It was somewhere between bouncing a screaming baby and medicating my bleeding, cracked nipples when I knew I didn’t see the silver lining anymore. This wasn’t sustainable; I was pale, sleep deprived, so hungry I wasn’t hungry anymore, and this wasn’t the romantic fourth trimester I envisioned.
I knew it was hard, but surely what I was feeling inside was not universal. The anxiety and nausea that overcame me every time I nursed our daughter; the sleep safety rules that made me feel like our little bundle of joy was more of a suicidal time-bomb… I felt absolutely paranoid.
Didn’t she know that I couldn’t sleep with her on my chest? Didn’t she know “back is best?” Oh, and I remember the night I sat in the nursery trying to get her to latch, but she refused. Over and over she refused. At this point she had gone 5 hours without a drop and I was feeling like a complete failure. I caved and gave her a pacifier, called the breastfeeding emergency line (funny how I laughed in our parenting class, “what the heck is a breastfeeding emergency?!”), and finally passed the baby off to my husband as I attempted to pump one measly ounce — which she happily chugged down.
I remember the feeling as my identity left me and I found myself becoming a martyr. Team Baby Moura, do or die! I had never loved something so much that I would die for it, but it didn’t feel healthy. It felt more like an avalanche and I was dying from the weight.
I had received the standard help: my mom stayed with me for two weeks, friends brought me meals for a few days, loved ones stopped in occasionally to meet the baby and bring a gift… so imagine my surprise when the help stopped and I panicked. What was that transition supposed to look like? Maybe a bit of uncertainty, a little feet to the fire, a little bonding… but not this. This felt like walking in a pitch black space, where everyone can see, but you. It felt like complete helplessness, while inexcusably being completely responsible for a little life (both nutritionally and its care).
My postpartum depression would be considered “high functioning.” I went through the motions, I juggled all of the balls and I wore all of the hats — but I felt terrified constantly. I was barely eating, my appetite was ruined every time I nursed (due to undiagnosed D-MER) and every time I tried to express my feelings to my husband, I just sounded incredulous and dramatic, because I was freaking out inside.
After a little processing, I managed to gain enough clarity to tell my husband that I was experiencing abnormal postpartum symptoms, and then I brought my concerns to my doctor.
He gave me a questionnaire and I knew my answers would alert him. Upon reviewing it, he asked me questions about how I’m feeling and how I felt about my daily accomplishments. I spoke very candidly with him, all too aware of my predicament and the rut I was finding myself in. At first he suggested I was being too hard on myself on my survey, and encouraged me to get more sunshine and have a date night.
What happened next was incredibly hard. I had just mustered up the courage to ask for this appointment, I asked for that questionnaire, and I asked for medication… and he was naively overlooking all of that, because I was too self-aware. He had no clue how much energy it took to get this far. I sat there, with my daughter in the stroller beside me, and I put my foot down.
“Respectfully, I know myself well enough to know this is not normal for me and I would like to try a medication.”
Why is self-awareness a mental heath disqualifier? If you ask me, it’s quite possibly more alarming that I was aware of how depressed I was, because that means it was familiar. That season of my life alerted me to how depressed I had been in the past and how numb I was to it. But back then, it was just me and my darkness, it didn’t affect anyone else and I could function well enough to pass for antisocial. Motherhood helped me realize that inching by was no way to live. It helped me realize just how much I missed myself.
To this day I fight depression and the lies that come with it, but one lie I don’t buy into anymore is that functionality equals healthy. Asking for help is an incredibly brave thing to do, we don’t have to juggle all of the plates in order to prove anything. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is set a few down and let our wounds be seen. So why bare all and show our scars? What if it doesn’t change anything in this moment?
I choose bravery for that little child inside of me who always dreamed of becoming a parent, and for the babies I am raising who may one day be in my shoes… I choose to keep it real. I choose to make transparency normal, so that someday (hopefully) they don’t feel the need to hide when they are hurting.
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