Today’s post is one that I thought I would never share. It is raw, it is unfiltered and it is REAL.
When we hear the words “postpartum depression” we often think of stereotypes shown in movies; the overtired and un-showered mom, crying alone in the bathroom or sobbing as she rocks an inconsolable baby. And while we have all probably lived out these depictions, the stigma stops here. Social media makes it so easy to portray a one-sided story; the perfect life in unexplained and graphically modified photos. But behind those pictures and behind closed doors many mothers are struggling and I am one of them. It is now time to start talking and time to set the record straight about postpartum mental health.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a multi-faceted disorder that is different for everyone. In fact, one in seven mothers are diagnosed with postpartum depression and far more than that experience some sort of symptoms at some point. Despite common belief, PPD symptoms often don’t present themselves right away and, in many cases arise up to a year after giving birth and can last up to three years if properly not addressed. PPD can have many triggers including hormonal imbalances and in many cases, sleep deprivation. *
For me, signs began to show 4 months postpartum, just about the time that I stopped nursing Gavin. Although the months leading up to that were incredibly difficult, true symptoms didn’t arise for quite some time and when they did, I internalized them. I would go from hugging, kissing and tickling my babies (feeling like the happiest, luckiest person in the world) to an angry and bitter person who I didn’t recognize. Exhaustion, anxiety, frustration and guilt were often intertwined with feelings of unconditional love, laughter and happiness. The emotional swings were enough to prompt anyone to question, “what is wrong with me”. But in short (and as I am learning), it is not you and it is not your kids. Yes, children are hard. Some babies have colic and wake up 15+ times a night. And some toddlers (in fact most) are beyond stubborn and will literally laugh in your face just before doing the exact thing that you asked them NOT to do. And while that is enough to drive anyone crazy, postpartum depression is far more complex than that. It is not just situational. It is physiological and it is not your fault.
All of my life I wanted to be a mom. When people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I would respond without hesitation and declare, “I want to be a mom”. I would then admit that although I am not a particularly religious person, I felt like being a mom is what I was put on earth to do. And now, despite all of that and despite never feeling more complete, I will randomly be overcome with feelings that I can’t control nor comprehend.
I hate to admit it but one of the biggest emotions that will consume me is the feeling of being trapped. Trapped in the sense that my days are a revolving door of bottles, dirty diapers and yelling “Don’t touch that!”. Trapped in that I can’t go to a doctor’s appointment without scheduling childcare weeks in advance, let alone leaving the house for some fun of my own. And finally, trapped by my misinformed notion that being a mom means giving up everything that once made me, me.
I will often think of a situation in which I meet someone for the first time and they ask me to describe myself and the only answer that I have for them is, “I am a wife and I am a mom”. While I am proud to say that my husband and kids are my world, I am starting to understand the importance of finding time just for me. Maybe it will be this blog or something else, I don’t know yet, but I am accepting the truth that taking time for yourself doesn’t mean that you are selfish. Being a healthy mom (both physically and emotionally) will provide the best environment for raising healthy and happy kids.
Overcoming postpartum is a process and it will not happen overnight. However, the first step is recognition and knowing that you are not alone. Talking is so important and trusting that any negative emotion that you may feel has no bearing whatsoever on the love that you have for your children. Being a mom is the single best thing to ever happen to me and the most rewarding job on this planet, but it is not easy. Whether you are struggling with postpartum or can relate to the trying days that come with parenting, we can all agree that those sweet smiles, gentle kisses and adorable hugs provide the strength to keep us going. These moments will not last forever and prioritizing you and your mental health will enable you to cherish these fragile years. I hope that others can identify with my story and that by sharing, I can help others who may be struggling as well.