Parenthood is like taking a trip on a safari. However, instead of the semi-safe vehicle made of metal and fully equipped with an engine that could speed off in an emergency, you are riding a bicycle. You must power said bicycle with the strength of your own body while you navigate the rocky road because you are also the tour guide.
This safari trip is something that you have been planning and prepping for a long time. You did research, saved money, bought the necessary equipment, and planned it out. This sounds all too familiar to prepping for the arrival of a new baby. When getting ready to go on a vacation or experience something new that you have been looking forward to for the longest time, your riding on a high thinking about all of the possibilities, the breaks from the typical day-to-day grind, and quite possibly the pause in reality.
Newsflash: Once the bouncing bundle of joy is here, there are overwhelming possibilities (enough where you have no idea where to start and everyone seems to be an expert on how to parent your child, except you), every day is a grind, and reality hits you like a lion attacking their prey.
As you’re being attacked, it’s possible that the only thing you’re left with is this: postpartum depression (PPD). There, I said it. Two words that weigh heavy on many.
Postpartum depression is not an exclusive club for woman who have suffered from anxiety or depression pre-baby. No, postpartum depression can affect any woman or man regardless of their mental state prior to introducing a new baby into their home. There is a stigma that a person who suffers from this mental illness is incompetent, or unfit to parent, and that is just not the case.
Becoming a mother is something that I’ve always wanted. When I became pregnant with my son, Levi, I took pride in knowing that I was going to be his mom. I counted down the days. Pregnancy was wonderful. Delivery was like a dream. However, when my husband, Travis, and I walked out the hospital doors to head home, a feeling of dread washed over me. I felt like I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. We were leaving the comfort of the hospital and headed home to our dog. The feelings I was experiencing should have been my first clue.
As the days turned into months, I was realizing that I was crying almost every day. I blamed it on Levi’s colic, breastfeeding/pumping, and the lack of sleep. With both my husband’s and my family living either out-of-state or hours away, we felt utterly alone. Don’t get me wrong, there were many days that I was happy, but in the many moments that were not like that, I felt like the world was crashing down on me.
Above all, what I did not expect was the rage. I would be totally fine, and the most insignificant inconvenience would turn my world upside down. I vividly remember getting a bottle ready for Levi after just pumping when I turned around and knocked it over and watched as milk came pouring out. I had worked so hard to make that bottle! All of the time and energy that I had used and now it lay in a puddle on the counter. I felt angry and defeated. I started to resent breastfeeding and the god-awful sound of the pump as it sucked out my soul.
These types of instances and feelings happened on the regular. After fighting myself over embarrassment of admitting there was something wrong, I approached my husband. I needed help because I knew how I was feeling was not right. He listened and gave me some options. That is what I needed. I needed to verbalize what was going on inside my head, have someone listen as I spilled my emotions, and get some feedback.
After completing the mandatory questionnaire prior to my checkup with my OB/GYN, my score had dropped significantly from the last visit. I started to realize that I needed some guidance and finally built up enough courage to talk to my doctor. One of the questions that I asked her was, “How does PPD differ from depression because I didn’t have it before?” The answer she plainly gave me was, “Timing.”
She went on to explain that PPD strikes more times than not soon after the baby arrives. There is a drastic change to the status quo, and it does not help that the woman’s body has hormones running rampant trying to figure out what the heck is going on. My life was a mess, and I needed to do something about it. This leads me to some steps I took to tackle my postpartum depression, steps to navigating the deserts, highlands, and rain forests of postpartum depression:
1. Realize that something is “off.”
You know you better than anyone else does. Trust your gut.
2. Seek help.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor or seek out professional care to help get through this. Talking to others who have experience PPD may also be helpful.
3. Know that you are not alone.
The biggest thing, for me, was the sense that I was alone. This was happening to me and no one else was going to understand. False. There are a plethora of individuals that experience postpartum depression and they feel just as alone. Don’t forget there is strength in numbers.
4. Understand you are a great parent, so put the baby down.
This was one of the hardest things for me to do. I felt like I had to be with my son all of the time. If I wasn’t, I wasn’t being a good parent. I would become so overwhelmed carrying around my son as he was screaming. It was not until my husband insisted I put Levi down for a second, and go take a breath because he would be fine for a few moments), that I started to understand. You are doing everything for your child; do not forget that if you start to feel like you’re going bonkers, you aren’t helping anyone.
5. Find something that makes you happy.
This one should seem simple, but sometimes it isn’t. You need to take a moment to reflect on things that brought you joy prior to having a baby. Do those things. Not all at once. What that meant to me was going out and buying a new book to begin reading again. Start with just one thing, and see where it takes you.
Remember, this is just my opinion. Everyone’s journey is different; this was just my way of not only making it but also thriving afterwards. It’s hard work. Do your research. Talk to your doctor. Drink a cup of coffee (or whatever gives you energy). Take a breath. Don’t give up. Your herd, pride, or troop need you.