I sat in the rocking chair in my 3-week-old son’s room and I just cried. I cried, and I cried, and I cried some more. There was this uncontrollable sadness that I felt within me, and it just kept pouring out of me. I looked down at this precious boy that I was feeding and my heart was exploding outside of my chest because I felt so much love for this tiny person, but simultaneously, I felt completely unlike myself. It was almost as if I was hovering over myself having this out-of-body experience and looking down at someone I didn’t recognize.
I remember the week before, snapping at my husband and yelling at Lilly way too many times. I remember getting upset about things that didn’t really warrant getting upset over. I remember feeling angry and bitter over things like a dish being left in the sink or John forgetting my water when he came upstairs. I felt frustrated when Lilly wouldn’t leave me alone.
I was still in some pretty bad pain recovering from my second C-section and I didn’t want to see or hang out with anyone. I was going through the routine of the daily grind: feed baby, change baby, get Lilly to school, go to Bible study, do some work, answer some emails, schedule a blog post, maybe eat dinner, maybe shower, maybe watch a show with John. It was routine, and it was (mostly) easy, I thought.
But I just wasn’t myself.
On the outside, I was totally doing fine. When I was out and about, I was smiling, I was laughing, I was posting cute pictures of my kids on social media.
On the inside, I was slowly caving in on myself, and I didn’t know how to stop it.
So I’d cry. And cry some more. And sometimes I’d yell. And yell some more.
I was chalking a lot of it up to adjusting to life with two. I was chalking it up to the fact that Lilly wasn’t adjusting to life as a big sister like I thought she would. She clearly loved her brother, but the words, “Use kind and gentle hands,” were clearly words she didn’t understand. Well, she understood them, she just chose to ignore them.
I just wasn’t myself.
A few days later, I was going through the drive-thru at Wendy’s because, yet again, I didn’t feel like making lunch. I was talking on the phone with my friend, and she asked me a question she’s asked a million times, “How are you?”
I said, “I’m good! How are you?” with an obvious pep in my tone of voice, of course.
She, without hesitation and with all of the love and challenge in her voice, said right back to me, “Lies. No, you’re not. You’re not fine, are you?”
I instantly burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably on the phone.
She kept saying over and over again, “It’s okay. It’s normal. You’re totally fine. It happened to me, too.”
We spent the next who-knows-how-long on the phone talking things through until I finally said it out loud, “I have postpartum depression.”
It was both cathartic and utterly gut-wrenching to say the words out loud. In fact, I felt this hot, uncomfortable feeling come over my chest just now as I wrote the words out. You know the feeling — the feeling when someone says to you, “We need to talk.” That feeling. The feeling of pure, unadulterated, discomfort.
It took a friend who loved me enough to call me out on my facade to help me realize that what I was feeling was a thing and it was time I faced it and dealt with it. Up until that moment, I’d spent weeks dealing with it on my own — when I didn’t even know what I was really dealing with to begin with.
That night, after the kids were in bed, I sat on the couch with my husband and said, “I need to talk to you.” And after what felt like 436 years of beating around the bush, I came out with it and said, “I think I have postpartum depression and anxiety.” And he lovingly but bluntly responded, “I know.”
Those words were a punch in the gut. He knew?! How could he know and not say something? What if…? But how…? I can’t even! I asked so many questions in my head but realized I was placing unnecessary blame on someone who loved me so much and knew I was hurting but just had no idea what to do or how to fix it. And the truth was, I had no idea what I wanted from him anyway.
It’s not like this was familiar territory for us. I had no idea what to do.
After a lot of tears and hours of just hugging my husband and talking with him, I set an appointment with my midwife to talk to her. She knew me. She knew my history. She’d know what to do.
I remember filling out the “postpartum depression screening” form at my appointment, and I couldn’t even finish it because I was crying so much trying to answer the questions.
My midwife came in and through ugly tears, I remember asking, “I’m pretty sure these questions are completely ridiculous. Because I’m fairly certain anyone who is feeling the way I do can’t answer them anyway.”
She laughed a little and then she hugged me.
It helped a lot just talking with her and getting reassurance from her that this was, in fact, normal. That I was not, in fact, crazy. That I was, in fact, a good mom. That I was not, in fact, a terrible person. That there were, in fact, resources for me. Those little reassurances were the biggest help to me at that time.
We talked about some next steps. We talked about options. Personally, I didn’t want to start with medication. I struggled with some depression in middle school and medication was not good for me at that time. So we talked about some other options: therapy, exercise, a few essential oils that aid in emotional support, getting help and support around the house and with the kids, etc. She called in a prescription for me and said, “You don’t even have to fill this. It’s just there if you need it. Sometimes knowing it’s there is help enough.”
Now, trust me, this is not me bashing medication or faulting anyone for ever using medication to cope with mental illness. (And, by the way, that’s what this is. It’s mental illness.) Medication is a blessing for so many people, and you and your doctor know your situation best. You do you. Much love.
I very much leaned on my husband and a dear friend during this time. I really told no one. In fact, some of my closest family and friends are finding out about my struggle with this through this blog post right now.
(I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me. Writing is often the best way I know how to really verbalize what I’m feeling and deal with something. I don’t even know that I’m ready to talk about it all that much yet.)
At the end of the day, some things worked. Some things did not. And even almost nine months later, I still don’t have all the answers. Clearly. I’m doing much, much better than I was those first few months of Amos’s life.
To be fully transparent, the depression is gone, but I still struggle with the anxiety. I often find myself snapping or yelling more than I should. I sometimes struggle coping with stress. There are days when I really feel like a terrible mom. There are days when I just want to scream. And other days are awesome. Other days, I feel great and I laugh and smile and play with my kids and spend time with my husband and it’s the best.
But some days are hard. Really hard. And I just want to cry in a corner or never leave my bed.
I have learned a lot about myself these last few months and I’m continuing to learn as I go. At the end of the day, parenting really is just trial and error.
I know that I have made a lot of mistakes and I know that I’m not perfect. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s okay. I am loved, I am a good wife, I am a good mom, and it’s not about me. It’s not about being the perfect wife or perfect mother. It’s about owning my struggles, facing them, dealing with them, and ultimately chasing after a perfect Savior.
I share this with you not looking for sympathy. I’m not trying to sound like a hero. I’m not looking for a solution. I’m not even saying that I’m completely on the other side of it. And I’m certainly not asking for advice.
I share this with you because not only is it therapeutic for me to write my experience and to articulate my story (even if I’m not doing it all that well), but also because I pray that maybe one of you needed to read it today to know you’re not alone.
I share it because I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it will get better. It’s better today than it was before. I want you to know that admitting I have postpartum depression and anxiety doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids or that I don’t love being a mom. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my husband or that I don’t love being a wife. Neither of those things could be further from the truth.
It just means it’s an illness and something I’m facing that I can and will overcome.
And Mama, if you’re struggling with postpartum mood disorders, you can overcome it too. You are a great mom. You are beautiful. You are loved. You can do this.