt like, "what is wrong with me I need medication to be happy?" But I want to be the best mom for my kids, and the best wife for my husband, and if I need some medical help with that than I'll take it. I know I wont be on medication for these issues the rest of my life, but right now I need it, so right now I'll take it.
We got home and to say I was an emotional wreck is a complete understatement. I was terrified all the time. I had no appetite. And if I had to listen to one more person say, "Sleep when the baby sleeps," I was going to scream. I wanted nothing more than to sleep but when she slept, I lied there staring at the ceiling wondering if I had made a huge mistake.
So I started asking for help and I pulled out all the stops. We hired a night nurse, much to my embarrassment. My family was coming over daily. I did weekly therapy. I tried meditation, energy healing, aromatherapy, journaling. You name it, I tried it. I had all the help in the world, yet I still felt terrible. Why was I constantly filled with dread? Why did I cry when I held her? Why did I just want to run away? I tried with all my might to pull myself out of the darkness but I wasn’t getting any better.
About five weeks after giving birth, I was drowning. I got out of bed one morning after getting at best two hours of sleep and called my mom to come over. I had finally accepted something was very wrong. I needed help. My mom came over and I went to see my doctor. Within moments of seeing me, he diagnosed me with postpartum depression and anxiety and we decided on a course of treatment. Postpartum depression is not something I planned on, but who does?
Finally after some very dark days, the sun started to come out. Though the path is not straight, I feel more like myself everyday. I feel confident in my ability to take care of my baby. I attribute my recovery to many things - antidepressants, exercise, talk therapy, writing, family, friends and my incredible husband.
Most of all, I attribute my recovery to the fact that I have the most important job on earth - to be mommy to my girl. I am proud to say that I was the first to admit that something was wrong. I felt so ashamed but I wouldn't allow my shame to stop me from knowing I could get better. The love I have for Mary Clare has always been greater than my shame. In my darkest moments, I held onto the ultimate truth - I love this baby with every fiber of my being and will do whatever needs to be done to give her the mother she deserves.
I’ve learned PPD is very real, very painful and very treatable. There is an enormous amount of shame surrounding PPD and as a result I felt incredibly alone. I reached out for help pretty quickly. Even still, it took me almost six weeks of unspeakable suffering before I got treatment. No one should suffer that long.
As I understand it, PPD is a chemical imbalance within the body. My ability to be a good mom and my capacity to love my daughter are not dictated by my postpartum depression. In fact, my unspeakable love for my daughter is the reason I was able to reach out for help. I needed to get well and take care of me so I could be the best version of myself for my girl. I am sharing my experience with postpartum depression for myself but also for others. I hope that my story encourages women to get help and to know they are not alone.
We need to shed light on PPD and eradicate the stigma that continues to surround mental health. You do not have to figure this out alone. It truly takes a village. If you're suffering, do not wait another moment. Call your doctor. I promise it will get better. Just hold on.
Written by Sandra Askey
From the moment I saw those pink lines, I was amazed at all of the wonder involved in starting a family. I couldn’t wait to watch my belly grow and to decorate the nursery. Then I threw up and kept throwing up. 16 weeks. Still throwing up. 30 weeks. STILL throwing up. 40 weeks. STILL throwing the eff UP.
Why? Why did I end up like this? Why can't I be the happy pregnant lady who glows and decorates her bump for Halloween and eats pickles and ice cream at 3 am because cravings...but no. That’s when the depression set in but I didn’t yet realize it.
Then he was born. And embarrassingly enough to admit, my first thought was “Finally, I have my body back.” But I didn’t. Breastfeeding was the worst experience. He couldn’t latch due to an undiagnosed tongue and lip tie that went undiagnosed for the next three months-three months of HELL.
Again, why? I felt so alone. I felt like a failure. But everyone kept telling me I was doing great and I was wonderful. I’ll never forget feeling so unworthy of those comments.
Fast forward to month four. The tongue tie was addressed and fixed, but my husband's job relocated him. So we moved with a four-month old. This new job gave me the blessing of being able to be a stay at home mom. But again, I was failing.
