Rewind about 9 years…my first encounter seeing Postpartum Depression
I was a very young, nervous new mom. I worked at a daycare and so I soaked up any bits and pieces of motherhood from the moms I got to know through caring for their children. One of the moms I grew to love was so cool and calm and collected. She was always patient with her children and I never saw her without a smile. She had cute nicknames for her kiddos and could tickle them out of any fit.
But then out of nowhere, after she had her last baby…something changed in her. She withdrew. She seemed ashamed, and her smile went away. I remember vividly because I was shocked that postpartum depression could grab hold of someone like her, a supermom in my mind. It scared me and opened my eyes to the stark reality of PPD.
Then it happened to me…
When my daughter was two and a half we found out we were expecting our second baby. I was thrilled with our growing family, and after an easy pregnancy, our baby boy entered the world. I imagined I would transition from frantic new mom and ease into a knowledgeable and confident mom of two. Much like the moms I admired, I would develop a gentle super mom persona and smile from ear to ear… or not so much.
The road wasn’t as smooth as I had envisioned it going from one sweet quiet child to two needy little humans depending on me every second. I didn’t have much help in the weeks following my son’s debut, as my husband went back to work very quickly. I was a stay at home mom and retreated into my house like a hermit in a cave. Slowly but surely I became overwhelmed by the enormity of everyday tasks.
I did everything I could to prevent myself from getting overly anxious and thinking bad thoughts. I tried to stay ahead of my baby blues. I thought that I could strong-arm the beast so that it couldn’t get me, not if I saw it coming.
I always envisioned postpartum looking a certain way
…but instead, my postpartum journey was a deep dark hole of self hate.
It started with how my body was looking… loose and bulky and weak. I hated myself for not bouncing back like other women. I found myself getting overwhelmed and flustered with trying to take care of both of my kids. No matter how hard I tried to be a super mom, one always ending up crying, including me. I hated myself for not being able to handle it all. I didn’t cook or clean or keep up with laundry like I thought a super mom should and I hated myself for failing.
I always looked out for the sadness, but the anger took me by surprise. I would cry at the end of the day to my husband out of frustration about how much I hated myself and pointed out all of the ways that I failed during the day. It was like an enemy was living inside my own head beating me down and I was quickly losing the battle.
I remember my husband trying to fix me. He did sweet things, and wrote me kind words, and took me out to eat. People would say, “oh, just give yourself a break” when I expressed my utter disappointment in the failure I felt as a mom of two. The thing about being in the troughs of PPD is that while you know the difference between the reality and the lies, somehow you can’t quiet the one that robs your joy.
I wanted so badly to offer myself grace.
I knew that realistically every mom takes time to adjust after adding a baby to their family, but there’s no reasoning with depression. It steals your ability to think and consumes you with the burden to feel.
Everyone thought I was just sad and needed to do normal tasks to perk up…. such as exercise, relax, get fresh air, and spend time with loved ones. All the while none of that seemed appealing. I could be in a crowded room and feel completely alone. I could eat but was never hungry. I could cry but never felt relief. I thought postpartum was all about figuring out how to be happy with your new baby, but my journey was all about fighting to be happy with myself.
The shame and embarrassment made me turn down any offer to “go see someone”. Looking back, I wish I had recognized the grief I was enduring and had welcomed professional help into my battle. I suffered in silence before the dark cloud finally lifted.
I always thought postpartum depression looked a certain way, but it doesn’t.