My Journey with Postpartum Depression
“Enjoy every minute”
“You’re going to miss this!”
“Soak it in, they’re only babies for so long!”
“Before you know it they’ll be off to college and you’ll be wishing to hold them in your arms again!”
Phrases like this are often said in passing to new or pregnant moms. They are said with the best intentions, often rolling off the tongues of older moms or grandparents looking back on the baby days with rose colored glasses. It seems they only remember the warm snuggles and coos, and forget the sometimes ceaseless crying or endless rocking or the baby that just will not sleep.
It’s phrases like this that fueled my postpartum depression for the last 6 months.
I only just now feel like I am coming out of it. As a result, I also, only just now, feel like I am falling ‘in love’ with my daughter.
Yes, you read that right. It took me 6 months to fall in love with this baby.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved her all along. I cared for her without a second thought and met her every need. But I was not ‘in love‘. I only now look at her and think ‘I just fucking love you so much my heart might burst’.
And it’s been fucking hard, to say the least.
So hard, that when I heard those stupid cliches above, I thought I was failing. The thoughts swirled in my head and often spiraled out of control.
“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you enjoying this? You love babies! You should be loving this! You didn’t feel this way about your first born? Why are you failing at this? You’re doing it wrong. Everyone else loves every second they spend with their babies. Look at how cute she is? How can you not enjoy holding her what feels like 24/7? You’re a terrible mom.”
And so on, and so forth.
And then, when moments of clarity and happiness started to break through… The thoughts took a new, frustrating turn
“Oh wow, I just love you baby. Why haven’t I felt this all along? What’s wrong with me for not loving my baby from the second she was born? Everyone talks about that swell of love, why did it take so long? What kind of mother doesn’t love her baby?”
I would judge myself for loving my baby!
Thank fucking god she slept! That was my only saving grace.
That’s the problem with 2nd babies. They have a benchmark to live up to. Now, for some, this is a benefit. For some, their first baby was the hard one, so the second one seems like a breeze (usually resulting in a third haha). For me, it was the opposite. My son was an angel baby. Happy, carefree, easygoing. Happy to go with the flow all day long. I mean he slept like shit, but was otherwise content. I remember feeling really distraught when he cried because it happened so infrequently I didn’t have the coping skills to deal with it!
Not this baby. Nope. She was born with attitude. She knows what she wants, how she wants it, and she’s not afraid to tell you about it. Very, very loudly. Now I’m sure this will be a personality trait that will serve her well in the future, but for now, it makes my life very difficult.
She cried. A lot. Some would ask if she had colic, I have no idea. I didn’t see the point in trying to get a ‘diagnosis’ since there isn’t much to be done about colic anyway. I tried all the things, the probiotics, the swing, cutting dairy out of my diet… nothing really helped. She just wanted to be held. ALL. THE. TIME. And yes, I did wear her as much as I could, but I am also trying to heal my prolapse, so baby wearing 24/7 wasn’t the best for that, plus it made my back ache, and have you ever tried to eat a proper meal with an infant strapped to you? Not the most enjoyable.
There were days where my husband would return home from work to the toddler in his highchair eating dinner, my dinner getting cold on the table, with the baby in the carrier while I paced the house with tears in my eyes because I was just SO FUCKING HUNGRY but she wouldn’t even let me sit to eat without crying.
And then I’d hear or read some bullshit telling me to enjoy these days… And I’d lose it.
There goes the shame thought spiral.
The first 9 weeks of her life felt like an eternity.
When she was 5 weeks old, My husband had been back to work for 2 weeks and I could feel myself breaking. I texted my best friend who lives across the country:
“All this baby does is cry… it’s fucking hard”
Within an hour and a half she had a flight booked to come visit me 2 weeks later. I thoroughly believe that was the turning point for me, when she arrived. She agreed to watch the baby for a morning so I could go to therapy. That therapy session saved me. That, and, finally getting to meet her so adorable 8 month old who never stopped smiling, which gave me a bit of light at the end of the baby tunnel.
I was so thankful I had a therapist that I knew and trusted already established before this baby was born. I had seen her during pregnancy for a different reason and she just got me, and was able to help me out of the depths. She was able to make me see how irrational my thoughts were, and get me to at least catch myself when I started going down the rabbit hole of self judgement.
I believe everyone should have a counselor or therapist in their healthcare team. We have a specialized care provider for everything physical, dentists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, pharmacists, and more, why not for our mental health? Mental health is just as, if not more, important than physical health. The two go hand in hand. But we often feel stigmatized for wanting help with our mental health, I know I did. It’s often viewed as ‘weak’ to reach out for help with our mental state, when in reality it takes a lot of courage to talk to someone openly and honestly about our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is a super vulnerable place to be, but it is so important.
So if you’re a mom of a young baby, and you feel like you’re drowning and failing and are wondering what is wrong. Know that it is going to be okay. It is okay to not enjoy your baby screaming, or waking you hourly at night, or refusing to be put down.
You don’t have to enjoy that.
But, also, if you are feeling like that, find someone to talk to. Ideally a professional, who can help you process your feelings without bias or judgement, but in the very least another mom who will understand.
No one said it was going to be easy, but it is worth it.