He’s not sleeping through the night. The house is a wreck. And I can’t bring my self to shower more than once a week.Every night I would cry and wonder, "Why did I do this? Why did I have a kid? What is so wrong with me that I got a kid who couldn’t breastfeed and won’t sleep?" And to top it off, I’m supposed to still want to “date” my husband when I can’t even look in the mirror.
I wrestled with so many awful thoughts. I would look at my baby and cry. I can’t be what he needs but there was no one else. Just me and my baby all day while my husband worked. And all night while he didn’t sleep.
One night I finally broke down. From exhaustion, stress, (wine)...my husband just held me.
Once the sobbing stopped, we began talking about every (horrible) thing I had been holding in. He broke down. He couldn’t believe I had been holding this in. Because to everyone else, even him, I was rocking it.
Slowly, with his help, prayer, and finally reaching out to other moms to hear their stories, I begain to heal. I’m learning how to ask for help. And I’m learning to leave the kitchen a wreck and just sleep when I can. But most importantly, I’m learning that it’s okay to not be okay.
So what if my life isn’t always instagram worthy? I. Am. Worthy.
If I could tell any first time mom anything, I would say this: "Don’t waste your time pretending you have everything under control. Get help as soon as you feel you need it so you can be fully present. My baby is almost eight months old now (and still not sleeping through the night), but I would give anything to go back to those newborn days and fully soak them in. I will always have a pain in my heart for my first baby and those dark days. But he has such a better mom now and I pray I continue to be bold in the face of darkness.
I was groomed for motherhood. I was the person that everybody saw and said “I can’t wait until you’re a mom! You’re going to be the BEST mom!” To be honest, I believed that myself with every ounce of my being. If you had asked me at twenty years old I would have confidently told you that I was quite certain that I would be able to mom with my eyes closed! I was groomed for motherhood, after all.
You would be hard pressed to find a better example of a mom than the one that I had growing up. She was and still is as close to perfection as moms come. My appreciation for her grows greater with every passing year but in many ways, my understanding of her becomes less and less because I continue to be blown away that she has been capable of doing all that she has done for all of these years and that she has done it all so flawlessly. She is the mother of all mothers.
More than my spectacular example of motherhood, though, was my own adoration of children. From the time I was old enough to babysit, I almost always had somebody’s child on my hip. I loved babies and I would sniff them out in a room of a thousand people! I was good with them, too, from a very young age. I was good. Momming. Eyes Closed. I got this.
I was a nanny through most of my teenage years and I had several close friends who had babies as teenagers. I played a big role in their lives and helped in whatever ways that I could. I drove my Nissan Maxima to high school with two car seats in the backseat. I was known for my kids. Mine. I loved them so. By the time I actually became a mom I had changed more diapers than some moms change in the first two years. I had caught puke in my hands or down the back of my shirt. I had washed poop out of my shirt and continued to wear it for three more hours. All of those things that make first time moms gag? I had experienced most of them with someone else’s child before I turned eighteen. Momming. Eyes Closed. I got this.
I think the expectations had always been high for me in becoming a mom, both from those around me and certainly from myself. “I can’t wait until you’re a mom! You’re going to be the BEST mom!”
I felt “down” for most of my pregnancy. I gave myself grace and allowed myself to work through my feelings and I was proud of myself for that. I knew enough about postpartum depression to worry that it might happen to me but I also thought that there was a really good chance that once my son was born everything would be absolutely and completely fine. I knew about POSTpartum depression. I didn’t know about perinatal mood disorders as a whole and I didn’t recognize until many months later when I was able to look back on my pregnancy that my feelings of being “down” during almost the entire length of my pregnancy were severe. I hadn’t been down. I had been severely depressed.
It didn’t take many months for me to recognize what was happening after he was born, though. I knew. I knew because every single day I looked at him and I thought this little baby was really cute but his real mom and dad could come and pick him up any day. I was done. He was cute and the snuggles were fun for a minute but I was done. I was ready for his real mom and dad to come get him and there wasn’t a very big part of me that felt like that real mom was me…so I knew. I knew I needed help.
