It's time to talk about everyone's favorite topic: Postpartum Depression (PPD).
What, I'm the only one?
If you couldn't tell from some of my past posts, I had a raging case.
I'd read a little about it while I was pregnant just in case, but honestly didn't think I'd be affected.
Boy, was I wrong.
It's different for everyone, but as soon as Hadley was born, I immediately felt this strange detachment . . . I didn't feel the immediate, overwhelming, all-consuming love that I've heard so many new mothers describe. I mean, I knew I loved her and we had our moments of bonding, but it just wasn't how I expected to feel.
The first few days, it was like I was high. Up in my foggy cloud of emotions I floated along, getting to know this new little person. Then, one day I woke up and was worried about everything. I would stare at her while she slept, because I was just sure that something was going to happen and she would die on my watch. We didn't take an infant CPR class before she was born, so I obsessively watched videos on YouTube so I would be prepared for the day she stopped breathing. I'd Google every sound she made, worried that something major was wrong -- despite the fact that our pediatrician checked her out several times and assured us she was perfectly healthy.
Every night, during the sporadic bouts of sleep I'd manage to squeeze in, I'd have nightmares about terrible things happening to her -- once there was a tidal wave and I was swept under the
water, my baby just beyond my reach . . . then our house caught on fire and I couldn't get to her in time . . . and I was constantly falling down flights of stairs with her in my arms.
It was awful.
To top this all off, we had breastfeeding struggles and I would cry. A lot. For a while there, not a day went by that I didn't spend a good chunk of time sobbing . . . because I didn't think I was good enough . . . because this whole motherhood thing wasn't what I thought it was going to be . . . because I felt lost.
We weren't sleeping, Hadley had colic and wasn't eating well, she cried all the time and even the tiniest task seemed like embarking on a trek up Mt. Everest.
My sister and friend seemed like they had everything together. Why didn't I? They both breastfed for 9 months, made homemade baby food and couldn't wait to be stay-at-home-moms. So what was wrong with me?
I felt this overwhelming need to tell anyone I encountered how hard this whole motherhood thing was because I didn't feel like anyone told me. I thought if I could make enough jokes about how miserable I was, it would somehow make things better or easier.
I playfully called Hadley "a little asshole" or made jokes that she sucked. My mom would laugh until she cried at how honest and candid I was being.
But when I went home at night, I'd hate that I thought my sweet, baby girl was anything but perfect.
This wasn't her fault. She didn't choose to be born my daughter. It's not like she could control her crying. She didn't just wake up and think, "Hey, I'm going to make Mom's life hell today. That sounds fun."
I went to my 6-week checkup and when my OB asked how I felt, I lied. We'd had a good couple of days, so I thought that things were becoming more manageable. I told her I'd been depressed but I was better now.
I felt better at the time. I really did.
PPD is funny in that way. You have good days and bad days. There were days when I would stare at Hadley and know that she was meant to be in my life -- days with purpose . . . but then there were days when I would look at her and feel sad for no particular reason at all.
Looking back, I guess I was in denial. Or I was just embarrassed that I wasn't the "perfect mother." But then things got a whole lot worse.
In the midst of all of this, my mom had a few health scares and the idea of anything ever happening to her sent me spiraling. I was in a very dark place that I can't even begin to describe. Sean was so worried that he sat me down and begged me to let him get help. He had his phone in his hand ready to call anyone that I thought could make the situation better. But I had no idea who to call.
So I talked to my sister Haley, who is also a relatively new mother, and quickly realized that my experience was very different than hers.
She'd always described maternity leave as this magical time. I excitedly counted down the days to what I thought would be a 13-week vacation with the bonus of a bundle of joy.
In reality, I would cry myself to sleep every night as I mentally counted down the days to when I could go back to work and escape this black hole. I constantly wondered whose life I was living. It didn't feel like my own.
That's when I decided to get help.
As cheesy as it sounds, I ordered Brooke Shields' book Down Came the Rain during a particularly dramatic moment of tears (I accidentally ordered two copies, so I guess I was extra depressed) and it made me feel better to know that someone else had gone through this. I mean, her story was very different from mine, but during those desperate late-night moments, when I wondered how I would make it through another day, it helped to read a few pages of someone else's story.
And when I went to have my IUD put in, I broke down to my OB about everything. She really helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are specially trained for this very situation and she taught me the difference between what was normal and what wasn't.
She wrote me a prescription for Zoloft and told me to call if I didn't start feeling better soon.
I initially worried that I'd end up some pill head who went through life feeling loopy and doped up if I took it. So I stuffed the prescription in my purse and let it sit there for a few days. But the more research I did, and the more people I talked to, the more I realized that it's not like that. The medicine helps to correct a legitimate chemical imbalance. Heck, it takes 4-6 weeks for the effects to even be noticed.
Today, 5 weeks after starting the medicine, I'm starting to feel better. Not overly happy or euphoric. Just a little more normal.
So, if you're a new mother and you feel like something is off, don't wait. Get help -- in whatever form feels right for you. Be it medication, talking to someone or even reading a book.
Don't be embarrassed. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with you or that you aren't a good mother. It makes you a good mother to realize there's a problem and get the help you need to be present for your child.
As bloggers, we feel pressure to live these perfect lives, but life isn't always perfect. I admit that I'm more likely to put up a happy post about some earrings that I recently got, or a fun weekend because who wants to look back at a bunch of depressing posts?
Plus I worry about Hadley reading this one day. I don't want her to ever feel like she wasn't the most amazing and loved child to exist on this earth -- because she is, at least to me.
But I wanted to be honest about my experience because postpartum depression is some serious stuff. And if there's someone out there feeling the same way, they'll see that it can happen to anyone and know it's OK to get help.
I promise it gets better.
I just wish I'd gotten help sooner instead of waiting all those weeks.
It doesn't matter now because, slowly but surely, each day gets a little better. A little easier. I feel in control and like this is the life I was meant to live -- the life that I WANT to live.
*after getting some emails, I edited this to add the italicized section. I didn't want this post to come off as a glowing recommendation for Zoloft, but in the name of honesty, I wanted you to have all the facts.
2 hours ago