I Have Postpartum Depression, And The Guilt Is Overwhelming

by Laura Bower
A mother hugging her baby
Pekic / Getty Images

I always wanted to be a mom and to have a shit-ton of children. Yeah, I was that girl who wanted to “have four kids and stay at home!” with my babies all day. I had this illusion that having a van full of kids would fulfill me in every which way possible. I always thought, “I want children, so I will always have someone who will need me and will love me.” I obviously had no clue what the hell I was thinking because feeling “fulfilled” isn’t chalked up there on my feelings board. Something in me changed for the better when I became a mom, but then something also drastically affected me too.

I am so overwhelmed by being a mother. Jesus, even typing that makes me feel guilty. There is a stigma about motherhood: We have to be happy because we wanted these kids, and every other bad feeling or sadness we experience, well, we just have to deal with that shit on the back-burner, and that makes having depression so much harder.

I’m a mother of two boys under two years of age, and postpartum depression hit me like a freight train after my second baby was born.

I always feel like I am in a cloud. I know that I’m supposed to be happy, but I am stuck somewhere. I am in limbo. My children bring me the greatest joy, but also, the biggest heartache. I look at their smiling, dirty faces, and a part of me dies inside. I am so insanely lucky to be their mother, but the part of me that dies is the person I was before these kids came along. I had an identity other than nose wiper and monster fighter. I had a sense of who I was as a person. I was some form of happy, and I loved my life. I only had to worry about one damn person and that was me. I had so much free time to take care of myself, to make time for me. I was well-rested and looked a hell of a lot better. I made time to be sexy for my husband, but now, just the thought of sex puts me in a monthlong coma.

I am alone, but I can never get a moment to myself. I feel like nobody in the world knows what I’m going through. I can’t talk to my husband about it — he doesn’t get it, my mom doesn’t get it, and Patty from down the block doesn’t get it. Even when I do share my constant struggles, I always hear these responses: You are so lucky! You are so blessed! They will grow so fast! Cherish these moments! And this is when the guilt hits me full-force. Yes, I know this. Don’t you think that I know this? If only the people who say those things know just how many times I have thought: These kids would be so much better without a mom like me who yells too much, has little patience, and just wants a little more time for herself, then maybe they would rethink those hurtful comments. Before I had kids, I would have never thought that being told “you’re blessed” would be a nasty thing to say to someone.

So, what is postpartum depression?

According to WebMD, PPD is a form of depression that can start any time during your baby’s first year, but it’s most common to feel effects during the first three weeks after birth. The common symptoms of PPD are:

– Not being able to take care of yourself or baby

– Fears that you’re not a good mother – Severe mood swings – Lack of interest in daily habits – Thoughts of suicide

What made my PPD guilt worse was that I didn’t have it with my oldest, and so I began to have these thoughts:

“Why do I have it now?”

“Do I not love my youngest child as much as my oldest?” “What is wrong with me that I have PPD?”

In reality, like how every pregnancy is different, the same goes with PPD. I have talked to several moms who had PPD after their first baby, but not after their second, and vice-versa. It doesn’t mean that you love that child any less, and it’s also not just common in first-time moms, either.

Here are some reasons for having PPD according to WebMD:

– Your sudden drop in hormones after birth

– History of depression – Stress and problems during pregnancy

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Wow, this sounds like what I’m going through,” I urge you to please reach out for help. It’s there. Talk to your husband; tell him you need a break. Confide in a close friend. Talk to a therapist. Talk to your doctor. I promise you that you are not alone. I felt like this for the first six months. Six months! Until one day, everything came bubbling to the surface, and day by day, I am trying to find my normal again.

I love my kids, I really do, but I am tired. I am tired of the tantrums, tired of the nos, the screaming, tired of repeating myself way too many times during the day. I’m tired of being burned out. I give and give and give, and by 7 p.m., I just want to crawl in my bed and disappear for the rest of the week. I’m not sure how I get up the next day to continue on, but I have to, so I do it.

And I put on this happy face because these little lives depend on it. They depend on seeing mommy happy. They need to see mommy laugh, sing, and tell funny stories. They need to have mommy tickle them, chase them around the living room, and make mud pies outside on a rainy afternoon. They need all of this, and so much more, so I do it. Most days, I have to dig deeper inside to get that last bit of strength to make it through the rest of the day. And somehow, I pull through. But inside, I am so broken, sad, and lost. I feel so much guilt from my depression that it sinks me even further. So then those familiar feelings arise.

I wonder if I will ever feel “normal” again. Will I wake up one day and just be happy? I never want my children to feel like they are the reason I am depressed. The amount of love I have for them is endless, but my mental illness is no one’s fault but its own. In time, I hope that I can make sense of all of this and come out smiling from the dark side of that storm cloud.

If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, there are many resources and ways to get help. Most importantly, know that you are not alone.