My journey out of postpartum depression and back to my son was long and hard and there were days that I swore I wasn’t going to make it. There was not a light at the end of the tunnel. There is NOT a light at the end of the tunnel when you are in that darkness. When I hear women who share that they never asked for help because they were scared or they waited until their child was seven, eight months old because they thought maybe it would go away on its own…it makes my heart ache. I asked for help when my son was only two weeks old and it was still THAT HARD to come up from under the water and breathe again. Asking for help is the first step in a long recovery. It’s never too soon to ask. There is no imaginary window of time that you have to wait before you can ask for help. Ask. Please.
Surviving PPD still affects my everyday life in many ways but they aren’t all bad anymore. There are days when I feel that I won’t ever be stable enough to have a second child and in those moments I ask “why me?” There are days when my son wants nothing to do with anybody else in the room except for me and I remember that I am enough and I have always been enough for him. I don’t know what the future holds for me and this little blonde boy of mine but we’re unbreakable, that much I know.
Written by Alexis Barad-Cutler
Depression, in some form, has dipped in and out of my adult life, like an old boyfriend who, every couple of years, sends you an email or a text that ends up derailing your entire day. Except, unlike with the old boyfriend, the feeling doesn’t go away in a night or two. It lingers around, seeping-black, to take hold and suffocate the air you breathe and erase all the joy you may have found in life before you knew him.
I had been on a good run of being off antidepressants before my husband and I decided that we were ready for me to try to get pregnant. The thing with me and antidepressants, is that I can have long stretches of good periods — but all it takes is a bad event to trigger me, and I’ll be thrown into a horrible depression that feels like its the one I’ll never escape that time. (I’ve since learned that I work best when I’m on them all the time, so they can catch me when I fall.)
My pregnancy was, besides the seven months of vomiting, a really magical time. Really. We were living at my husband’s grandmother’s house by the beach, and my summer was filled with freelance writing gigs, slow bike rides on the boardwalk, lunches with Grandma, and perfecting my Amazon.com wishlist for when the baby arrived. Sure, I complained about looking like an ogre most of the time, and I had to contend with gestational diabetes — but my mood was the best I could ever remember feeling. Maybe in my entire life. Those pregnancy hormones did me good.
Fast forward to my son’s birth. An emergency c-section landed me, unprepared for nearly a week’s stay in the hospital. Even though I had known that a c-section was a possibility when it came to delivery methods, I had pretty much tuned out that it was a possibility for me. I thought I had done everything to avoid surgery — from watching my sugar intake (re: the diabetes), to having a painful procedure procedure a few weeks before my due date to turn my breech baby.
On the day of my son’s birth, the doctors noticed something strange with his heart, and we spent that first day taking him for tests with the pediatric cardiologist, and feeling like our whole world might come crashing down at any moment. He turned out to be OK, but all that rest that I had been told to do after the baby was born? Well, being scared shitless kind of takes any ability or desire to relax out of the realm of possibility.
When friends and family visited, I mainly took it as an opportunity to share my war story. I cried most of the day, through almost all my visits. I felt so, very sorry for myself, and what my body had endured. I didn’t understand what had happened, or what I had done “wrong” to deserve a c-section.
I found it impossible to stay still, rest, or sleep, the first week in the hospital, (and later, at home with my baby). I gave myself lists of tasks to do from my hospital bed: journaling, taking pictures, emails, doing those breath exercises they instruct for you to do, writing every single thing my baby did down.
And when I came home, it was worse: I sat with all the books, highlighter in hand, thinking that if I studied up on what babies are supposed to do, I could somehow guarantee that I could make my baby fall in line.
I don’t remember much about my c-section incision, or the pain. I popped painkillers as instructed, and wasn’t shy about it. What I remember is the screaming. My baby never stopped crying, it seemed. Looking back, I did myself a great disservice by constantly trying to put him down in a bassinet or a crib — as the books said to do — knowing that he was perfectly happy in my arms. He wouldn’t sleep at night unless we held him, but we were terrified of sleeping with him, so instead I stayed awake the entire night, fighting him to sleep. As each day passed, I felt myself getting more and more depleted.
I became vigilant about pumping. I busied myself with the task, about three to four times a day. I was already looking forward to some future time when I would not have to be available to this creature who seemed so ungrateful for all the trauma I endured on his behalf.
