young boy smiling in nature

Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.

Three years ago, on June 23, I was celebrating the birth of my second son, Easton. He’s been perfection since the start; his eyes sparkle and he is an amazing blend of his daddy and I. We were smitten, over the moon, but once the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) set in, my single greatest fear was this: how will our relationship ever recover?

What if he hates me for my disease?

What if he can’t forgive the thoughts?

What if I can’t?

What if I refuse to?

The fear became all-consuming. There was a fight on all fronts; the battle in my mind was unbearable, but almost equally as painful was the constant feeling of disappointing my boys. Physically, I didn’t miss a moment of their lives, but emotionally I was distant. The distance felt like miles, the months I kept them at arm’s length seemed infinite. One of my first questions in therapy was: is he going to hate me?

Hate. Will he hate me?

He grew inside of me. For 9 months I was his cocoon, his home. I now feared I had crossed some invisible line of trust he would never be able to forgive. I thought that no matter what I did, I had already ruined me. I’d ruined us.

But then my therapist told me something I’ve taken with me to this day; she said, if anything, our connection would be stronger. 

Stronger. I didn’t think that was possible. I felt like the lowest of low. It felt like I was secretly hurting my kids, so I had to constantly make up for it. I thought the more often I had a scary thought, the more likely it was for me to act on it. I thought the longer it took me to recover, the greater chance it reflected my true character. How could he ever be close to me, even after everything that had happened?

About three months into my postpartum OCD journey, I truly felt like I had weaved myself into some sort of web I would never be able to get out of. I was at the bottom a well and there was no rope long enough to pull me out with. I was thrashing in the water, grasping for breath. I was hopeless.

But slowly, ever so slowly, I clawed my way out.

Every parent fights for their child. Every parent has different experiences with each baby, but for me, I feel like Easton is truly the baby I fought for.

I’ve had three babies:

Brayden was my firstborn and he made me a mother. He opened my eyes to caring about another human more than myself. He taught me to be nurturing and safe; he gave my heart a new softness it hadn’t had before.

Easton rocked my world. Caring for him scared me. Touching him made me want to jump out of my skin. My heart raced when I knew we would be alone, I could not relax around him. The fear I felt completely overshadowed my ability to feel the closeness to him I longed for. Anxiety spent months lying to me and scaring me to death, but we persevered. I was eventually able to decipher my anxious thoughts from my real ones. I was able to calm down and believe that the OCD really was my mind malfunctioning in a constant attempt to keep Easton safe.

Easton was the baby I fought for. I fought for every cuddle and kiss, every laugh and snuggle. I fought for him to love me and trust me. I put myself through hell in order to keep him safe. I cried more tears than should be allotted in a lifetime and discovered parts of myself I had never known existed. OCD felt like an identity crisis. I felt like a stranger within my own body. I felt out of place in my own mind, like an unwelcome guest who didn’t know where to put their bags. But eventually, everything clicked.

Easton has the ability to put everyone at ease. His mischievous smile and innocent eyes make it impossible not to love him. I’m sure this is true for a lot of moms, but Easton was my biggest therapy. He healed me. When I was losing my mind in guilt and anguish, he was growing, thriving. In spite of my struggles, I was able to continue raising my children and loving them. I know I would have made it through OCD no matter what baby it was with, but I truly feel like God gave me Easton to conquer this struggle together.

After Easton came Ella. Ella was my redemption baby. She was the one who I got pregnant with even though I didn’t have full trust back within myself. Having her was a leap of faith, something I swore to myself at one point would never happen. When Ella was born, I was like a watchman, searching for problems. Waiting to lose my mind, but I didn’t. I was stable. I was secure in my character. I knew the lies anxiety and depression wanted me to believe and was able to combat them before they made a nest in my brain. Everything that had happened with my previous baby was something I knew to look out for and properly fight against.

