I am many things. I wear many hats. For a long time, and mainly before the birth of my daughter, I was someone who defined themselves by books and the stories they bring, being a good wife to my loving husband, being a landscape designer, and generally a good human being. Especially the last one; I wanted to bring good to the world and try, even if it was in my small way, to leave the world just slightly better.
However, with the birth of my daughter, the joy of my life now, my perspective, and view of life shifted — and not in a positive way.
No one wants to talk about postpartum depression.
It is the gigantic elephant in the room. It is a creeping fungus that covers one’s eyes during what should be one of the most joyous times of your life. Postpartum depression is something that happens to other people, but couldn’t possibly happen to me, right? It did, and it nearly killed me. But I am here, and alive, and I want to talk to you about what I went through and how moms should not be silent.
First off, let me say it loud and proud: You are not a bad mom. Nor are you a bad person. This isn’t your fault. Repeat it, again and again. Say it first thing in the morning, and right before bed. You are a good person, a good mom, and this is not your fault. Postpartum depression is not your fault, any more than having asthma or astigmatism is.
To describe postpartum depression and how I coped with it, I am going to describe my life as a series of beats, of moments. It can demonstrate how badly I wanted a child, and how much my PPD crushed me flat to the floor.
My husband and I wanted a baby for a long time. We tried unsuccessfully for years to conceive. Our daughter was very much wanted and fought for. With the help of modern science and 12,000 dollars, we managed to conceive. I had a difficult and eventful pregnancy. But we managed, via C-section, to deliver a bouncing baby girl who weighed just shy of 12 pounds.
Here is where things took a turn for me.
I was fine in the hospital for about the first eight hours or so. Happy, even. But on hour nine, I started to dive down into the dark. It was almost like a light had been shut off inside me. A light my doctor said was a hormone dump that my body did not react well to.
This was the moment that I stopped sleeping.
Dramatic, huh? But completely true. I was desperately worn out. Anyone who delivers a baby will know the level of tired I am talking about. Even so, I lost the ability to calm my mind enough to sleep. I remember sitting in the hospital bed, watching the clock slip from one number to another, and thinking how much better the world and my daughter’s life would be if I were not in it. These were not rational thoughts. I had fought tooth and nail to birth this child.
About 12 hours later, I lost my ability to eat. You are probably asking, “She lost it? Like it was a pair of shoes?” I was unable to eat any food without throwing up. I was uninterested in eating. I wanted no sustenance.
Twenty-four hours after that, I could no longer hold my child without having a panic attack. I could not cuddle, touch, or even be in the same room with her. I would throw up or hide in a corner in our bedroom, rocking back and forth. This wasn’t baby blues, nor was this my fault. Something was very wrong in my mind.
I battled as long as I could. When I finally went to the doctor for myself, not just checkups for my daughter, I hadn’t slept or eaten anything for weeks. I had lost 60 pounds, my hair was falling out, and I was continually rocking back and forth. My doctor, bless her, told me they were going to help me — that this wasn’t my fault, and I was going to be okay. They put me on powerful anti-depression medication and anxiety meds to help get me back to the proper place.
It took me four months before I could hold my child for anything longer than a few minutes. It took me six months before I was watching her overnight, and eight months before I had anything resembling a normal home life. At about the one year mark, I had come back to myself. But I still battle.
Now I am a happy stay-at-home mom to a bouncy five-year-old. She loves me more than anything. We have a strong bond. I am okay, generally speaking, although the management of anxiety and depression will never go away. I am candid about my quest to come back to myself because I feel no shame in what I went through — and neither should any mom.
I am now an active blogger, and I use reading and writing as a means of tackling my anxiety and occasionally as an outlet. It is important to me that I can get on my soapbox every once in a while and shout to the world my love of books and writing in general. It would not have been possible if I had not said to my husband, “Something is very wrong; please help me.”
I have learned through counseling and looking back on myself that real courage is not struggling with something like this. True courage is looking at yourself and say, “No, this cannot stand. I am a good person who something bad has happened to. I can get better.” You have courage, mamas; this dark tunnel is not the end. There is so much more. I am here if you need to talk to someone.
I have walked these dark paths, and the rain has fallen on me. I almost lost myself, but I made it. You will too. Just remember you are loved, and you are courage personified.