“When I look in the mirror I don’t recognize the person looking back at me, I feel like I’m living in someone else’s skin.”-me to my husband about 7 months postpartum
Before our daughter was born I was dealing with some stuff. A lot of stuffs. We were in a financial hard spot. My husbands family was not in the picture. I was grieving my moms death that occurred months prior. Most importantly we had a beautiful little boy to take care of.
While I was pregnant I just felt off mentally. I could never describe it accurately to anyone, and usually just brushed it off as “there’s just a lot going on.” I just felt down, but I felt guilty for feeling that way. I felt guilty for feeling that way when I knew so many people who would’ve climbed mountains to be having a baby. So, I kept going. I pushed the feelings to the side, and I pretended all was good.
When I began to have mild contractions with my daughter I laid in the bed for hours. I was terrified. Not terrified to give birth, but terrified I couldn’t do everything I needed to do afterwards. Just filled with a terror I didn’t understand. Then I thought, “they would probably all be better off if I died during childbirth.” I knew I shouldn’t be thinking such a thing, I knew I didn’t want to die, I knew I loved my family, but the thought was still there anyways.
After I had my daughter I didn’t bond with her right away. (You can read about that here: I Didn’t Bond With My Baby Right After Giving Birth.) Even once we worked all that out I still just felt “off.” I could never put into words exactly how I felt. I loved my babies, and took care of their every need. I did everything I needed to do to keep our house up. I was doing all the “things” I was supposed to, but I was just drifting through my life.
I wasn’t sleeping even though I was exhausted physically and mentally. I couldn’t stand to be touched by anyone, unless it was cuddles from my kids. My social anxiety only intensified to the point that I wouldn’t even want to go to dinner with my best friend.
When I finally said something to my husband about what I was feeling and how I didn’t feel like myself his response was, “I know, how can I help you?” Of course he knew he lived with me, he saw me everyday. He would be the first person to notice anything different, but he didn’t know the extent of it. He didn’t know the hours I spent crying alone, the thoughts I had before giving birth to our daughter, how disgusting I felt with my physical appearance, how depleted I felt physically and mentally, and how guilty I felt for feeling all of those things. After all, no one can know exactly how you feel if you aren’t talking about it with them.
So here are some mistakes I made that I hope someone else can learn from:
-at the first sign of trouble talk to someone about it. A friend, a spouse, a partner, a doctor, a counselor….just talk to someone.
-take care of yourself. I was not doing anything for myself. I was 100% taking care of everyone else. You cannot take care of anyone else if your cup is empty.
-You are not a bad mom. For the longest time I thought I must be the most horrible mom if I wasn’t feeling happy. I didn’t understand how I could have these two beautiful creatures in front of me and feel the way I felt. It took a long time for me to accept that I was not less than as a mom because I was experiencing a mood disorder.
-Let people help you if they offer. I’m the worst about this. I feel like I should be able to do it all, and that I don’t need anyone else to help me. I’m fiercely independent and that has been a hard thing to let go of. I needed to ask for help more. I still do.
-Don’t let other people minimize how you feel. Don’t let your doctor just put you in the corner with an excuse of “it’s just hormones.” It very well may not be “just hormones” and needs to be addressed.
I am almost two years postpartum and I can honestly say I am only just now feeling the ppd fog lifting. I never would’ve imagined it would’ve taken this long. It has been the most eye opening and exhausting period of my life. I never knew that you could feel so much love and happiness, and at the same time feel the lowest lows of your life.
Motherhood is beautiful, but it’s not beautiful 100% of the time. Nobody likes to talk about the hard stuff because it is messy and makes people uncomfortable. I think we need to be talking about it more to help out our fellow mamas who may be feeling very alone in their journeys. Be proud of yourself Mamas. You’re doing a good job.
Here is some helpful information about postpartum depression: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml
And about prenatal depression: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/depression-during-pregnancy/
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