I had postpartum depression as a brand new mom. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, but I’m so glad to be on the other side.
Being a mom is the only thing I ever really wanted to be. From the time I was a little girl I’ve dreamt of being a mom. My cousin and I had our Baby Borns on our hip more often than not. Remember those plastic things? They weren’t that cute and not at all cuddly, but they were all the rage in the late 90’s. We would feed our babies water in the little bottle that they came with then delight in changing the wet diaper that came shortly after. A REAL wet diaper, it was SO exciting!
Motherhood is not quite like that. It’s not playing dolls or house. It’s nothing like I really thought it would be. It’s still beautiful, I see that now.
One year ago I wasn’t feeling the beauty at all. I was deep into postpartum depression and regretting my decision to have a baby. I wanted to undo it all and go back to my life before James. This is a thought I can’t even entertain for a second now. Life before James?! It was hardly even life!
I gave birth to a preemie, six weeks early, at the start of a global pandemic.
That magical moment where they were supposed to lay my new baby on my chest so we could instantly bond didn’t happen. He was out in a hurry and after less than 30 seconds on my chest he was whisked away to the NICU. My husband went with him while I laid on the table waiting to be stitched up.
Life With A Newborn
The weeks that followed included daily trips to the hospital over 40 minutes away, round the clock pumping, wearing a mask for most of my waking hours, and crying.
Ryan, my husband, wasn’t able to be in the NICU at all due to Covid restrictions. He saw James the day he was born and then not again for 12 days. I can’t imagine how hard that was for him.
To be honest, I wasn’t really worried about Ryan at the time. My life was a mess. I was exhausted, setting alarms every 3 hours through the night to pump for a 20 minute session, washing pump parts, then rushing back to bed to lay there until I had to do it all over again.
After the 6 am pump I’d get dressed and head to the hospital to make it in time for rounds. There I sat in a plastic waiting room chair at my sons bedside while he lay in an incubator hooked up to wires and a feeding tube.
I was too scared to get his wires tangled and set off alarms so I only held him every so often. Nursing was a challenge because he was so sleepy, after too many “failed feedings” using a scale to measure his weight before and after a nursing session I gave up and committed to just pump and bottle feed. Another failure, the pediatrician and lactation consultants let me know.
I failed to keep him in until he was full term, and now I was failing to breast feed. The most natural thing in the world. It was day 3 or 4 of motherhood and I already had an F.
Things didn’t get much better once Baby J was able to come home. I continued pumping for a few weeks and analyzed every thing I might be doing right or wrong. That every 3 hour NICU schedule didn’t work so well anymore, I would’ve kept it up but James had different ideas. He seemed hungry every 2 hours, especially over night. Every time I bottle fed him I got up to pump so I could have milk ready for the next feeding, I was sleeping in one hour chunks.
I held him much more than when he was in the NICU, but not too much and especially not during naps, after all how would he EVER learn to sleep in his own bed if he took a cat nap on my chest?
I continued to work as a loan officer, speaking with clients and logging into my email in between pumping/crying sessions. I put pressure on myself to keep my foot in the game at work. I wanted to be a “working mom”, I was clearly so shitty at motherhood but I knew I could excel at my job.
The moral of the story is I was burning the candle from both ends, and it didn’t last long.
I was miserable. I hated motherhood. I wanted to return this gassy, fussy, crying blob and just go back to being myself. No one else to worry about, nothing else to focus on, 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It sounded heavenly.
But it wasn’t possible. I couldn’t return the baby. He was here to stay. But was I? I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to be alive.
Thankfully I got help. Right away. At my 6 week postpartum appointment I spilled my guts to the OB who delivered James. She saved my life. I was able to get my PPD under control with medication and therapy.
Over time, very slowly, I started to feel happy again. I started to feel love for my son. I stopped hating my husband for simply being ok. I feel robbed of those first two months of motherhood. Friends talk about the snuggly newborn stage and I don’t have those memories at all.
The Road to Recovery
Over a year into motherhood I’m feeling 100% recovered. It took a long time and some work but I’m just happy to be here today. 1 in 7 mothers are diagnosed with postpartum depression. I can’t imagine how many go undiagnosed. Medical experts believe that nearly half of actual cases go unreported and untreated. Suicide or overdose is the leading cause of death for women in the first year after they give birth.
I’m pregnant again and terrified of experiencing PPD again. I have a plan in place to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. But brand new moms don’t have the tools I have to be on the offense.
Postpartum depression doesn’t happen because you’re lazy, or because you don’t love your baby enough, it happens because our lives get turned upside down and we don’t know how to handle it. Even if it’s exactly what you wanted, becoming a mom is hard.
That’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve started my blog and podcasts. Moms need community and I want to create one.
If you’re experiencing postpartum depression please reach out to me. I want to be there for you. If you’d rather listen to my story than read it I have a podcast called How To Be A Good Mom!