Before my son was born just four long months ago, I had it in the back of my mind that I might get postpartum depression. My pregnancy was an anxious time for me largely due to having a miscarriage before I became pregnant with my son. And new motherhood is intense. Your body is a wreck, your emotions are beyond high and suddenly you have this tiny little person that needs you to do everything for him and is counting on you 100% for survival.
Everyone says, oh it's normal it's just hormones, the baby blues, etc. But what about when it's more than that? What about when you feel like you really and truly regret having a baby?
After my son was born and the initial haze wore off, I looked at him and at my husband and I felt like I had made a huge mistake. I found my mind drifting to my leftover narcotics from my C-section, how many would it take for me to sleep forever? What would happen if I just got in the car and drove away?
As I changed diapers in the middle of the night exhausted, I remember wishing and hoping I would die. Just so I could get some damn sleep.
It was so hard and I kept thinking, it's never going to get any better. It's always going to be hell. And then he'll grow up and never want to hang out with us and we'll have a cat's in the cradle situation. People kept saying, oh that's totally normal feelings after having a baby! But it isn't normal and I believe the people who say that may have been suffering from postpartum depression and not realized it.
While it's common for women to have the "baby blues"—which usually last about two weeks after birth—1 in 7 women suffer from a more serious mood disorder, postpartum depression. Unlike the baby blues, PPD will not go away on its own. Symptoms can occur days, or even months, after delivering a baby and it can last for many weeks or months if left untreated. Very rarely a woman will develop postpartum psychosis, a condition that may involve psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations.
I was not prepared for the feelings of despair and regret I'd been experiencing. I thought postpartum depression would look different. I thought it would be me in a dirty robe unable to care for my baby, but that's not the case.
I feel like I made a mistake having a baby. I feel like I am a terrible mother and person because our baby is healthy and beautiful but I am not happy.
Since he arrived I have done all I can to make sure he is fed and cared for. I snuggle him and kiss him and put pictures of him on Instagram and Facebook. I try to take care of myself. We spent a small fortune on a night nanny a couple of times a week so we could get some rest. I cook healthy meals in lieu of takeout and I've even been going to the gym occasionally. I get out, get my hair and nails done, I joined a mom club. I'm sharing my experience online, I'm seeing a therapist.
I'm doing everything right but I still feel wrong.
I feel like I made a mistake having a baby. I feel like I am a terrible mother and person because our baby is healthy and beautiful but I am not happy. I look at my husband, formerly the love of my life, and think, ugh you bastard, you did this. You ruined our lives with your "boys that can swim." I fantasize about emptying our joint bank account and booking a one way flight to Costa Rica.
I don't recognize myself. Where is the girl that threw all of her belongings in a backpack, and moved to San Francisco with $200 in her bank account? What happened to the young woman who thought it would be a good idea to quit her stable job with great benefits to travel around the world teaching English? Why doesn't she fall in love with guys with dreads who live in vans in the south of Spain anymore? That girl is gone, replaced with a puffy, lumpy, leaky woman that wishes she had made different life choices.
These feelings of regret, the irritability, the inability to sleep when Baby sleeps, they are all symptoms of postpartum depression. Yes, some of these feelings are normal but the frequency and repetitive nature of my thoughts indicates postpartum depression.
I'm in therapy now and things have been significantly better which is why I have chosen to not take medication at this point, but I am open to the idea if things don't improve in a few weeks. I am no longer breastfeeding so there's nothing standing in the way of taking meds, although there are medications that are considered safe while breastfeeding.
It's important to know that I'm not writing this piece a year out when I'm feeling better, I'm writing it now, while I'm going through it. Partially as a way of coping and also to reach out to new moms who may be suffering unnecessarily. Getting help and recognizing that you have depression is so important. You may need medication, you may not, but this is not something you should be facing alone.
There are so many things women remain silent about in our culture: miscarriage, disatisfaction with parenthood, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and mental illness are just a few. Remaining silent about postpartum depression will not protect us. The more open we are the less stigma there will be and women can get the critical help they need so that both Baby and mother can thrive.
I so hope that in the next few months you'll read a post from me that says, hey, I'm doing so much better and this motherhood thing is going great. But until then, I'll be hanging in there, just like millions of other mothers before me.