What I Wish I’d Known About Postpartum Depression

I’m a little nervous to share this. I’m a very transparent person, but even for me, this topic seems too personal. But I think it’s important. I wish someone had shared these things with me. Now that I’ve opened up about my struggles, I’ve had multiple women tell me they’ve felt the same way. We’re all just afraid. It makes sense. Our biggest fear as mothers is that someone will deem us incapable of mothering our precious children. It’s frightening to admit that sometimes we don’t feel like good mothers. But our silence leads other women to suffer alone. Our silence heaps shame on mothers who have a treatable condition. Our silence only fuels the fear of this topic. I pray you don’t judge me too harshly. I’m not here to judge anyone. I’m simply here to shatter the dead, cold silence.

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No one ever told me how hard it would be.

Expectations are everything.

“You’ll be a great mother.”

“Enjoy every moment – they grow up so fast.”

“It will be the best years of your life.”

I had high expectations.

It took us longer than expected to get pregnant, and once I was a mother it wasn’t what I expected.

The first year of motherhood was rough, but I got through it.

I thought it was a first child thing.

But then my second came, and in spite of the defenses I put up, it hit me.

This time, harder.

“This time I’ll get a baby who sleeps and doesn’t cry all the time.”

No. Different baby, but the same feelings.

Worse.

I didn’t think I had postpartum depression.

I wasn’t suicidal.

I was mostly okay until two or three months after birth.

But now I know better.

Call it what it is.

No one said it would be like this. Why didn’t they tell me?

I wanted my old life back.

I wanted to run away.

I wanted to leave my kids and run.

“Josh will be a good single dad. The kids don’t need me. They’ll be fine without me.”

I didn’t want to die.

I wanted to run.

I knew those were lies, but I wanted to believe them.

In my mind, I ran.

Not Alone

I just finished reading Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields. It’s a fascinating memoir about her journey with postpartum depression. Her writing is captivating, truthful, and funny. I couldn’t relate to everything she went through. But some things she said resonated deeply.

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I realized that I’ve been suppressing and “dealing with” postpartum depression alone for a long time now.

That wanting to run away?

She’s felt it.

Lots of mothers have felt it.

But we’re too ashamed to talk about it.

So we feel like there’s something wrong with just us.

We suffer alone, which can be devastating.

Just admitting that I was depressed was a big deal.

But looking back, it was pretty obvious.

How could I not see it?

Not a Horrible Mother

Ask for help.

It’s easy to say to others.

Nearly impossible to say to yourself.

I hesitated to ask for help because I had more good days than bad days.

But the bad days frightened me.

On the bad days I barely knew who I was.

I was a stranger who sat in her room, staring blankly at the wall.

I couldn’t speak to my husband and fantasized about leaving it all behind and simply starting over in life.

On my worst day, I was mad at God.

I felt cheated because I did everything “right” in life.

I followed the traditions and rules.

I married a good man.

The best man.

I had children with that man.

I quit my job when God asked me to.

So why am I so alone?

Why am I so unhappy?

Shouldn’t there be fulfillment and joy in choosing the proper path?

And if this is all there is for me here, then why don’t I try the wrong path and see if I like it better?

These were my real, uncensored thoughts.

I didn’t want to die.

I wanted to disappear.

I wanted to start over, with no consequences.

I wanted to redo my entire life, even if that meant walking away from everything I knew.

That’s how desperate I felt on my worst day.

That’s when I slammed on the brakes and asked for help.

Most days were not that bad.

Most days I enjoyed being a mother.

Most days were challenging, but rewarding and non-eventful.

But I needed an action plan for the bad days.

I had a friend that said “Call me, day or night, if you’re feeling those feelings.”

She was part of the plan.

If it was evening when the feelings hit me, I promised myself I would go to bed and start fresh in the morning.

That was another part of the plan.

Gradual Healing

Things have been much better.

I’ve been charting my fertility, exercise, and emotions.

It’s been almost three months since my last bad day. 

I’ve been talking through my problems.

I know myself better now than ever before.

I learned that I’m someone worth knowing.

I learned that quitting breastfeeding would balance my hormones tremendously.

I also learned that possibly the best anti-depressant out there is talking to other people who are going through rough things.

They give me perspective and hope.

They fill me with courage.

Taking the focus off of myself is incredibly therapeutic.

I don’t have it all figured out.

I’m ashamed because I don’t feel qualified to be depressed.

I’m simply too privileged.

But I know that depression is real, whether you feel qualified or not, and it can be quite serious.

Let’s not act like it is pretend.

Let’s not ignore it and hope it leaves on its own.

Reach Out

Be honest with yourself.

Go easy on yourself.

If you think you have postpartum depression, or any form of depression, don’t wait another day.

It doesn’t make you less of a person.

It’s part of what makes you a complex and nuanced human.

Sometimes medicine can be avoided.

Sometimes medicine is the best answer.

It doesn’t matter.

I don’t judge you.

Before this, if you were to ask me what the hardest time in my life was, I would have said when we were trying to start a family.

Waiting for our first child was no joke.

There were ugly tears and angry conversations with God.

But now if you were to ask me the same question, I might have to change my answer.

I might have to say that the adjustment from one to two kids was the hardest.

It doesn’t mean I’m weak.

It just means that my mental state affects my whole being.

And it’s a long, arduous process to feel normal again.

I honestly work on my mental state everyday, mostly in preventative ways.

Running helps.

I run a lot.

But sometimes it can feel like a dark cloud is chasing me.

I don’t regret my children.

I love them dearly, and I thank God for them on a daily basis.

But I regret my unrealistic expectations.

I don’t have the answers, but I know that there’s hope.

There’s other women who understand.

It’s not as uncommon as you think.

Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth.

This is a reminder for all of us to simply be present.

Because our children will grow up quickly, and they need us.

Our fantasies are just that – fantasies.

They will never ground us.

They will never be the foundation that our families are.

They will disappear like the breeze.

I may find myself gazing with jealousy at the adventure snapshots of my single friends.

But adventure without relationships is empty.

God, help me cherish my thriving, lifelong relationships.

Help me remember that the biggest adventure is the life that you’ve given me, and the family you’ve helped me create.

If we’re always wishing we were somewhere else, how will we really ever live?

At the end of the day, I’m thankful.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, please reach out. You are not a terrible person. You are not supposed to go through this alone. You can contact me confidentially or refer to these resources: 

Postpartum.net or call 1-800-944-4773

National Suicide Prevention Website or call 1-800-273-8255

 

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5 Comments

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  1. Your boldness and courage are so incredibly inspiring. Thank you for stepping into light and letting yourself be seen and known. Your posts help more women than you know. Even ones without husbands or children. Because they’re about humanity and choosing to live, really live: and that, we can all relate to. God bless you, Emily.

  2. What a very brave post. It’s also a very inspirational and heartfelt encouragement to women experiencing PPD. There is strength in numbers and I hope that women will network and help each other.

  3. Emily, thank you for having the courage to write this post. This is so empowering not just to people with PPD but with any kind of dark thoughts— to know that having those thoughts don’t make you a bad person, and that you’re not a slave to them, that you don’t have to act on them. I’m glad that things are getting better for you, but thank you for sharing what that journey looked like for you.
    I love you!

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