Easton’s birthday isn’t about me; it’s about the birth of an amazing boy, but it will always mark a time in my life where a major crisis occurred. The war in my mind following Easton’s birth felt very life or death. The realness of the fear is something I had never experienced before and honestly, could never have understood without having been through it. 

Each of my children are a blessing — we each have a special bond — but Easton has changed the trajectory of my life. My perspective on love and relationships has changed. My ability to have empathy for others has expanded in a way I wouldn’t have expected. My perception of people with mental health issues has transformed. The way I view the use of medications has shifted. Almost every aspect of my womanhood and motherhood has changed because of postpartum OCD. It was an exhausting tug of war that happened exclusively in my mind, but created a lifetime’s worth of change within me. I’m stronger than I knew. I’m softer than I was. 

I hate postpartum OCD, anxiety and depression with every fiber of my being, which is why it is so important for me to help other woman with it. It isn’t fair. It isn’t easy. It isn’t your fault. But it is something you can overcome.

So, three weeks late: happy birthday, Easton. I love and cherish you. I’m blessed to have been given you to get me through that dark time. I’m eternally grateful for the mommy you have helped me become.

Chels

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor

RELATED VIDEOS


Bipolar disorder is hard enough to deal with as an individual, but being part of a duo that includes a baby — even one not yet emerged from the womb — is so much worse. Pregnancy usually comes with swelling, nausea, cravings, etc. But one of my symptoms came not from pregnancy itself, but its combination with my bipolar disorder: I started to forget who I was sometimes. That’s a symptom we’re still trying to manage even nine months postpartum. After birth, a lot of moms go through postpartum depression, but being bipolar, mine turned into postpartum psychosis (which I’ve written about here).

I heard a voice — a man — telling me to harm myself or my baby or he would do it himself. I stayed up all night just watching her bed, making sure he never came. I only ever saw him once: he wore a black suit with a blurred face. But I heard his voice constantly. Nine months into my daughter’s life, the psychosis is under control and my medications are working again. As my husband and I tried to get pregnant, I had to switch my medications so that my baby would be safe. That regimen lasted over a year before I was about to give up on ever having kids and go back to my usual pills. The morning of my appointment to talk to my doctor about it, there was a plus sign on the stick.

So I had been taking my futile cocktail of pills for 22 months total and experienced more than my fair share of depressive and hypomanic symptoms during that time. I had panic attacks regularly and got more worked up as I realized the panic was not good for my baby.

Immediately following my daughter’s birth, my new doctor in California refused to give me my original medications. He thought we should wait and see if the current ones worked well for me once the hormones wore off (even though they never really helped the whole year before I ever had said hormones). After finding a new new doctor, he allowed me to go back onto one of the pills I knew would work. It took the general six to eight weeks to kick in, and now I’m fairly stable in my moods. It was only after I got my meds under control that life became easier with a baby. Those few months just following her birth were a nightmare, but now the constant smiles and giggles from the happiest baby in the world turned life into more of a dream.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor


Everyone has different goals, dreams and aspirations for their life, but ever since I was a little girl my biggest dream for my life was to be a mommy. I couldn’t wait to be a mom. I was going to be the best mom there ever was in the entire world, loving my children more than I was ever loved or cared for.

I was emotionally, verbally and physically abused as a child, so I couldn’t wait to love and treat my child the way I always wished I should have and would have been raised. I already knew how to be a great mommy, because I planned on doing the exact opposite of what my parents did. I was always going to treat my children kindly, loving and praising them often, making them feel like they are very special children and people and I would always love them unconditionally — the way I never was.

Once I became a mom, my life would be so perfect and I would be forever happy, so I thought. I was teaching Special Education when I became pregnant with my first child at the age of 28 years old. I always loved the beauty of the miracle of pregnancy and I loved my beautiful baby as it was growing inside my tummy. However, my mental illness symptoms began during my pregnancy and gradually and continuously became worse by the end of my pregnancy. My symptoms reached the peak of severity after giving birth to my first child.