By the time we moved back to Brooklyn, when my son was about 5 weeks old, I had hired the first nanny I interviewed and gave her my baby without so much as a glance back. I ran out of my building, eager for freedom and agency.
I never wanted to go home. The nights that awaited me felt like absolute terror. I began to formulate strange thoughts. I didn’t say them aloud to anyone, because I knew they sounded completely bizarre, and I chalked them up to being a creative person, and sometimes just a weirdo.
“My baby is trying to kill me.”
“My baby is evil.”
“This was a horrible idea. I should never have gotten pregnant.”
During one of my early OBGYN appointments, my wonderful doctor noticed that something was terribly off. I had done my best to hide this darkness from the people around me — maintaining my funny, sometimes goofy demeanor throughout that time.
She looked at me, with my legs dangling from the exam table, my baby making that beginning-of-a-cry coughing sound.
“What happened to you?” She asked. “You’re not you. You’re a light. You’re whole pregnancy, you had a light inside you. But the light is gone. . . It’s just gone.”
She went down a checklist of questions doctors ask patients who might have postpartum depression, and it was like she was reading my mind. There it was: “Do you have thoughts that your baby is trying to cause you harm? Do you regret having had your baby?” Until that moment, I had had no idea that what I was feeling was something other people might have experienced. I thought I was special. But in all the worst ways.
It took some convincing of family members, and my husband, that I had a clinical problem that required medication. The thought of my taking antidepressants while breastfeeding concerned my husband greatly. We both went to my meeting with a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum depression and breastfeeding, and felt comfortable with the plan she created for me. I went on Zoloft, and found almost immediate relief.
A few weeks later, my son and I were alone in my kitchen, where I had placed him on a little blanket on the countertop (yes, I know, but he was fine) while I tidied up. I put on a Regina Spektor album, and the song “Samson” came on. I had the urge to pick up my son, and start dancing, like I had always imagined happy mothers did with their babies, in kitchens all over the world. We had never danced before. I swayed, and held him close, and began to cry — but it was the first time I was crying while being happy at the same time. I looked at his face, and my heart swelled the way people had always said it would — and that was the moment I realized I was getting better, and it was also the moment I fell in love.
There was a time in my life when I believed everything happened for a reason. I still appreciate and ascribe to something I heard Steve Jobs say in a speech, that the dots of your life choices and happenings connect in hindsight. But this is different to the idea that everything happens for a reason.
When The Secret came out, I eagerly bought into the idea of the power of manifestation. Just THINK your way to positivity and abundance and the fulfilling of all your dreams! (Sometimes I really do wish I could go back in time and smack my naive self upside the head.)
It was easy to take this on as my life view when things were going pretty well. As a yoga teacher, I was kind of sheltered in my day to day life in this happy-happy spiritual world. The people I interacted with pretty much had the shared intent of cultivating good things — things like peace, release, calm, and connectedness. Even if someone was going through a rough time, they weren’t coming to my yoga class to harp on it, but rather, they were coming to let it go in some way.
Careerwise, I experienced a fortunate flow of work from early on. I had an overly full schedule in LA, I was offered a full time position at a studio in Hong Kong, I signed with Nike as their Global Yoga Ambassador, and I built a full teaching schedule once I moved to London as well. I worked hard, but I also felt very lucky. I used to think that perhaps I had been a really good person in a past life, that perhaps I was living this life with good karma.
Being Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador has been a magical dream come true from the very beginning. It’s how I met my husband and why I had to refill my passport pages multiple times. But I was so focused on my work life that I didn’t even know there was so much of my deep internal soulscape that I had not even begun to process.
I was of course always sad about my mom not being well, but I hadn’t known life any other way. It was simply my reality that I had a mentally ill, suicidal mother. I thought I had dealt with it, as evidenced by my ability to be pretty “normal.” I made a living, I had friends and relationships, I exercised, and I had a spiritual practice. “I’m so well-rounded and emotionally balanced,” I genuinely believed.
I even went so far as to philosophically distance myself from my mom’s illness by telling myself that she was living her karma. It was not on me to fix her or to sacrifice my wellbeing in any way. In fact, she in her right mind would want her children to live fully, happily, and healthily.
