I’ve heard lots of “talk” about postpartum depression but haven’t heard lots of real life experience of it. I wanted to take some time to talk about it here on my blog because it personally affected me after the birth of my son, Zane.
While I was pregnant the thought of postpartum depression would, every now and again, cross my mind. I thought about the possibility of it affecting me and, if it did affect me, how I would deal with that. However, in the back of my mind, as those questions would come up, this voice would answer and tell me I didn’t need to worry about it. I thought postpartum depression was probably something that affected other, more susceptible people. Also, I thought it wouldn’t affect me because I was so grateful for this pregnancy and because it was our miracle finally happening. I thought there was no way I could suddenly have depression. It’s probably safe to assume other pregnant women have these thoughts. Postpartum depression sounds extreme. It sounds hard to fathom especially before you give birth because, how could you be depressed when you are being given one of life’s most precious gifts?
Well, if you’re like me, then you didn’t quite go into labor & delivery prepared for what was about to happen to you. And I say happen to you because, my oh my, is it out of your control.
If you read Zane’s birth story then you know it wasn’t an easy or ideal birth. I experienced some trauma. I had a perfect picture in my mind of what his birth would be like and I also had a perfect picture of what life with a newborn would be like. Let’s just say reality hit me like a ton of bricks to the face.
We brought our sweet miracle boy home and immediately we struggled with everything from sleeping to eating to breastfeeding. He slept 2 hours or less at a time (normal for a newborn). He had really bad reflux and would spit up massive amounts of formula in each feeding. He did not know how to breastfeed and didn’t have the energy to even latch and suck. He cried a lot. Like A LOT. Along with that, being a new mom, your whole life is turned upside down. What was formerly my life was gone in 1 day. When else does that happen to you outside of a traumatic experience such as a loss of a loved one, losing your home, or a natural disaster? It felt as though everything I thought motherhood would be like was a lie. I thought, where’s the deep love and connection? Where are the blissful days spent staring into my little boys face? And those things were there but more often than not they were overcome by feelings of isolation, overwhelm, sadness, & even grief. A part of me was grieving my former life. I grieved what my marriage used to be. I grieved who I used to be. There were so many days I woke up with an overwhelming sense of dread. I wanted to enjoy being a mother so badly but there was a large & dark cloud looming over every moment. I couldn’t shake it.
I knew this wasn’t normal and that something was wrong. How could I go from being the most excited and joyful I’d been in my entire life to dreading waking up in the morning? I began to realize I had postpartum depression. I couldn’t believe that I had it but at this point I realized I needed help.
One of the first things I did was reach out. A really good friend of mine had struggled with it too. She was a safe place to express a lot of the feelings I had and the shame I felt about those feelings. She would call. I would call. In our talks she reminded me of who I was and that everything I was feeling was normal and that it would get better. She cried with me, held me & ran errands for me. I needed her so much. I also began to make sure I took care of myself by doing things like walking in the mornings, sitting out in the sun & taking vitamins. It’s easy to put yourself on the back burner those first weeks because a newborn is all consuming but it’s so important to make yourself a priority as well. Your newborn needs you to do that. Also, pushing myself to get out of the house was huge for me. Staying home all day, everyday, felt very life sucking. Getting out at least twice a week helped me to feel normal again. Most importantly, talking to God and reading His truth. Being brutally honest with Him but also finding truth to counter a lot of lies I was being bombarded with. Everyday I’d try to find the victory in that day. It could have been just getting out of the house or crying three times instead of four. There was always something I could look back on in that day and be proud of. Lastly, putting thankfulness on the forefront of my mind. In the midst of a depressing or overwhelming feeling I would try and focus on thankfulness and how grateful I really was for this miracle boy and for the Lord answering our prayers after waiting so long.
Many of those weeks it felt like I would never see the end of those overwhelming and agonizing feelings but three months of being a mama and I can say that I no longer have feelings of dread or depression. I do still feel over my head some days because, let’s face it, being a parent is truly one of the most challenging things to do and, boy, do I have a newfound respect for the parents that I know and my own parents.
For the mamas out there reading this, working through postpartum depression is not easy and sometimes you need medication and therapy. There’s no shame, at all, in getting help. You are not crazy. You are not defective. You are absolutely normal and everything you’re feeling is normal. I rip shame off of you as it is not yours to carry. The thoughts and feelings you’re having are a part of the depression you’re working through. They are not who you are. There is light at the end of this tunnel and there is freedom for you. It gets better and better, everyday and you may have some days it feels worse but keep moving forward. Sorrow may last for a night but joy comes in the morning.