Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

Have you ever walked down a dimly lit street, alone and at night, and felt the overwhelming sense that determined footsteps follow you? Not exactly on your heels, but close enough to foment imminent danger. That rush of chemistry so powerful you are rendered paralyzed and vulnerable to being overtaken.

Those dark strangers in my night are guilt and shame. A duo so powerful their frequent visits prevented me from seeking the critical help I needed for postpartum depression. 

I didn’t know at the time but the combination of a 50-hour labor, the last five of which left me pleading for a C-section, and a case of postpartum preeclampsia merged to create the perfect, toxic PPD cocktail. 

The first sign something was off presented itself a day after the birth of my beautiful, healthy baby. Hallucinations began. I began laying awake ceaselessly, convinced people were entering our room from the window. Despite being up for 72 hours, I was unable to sleep. I rang for the night nurse and asked if I could be having some sort of reaction to the enormous amount of medication that had been pumped through my body for the last four days. I described my confusion, pain, and delirium, certain she would tell me that this was a bad reaction to the meds.

“You shouldn’t be,” she said. I wondered if the round-the-clock propofol was the culprit. She reassured me what I was feeling was not a reaction to the meds.

The nurse did not offer what I was desperately seeking, assurance I was OK.

An hour later she dropped off a form for me to complete. In big bold letters, it read: Postnatal Depression Scale. Wait, had I been afraid or panicky for no good reason? Doubts about my sanity awoke. What constituted good reason, I questioned? When you begin doubting waypoints in your life that have always helped you navigate through adversity, sanity begins to erode. I answered those questions truthfully, but what is the truth in an altered state? According to this sheet, a combined score of 10 or higher constituted possible depression. I quickly tallied 25.

RELATED: Admire the Baby, But Don’t Forget to Nurture the Mother

The next morning I received a knock at the door. It was the hospital social worker who was there over the depression score. A few minutes after she introduced herself, she asked a strikingly intrusive question, “Do you feel like hurting the baby or yourself?”

It was at that exact moment that I gave birth to something else, shame. A shame burning so deep within me I could hardly breathe. Here I was, one day into motherhood and having a visit by a social worker concerned over the well-being of my baby. My husband stunned in the corner. His fear now triggered by a normally trusted symbol of care. No reassurance offered from anyone at this moment that I would be OK. There was no reinforcement that this was a common occurrence in women, just the sheer realization of a sea change. 

I snapped to it and reassured her I was feeling much better. The precise moment when I began to hide.

I swore I would never again share my overwhelming fear or shame of feeling like a completely inadequate mother. 

The shame eventually gave way to debilitating guilt. I felt guilty most days. I felt guilty when I was readmitted and separated from my baby 48 hours after arriving home from the hospital. I will spare you the terrifying details of postpartum preeclampsia. I felt guilty when I couldn’t produce enough milk to feed my baby, despite knowing this is a common occurrence for women separated from their child in the first few days of life. I was guilty my husband was home alone with a 4-day-old. I was guilty his joy was diminishing from a moment in his life that he had longed for. I was guilty that I felt trapped and scared.

My constant guilt gave way to extreme shame and vice versa. I was in a swirling vortex between the two. These feelings were blocking me from seeking the help I needed. I was too ashamed to tell anyone for fear of being seen as abnormal and classified as an unfit mother. I kept replaying the scene from the hospital with the social worker over and over, my reddened cheeks burning. 

RELATED: It’s OK to Admit You’re Not OK, Mama

I hid away in my house, sinking. It felt as if someone had taken over my body. I was an outside observer of what was now my disembodied outer shell. I took care of my baby, but it was an Olympic-sized, daily struggle. I lost 30 pounds from the inability to eat or fully sleep. I stopped doing anything outside the bare minimum it took for me and my sweet girl to survive. I would never get out of this cycle I feared. Wash, rinse, repeat. This was my life now.

Help finally came in the form of an OB/GYN angel.