I took on the identity of a strong person, who, despite having had an unstable childhood, was well-adjusted and thriving. I knew everyone had their own painful experiences and dysfunctional families. I wasn’t going to drown myself in mine.
This was the mindset that misguided me to send my mom bulk jars of cashews (low niacin might be responsible for depression) and to remind her about starving children (just choose to focus on how lucky you are and you’ll snap out of depression).
Again, I wish I could go back in time and shake some sense into myself, but, I didn’t know any better.
It’s so much easier to tell yourself that everything happens for a reason. It makes things less scary. It fools you into thinking there must be a solution to all problems and therefore you have control over your life circumstances.
I think for many things in life, for a lot of the smaller or more arbitrary things, this can be true. Something kind of bad or kind of difficult happens, but when you think about it in hindsight, you can derive some sense or meaning from the experience. The reason you got that parking ticket was to teach you to be more cognizant of time. The reason you stubbed your toe was to give you an opportunity to practice non-reactivity. The reason your ex dumped you was to free you to meet your soulmate.
But there are many instances where this saying does not apply.
There is no reason that one baby is born totally healthy, and another is stillborn.
There is no reason that one mother has a complication-free home birth, and another experiences a traumatic birth.
There is no reason for untimely deaths, mental illness, disease, catastrophes, or freak accidents.
Sometimes shit just happens and it is not fair.
When my mom was in a coma following a suicide attempt, I was in shock. I didn’t understand it as such at the time. I thought that I was handling it well. Calm and collected in the face of something incredibly scary. I told close friends about it. Most did not know what to say, and it was uncomfortable. I found myself apologizing to them for putting them in the uncomfortable position of hearing my uncomfortable news.
Some people said inexplicable things to me, such as, “Don’t let people start to judge you because of what your mom has done. This doesn’t change who you are.”
And, “Wow, now that I’m a mother I could never imagine trying to commit suicide. How could I do that to my kids?”
Once she came out of the coma, forever changed by traumatic brain injury, people again said things only made me feel worse.
“Your mom looks great! You can’t tell anything happened!”
“At least she survived! You’re so lucky!”
I constantly wanted to scream, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” but I also wanted to quickly get out of feeling bad and back to feeling good. So I focused on the fact that, with her brain damage, she was no longer addicted to medicine or suicidal. Perhaps everything was happening for a reason after all.
Fast forward four years to the traumatic birth of my son, R, and the darkness of postpartum depression. My mind was spiraling with self-defeating questions: Why couldn’t I give birth naturally? Why did R have to be poisoned with antibiotics from birth? Why wasn’t I producing enough milk? Why didn’t I feel happy?
Because I must not deserve good things, I thought. Because everything happens for a reason, right?
When I tried to talk to people about how I felt, I often ended up feeling worse.
“I hate that I needed an emergency c-section!” was met with, “At least your baby was delivered safely.”
“I was so scared when we didn’t know if our baby was going to be okay!” was met with, “At least he’s healthy now.”
“I feel like my life is over!” was met with, “Having my children gave me a brand new lease on life!”
“I feel depressed!” was met with, “Having children cured me of my depression.”
“I can’t stand the relentless redundancy of motherhood!” was met with, “This is life with children, you’d better get used to it.”
“I don’t feel right!” was met with, “It’s just baby blues / hormones / sleep deprivation, it’ll pass.”
“I am miserable!” was met with, “What do you have to be miserable about? You have everything you could ever need or want.”
These responses continually deflated me, and left me wondering why I couldn’t just psych myself out of this funk. The problem was, unless someone had been through mental illness or grieving great loss themselves, it was very unlikely they were going to know what to say that would be helpful. They may have been well-intentioned, but they were misguided.
The more my pain was not heard or validated, the greater it became until it exploded into panic disorder, anxiety disorder, insomnia, and PTSD. My usual coping habits of denial, compartmentalizing, and telling myself I was fine when I was not were no longer working. Even my beloved yoga and meditation practice became an unsafe place where I became more agitated and more afraid.