I had to have a C-section and what happened was, at the exact same second Dr. Bloom pulled my beautiful baby out of my womb, he also took every one of my emotions, and everything that made me be who I was and defined who I am, with my baby at the exact moment of her birth. I gave birth to two new people — my new beautiful baby girl and the birth of the new me, whoever that person was. I did not know the new me or recognize who I just became. I became nothing. I was pulled out with my new baby girl and my placenta at the same exact time.

Nothing remained of the old me. All of me was gone. I was missing. After my baby was pulled out of me, I didn’t feel any emotions at all anymore. I felt nothing. I was empty, just like my womb. Everything was gone inside me. I was gone.

When they were sewing up my C-section incision on my belly, I didn’t feel good. I just didn’t feel right. I knew something was seriously wrong with me, but I didn’t know what it was. I never felt this way before. After having so many medications and going through so much to give birth, I thought maybe that was why I was feeling the way I was and was so sick and miserable.

I do praise God that my beautiful baby girl, Kylie Rose, was healthy. The only problem is that her mother was not healthy. No one knew I was not healthy because they couldn’t see how sick I was. It was an invisible illness. The problem was hidden deep somewhere inside me. Everything looked good from the outside; at least, I think I looked how a woman is supposed to look after just giving birth via C-section.

However, I knew something was wrong with me. I didn’t know what it was and I could never tell anyone how I felt. I was not going to tell anyone because I was too embarrassed. This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. I had been waiting for this day forever, since I was a very little girl. Now the magical miracle event had happened and there was something wrong with me. I didn’t feel the way I was supposed to feel. I did not have that loving happy feeling, the way I always dreamed I would feel.

What is wrong with me? Who have I become? Who am I? I didn’t feel anything anymore. I felt no joy, happiness, sadness or even anger. I was void of all emotions at the time, feeling numb and like I was nothing. I was becoming nothing. I was an empty carcass of a human being, an empty being pretending to be real, an unreality. I was the walking dead, if I could even muster up enough energy to walk.

I was no longer a real person. I was not real. When people would say something that used to make me smile, I would smile even though I didn’t feel like smiling. If someone told a joke I normally laughed at, I would laugh even though I didn’t think it was funny or I didn’t feel like laughing.

I barely had the strength to form my mouth upwards into the shape of a smile or the energy to make a joyful noise that sounded like a laugh, but I made myself do it somehow, sometimes. I tried to wear a mask and a costume to hide and cover up what was really going on inside of me. I became a master at pretending and master of disguise. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what was going on inside of me and who I had become.

Having a baby was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. I thought it would have been too, but somehow for some unknown reason to me at the time everything inside me changed forever and I was never the same again.

Eventually, my OB Doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression and gave me antidepressant medications. After a few appointments with the OB doctor, he realized he could not help me so he sent me to see a psychiatrist who then diagnosed me with bipolar 1 disorder and prescribed new medications for me. I started to see a therapist as well.

I had absolutely no idea what bipolar disorder was at that time, as 25 years ago it was not talked about very much at all. Eventually, I would soon learn everything about it, and it would forever change my life. What I once knew as my “normal,” and my normal life, would never be the same again. This was the beginning of the end of me, and my life, as I once knew it.

After the birth of my first child my life did change significantly, but after many years I finally accepted my diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder with rapid cycling and mixed episodes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). After finally accepting my illness, learning how to live and cope with the symptoms and after redefining my new self, I have been able to live a good and happy life, being the best mom and person I can be to the best of my ability.

Bipolar disorder is my primary diagnosis. I am a bipolar disorder survivor and, most importantly, I am and have always been a very loving and caring mom of three precious, healthy and happy children.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Purestock


Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or have experienced child loss, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.

