After I had my second child, things felt…off. I was aware of the so called “baby blues” and the tears and mood swings and all that fun postpartum stuff because this was my second go ’round with the whole mothering thing, but this felt different.
First, everything felt really difficult, and I mean everything. Showering felt like it took all my energy, just getting up out of bed felt hard, breastfeeding felt impossible, just the everyday usual stuff felt so enormously difficult. And that made me sad, and made me cry, basically all the time on and off throughout the day. I found it difficult to even hold the baby, because I felt like I wasn’t giving her enough milk, and whenever she cried, I perceived it as her being unhappy or not cared for the right way by me, and that made me want to just shut down, and I just couldn’t pull myself together.
My first born was a toddler at this point and so I felt like not only was I failing this baby, I was also failing my first baby because I wasn’t engaged with either of them, I was just struggling to get through the days, even though the nights up with a baby weren’t much easier.
I also felt totally alone, because I felt like this wasn’t the “normal” reaction a woman should have to motherhood. In my mind, I was “supposed to” be all lovey and in that sweet baby haze and everything should be sunshine and roses and I should be able to breastfeed with no problem and would just generally be in the glow of motherhood, happy as a clam. And since I wasn’t, I felt like a failure, like there was something fundamentally wrong with me, I thought I was a bad person because I felt this way. I felt isolated and ashamed, I didn’t want to tell anyone how I was feeling and so I tried to pretend like it wasn’t there. I looked at other mothers who were in the glow and thought, why am I not like that right now? What is wrong with me? My baby is healthy and beautiful and I should be rejoicing and full of love and light, not crying all the time and struggling to get myself dressed.
I knew something wasn’t right.
So, on the advice of my mother, I called my doctor (ed note: this was before I moved to Saratoga Springs and this particular doctor does not practice in this area). I got the receptionist on the phone, and when she asked me what was wrong, I immediately started crying. Through my tears I told her how I was feeling, that I was overwhelmed by basically everything, that I was crying all the time, that I was so tired, beyond the usual exhaustion, that I didn’t even want to take a shower. I told her that I needed some help, and in telling her, I already felt a small release, because at least now it was out in the open.
The receptionist put me on hold. And I waited, staring out my front windows at the sunny spring day outside that I wanted no part of. Finally she got back on the line and told me they would call in an antidepressant to the CVS by my house. That was it. She didn’t suggest I come in and see the doctor, no appointment was scheduled, I didn’t even get the chance to talk to the actual doctor or nurse. I was a little dumbfounded, but I hung up anyway, not even really sure what I was going to do. Was I going to take this medicine they prescribed after she talked to me for four minutes over the phone? Was I just going to skip it and see if I could “snap out of it”?
At the time, I was too deep in my own fog of postpartum depression to rally up any outrage at how fully crappy my treatment was. The usual me would have given someone an earful about a knee jerk prescription and the zero follow up for a woman who very clearly had postpartum depression and should have been seen by a doctor, no doubt. But I wasn’t my usual self. And I didn’t take the prescription. It frightened me a little to add anything to the mix with what I was already dealing with, and since I had no visit with the doctor I was scared to take something new basically without any doctor supervision.
I was enough of my usual self though to know I never wanted to see that doctor again, and I never did.
Long story short, I got through it, because I am here typing this today. I got through it with the help of my family, my mom was basically my saving grace and I don’t know for sure what would have happened if she hadn’t moved up here and helped me through it. I went on to have more babies, and even though I was absolutely terrified that it would happen again, it didn’t, and even though I felt like I “missed out” on some of that great baby haze, my daughter and I bonded and fell in love with each other regardless, in our own way, together. In many ways I feel that she made me a stronger person, a stronger mother, and that by experiencing it together I feel like we have our own special unbreakable bond.
But not everyone has a mother nearby that can help. Not everyone has a partner that can or will help, or that will recognize there is a problem and that someone needs serious help, and postpartum depression is just that, serious. Very serious.
I write this today because if there is one single person out there who is going through this, know that you are not alone, and you need to go get help, and it will get better, I promise. If you feel like you are not getting the treatment you need, find a new doctor. Advocate for yourself, you know when something is wrong. I hate the idea that anyone would feel that guilt going through postpartum depression, that feeling like you are failing your baby because you feel that way. You are not failing.
Click here to visit Postpartum Progress to read more about postpartum depression. If you know a mom that is having a tough time, check in with her. Make sure she is okay. You can help be her light at the end of the tunnel. We need better postpartum care for mothers in this country, but we also need to be there for each other, we can mother our babies and we can also mother each other.