You Down with PPD? Yeah, You Know Me!
I’m writing this post* because I wish someone else would have written something like it for me to read before I gave birth.
Post-partum depression**. Let’s pour a cup of tea, kick our sneaks up on the table and break this puppy down, shall we?
I referenced it in a previous post, but it took me a little while to get up the gumption to write about it, because, you know, do you really want to know the deep dark secrets of your local news anchor? I know I may be venturing into TMI territory, but if you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed at 2am while holding the baby and Googling “sleep schedules” (HI! says “Been There, Done That”), I want you to know, you are not alone.
Not all moms, obviously, go through this. Cheers to you if you are that lucky.
First things first. I am an unabashedly positive person. Glass half full. Known to burst out in song. Hugging strangers. Eating chocolate after breakfast because YOLO. First one on stage at karaoke. Yada yada yada, etcetera etcetera and the like. YES, I have awful horrible bad days too, but overall you could say I’m pretty upbeat.
So you can imagine how shocked I was to feel so empty after having my first baby.
It was just weeks after we had Sammy, and I was sitting in his room, holding him, just staring into space. The high of those incredible moments just after his birth had passed, we were still trying to figure each other out, and I was struggling desperately to find my sea legs in motherhood.
In that moment I was like a balloon slowly bled of helium–still somehow afloat but steadily falling to the ground. I remember thinking, I should be feeling more. Where had the all-consuming joy gone? Where were the constant warm fuzzies? Why was I feeling emptier than ever before, when in reality, my life was fuller than it ever had been?
Somehow during the following weeks, that feeling dissipated. It was like a magic wand was waved and I woke back up to simple joys of motherhood. I remember feeling like I had dodged a bullet. “A touch” of PPD is what I would say to friends who asked. I felt down, sure, but it all passed, and fairly quickly. Thank God.
Twenty months later we had our beautiful Francesca. The labor was fairly quick and easy, the delivery was great, and she was a calm and happy baby.
Then some Big Things happened in our life. I won’t expound, but the following six months I spiraled downward in the most profound way I have ever experienced.
Yes, I still had many moments of joy with my new baby and adored our new, bigger, family. But daily, I had moments of debilitating anxiety. The combination of the Big Thing, the surging hormones, the lack of sleep and the non-stop work at home hit me. Like a Jenga tower, I would crumble if the wrong block was pushed.
Forget thinking about how I would go back to work, how would I be a functioning mother, wife, friend, feeling this way?
I reached out to everyone I knew for help before realizing, I need more than just family. I went back to my doctor and sat in his office and cried. I talked about the Big Thing and my worries and my exhaustion, and that was the first step in getting better. I did not end up going on medication, but I did end up speaking with a therapist who helped me figure it all out, and months later, without even seeing the steps as I was taking them, I was there again. I was Me.
So in the interest of complete transparency about the Motherhood Experience, let’s keep this conversation alive. Let’s talk about these times too. Tell a new mom that it’s okay to feel upset or worried or depressed or anxious, along with (and sometimes immediately right after!) feeling dizzyingly happy.
PPD/PPA/Whatever You Want to Call It, has nothing to do with who you essentially *are* as a person; it has everything to do with what birth/motherhood does *to you*.
No, it doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. No, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. And no–NO NO NO–it does not last forever.
Now that I am through the tunnel, I look back on it as one more hard-earned badge of motherhood. It wasn’t easy, but then again, the best things in life always require a lot of work.
*You can tune out now if the “mommy” posts are too much for you. It’s what I’m living at the moment, and as every mother and parent out there knows, it is such an all-consuming existence in the early years that it’s hard to think too much about anything else. I cope by writing, so either enjoy or scroll on!
**Or post-partum anxiety, or new mom blues, or whatever you want to call it, in all its varying degrees and forms