I’ve been so hesitant, afraid and nervous about sharing my story, but it’s time.
It’s been almost a year since I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression. I went 6 months living in a state of anxiety and depression that was ruining me and my family.
This was my third baby (and my second delivery). I really thought I knew everything (or most things) about bringing home a newborn. The round the clock feedings and lack of sleep were nothing new for me. I knew what to expect and knew that while there are so many hard days, the first year goes by SO FAST. And the saying of “the days are long, but the years are short” I feel is especially true of baby’s first year. So naturally, on the days I felt like I was struggling I really just thought well, 1) I now have three kids instead of two, and 2) the newborn phase is short, so this will pass quickly and it won’t be so hard anymore.
The first month of my sweet baby C’s life passed so quickly. And it was so very hard. Transitioning to three kids wasn’t the hard part, but there were feeding issues and weight gain issues, tummy problems for him which led to him never sleeping. I mean what newborn doesn’t sleep??? MINE DIDN’T.
I was constantly googling everything and wondering if I really just forgot how hard this was…??
Three months passed. Things were still hard. We’d gotten all the feeding, tummy and sleep issues corrected at this point. I mean I was still up nursing a baby at night, but that wasn’t a big deal. So why was I still having such a hard time? Why did I always feel this looming cloud of darkness hovering over me? Why was I still worried about milk production and latching and getting the kids outside and making sure they made it to school? Every day I worried about how I was going to get everyone to school that morning with a newborn who needed to eat constantly? How am I ever going to leave the house with a baby who won’t take this stupid bottle?? What if he has to eat while we’re out somewhere???
Four months passed.
Five months passed.
Six months passed.
Before I knew it we were at the end of the summer and I’m like… what did we even do this summer? What happened? Where was I?
And that my friends is when I realized something was wrong. And that statement of, “Where was I?” describes the first six months of Carter’s life pretty accurately.
When I look back at last summer and specifically the first six months of Carter’s life… there isn’t much I remember. It breaks my heart. It hurts me that I lived for so long under the illusion of that being normal that I missed so many things even though I was there for all of them. And if you’ve ever experienced postpartum depression, you know exactly what I mean. You are present physically, but mentally you are no where to be found.
My postpartum anxiety wrecked me. It kept me from enjoying my new baby, enjoying my family and robbed me of the greatest gift — time.
I’ll never get that time back. I’ll never get to relive those special early days of having a newborn and transitioning to a family of 5. It’s funny because I look back at all these photos and I see myself smiling…. it’s amazing what you can hide in photos and behind a smile.
When Carter was just a month old I remember one of my darkest moments. I specifically remember saying to my husband, “We made a mistake. We shouldn’t have done this.”
And by “shouldn’t have done this” I meant we made a mistake in having Carter. To even type those words out makes me cringe, my heart ache and feel shame. Why would I ever say that? Why would I ever think that?
But it wasn’t ME. It was postpartum depression and anxiety. I was drowning. And I didn’t even know it.
Several months passed on and on. And when I finally started to talk to my husband and my close girlfriends about how I had been feeling I started to see some light. However, there were some people who fortunately have never experienced this, but were quick to say things like, “well having 3 kids is hard” and “ehh that’s normal”.
Don’t ever say those things to a new mom. Because no, it’s not normal. It’s not normal to be struggling the way that I was struggling. It’s not normal to have so much anxiety about going into your own backyard that you just stay inside because the thought of taking 3 kids into your backyard frightens you and worries you. THAT IS NOT NORMAL. And that’s just one of the examples I could share of many that kept me locked inside my house for months.
I’m grateful for the friends who heard me. Who validated my feelings and strongly encouraged me to go see my doctor. A special thank you to two of my best friends, Heather and Lauren. They heard me. They asked me. They encouraged me and prayed for me. Without them, who knows what would’ve happened.
My friend Lauren shared her story on her own blog HERE about her experience with PPD. And there’s something she talks about that is so true and is really one of the reasons why I never honestly thought I was experiencing it too.
Postpartum depression does not look the same for everyone. There are extreme cases where women don’t want to be around their children, where their hormones are so imbalanced that they harm themselves or their families. And every time I see one of those stories it kills me. My heart breaks for those women. They’re seen as crazy or insane. When really? It’s their bodies reacting to giving birth in an adverse way that no one wants to talk about or help. If someone had simply asked them? Maybe there would’ve been a different outcome.
But postpartum doesn’t always look like that. It has many different faces, as Lauren says. You can feel connected with your baby, but still be suffering in your own sadness. I personally felt disconnected from everyone, not just my baby, not just my kids. I was disconnected from my life. I was simply going through the motions in a fog. The smallest things gave me the greatest anxiety. And honestly, looking back, that should’ve been a red flag to myself. I’m not one who just sits on the sidelines because I have young children. I’m almost always ready to go out and do things with my kids. Just because they’re all young really doesn’t stop me. But during my postpartum experience, going anywhere with them scared the hell out of me. Which is very unusual.
I felt like I was living in a fog. I look back at pictures during that time and vaguely remember those moments. Do you know how hard that is? To see a picture from a year ago and barely remember it? I’m thankful to my husband who takes a million photos or else I’d have almost no memories of those six months.
I met with my doctor. She heard me. She listened to me. She encouraged me and validated my feelings. She is a mom of 5. She knows what it’s like to have multiple young kids at once and reassured me it is not normal to have the feelings I was feeling. Yes, it’s hard. But this was more than just life being hard. So much more. She offered to give me a medication for a couple months to see how or if it would help. It did. It saved me. And I’m not ashamed of saying that anymore.
If you don’t have a doctor that will hear you, you need to find a new doctor. Someone who won’t dismiss you. Someone who will ask questions and answer those questions you have.
Today I want you to know a few things.
Ask the new moms in your life how they’re doing. Don’t just ask about the baby or how much weight they’ve lost since giving birth. Ask about how they’re FEELING. How are they really doing? Ask the question.
Don’t dismiss a new moms feelings. If they say it’s hard or they’re struggling, ask them more questions. Yes, maybe they just need some time to transition. But if 3 or 6 months later they’re still struggling, ask them again. Don’t tell them it’s normal just because you think they can’t handle it. Because your normal isn’t everyone’s normal.
Postpartum depression and anxiety is REAL. It hurts mothers and families. It robs them from their time and their memories. It is not talked about enough. And it’s not seen as a real mental health illness from everyone.
This has to change.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I never in a million years thought I’d be talking about this or sharing my own experience with it, but here we are. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Or your friend. Or your coworker. Or your sister or cousin.
My hope and prayer is that women feel empowered to not be ashamed of this mental health issue. That we will be heard and not seen as crazy, delusional, hormonal beasts. Our bodies created and gave life. It’s a beautiful thing. But the aftereffects aren’t always as beautiful.
Sharing this today has helped me come to peace with that time in my life. I pray that it reaches just one woman to know she is not alone in her suffering.
You are not alone.
If you are questioning if what you’re feeling is normal or may be postpartum depression or you just need someone to talk to, I encourage you to reach out to myself (email@example.com) or call your doctor immediately. Don’t suffer in silence.