Just a few hours before my water broke, my husband and I had our last date as a family of two. We saw a hilarious movie (Daddy’s home two – Will Ferrell gets me every time), I nearly peed my pregnant pants in the movie theater. At the time I had no idea that this was probably one of the last times I would laugh freely or without care for the next few months.
To back track a little, my husband and I struggled with infertility for about 3 years, so when I finally was pregnant, I was super nervous about a miscarriage or anything going wrong with the pregnancy or delivery. Little did I know that those things I was most stressed about would by far be the easiest part of what I had coming my way. In fact, a few hours after the delivery, our nurse came and checked on us, and she said “well, the easy part is out of the way. Now comes the hard part – raising them”. We laughed, but she was right.
It started in the hospital, I couldn’t sleep, my body was pulsing and I felt like I was in a different world. I thought that could be normal though, given I was a first-time mom, some anxiety was to be expected right? People would come and visit and expect me to be on cloud 9 – but instead of cloud 9 I was on mars – I wasn’t equipped for the atmosphere of motherhood which left me feeling like I was suffocating most of the time. I was not anticipating that I would struggle so much, after all this is what I had been hoping and praying for! The idea of postpartum depression had crossed my mind, but I also thought it was the baby blues, sleep deprivation etc. and that’s what everyone kept telling me.
My lowest low in my first few weeks was one night where I really felt like I didn’t want to be living my life. I wanted to give my son away, and go back to the way things were. That is so hard for me to admit and type out, but it’s true. I wasn’t in my right mind. I felt so dark and helpless and like I wasn’t in my body. I was broken. I remember that night though I was lying in bed feeling lifeless and I had a hot flash/fever break out throughout my body, and I just let it wash though me. It sounds weird, but it kinda of cleansed me. I remember waking up feeling so much better, I was almost on a high, and I felt so much love for my son and I was excited to get up and feed him again. I enjoyed that moment, but it didn’t last. There continued to be ups and downs, and I’d try and journal and take lots of pictures when I had waves of love and happiness so I could remind myself that there would be good moments again.
I used to feel like I was a pretty rational and an even-tempered person, but that was no longer the case. I was losing my mind, my emotions were erratic. I spent most of my time feeling low, with brief bursts of happiness, but it’s like there wasn’t any in between. I felt like a crazy person, and honestly, I kind of was. I felt guilty that I wasn’t the same person anymore. I remember telling my husband how sorry I was that the person he married was gone and that I hoped she would come back sometime soon.
I don’t feel like I can really even describe how anxiety and depression feels, but I 100% believe that it is real. Before I went though it myself, I naïvely thought that people who had depression were just more pessimistic/grumpy type of people who had to try harder to be happy than the rest of us. That sounds so stupid now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been really sad and disappointed and cried my eyes out before. In the past, I’d have my pity party for a day or two. I’d eat some ice cream, journal, pray, go for a run and come back feeling like I could get through whatever was lying ahead of me, even if it wouldn’t be enjoyable. But with this depression and anxiety, I would attempt to use my same coping strategies, and they would sometimes take the edge off but I couldn’t get back up on my feet like I had been able to in the past. I was so desperate just to be content. I didn’t even really want to be over-the-top happy, just at rest and normal.
One of the things with the anxiety that was so maddening to me was that I had no reason to feel anxious. I would literally wake up in the morning feeling like I had to speak at some public event for thousands of people, but I had no plans of even leaving the house that day. Once again, in the past, I would definitely get nervous, about things, but I always had a logical reason behind why I felt that. It drove me crazy that I had such strong emotions (whether the sadness or the fear) that I usually couldn’t tie to anything in my life.
It was heart-breaking to me that I had spent so much of my life excited to be a mom, and the better part of our 3 years of infertility sulking that I wasn’t. Now, I got what I what I wanted and I felt worse off than I ever had before, it just didn’t add up. All in all, I think that was the hardest part – I equated my depression to my baby/the fact that I was a mom. I’ve never had a ton of confidence, but I always thought I would make a pretty good mom. I felt like the one thing I would actually be good at, ended up breaking me. I wanted so badly to feel constantly obsessed with this little “bundle of joy” like I always thought I would, but it was rare rather than the norm.
At this point I remember thinking ok, the baby blues should be gone now, but I still had some major hang ups. I was getting to the point where there would be moments in each day where I would feel ok, but then low moments where I felt terrified to have more children (which is still sometimes applicable haha); feeling like a failure and overcome with extreme emotions for no reason.
I finally met with a counselor who knows me well and who I trust. She was pretty straight forward and told me that she thought I had postpartum depression/anxiety. I tried to down play it and talk about how it comes and goes and I usually have normal moments in every day. She said that I could choose to go and talk to a doctor and get prescribed something or I could just suffer through it for the next 6 months to a year with it slowly getting better over time.
I thought you know what, swallow your pride, stop trying to feel like you are on top of everything and go see the doctor, so that’s what I did. I had to call when I was struggling because if I was even feeling semi-normal, I would talk myself out of it. I’d name all the other reasons why I might be struggling- it’s winter, I can’t exercise as much as I’d like, I’m cooped up, it’s a big life transition – all of these things were true, but in the end I am so glad I didn’t let the excuses get in the way of me getting the help I needed.
Unfortunately, the process of finding the right meds for depression/anxiety is not a quick fix, #1 – it takes a few weeks to see a positive improvement #2 – some meds work miracles for some while they have the opposite effect on others. I went through a horrifying few days on a medication that literally had me wanting to be checked in to some sort of mental health institution where they could just sedate me. I was so ashamed that during that week, I had to have people come in and take care of my baby until my husband got home from work. I didn’t feel safe or mentally well enough to care for my child. Needless to say, that was not the right medication for me. I was terrified to start a new one, but I was lucky enough to have a much better experience with the next medication I tried, and it is the medication I am still currently taking.
Ultimately the medication is what helped me balance my hormones and get me back to my normal self. But I also feel that my family, friends and God were crucial along this path too. They all helped tremendously as I fought through this. I so appreciated anyone who was willing to share their experiences with depression and anxiety, or just their less than perfect motherhood moments too. Ultimately, I think that’s why I wanted to share this. With any struggle, knowing that you aren’t alone in the way you feel can do wonders; it doesn’t fix your problem, but it helps you feel a little more accepted and sane, which I think we all could use.
I feel beyond grateful that I was able to get the help I needed- I no longer feel numb or heightened anxiety for day to day activities. I feel connection and love towards my son, like I always thought I would. I am seriously obsessed with him, like sometimes I just have to squeeze him because my love for him is oozing out of me and I don’t know what else to do. But let’s be honest, there are also days where I wonder if he will ever get to have any siblings because I’m just over it for the day. But that’s what motherhood is right, a mix of love, frustration and slobber.