Everything Was Going to be Great
I had a definite idea of how it would be when my first baby arrived. I knew I would be fine, the baby would be fine, my marriage would be fine — everything was going to be great! It was a long labor and delivery, but the baby would be worth the wait. In fact, we were going to have an amazing birth story to tell about how I had been such a trooper and handled everything with such grace and dignity. Thirty people waited over 16 hours for this amazing event. I was having the first grandchild, and it was my turn to shine!
Our new baby was beautiful. She was healthy and perfect. She looked just like her daddy and was going to have the most beautiful monogram. To top it off, she and I were bonding perfectly.
Breastfeeding was a little tricky — but no worries — I was going to get the hang of it as soon as I got home and was more comfortable. Getting home was sweet. The nursery was perfect, the pink bow on the mailbox was in place, and the meal delivery list was full.
My Maternal Mental Health Journey
And then it started: small tears I couldn’t explain and gloomy moments even though I was staring into her beautiful face. More tears came when breastfeeding hurt; still more tears when there was no reason. Gloomy moments that I couldn’t seem to shake continued.
No worries, right? I just needed more sleep. I would do what everyone says: “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” and then we’d be fine. Except I couldn’t seem to do that.
Nothing was fine anymore. I was not fine, the baby was not sleeping, and the baby didn’t like to breastfeed. I couldn’t explain it to my husband, so there was no way for him to understand. I was failing at the one thing I knew in the depths of my soul that I was meant for: motherhood. I couldn’t handle the one thing I had dreamed of my whole life.
I told the doctors we were fine, and once we got a little more sleep, everything would work itself out. I needed more time to figure out breastfeeding, then everything would be great.
By the time this beautiful baby and I had been at this for two months, we went to two doctor appointments that week (one to the OB-GYN and one to the pediatrician). Of course, my mom went along because I really was not fine, and I needed her. I finally confessed to the OB-GYN I was not fine, this was more than the “baby blues.” I needed help. Then I confessed to the pediatrician we were not fine: my baby screams a lot, and I am not sure if it’s related to my breastfeeding. I needed help.
I finally got help. I got help in the form of medicine. I got help in the form of prayer and wise counsel. I got help by just knowing I was not crazy, this was something more. Postpartum depression does not always look like it does in a Lifetime movie. Women with postpartum depression do not always look deranged.
Most women with postpartum depression looked like me: a young mom pushing a stroller and saying, “We are great! Thank you so much for asking. I know — her monogrammed diaper cover is precious!”
Maternal Mental Health Week
May 4 – 8, 2020 is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and I have two suggestions:
- If you are a momma with a little one, be honest with yourself. If you are having a hard time shaking those “gloomy moments,” ask for help. Reach out to me, another mother, or your OB-GYN.
- If you have walked this path, talk about it. Others need to hear your survival story and know they are not alone.
If I had reached out sooner, I could have gotten help sooner. If others had talked about it, I would have realized I was not alone.
After my sweet princess turned one, my mother and I were talking with my aunts and grandmother. They asked me about my first year of motherhood. I was very honest and recounted some of those difficult first 8-12 weeks. My mother reached out and patted my hand as I shared. These women opened up about all their battles with postpartum depression — every single one of them. All these women had dealt with it — except my mom — so she and I had no idea what we were dealing with, but others could have helped.
Talk with your husband, a counselor, a friend, a mentor, your doctor — someone. All these people will come alongside you. You need a village to get through this. After each of my four babies, my husband walked this journey by my side. Each time it was a bit different, but we did it together as a family. Be honest with your older children. Give yourself grace and also ask others for a little grace.
Pay It Forward — Be Someone Else’s Village
When the time is right, decide to be a part of someone else’s village. I have been called upon more than once by someone in my village asking me to encourage a new momma needing some postpartum support.
This doesn’t just need to be talked about during the month of May, but what a great excuse to use this as a “jumping off point.” Get the conversation started in your village.