For me, healing began with therapy because my therapist listened and taught me to listen to myself. He stopped me from invalidating my own feelings. He helped me unearth and start to release the buried pain and fear surrounding my sick mother. My panic attacks made me feel like I had to shed my own skin and run for my life. What I needed to do — slowly and with support — was to look within and be brave enough to see truthfully.
I released myself from the idea that I deserved the bad things that I had experienced. Although I find it hard to totally stop comparing myself to others, I started to see that just because that mother did not experience postpartum depression did not mean that she deserved good things and I did not. I unstuck myself from the debilitating and frankly false idea that everything happened for a reason.
All that said, I do see a silver lining in the hardships of my life. I know I am better able to understand others going through pain. I know I will never invalidate their pain by feeding them a cliched saying. I have more compassion and empathy and strength than I did before. I am not afraid to hear about your grief or difficulties. I am willing to stand with you and hold space for you.
I think with some forethought, we can all truly support each other. We can all do better. I came across an article that pointed out the fallacy of everyone’s well-meaning posts for depressed or suicidal people to “call help hotlines!”, saying that this was missing the mark. This was how I felt as well, seeing the big responses after the tragic and public suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. We can all do more than direct someone to a hotline.
How To Help
For starters, the following might be helpful to consider:
What Not To Say
You have so much to be grateful for.
You can have anything that you want.
You can do anything you want.
What do you have to be sad about?
You and your family are all healthy. (Mental illness means lack of health.)
You just have to focus on the positives.
There is so much suffering in the world — you are one of the lucky ones.
Snap out of it.
You’re being unreasonable.
You’re being overly emotional.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Well, everything happens for a reason…
What To Say
First, reach out and check in. Be open-ended. How are you doing?
Then, LISTEN. Without judgment. Without trying to fix.
You don’t deserve that.
That sounds so scary.
That sounds so tough.
It’s not normal that you are going through this.
It’s not okay that you had to go through that.
Would it help if I…[offer a specific suggestion, i.e. “went to the grocery store with you?”]
Would you like to go with me…[on a walk?]
Do you think it might be helpful to try…[therapy. medication. acupuncture…?]
Trigger warning: This post deals with the topic of suicide.
They Need Me.
Last night, I threatened suicide to my husband. It wasn’t the first time I made the threat. I’ve never meant it. I’ve never actually wanted to kill myself. Complete the act. I’ve wanted to die. To escape. To run away. To get sick. To time travel and be given the opportunity to start over. To erase the past. But I have never actually wanted to kill myself. And I have never made any attempt. But I have said it many, many times.
I started making those threats in college. Over the phone to my mom when I was having an episode. Or when I was really angry at something she had done. Or not done. Or said, or made me feel. Or because of a childhood memory that randomly came up and flooded my soul. Maybe I threatened once or twice to my brother who, in his own haze of depression and anxiety, probably responded with some futile words and understood that my state would pass.
And today, I still threaten. To my husband. To my 10-year old daughter. I think I wanted to test my husband last night. I was angry at the world. I was mostly angry at myself, for not being a good mama to my girls. For causing them the same kind of pain I felt as a child. For being inadequate. For not being able to take back my mistakes. The list goes on. These feelings cause more trauma on top of what is already there, simmering, bubbling, waiting to be awakened. Wanting to tell its story. These are not just mama-having-a-bad-day thoughts. These are the pain. I live in this pain. And when it gets too much to bear, or when I have not been properly medicated, I want to vanish.
So last night, I skipped out on family movie night. I didn’t feel deserving of sitting and snuggling with my daughter on the couch because nothing else felt right. While my wise mind wanted to sink in and hibernate with my sweet girl for two hours while the little one slept soundly upstairs, I couldn’t. My pain paralyzed my ability to take pause. To breathe. To just be with myself and my child. For two fucking hours. That’s all she needed from me. I didn’t have to talk. I didn’t have to share. I didn’t have to be anything at all. I literally just needed to sit on my ass and stare at the screen. And I couldn’t.
