In my earliest days of motherhood, I had no idea postpartum
depression was even something I should be concerned about. I knew to be
on the lookout for the “baby blues” within the first two weeks or so, like all the books and experts told me about, but there
was nothing about the range of emotions I would soon go through.
So, when they
came—along with tears and immense feelings of inadequacy—and then
subsequently went away, I thought nothing of it. But apparently, I had only
scratched the surface. There was so much darkness and uncertainty that I
mentally committed to having no more children. I had enough to deal with and was
struggling with articulating all that I felt, and how varied those emotions
I had no seasoned mom friends to ask how I was doing because I was the first to get pregnant, and
if I needed any help. After time , with a little bit of therapy and a whole lot
of writing, I managed to dig my way out and could even imagine having a another
By the time I was well into my second pregnancy, I was trying
not to worry about any lingering effects of PPD and how those would reappear,
but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Fortunately, I had a doctor who was well versed in postpartum
depression and was quite proactive in making sure I didn’t
spiral too far down the rabbit hole.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I bounced
back with such speed, I thought I had staved off those feelings and all my internal
fretting was for nothing. But six weeks into being a mom of two, I hit a wall. Having a newborn while
raising a fourth-grader and being a “good wife” was turning out to be a lot
more complex than I had anticipated as the months went on. I knew I was spiraling
and was afraid of where it would all end.
Late one night, I sat in front of the computer to write a blog post as the tears flowed, and then shortly
thereafter, the words. That was the first of many breakthroughs. I hit
publish and went on with my week, not realizing how liberating it was to have those
thoughts out of my head as well as how other women were
connecting with what I wrote. Later, I learned that my words resonated with so
many new moms, both first-time and veterans.
As I began to tell my story more and
more, I felt less shame and fear about what others would say or think of me.
Four years later, I’ve come to realize my struggles with depression and anxiety
have saved me in so many ways.
I learned to ask for help. After my first bout with PPD, I realized part of my issue was that I was
taking on too much. In order to be able to parent effectively, I had to step
back and let my husband take on more. By the time I had baby number two, I had
safety nets in place for my husband to recognize the warning signs that I might be
slipping. I also didn’t hesitate (as much) to ask for assistance when I needed
it. Although this was absolutely the hardest thing for me to learn, it was the
one thing that truly began to help me heal.
taught me that I was important, too! I didn’t take self-care into account when I was a first-time
mom and thought that I had to do it all (and only I could do it). I was also young and was trying to prove a point,
exhausting myself in the long run. Because of my depression, I learned that
time alone was not only rejuvenating, but absolutely necessary for my mental
health.It also made me a better mother.
gave me a voice. I
found out I wasn’t alone and it made me seek out others
whose struggles mirrored mine. In an effort to get out of my head, I started
writing feverishly again. With my daughter, it was poetry reminiscent of my
college years, scribbled into journals while she slept and I was filled with
panic. With my son, a full decade later, it was late night raw blog entries as
well as musings on mom style as a distraction from the sleep
deprivation. A dichotomy for sure, but it re-awakened the writer in me and set
me on my current path. It also helped me
find and accept my true voice and feelings about parenting.
it’s OK to feel. I
often mimic the meme "you get 5 minutes in a day to be sad, then you gotta be a
gangster.” PPD showed me it was OK to have my feelings (and fully be in them)
and let myself process. Not just shove them down and keep pushing through, but
when and where appropriate, cry it out if necessary. Even when it wasn’t convenient. Bottling up those sentiments had done me no good in the past and I learned that
by actually letting my guard down and giving in to the emotion when
I was overwhelmed was therapeutic.
made me an advocate.
Prior to my own experience, I never really gave PPD a second thought. And even
after, I was still hesitant to speak about my struggles within my own family
let alone in a public space. After a few cathartic and raw blog posts, I
realized that I had a platform to be a voice for those who struggled like I
had. I’ve found organizations to support that also assist mothers like me who
have been, or are going, down a similar path as I traveled. I also make it a point
to talk to new moms in my life about postpartum depression and let them know what may lie ahead, and how and where
they can get help if they need it. Because I wish that’s what someone had done
still battle depression and wrangle with my anxiety sometimes, but I'm thankful for the
many other warrior moms I've met who are fighting the same fight. I know PPD
can be scary and it might seem weird to say it, but the lessons I learned from going through it is why I'm still here.