During my eight week checkup, and through well-honed observance, my doctor gently touched my hand and asked, “How are you doing Jillian?” Her eyes held mine. I dipped my toe in and tested the truth.

“Not too well.” I expected her to dismiss or judge, but she didn’t. She listened intently as I began to share. I shared more and more, and she reassured me what I was experiencing was not abnormal. She texted the head of the maternal health program at my hospital, asking that she get me in right away. She comforted me in the way I had been needing.  She kept repeating that this was not my fault. It was nobody’s fault. 

I began seeing a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders. She candidly shared her own experience with PPD right out of the gate. I immediately felt comfortable with her. If she could have it, anyone could, right? She slowly got me back to a functioning level. Each week we worked through it. I became more comfortable sharing, knowing her experience and that there was a waiting room full of women enduring the same thing. She normalized my feelings. I began to slowly break free from my imprisonment. 

RELATED: Postpartum Depression is a Liar and a Thief

I am not fully healed yet but on a road to recovery. I find myself wondering what would have happened if my doctor had not pressed me to tell the truth. To get help.

I worry for others who still shelter in place within themselves. 

Even in the year 2020, there remains a stigma around PPD. It is perpetuated by images of the happy mother. She is well-rested, healthy, taking perfect care of her household and little bundle of joy. Another positively reinforced totem of American culture. Another dismissal of perceived abnormalities around the convenient perfect. I have known the happy mothers and admire them. However, you must look deeper to find representation of the mom who might not be thriving

I perpetuated the stigma by hiding. I dropped the guilt and now embrace sharing. There is strength in knowing you are not alone. There is a community of women who have experienced the same thing.

There is help. Compassion exists. You will get better. I urge you to share unafraid. 

Even as I write my story, I continue peering over my shoulder, wondering if those nearby echoes in the night will stalk me again. The further I recover, the more I distance myself from those ominous footsteps.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Jillian Edwards

Jillian Edwards is a Denver native living in Long Beach, California. When she’s not traipsing about as an event producer, you can find her at home navigating new motherhood. In the late evening, she indulges in her passion for writing. She is a proud survivor of cancer and uses her voice to encourage women to share their own unique stories.

My Baby Had Laryngomalacia

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding baby on her shoulder

Life’s funny, isn’t it? Just when you think you’ve got the whole motherhood thing figured out, the universe throws a curveball. And, oh boy, did it throw me one with my second baby. There I was, feeling like a seasoned mom with my firstborn—a healthy, vivacious toddler who was 16 months old. Our breastfeeding journey had its hiccups, an early tongue-tie diagnosis that did little to deter our bond. Fourteen months of nurturing, nighttime cuddles, and feeling powerful, like my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do. Enter my second baby. A fresh chapter, a new story....

Keep Reading

A C-Section Mom Simply Needs You to Hear Her Story

In: Baby, Motherhood
Newborn baby crying in doctor's hands

As an expecting mother, I was told all about the sleepless nights. People made sure to give their opinion on whether I should bottle feed, breastfeed, or exclusively pump. I was told which swaddle to buy, which sound machine worked best, and when to introduce a pacifier. They told me about sleep training but that it really didn’t matter because I wouldn’t get any sleep anyway. Whenever I would mention how scared I was to give birth, I’d always get the same response: oh. honey, don’t worry, your body will know what to do. I remember listening to calming meditations...

Keep Reading

Feed Them—and Other Ways To Help NICU Parents

In: Baby, Motherhood
Parents holding hands of premature baby in NICU

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our reality as NICU parents to a healthy, brilliant NICU graduate. Our child was born very prematurely and spent weeks in the NICU so he could grow and stabilize. My first experience as a mother of a baby was shattered in so many ways. Trauma still lingers, but I am so grateful for all I have learned from our time beside our little baby in his isolette bed. One thing I learned was that some people who really want to help support NICU parents really don’t know how they can. Here are some...

