I do understand why postpartum depression is such a touchy subject.
Really, I do.
Who wants to admit that amidst bringing home a beautiful, perfect, sweet bundle of joy and going through the most wonderful time of your life, that your mood could be representative of the exact opposite of what you think you should be feeling?
“What sort of mother am I?” I’d often think to myself, when I’d wake up in the morning and just burst into tears. Granted, my early days with Poppy were hard, but the feelings I had? They far exceeded frustration from difficulties presented to a woman maneuvering her way through new motherhood.
My anxiety was sky high. Days were spent trying to make Poppy sleep, even though those efforts were usually futile, and the most dominant sound in my home during the day was more often than not my upset, exhausted daughter. Nick would come home just to relieve me, so that maybe I could go take a shower and get some peace for two seconds, even though my much desired me-time was often muffled by loud crying in the background.
I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir – you Mommas know what I’m talking about.
I quickly realized a gut-wrenching feeling starting to live deep in my stomach. While the previously listed types of situations presented feelings of frustration, this wasn’t that. This was way more than frustration and exhaustion.
I was feeling really down all of the time.
I started to realize my feelings of sadness were more than normal probably about four weeks after Poppy was born, even though it took me a while to accept it.
I always tried to put my finger on the core cause of what was making me sad, and I tried to fix it, until I realized that I was suffering from some pretty bad Postpartum depression. I realized that there wasn’t anything to pin point or be fixed, but rather that some women just go through this, and I just happened to be one of them.
I just wasn’t happy.
I was actually really fucking sad.
And who on earth wants to talk about that? Who wants to confess to themselves (nonetheless friends and family) that what is supposed to be the most beautiful time in your life is interrupted by this state of sadness? I was lonely, anxious, frustrated and sad, but while loneliness was a large factor of my struggle, the LAST thing I wanted was company.
Ever. Ever. Ever.
Pretty intense oxymoron, huh?
Nick took the brunt of what I was going through, because he was really the only one I felt like I could just spill my heart out to during that time. He’d ask why I was feeling sad, and I never really had a reason. I just was. I’d often just tell him how miserable I felt, how I couldn’t stop crying that day and how I didn’t know what to do. There were days I’d beg for him to come home from work so that I wouldn’t have to be alone, and so that he could help me, because I was far too stubborn and proud to ask anyone else for help.
When I went to my six week postpartum check up, I remember my doctor asking me if I’d been experiencing feelings of sadness, and disinterest in doing things. I responded by saying “No”, but just wanting to scream “YES!” I wanted help so badly, but felt like if I asked for help I was weak, and if I admitted I was unhappy I’d look like an unfit mother, or like I didn’t love my child.
Isn’t that terrible?
I read somewhere that only about 10-15% of women report feelings of sadness, and depression after baby. For some reason, I have a feeling that there are hoards of women not reporting their true state Postpartum, and that the 10-15% might be a much higher number in reality. I know I was one that didn’t answer truthfully, and for the exact reason I just listed…
I didn’t want to talk about it.
Nobody wants to talk about it.
It seems as though women are made to think that they should stay silent – put on a happy face, and just deal because…well, I’m not really sure why. Because we “should” be happy at home? Because we “should” be able to put our own personal feelings aside? Because we “should” be able to be supermom, and bottle our emotions and trudge through the newborn and postpartum depression battle grounds without a complaint?
And after dealing with it myself, and struggling so intensely with my own transition into new motherhood, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more. I don’t want any new Mom to deal with that, and feel like they can’t let people know that they’re struggling. That they can’t reach out for help, or admit that they’re not happy, because they’re afraid of what people might think, or that admitting that to yourself makes you weak or unfit.
In retrospect, I wish I just stood up with my head held high and let people close to me know that I was struggling with Postpartum depression and that I just really needed help, without worry or apology.
Now, I’m not saying that I never talked about it. I don’t ever think I admitted to anyone that I was certain I was in some sort of Postpartum depression, except to Nick, of course, but I’d rather say things like, “I’m feeling really sad and frustrated today, and I don’t know what to do.” On a couple of occasions when I did that, I heard something that really bothered me,
“It’ll get easier.”
Now, I get it – I appreciate the wisdom from women who have been there that know for a fact that those early, newborn days for a new Mom come and they go, but nothing made me feel less validated in what I was feeling than being told to basically stick it out because, eventually, one day “It’ll get easier.”
Because you know what?
I don’t give a fuck if it’s going to get easier, because today, RIGHT NOW I need you to hear that I’m having a really hard time, and I need to talk about it. I understand that a week, or a few months from now these feelings might go away, and I’ll finally figure this shit out, but listen to me when I’m feeling sad, and stop making me feel like it doesn’t matter because “so many women go through this”, or “just give it a few months, it’ll pass”.
No. I need help right now. I need you to hear me right now. I can’t do this alone today, and that’s why I’m leaning on you. Give me your shoulder. Let me cry. Just be there and be supportive.
Don’t you dare brush me off because you see this as just a phase.
And to the Momma’s who might be going through something similar right now, I have a secret –
OH MY WORD, you’re so normal, and it’s so okay to feel sad. It’s okay to want to rip your hair out and cry and scream. You’re a great Mom, and just because you’re not happy every second of every day with your newborn does NOT mean that you’re not a great mother, or won’t be a good mother, or don’t love your child or are inadequate. Reach out to those that you know will lend a helping hand, or just listen to you. You don’t need to deal with those feelings in silence. You don’t need to feel guilty. You don’t need to feel like your inadequate or different, or not capable because all of those things are just simply not true.
You’re wonderful. You’re strong. You’re capable. You’re amazing. And most importantly, you’re little baby loves you so much.
And to the pregnant, first time Mommas – while I hope that you’re early days with your baby aren’t interrupted by something like this, just be honest with yourself if you start to feel sad, or down because it’s okay. Help yourself by letting other people help you.
To those surrounding new Moms right now – Be encouraging. Be understanding. Don’t downplay the depression, if that’s what they’re dealing with, because It’s real, and it’s hard, and while I’ll always try to make new Mamas see the light at the end of the tunnel, I know what’s most important right now, in that moment, when someone is basically crying for help, is to offer a shoulder. Listen to them talk. Just be there, without judgement and dammit, bring a fucking bottle of wine over, too.
Today, I’m so thankful for those hard early days. While they felt like they would be never-ending, they weren’t, and they taught me infinite amounts of strength and patience. I appreciate the absolute angel that is my daughter more than words could ever describe – and I’d do it all over again, in a heart beat.
I write this simply because I know I’m not the only one. Let’s continue the conversation, and not be scared to chat about this.
If nothing else, I’m always willing to listen.
You’re kicking ass, Mama.