When Postpartum Depression Convinced Me I Didn't Want to Be a Mother
When I got home from the hospital with my new baby boy, I wanted nothing to do with being his mommy.
Maybe it was that I was emotionally and physically exhausted from a long labor that resulted in a C-section, which prevented me from having the energy to tend to my new little one’s needs. Maybe it was the doctor’s orders of limited movement and no heavy lifting that prevented me from regularly holding my baby, feeding him, bathing him and changing his dirty diapers.
It was definitely the constant presence of family around to help out that prevented me from bonding with my new little bundle of joy. At least, that’s what I told myself when I left the hospital as a new mom. My husband disagreed with my reasoning. So did my mom and sister.
Gone was the excited pregnant woman who couldn’t wait to meet her son. Gone was the happy new mom from the hospital. Forty-eight hours later, I realized they were right, and I couldn’t deny the feeling that I had made a mistake having this baby. I had zero interest in being a mother.
What I did want to do was get sick or injured so I’d have to return to the hospital where I wouldn’t have to take care of anyone while everyone else took care of me. If I couldn’t do this, then I would just retreat to my bed where I would sleep for the rest of my life (when I wasn’t crying and overwhelmed with anxiety), while my husband and our parents took care of my son. Because I just didn’t want to. Motherhood wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t going to have anything to do with it.
I later learned that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a mother. It was that I couldn’t be a proper mother to my son because I was sick, sick with a severe case of postpartum depression. After finding the right therapist, she informed me I not only had several risk factors for postpartum depression during my pregnancy, but that feeling the way I did was common, and with the appropriate treatment, I would eventually get better.
We talked about how completing the smallest tasks seemed impossible. Getting out of bed, taking a shower and getting dressed required great effort. Caring for my baby proved tremendously difficult when I didn’t want anything to do with him. I didn’t feel comfortable being left alone with him while my husband went to work.
Our baby nurse cared for my infant son while I stayed in bed, failing at motherhood. For weeks, I would wake up between 3 and 5 a.m. with anxiety and feeling as if an elephant had taken up residency on top of my chest. Sometimes, walking in circles around my neighborhood calmed the anxiety until I could get back in bed and sleep again. When I felt better and stronger, I pushed myself to do more. The next day I regressed and felt even worse.
With the help of my therapist and support of my husband and family, I eventually gave into my illness. I tried not to judge myself for being incapable of doing a job I had previously believed came naturally to all women. I tried to stop feeling guilty about missing the everyday moments of my son’s infancy and subjecting my husband to this new, more absent version of his wife.
I opened my mind to medication, something I had never imagined I would need. I stopped trying to do too much. I started reading about how many other women struggle with postpartum depression, got healthy and fell in love with their children, which helped me stop beating myself up that there was something wrong with me, that I was born without the “motherhood gene.”
Most importantly, I accepted that on some days, just breathing was enough. If I could wake up and breathe, then I was doing all right. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t get on the floor and play with my son, look forward to feeding and bathing him or feel an overwhelming sense of joy from being his mother. I would eventually get there.
Getting healthy and finding my old self again mattered more. Once I found her, the other stuff would fall into place, and it did. At six months postpartum, I was finally able to feel love for my son, confidently leave the house with him, take him for walks to the park, socialize with other moms and slowly enjoy my new normal as a mom.
However, it started with taking deep breaths. With recognizing that just being able to breathe was adequate enough, a significant daily accomplishment in those early months of a motherhood hijacked by postpartum depression.
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