So I said goodbye. And I told her I love her soooooo much, as she says to me. And she cried. And she begged me to come home that night and not go away. And then as expected she said back, “I love you soooo much, mama.” To which I responded, “Well you shouldn’t.” I told my 10-year old crying daughter that she shouldn’t love her mama. Because in that moment, and even now hiding behind a keyboard, I knew that I had caused her, and would continue to cause her, so much pain. The kind of pain I feel. The unbearable pain that I know and have wanted so desperately to prevent her from understanding. In that moment, I thought that by telling her not to love me, I was letting her off the hook. I was telling her it was ok to hate her mama who wants to be so many things for her and just doesn’t know how. I was telling her that she deserved more than I have given her. And I drove off.
About an hour later, I was sitting in the parking lot at Target. I was texting my husband horrific phrases about how he needed to make sure that my girls know I love them. He must always tell them how much I love them. I was threatening something, although the words weren’t clear. This was my test. I wanted him to come to me. To sweep me up in his arms and let me cry and allow me to try to push him away. I wanted him to hold me through all of this. He told me he loved me over text and to please come home. I kept saying “You don’t need me there,” and he responded with “All we want is to have you home. Please come home.” But still I pushed. I tested some more. Until finally I wrote “What’s going to happen the one time I actually do something to myself? Are you just going to keep telling me you love me and you want me to come home? What if I don’t actually come home?”
A few minutes later, a cop showed up at my car window. And then another one showed up. And another. Fucking fabulous. Male police officers arrive to help the crazy lady. The thought of how little they know about this human condition enrages me. One of them actually said, “You can’t drive home if you took your antidepressant. Is it ok for you to drive on that kind of medication?” The ignorance about depression and anxiety, about what it truly is, reared its ugliness.
These guys didn’t know a thing, and it was so patronizing listening to their attempts at getting through. I told them what they wanted to hear: I was having a bad day. Yes, officer, I have a therapist. I told them that, if they walked through the parking lot into Target, they would find other local mamas wandering the aisles trying to escape their lives, too. But they persisted. They told me not to feel ashamed; they were just there to help me. No one fucking understands. Not a man, or another woman for that matter, can understand the pain a depressed mother feels when she is at her lowest, unless she, too, has been there.
I certainly did not need them to stand there and poke at me. We, the anxious, the sad, the ashamed, the guilty, the angry, the lonely, the numb, the overwhelmed, DO NOT NEED YOUR PITY. OR YOUR EXPLANATIONS. OR YOUR SUGGESTIONS. We need you to be there. To hold us. To help us learn to feel safe in a very scary world. To stop saying “I’m sorry you feel this way,” and just say “I know. It hurts.” To come when we threaten. Because maybe you will be the only one who has ever come. And maybe that will mean something. Maybe, for a split second, it will abandon a piece of the pain. And maybe that will help.
When the cops finally let me leave, they followed me to my home, where they harrassed me in my driveway and then chatted on my block, underneath my innocent toddler’s bedroom window, for another hour or so.
I eventually went inside and asked my husband what he was waiting for. Why was he showing my girls that it’s ok to stay in a relationship like this. An emotionally abusive relationship is how I define it. And he shrugged, exhausted, drained, knowing that any answer he gave at that moment wouldn’t be enough. The only answer I can come up with myself is that he sees me. He actually sees me. He knows me. He knows that my depression and anxiety are not me. They are my demons. He knows that when I’m good, I’m so good, and that I am the best God Damn Mama my girls could ever have. Whenever I ask him why he hasn’t taken them and left me yet, his response is always the same: “Because they need you. They need you healthy. They need you in their lives. They love you. I love you. I need you. And they need you.”
I slept on the couch last night. I didn’t want to sleep next to him in my own bed. Maybe it was a way of punishing myself. Or maybe it was to piss him off. I don’t know. But I woke up this morning. And I will wake up tomorrow morning. And somehow, I will keep on fucking fighting.
Because I have to. My girls need me. They need me to stop blaming myself. They need me to stop thinking such negative thoughts about myself. They need me to prove that I am better than my illness and stronger than my pain. They need me to show them that I am a capable woman who can face it all and learn to cope. They need to see me fall off track and find my way back again. I will wake up tomorrow because I love them so very much and they unconditionally love me back. I will wake up tomorrow because they need me.
If you are struggling with thought of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.