I knew quickly after my first son was born that something was wrong. Not with him – he was perfect, minus a slightly crazy cone-shaped head that was his battle scar from a couple hours of pushing. He was beautiful, healthy, and amazing.
The first few days after he was born left me feeling exhausted. When the initial exhaustion lifted a bit, I realized that I felt somewhat empty and sad. I had expected this amazing love to take me over and blissfully carry me through the sleepless nights. Instead, I felt like I was headed over a cliff.
Well hello there, postpartum depression (PPD)…
If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you know that when it really takes hold, you feel like you’ve lost control. Life is a series of going through the motions, plagued by a sadness that has such a tight grip on you. Depression is no stranger to me, but when Will was born, it had been many years since it had visited me with such ferocity. I called my OB within a few days of his birth because I feared what would happen if I didn’t seek help. He put me on anti-depressants, and I tried to power through until I began to see the light.
Babies are Beautiful!
We talk about the blessings of new babies all the time. Don’t get me wrong- they are the most amazing thing ever! I love my sons more than I can even put into words. But the truth that we often don’t talk about is the huge impact they have on our lives (we no longer have one), and our hormones (CRAY!). You ride a high for nine months, waiting for this teeny tiny little miracle, and then it comes, and you crash. Your baby exits your body alongside all the feel-good hormones, and it can hit you like a ton of bricks.
I felt like a crazy person after Will was born. I felt like a terrible mother, completely disconnected from this tiny man who had lived inside of me for nine months. My brain was telling me to curl up in a ball and hide and I had no idea what to do with him. He was completely dependent on me for life and I was barely functioning.
Shh… Don’t talk about Postpartum!
The real problem with PPD is that we rarely talk about it. While I was in the midst of PPD, I didn’t really tell anyone except my husband. If I did, it was very casual, and I passed it off as exhaustion. I now know that many other mamas have walked the same path after having their babies. We whisper about it over happy hour, admitting that we too felt blue after we had our children. There is sometimes shame, sometimes total confusion that this happy time can bring such sadness. Some women don’t even realize that what they are feeling is PPD! For me, there was also fear of having any future children and the sadness that might return.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
I’m happy to say that I’m now the mama to two beautiful boys. I managed to claw my way out of the PPD hole and totally fell in love with my first son. When my second was born, I was shocked and delighted when I fell in love with him the instant he was born. (With my second child, I chose to go back on anti-depressants at the end of my pregnancy in the hopes that it would help stave off any depression).
I learned from my struggle that when depression tells you to back off from life it’s then that you must lean in, accept help, talk to people, and allow yourself grace. Yes, babies are beautiful. But it’s also ok to admit that they’re really hard and that being Mom to a newborn can sometimes be painful. I’m grateful to my friends who have shared their experiences with me and allowed me to share in return. It takes a village to raise our children. Along with that, it’s crucial to support their Mamas too and provide space for PPD to no longer be taboo.