I’ve been a mother for 15 years. I’ve written about motherhood most of that time and have had countless conversations, in person and online, with moms of all ages and stages. And through all of those interactions, the two most important things I’ve learned about this crazy ride is that 1) there are lots of feelings and experiences moms don’t talk about even though we should, and 2) whatever you are going through, you’re not the only one. Not by a long shot.
I’d like to offer you words of understanding, to tell you I know how you feel, but I can’t. I never experienced full-fledged postpartum depression. But I do remember sitting on my couch the week after my second baby was born, crying. Totally out of the blue, without even feeling sad about anything in particular, the tears just started flowing. I’d never felt that out of control of my feelings. And I did have a terrible mothering thought about tossing my first baby out the window when she was about a month old, which gave me more empathy for moms who have frightening thought episodes.
I know my short bout of baby blues and sleep-deprived moment of imagined horror don’t compare to what you’re going through, but they gave me a taste of how hormones and stress and lack of sleep can mess with your brain. I vowed during those times that I would always listen without judgment when a mom told me she was going through a tough time.
But so many moms don’t tell anyone when they’re struggling. They suffer in silence, hiding their sadness, pain, and numbness behind a façade of smiling selfies and milestone updates. I get it. It’s hard to admit that we’re not OK, especially when we’re talking about motherhood. We’re told in a thousand ways, by society and our own ideals, that motherhood is supposed to be magical and glorious. We’re surrounded by people who gush over babies and tell us to treasure every moment. We have picture-perfect nurseries in our heads, if not in our homes, with sweet lullabies playing and the smell of baby oil lingering in the air. But reality is a different story, and some of us get hit harder with it than others. We never imagined it would be like this. We never imagined we would feel this way.
Thankfully, we live in an era where postpartum depression, while still not fully understood or always properly handled, is at least acknowledged as a real thing. We have doctors and nurses and psychiatrists and medications that can help pull you out of the hole. There are group chats and Facebook threads of moms who know exactly what you are going through, who have run that gauntlet and come out clean on the other side. You definitely don’t need to go through this alone.
Of course, you’ll come across moms who don’t understand, who can’t see anything outside of their own experience, and who make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. Forget them. They are not the majority, and they are not the people you should be giving your attention.
Seek out support and solidarity, even if it takes a while to find it. I know it’s hard, but let other moms know what you’re going through. You might be surprised at how many moms have felt exactly like you do, or who have at least helped loved ones through similar circumstances. Do a Google search for “online PPD support groups”—there are lots of them. The joy of the internet is that it allows you to bare your soul to virtual strangers, which is often easier than in real life. Flesh and blood friendships are awesome, but online support can be huge—don’t discount those relationships. I can’t tell you how many moms have commented or messaged me after reading a post I’ve written, saying, “I really thought I was the only one. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.”
Because none of us is alone. Not even you.
Look, I know that PPD is the absolute worst. I know it might be hard for you to even hear anything I’m saying right now. But I represent thousands—or millions, if you can wrap your head around that—of fellow moms who are here for you. We see you. We believe you. We believe in you. We know your depression is not who you are as a mother. We get that it’s the effing hormones and sleep deprivation and genetics and whatever else that has taken you down into that hole. We don’t judge you for your feelings, and we certainly don’t think any less of you for seeking help.
Remember—you are not alone, sister. Not today. Not ever. You’ll get through this. And we’ll be here with you the whole way.
If you think you might be suffering from PPD, or need some extra support, visit www.postpartumprogress.com.