When I was pregnant with my son I felt so prepared for everything. My pregnancy was a lot of fun and I felt great the entire 9 months. I read books, took classes, talked to my doctor, went to every event that was recommended to me, combed through tons of blogs, and talked to all the moms in my life. I prepared for everything, except postpartum depression.
Birth trauma happens.
I was very fortunate to deliver my son at an incredible hospital with the most amazing OB/GYN. Being that this was my first child and my first time ever delivering a baby, I had no idea what was normal or not. I went in with very little expectation, but was hopeful for the best and ultimately trusted the medical professionals to do their jobs and help me out. My delivery took a lot longer than expected and things were getting a little complicated, little did I know. I must admit that my husband, the nurses, and my doctor did an excellent job of shielding me from anxiety in the delivery room. There were some moments of fear toward the end when I started to realize things weren’t exactly going as I’d hoped, but overall I felt very protected and safe during the entire experience. There were a lot of things happening in the delivery room and a lot of people coming in and out. It was all such a blur during my time at the hospital between the exhaustion and the natural high that followed meeting my son for the first time. I didn’t fully process my son’s delivery until weeks later and once I did I was not okay.
Due to some complications in my delivery, I ended up reporting back to my doctor every week between the birth and my 6-week postpartum visit. I am honestly so grateful for those visits because she was such an encourager and always so positive. She was honest with me and always checked in on me, asking about my mood. I know she could probably tell by the look on my face and my generally vacant demeanor that something was going on, but she needed me to be honest with her before anything could truly begin to change.
My in-laws stayed with us for several weeks after my son was born. Having extra people around was both a blessing and a curse. I wasn’t feeling like myself at all, but I wasn’t exactly in a position where I felt I could freely express myself for fear of judgment. I ended up locking my internal anguish away, not even divulging my feelings to my own husband. I was dying on the inside, but I had nowhere to turn. One day, my dad called me to check in and see how we were all doing. He could tell I was upset and asked me what was going on and I just let it all spill out. I was miserable, unhappy, living in a house full of people yet feeling more alone than I ever had in my entire life. I was rattled with guilt for feeling so unbelievably sad, isolated, and scared during what I knew was supposed to be the best moment of my life. My dad encouraged me to talk to my husband and not be afraid to ask for help if I needed it.
It was finally time to tell the truth.
Once the guests were gone and it was just our new little family of 3, I finally spilled my guts to my husband one night and told him I was becoming severely depressed. And on top of that, I was terrified this depression was going to ruin my son’s life. I was meant to be a mom more than I can say I’m meant to be anything else in this life, but chemical imbalance, shame, and denial were taking over my body and telling me lies. One of the major triggers of my postpartum depression was my immense struggle and lack of success with breastfeeding. The next day I immediately called my doctor’s nurse to come clean over the phone. I told her I wasn’t okay and I needed to be truthful because I needed help. I cannot thank my doctor enough for her support and judgment-free advice. It was truly the unbiased and straightforward approach I needed to get back on my feet. She encouraged me to not feel trapped by breastfeeding if that’s how I felt. She encouraged me to focus on my mental health for the overall wellbeing of my entire family, not just myself.
I battled with postpartum depression for the better part of my son’s first year. To this day, I still struggle with triggers from those days. I harbor feelings of resentment sometimes and I carry scars from the different aspects of that experience I’ll never be able to forget.
Please know there’s hope.
I had to learn the hard way to give myself some grace. I needed to readjust my expectations postpartum and understand that my son needed a happy and healthy mom more than he needed to be exclusively breastfed. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life, but by letting go of gigantic expectations I placed on myself I became the mom I’d always dreamed of being. I was finally free. I had hope for the future. Little by little, things improved. My relationship with my son grew into the most cherished one I have in this lifetime. My husband learned a lot about how to really be there for someone in a way that took him well outside his comfort zone. I learned how to stick up for myself and speak up when I’m not well or when I’m in a situation that doesn’t make me feel okay. There was a time when depression was literally eating me alive. With time, medication when needed, therapy, and support from loved ones I’ve learned to appreciate myself and my body in a way like never before. And I’ve also realized that I can’t let my past haunt me forever. I am no longer afraid of that monster rearing its ugly head the next time around because I know that I can survive and I know that I’m strong.
If you or someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression, I encourage you to talk to someone. Reach out to your doctor. Reach out to a support group. Go see a therapist. Be honest with your loved ones. These are the things that helped me heal over the course of a year (give or take) and I’m so happy to say I found my inner peace, and you can too.