These days, I live my life carefully monitoring my access to media. I never glance at the headlines of newspapers or magazines while waiting in line at the grocery store. I avoid the newsreel on my phone, always attempting to delete it without seeing anything. But, unless I’m going to live my life isolated from the rest of humanity, it’s impossible to avoid what I do not know is there, so the inevitable occurs. I’ll be sitting next to my napping daughter on the bed, scrolling through Facebook, and my newsfeed informs me that a friend posted a tearful emoji on an article about a father who forgot his baby in a hot car.

… Hit by a car, kidnapped and murdered, fall from a high window, electrocution, allergic reaction …

Suddenly, in my mind, I realize I’ve left my daughter in the car, baking in this 100-degree heat, for two hours. I run outside to see her sitting there, still and not breathing, her rigid face twisted, indicating she had been crying for me before the heat overwhelmed her. I’m screaming in agony. I remove her carefully from her car seat and try to revive her, knowing it will make no difference. There is nothing I can do. My life is destroyed. My daughter is gone forever.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental hanging in the window blinds, drowning in the pool, car accident, new polio …

My daughter sighs in her sleep, and shifts to snuggle up against me on the bed. Face wet with tears, I feel the panic washing over me and start to calm myself down with a breathing exercise. This is not real, I whisper. My baby is just fine. She’s here beside me, calm, safe and cool.

… Carbon monoxide poisoning, overdose from pills they thought were candy, choking on popcorn …

The week after my son was born, my mind became fixated on the image of him going over the edge of Niagara Falls, his sweet, tiny newborn legs kicking as he fell. It would repeat constantly, every waking hour, like a record skipping. I thought I was losing my mind. I thought I was a bad mom. I thought I wanted to hurt my baby, even though I did not feel the impulse. I realized every new terrible news story I read or heard had the same result. A baby died of SIDS? My baby died of SIDS. A baby was found starved to death in a garage? My baby was found starved to death in a garage. It was compulsive, self-inflicted psychological torture.

… Alligator attack, riptide, vaccine complication, vaccine preventable illness, bacterial meningitis

When my son was 18 months old, long after my symptoms had subsided, I trained to become a postpartum doula. During our class on postpartum disorders, I learned the term postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Imagine being chained up in a dark movie theater and forced to watch violent film after violent film, all featuring the most precious person in your world, the person you have sworn to protect and would give your life to save: your innocent, tiny baby. You try to look away, but you are chained there, eyelids propped open, forced to watch your child die in horrible ways, over and over again. You are often the perpetrator in these films. Postpartum OCD is not a well-known disorder. New mothers fear they have postpartum psychosis which causes women to murder their children. Mothers with postpartum OCD often feel ashamed and are terrified to be left alone with their child. But postpartum OCD is not postpartum psychosis. There is no impulse to act on the nightmarish visions. They are just private anguish.

… Insect carried virus, impaled on scissors, carbon monoxide poisoning, strangled by a blanket …

It was a revelation, discovering my postpartum terror was common enough to warrant a name. Although I’d never felt an impulse to hurt my child, it was still a relief to read that these awful visions did not mean I subconsciously wanted to hurt my baby. Having this information prepared me for when the disorder returned, when my daughter turned two months old. Although putting a name with the symptoms is comforting, I found it does not make the experience less traumatizing. When the vision is a creation of your mind, you cannot close your eyes or cover your ears. You are forced to experience the entire emotional landscape of the suggestion: the horror, the grief, the anxiety, the desolate misery of a life without your baby and an existence filled with wondering “if only.”

… Accidental shooting at a friend’s house, food poisoning, plane crash, school shooting, superbugs …

One evening my husband and I were enjoying some rare alone time, and in the middle of a kiss my mind said, “What if your kids die a slow death from cancer?” Instantly my eyes filled with tears. He had no idea what had happened, and I was reluctant to further damage the mood by sharing. Battling my mind in these moments is like trying to swim against the tide. The current of painful suggestions washes over me. I can feel them clawing at my consciousness, shouting their horrible stories. Trying to battle them with anger makes it worse. My only defense is to be completely focused and calm, constantly returning my mind to blank white space. The waves keep crashing, and I relax into them, floating up to an empty clear sky, over and over, as many times as it takes.

