My little sister was the first person to say it to me.
My grandmother was the second one to suggest it, followed carefully by my mother … and then finally, TJ said it out loud:
“I think that you have postpartum depression.”
I wasn’t completely shocked to hear of their accusations … I mean I hadn’t felt like myself at all in the weeks following bringing Michaela home from the NICU – but does any new mother ever 100% feel like her former self after having a baby?
Because I sure as hell didn’t. At all.
But the accusations still stung. Plus they all came within days of one another, which made the whole situation feel even more suffocating. I mean the only women who you hear about on TV who have PPD are the ones who chuck their babies over bridges or who stuff the tailpipes of their vehicles with old tee shirts and leave their little ones inside to die of a CO cocktail.
My heart was filled with love for Michaela. She brought so much joy to my life every single day … but still, every single day … for weeks, I was SOFUCKINGANGRY inside. And sad. And tired. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. Breastfeeding was exhausting my body and mind, and the demands of a newborn danced around with these overpowering feelings of isolation and a desperate desire to have my old life back.
I’d refresh Instagram and see other momma’s write things like “I was meant to be a wife and mother!” or talk about how #blessed they were, or write that each day felt like Christmas morning, or that their baby reminded them of a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies (seriously. I can’t make this shit up) … and yes, yes!, Michaela is my beautiful little blessing and she brings so much happiness to my days … but for weeks I secretly felt this giant void in my life instead of all of these overflowing happy feelings like all of the “other” mothers were elated to boast about on social media. I knew that having Michaela was going to be a lot of work, but I expected motherhood to fill me up … and at times I sort of felt hollow inside.
Like, if you gave me a hug, I might crack open.
I was fully prepared to bring Michaela home from the hospital. I bought the Swaddlers and wipes for sensitive skin, the Honest Co. bubble bath, and stocked up on Organic Butt Paste. I carefully chose her stroller and car seat. I already knew how to cut her tiny nails, bathe her, burp her, and change her dirty diapers long before she was even born thanks to being 16 years older than my “baby” brother … but none of these things, no book and no baby Yoda, could prepare me for what life was really going to be like with her.
I ignorantly thought that having a child was going to be (my life) + (a baby) … like she was going to be this beautiful add-on bonus. Honestly: I wasn’t prepared for Michaela to become my whole entire world.
I missed my freedom. I missed being able to work long hours each day. I missed sleeping. I missed my body being mine. I missed myself. I felt imprisoned by her feeding schedule and all of the physical and emotional demands that she required from me, and I felt like I was a robot. A robot who loved her daughter SO much … but still … a robot who was navigating through each day on auto pilot.
And these thoughts made me feel guilty … and not good enough … and alone … which added more sadness, anxiety, stress and confusion into my days that turned into weeks that turned into months. How could I love my baby SO much, but be so God damned miserable at the same time?
My mom explained to me that my feelings were normal, that within moments of delivering Michaela there was a rapid drop of estrogen and progesterone in my body and blah blah blah. I already knew this … but I still frequently found myself hiding under the covers in the middle of the night asking Google to diagnose my feelings.
Each time we visited Michaela’s pediatrician, I’d been handed a clipboard and asked to checkmark answers to postpartum depression screening questions like:
I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things (Always)
I have looked forward with enjoyment to things (Always)
I have felt scared or panicky for no very good reason (Never)
I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong (Never)
I guess I passed the screenings because no one had ever spoken to me about them … but none of the questions had anything to do with what was going on inside of my head anyways … they never asked if I felt angry or stressed, they asked if I still had my sense of humor.
Like … WTF? My postpartum depression was literally off the charts.
Since I never felt like harming myself or Michaela I just brushed my feelings off in the beginning as hormonal or the “baby blues” – but according to Google, the baby blues disappear 2-4 weeks after delivery. Mine continued for months – but never interfered with any of the tasks that come with motherhood. In fact – I’ve only cried twice since bringing Michaela home – both times at an ungodly hour when she would not gothehelltosleep!!!!! Don’t depressed people cry all the time? Isn’t it hard for them to get out of bed every day? I was a fully functioning, calm, and polished human … I was never crying or weepy … so what in the actual hell was going on with me?
“You look so happy!” “Motherhood looks so good on you!” “You’re really enjoying her, aren’t you?” were comments frequently passed to me. But I was an irritable asshole (oh! speaking of which, I also had an annoying hemorrhoid until like fifteen weeks postpartum … add that to the soupy mixture of sleepiness and bliss), I was angry inside and I was numb to my own feelings. Nobody ever asked me how I was doing, or if I needed help – because on the outside, sure, I was handling motherhood like a champ … but on the inside I was struggling in silence.
The truth about this post is that I typed and backspaced the above between April 3rd and August 21st. The woman who began typing this has come and gone, and has since been replaced with one who finally feels comfortable and brave enough to share the feelings that once weighed so heavy on her heart. I’m not hitting the publish button on this post for me – but rather for the next new mother who finds herself Googling at 3:30AM, trying to figure out WTF is wrong with her.
I think that more moms need to be real about HOW FREAKING HARD some days can be, and stop coloring this life changing event with beautifully camouflaged superlatives that make the rest of us hide under the covers at night to go on an Internet Easter egg hunt trying to diagnose why we don’t feel the same.
I’m obviously not a doctor, nor am I minimizing what postpartum depression can dangerously spiral into … but now that I’m on the other side, I feel that the fog that I was navigating through is normal and needs to be discussed more. During that time, I often questioned if I should phone my OBGYN or a therapist, especially when I’d voice to TJ, “I feel like I’m going crazy” … but I trusted myself and my mind that I would get through whatever “it” was … and I did.
I don’t really think that motherhood has gotten any easier, but I know that I’ve gotten stronger.
My beautiful, smart, high needs, demanding-as-all-hell but lovely and loved 8.5 month old is currently sleeping soundly with her body draped across my belly like she’s still tucked away inside of me, and there’s nowhere else that I’d rather be. I may not compare her to a warm plate of cookies (she did not cook in an Easy Bake Oven!) … but I’ll eat her up, I love her so.
So if you’re a new mom who is lost in the fog of motherhood and desperate for an answer, my advice to you is this: Own your feelings. Own that you’re sad, that you’re mad, that you’re tired and that you’re lost. The day that I owned that I had postpartum depression, such a weight was lifted off of my shoulders – it was like I finally had an answer as to what was wrong with me, and I could finally begin to heal.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other, because “it” will get better. I promise. Maybe not today or tomorrow or next week, but one day soon you’ll be holding your babe and you’ll be in awe about how much you’ve both grown.
I hope that this post shines a light on the dark and lonely place that you’re in right now … and please know that you’re not alone. You’ve got this, momma. We’ve got this.