I could spot her a mile away.
It was the first time I’d seen her out since after the baby. She was doing all the right things, smiling, nodding, conversing.
But it was her eyes that were screaming for help.
They told me she was overwhelmed at this new life, exhausted from the sleepless nights, and anxiety-ridden with her new responsibilities. While this is common in most new mothers, I just sensed her’s was something more.
Maybe I recognized her because about four years ago, that was me suffering from postpartum depression. When my first child was born, my life obviously was flipped upside down. My daughter was such a tremendous gift, such a huge blessing—and I was absolutely terrified of her.
My husband and I tried for four-and-a-half years to get pregnant with her. We went through countless expensive, invasive medical tests. We discovered I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS, and it was believed this was what kept me from getting pregnant.
I believe it was a combination of my infertility, my hormones, and a miscarriage scare at the beginning of my pregnancy that was partly to blame for my postpartum depression. Or it could have been genetics. I’m certain setting my alarm every 20 minutes throughout the night to wake up and check on her could not have helped the situation.
All I know is I felt so lost and alone during this time.
I felt like my daughter was in better hands when she wasn’t with me, that everyone else could take better care of her than I could. I knew my thoughts and feelings weren’t “normal” but I assumed I would snap out of it. That I could “tough” my way through it. I would test out the waters with my mom, my husband, my best friend, or a girl at work. And I remember getting the same side-eyed glance at something I would say that told me they didn’t understand.
Maybe it was when I told my mom after being out for a day that going back home alone with my baby felt like I was going back to prison. Or when I told my husband that I was a terrible mother and I understood why moms sometimes ran off and left their families. I will never forget the look on my best friend’s face when I told her that sometimes I had to sit on my hands because I had the urge to touch my daughter’s soft spot. (I have since come to learn that this is a symptom of postpartum OCD).
These were the realities I lived with every day. I knew deep down I would never harm my child. It was just the fact that I could even think those thoughts that made me so distraught.
Fast forward seven months and I was still feeling the same way, probably worse. Luckily, a dear coworker and friend made me call my doctor after me recounting for her how even putting scoops of formula in a bottle was a severe, stress-inducing event. So, I made the call. I was offered counseling first. Me? No! I don’t need counseling, thank you very much. Just give me my Zoloft and let me get on my way. (I probably did need counseling, too.)
After acknowledging my postpartum struggles weren’t normal and that I was unable to bring myself out of my personal hell on my own, I finally started my prescribed medication. And after it kicked in, I was a completely different person and mother.
This part is hard to write: I truly blame my PPD as what kept me from properly bonding with my baby for the first seven months of her life. It wasn’t until I got some help that I realized exactly how bad I had been. And what all I had missed.
If you are feeling these same things, or maybe just a different version of them, I urge you to please get help. Call your doctor and let them know. Because one thing I can promise you is you cannot fight this alone. I tried, believe me, I tried.
I just want you to know that my daughter, who’s now four, and I are so, so close. You would never know I even had those struggles at the beginning. She is one of the most miraculous things I have ever done and I’m so thankful she is mine.
Every minute of that postpartum hell was worth it for her, I just wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to get help.
Please know that you and I are not alone. There are so many others who have fought this same private struggle and won. We got through it. And, so can you! Please stop blaming yourself and take the first step in overcoming this horrible disease. I wish you and your new baby a lifetime of happiness and love. From one former postpartum mama to another, you’ve got this!
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