Time and time again we hear how motherhood transcends any and all other experiences. Carrying our child is a momentous journey and there is nothing more miraculous than the moment your eyes meet for the very first time. A bond begins instantaneously. It’s beautiful.
But what about when it’s not? What happens when what should be the happiest experience of your life isn’t? How do you cope with knowing that instead of joy you have anxiety and anger? Recent research has found that postpartum depression affects approximately one in seven mothers. I am one in seven.
I had already experienced pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn and raising a child. I was confident in my innate motherly instincts. But this time it was different. This time my instincts were far from innate. In fact, everything felt completely unnatural and guilt began to overwhelm me. Guilty. I felt so guilty. Guilty for not immediately feeling that instant connection that I felt the first time. Guilty that I wasn’t able to appreciate my miracle baby the moment he entered into our lives. Guilty for not wanting to hold him. Guilty for growing angry as he cried. Guilty for each and every thought I had of leaving. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Never before had I felt such shame. Never before had I felt so afraid. But most of all, never before had I felt like such a failure.
I should’ve known something was wrong. I should’ve been able to see that there was something causing my mood swings, anxiety, anger, intense irritability, sadness, excessive crying, withdrawal from my loved ones, fatigue and thoughts of suicide. But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see because there are no visible signs of PPD. It’s internal. It’s chemical and it’s emotional. It’s a combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustments and sleep deprivation.
“Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for most mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days…or a few months after childbirth.” Regardless of when and how it happens, the pain is the same. But there is one other thing that is the same, the ability to overcome. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. And together we will overcome.
I would be lying if I said that I have completely recovered because I haven’t. It’s been a strenuous battle. Some days are great. Some days are terrible. But the days that are great are starting to surpass the ones that are terrible. I must be patient with myself, I must celebrate the small steps forward and push to avoid any backtrack, I must open up when feeling overwhelmed and I must remember that I may have postpartum depression but postpartum depression doesn’t have me.