So when I decided to write my blog post about postpartum perspectives I reached out to a couple of different moms groups that I am in to see what kind of things they had to say. What I was very surprised by was their open and honest responses to their postpartum fears, loneliness, struggles and depression. This is simply not talked about enough.
I always assumed that postpartum depression simply meant "having feelings of harming myself or harming my baby." Well I never had those feelings, but I was so unhappy. Everyone kept asking me questions like, "Aren't you just the moon?" "Isn't this the best time of your life?" "Soak in the snuggles because they are the sweetest and you're going to miss this." I would smile and agree when really on the inside I was thinking, "I love my son, I really so, but I need a break. I want to be anywhere but here. I'm not going to miss this time because I dread each and every day." Those things were taboo to say so I never did. I also thought it was normal to feel so overwhelmed and like I was drowning. People said that being a parent was hard so I just assumed that level of struggle was what I had signed up for so I needed to just grit my teeth and bear it. Then it started getting worse, my anxiety was quickly on the rise and I would scream in frustration and at one point, I was averaging 5 or so panic attacks a day. Once again, no one explained to me that this life I was living was NOT how motherhood was supposed to be. It took one friend coming to me in love and expressing to me that she was truly concerned I was not okay. She saw the struggles I was having and validated me that they were real and something I needed help with. She validated me that I was in fact a good mother trying my hardest with a kid who wouldn't sleep, but she reminded me that to be the best mother I had to get help for myself.
How I was able to help myself
To be practical, for me, some things that helped my anxiety and depression were using essential oils, taking a magnesium:calcium supplement, using rescue remedy, and joining a group at my church called "Restore" (which is similar to Celebrate Recovery at a lot of other churches.) Getting enough sleep was a huge factor for helping me get better too. This was probably my biggest struggle because my little boy has been a pretty poor sleep since day one. Time, a super supportive husband who began taking every night waking, and an all natural sleep aid were the only things that helped me get more sleep.
Society today can make our postpartum struggles worse. The demand of perfection, the commercials with the perfect families and mom who have it all together, it can really make you feel inadequate. Let's be honest sometimes, even though its unintentional, we as moms make each other feel inadequate too. Only talking about the highlights of motherhood and the things that went perfect today or our next pinterest project. Hear me, these things are not bad, in fact they are GREAT. It's just that in the sharing of those things we also need to share the struggles and the fears. Life is about the mountains and the valleys. Life is meant to be lived in community and not alone so reach out and find someone to walk through it with. The more we talk about the joys and the hardships, the more we will help people with perinatal mood disorders and moms who are just having a hard time.
Here are some quotes from some very strong moms who were open and honest about their struggles postpartum. I have chosen to leave their names off for their privacy.
"With both of my postpartum experiences, I was surprised how good I felt the first month, and then how quickly postpartum depression set in after that. People generally want to help in that freshly postpartum days and weeks, but I was still on adrenaline and doing well then, and the following weeks after that were very hard for me"
"This time around I didn't fall in love as hard as I did with my last. It makes me feel like a bad mom. You always hear stories of how in love you are the moment you lay eyes on your baby and delays eyes on you. I'm still struggling to connect at 11 weeks. I still choose to fight for that bond and have my moments where I'm smitten but it definitely didn't come naturally at all."
"I was surprised how lonely I felt. Coming home from the hospital even with my husband home for a couple of weeks and various visitors coming and going, I always just felt so alone. Especially at night, being up for feedings, I felt so isolated. Husband snoozing in bed, baby at work on the breast and what was I supposed to do. The house felt so quiet. I always had to have the tv on. (Thank you Gilmore Girls) but even when people visited they were so fixated on the baby and always shooed me away to sleep (which I did need). However, it all just made me feel like a ghost. I had no idea how isolating it can be and next time I hope to avoid it or atlas be mentally prepared for that feeling"
"I was surprised how much I wanted to stay inside the home. Everything scared me, from driving to coming in contact with someone who wasn't vaccinated. I didn't miss "adult conversation" for a while."
"If your birth doesn't go as planned, you can end up with lasting mental and emotional damage. It's important to speak to someone soon after to help deal with the issues and catch any signs of depression. I had a very traumatic birth with a 3 week NICU stay. I'm now in the process of finding someone my insurance covers to help deal with it all. If I don't get some help, I will never have another. As of right now, any medical office gives me extreme anxiety to the point of panic attacks."
It takes strength to ask for help
As you can tell from my story and the stories of these beautiful ladies, postpartum struggles can look different for each person. You are not alone in this even if it may feel that way. Everyone mom has their struggles. None of them are meant to be walked through a lone. If you think you might be struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety please visit your midwife/OB. Consider setting up meetings with a counselor. Ask your doula for any resources she may have to help you. Find a support group in person or even online. Look into holistic ways to help your body deal with the stresses. Join a ministry at your local church that is designed to help people who are walking through hard times. It is absolutely not a sign of weakness to ask for help. In fact, it is a sign of true strength.
I hope my open and honest vulnerability has been able to help you some. I truly believe we can choose to go through hard times and let them break us or we can choose to let them shape us and we can turn around and use them for good so that it is what I hope to do my postpartum depression and anxiety.
Now that the cloud is lifting and the anxiety and depression are gone, I am coming to realize there is so much more to motherhood than I even dreamed there could be. This is my prayer for you. That you can find strength, healing, and peace, and begin to enjoy motherhood for all it is meant to be.