I had my first son when I was 23 years old. My husband and I named him Isaac, which means laughter. The first few months of his life brought me anything but laughter. It felt as if for the first five weeks, my son cried constantly. It seemed if he wasn’t crying then he was sleeping. It was a really stressful time for me. I cried, he cried, and in the end, we’d both be so exhausted we’d fall asleep. I remember telling myself “I can’t do this” over and over and over again.
Eventually, those thoughts manifested into actions. I just stopped trying. Eventually, I couldn’t even cry. I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb. I gave up. I’d let him cry, I‘d let him starve, I’d let him feel alone, and I basically let him suffer all because of that one thought . . . that I couldn’t do it anymore.
It’s not that I didn’t love him. In fact, that was the only attempt at something I could give him. However, a part of me thought my love wasn’t good enough. I would watch other mothers with their babies or read about other mothers with their babies, and notice how involved and nurturing they were to their babies. I wasn’t in any way like that with Isaac. I painted a picture of how a mother should be with her baby by observing the happy moments of other mothers.
In the end, I didn’t measure up.
During the first five weeks, when he’d start to cry, people would tell me he has gas, he’s an early teether, he’s colicky, or my favorite, he’s hungry. Why is that my favorite? Because every time they told me that, I had just breastfed him and was positive he had eaten enough. And still, he was hungry. So, out of defeat, I’d listen to them and try to feed him again. Most of the time, he was not hungry.
It made me feel even more inadequate for Isaac. I couldn’t even meet his basic need of nourishment for him. I was so inadequate. I know others meant well and were trying to help me. I was a first-time mom, my husband worked odd, endless hours, and my baby appeared extremely fussy. I was at my wit’s end, and they were just trying to come up with ideas as to why he was fussy.
I had a rough time convincing myself every mother feels a little inadequate at first. I had an even rougher time convincing myself my feelings were more than baby blues or first-time mom struggles.
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At first, I remember thinking I couldn’t do it. Then I thought I wasn’t good enough. Then that turned into me thinking I shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. And that escalated into he deserved better.
Then I finally realized I wasn’t just experiencing baby blues—I had postpartum depression.
I remember putting my baby in his Pack ‘n play, stepping outside, and convincing myself not to hop into the car and drive away.
I battled depression for most of my life. I remember being nine years old and thinking I was sick of this life. I really believed, at age nine, that my life was basically hell. As I grew up, that depression developed into something more serious than just thoughts; it started to become plans, and then it became an obsession.
It became part of me. It suffocated me. It tortured me. I eventually gave up and tried to end the torment. I ended up in the hospital for almost a week.
I went to therapy and started medication. There were months I would stop taking my medicine to see what would happen, and of course, each time the result was the same: I became moody, irrational, and depressed.
When I found out I was pregnant, I stopped cold turkey. I did fine while I was pregnant, and after Isaac was born I thought maybe I was finally free of my enemy known as depression.
But as I stood outside debating whether I wanted to run away, I realized those feelings were more than the baby blues or new mom struggles.
Those feelings felt strangely like the ones I had before I tried to end my life. They were feelings I knew all too well.
I wanted to be one of those happy mothers, so the thought of having postpartum depression felt shameful. But I took action for the sake of Isaac, my husband, and myself.
I called my doctor, who eventually diagnosed me with PPD. She shared that she, too, experienced postpartum depression after her third child. I cannot even begin to tell you how comforting hearing her story was.
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Do I feel defeated as a mother? No! In fact, I feel very strong and confident. When a mother discovers her strength and weakness—when she puts her child’s needs before her own—she becomes an extraordinary mother.
I may have felt shame at first for having postpartum depression, but now I simply feel like a mother.
My son is now 13. My husband and I also have an amazing 8-year-old boy named Gabriel. I was fortunate not to battle postpartum with him as I took action and prepared for the possibility of it attacking me after I gave birth to him. I know this is not the case for every mother, but I am thankful to God it was for me. My prayer is that my story helps other mothers to notice and seek help when they feel postpartum depression lurking in their minds, ready to hold them captive. When I say you are not alone in the battle, I mean it.
It’s bittersweet to be diagnosed with such sadness during such a happy time in your life, but you are not alone.