Keep Reading

From Baby to Boy

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler
Toddler boy asleep with legs tucked under his belly

The sweet snuggles and sighs are slowly making way for more crawling climbing and exploring each day. And just when I think my baby is gone, you snuggle into my chest, convincing me I’m wrong. I watch as you excitedly chase after your sis and giggle as you share with me your slobbery kiss. RELATED: They Tell You To Hold the Baby, But No One Warns You How Fast He Grows Daytime hours bring playful adventures as I watch my baby leave, but then a sleeping bum curled in the air makes me believe that these cherished baby moments haven’t...

Keep Reading

Having Two Under Two Was the Best Decision I Ever Made

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler
Toddler and newborn lying next to each other on a bed

My baby was 14 months old when I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. He had just learned how to walk, still requiring me to walk behind him holding both of his hands above his head so he wouldn’t topple over. In other words, my baby was still very much a baby, and I couldn’t believe I’d be adding another baby to the mix. Excited, but mostly terrified, I researched and read more articles than I can count on what it’s like to be a parent of two under two. These articles more often than not use...

Keep Reading

I Thought Failure to Thrive Meant I Was Failing

In: Baby, Motherhood
Baby drinking bottle, color photo

Failure. That’s all I read. It’s all I saw. It was the only thing I could focus on. I’m sure the doctor said it at some point during the appointment, but it wasn’t until it was right there staring at me in black and white that it clicked . . . “failure to thrive.” I was officially failing my daughter. A couple of years down the road, I now realize how irrational and far from the truth that was, but at the time, it was all I could focus on. I wish more than anything that they had a better,...

Keep Reading

You’re Becoming a Big Sister, But You’ll Always Be My Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Pregnant woman with young daughter, color photo

The anticipation of welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting and joyous time for our family. From the moment we found out we were expecting to just about every day since, the love and excitement only continue to grow. However, amidst all the preparations for the new addition, I cannot help but have mixed emotions as I look back at old videos and pictures of my firstborn, my first princess, my Phoebe—for she will always hold a special place in my heart. As the anticipation grows, my heart swells with a mix of emotions knowing we are...

Keep Reading

New Mama, It Might Not Be Okay Now but It Will Be

In: Baby, Motherhood
New baby looking at camera, black and white image

It was 2:30 in the morning, I was sitting on the bed with tears streaming down my face, my 7-week-old son crying in my arms. Everything hurt—my engorged breasts, my cracked and bleeding nipples, my back where I had taken two epidurals. It hurt to sit, not only from birth but from the stitches, and I was tired. “It’s okay,” my husband said, rubbing my back in small conciliatory circles, but it wasn’t okay. When they placed my son in my arms for the first time I cried tears of joy, made promises for the future, bolstered by the love I...

Keep Reading

“Please Help Mommy to Be Patient, and the Baby to Stay Alive in Her Tummy.”

In: Baby, Loss, Motherhood
Toddler with hand on mother's pregnant belly

“Please help Mommy to be patient, and the baby to stay alive in her tummy.” It was my little girl’s daily prayer during my pregnancy. That prayer for patience—it stung a bit even though I had told her she could pray that I would be patient. It wasn’t necessarily that she or her sisters were testing my limits, but this pregnancy rage had gotten to be a real thing. If there is one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of my Heavenly Father, and I need others. I...

Keep Reading

I Know I’m Done, but I’ll Always Want Another Baby

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother touches nose to baby's smiling face, close up color photo

I was sorting clothes into tubs to donate, consign, or keep for my 1-year-old, and I came across a newborn outfit amongst a bunch of bigger kid clothes. I had gotten rid of all of my 1-year-old son’s newborn and infant things last year, but he still seems small and baby-like to me, compared to my 5-year-old. But I’m telling you, when I held up that teeny-tiny outfit, my heart broke. It looked too small to be real. To fit anything other than a doll. But, it did. My older son wore it on his first Christmas. I know I’m...

Keep Reading