… Killed by a future step-parent, terrorist attack, venomous animal bite, crushed by fallen furniture …

“You should write a book: ‘101 Ways to Kill Your Baby,’” my husband suggests. I laugh. It’s funny. There’s a sad satisfaction in knowing I’m an expert in all the ways my babies could die. The nightmare stories are filed away in my mind and replayed regularly, lest I forget. Logically, I know it’s unlikely any of these will ever happen. The world is full of adults. We’re everywhere, so it’s safe to say most people make it through childhood. But you can’t logic-away a mental disorder.

… Suffocation, pneumonia, starvation, exposure to the elements, brain hemorrhage, blood clots …

Ever since his joke, I have been thinking of my husband’s book with growing interest, wondering if listing my fears would be a type of exposure therapy, a treatment so often used to help those with OCD. Would it be therapeutic to allow these visions a voice? Could I carry this book as a totem to ward off the awful, insistent visions? If my husband were to illustrate each one, maybe we then change the endings, drawing me rushing in to save the day, or simply taking precautionary measures. Maybe a physical manifestation of my fears being alleviated would convince my mind it’s OK to finally relax.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages


You’re flushed and exhausted, with a smile as wide as the sea. The nurse just placed a squirming pink chub — wrapped burrito-style in a tidy bundle — in your arms. Over your shoulder, your doting partner looks on, elated and proud. You gaze down lovingly at the tiny face of your child, searching for familiarity, and finding it in the delicate tufts of fuzz and the sweet little pouty lips. You picture this delicate, fascinating, wonderful creature at varying stages of life — conveniently picturing yourself in the background — and marvel at how much you adore your child and look forward to the journey that the two of you will take together. It is as though the heavens have opened up, and a beam of warm sunlight blankets you in a cocoon of joy.

If this was your experience immediately after childbirth, then color me green with jealousy because it certainly was not mine. Throughout my first pregnancy, this was the admittedly naive vision of new motherhood that played on an endless loop in my head. Somehow, I allowed the mythology of this moment — a societal construct built in layers from sources ranging from pop culture to personal anecdote — to inflate my expectations to unreasonable levels. And when I got there, and my experience was vastly different, I felt like the bottom had dropped out.

For me, relief was first. The ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth was over, and the baby was crying. A good sign. What I remember most vividly is the pitch of her cries. From the second she breathed air, my daughter was letting us know she was here, and with a ferocity that soon seemed unnatural for something so tiny. As she continued to scream at the top of her little lungs, my husband and I exchanged looks. What have we done?

The nurses finished the weighing and measuring, and handed her — still shrieking like a doused alley cat — to me. I waited for The Feeling. I gazed down at her face, purple with rage, and willed myself to feel something other than dismay and dread.

I now understand this reaction is extreme. From an objective distance, I realize my emotional response to childbirth wasn’t entirely “normal,” and was likely an early sign of what would develop into postpartum depression. But I didn’t know that then. All I knew is I wasn’t immediately in love with this little person; there was no encompassing beam of sunlight wrapping us in warmth and bonding us together as mother and child. And that’s when the dismay deepened into something darker and more akin to panic.

I’d read about skin-to-skin contact and the benefits of starting breastfeeding as early as possible. Ah ha, I thought. If I could just get baby to breast; that would be the moment when it all clicked into place, and the idyllic movie scene version of this moment could proceed as scheduled.

Or not. As it turned out, combining a new mother and a baby with a poor latch is a recipe for frustration, pain and tears. We attempted, and we attempted, and we attempted. With increasing futility, we asked for help, and we tried different positions. It was hopeless. We were both sobbing our hearts out when one of the nurses mercifully intervened to take the baby out of my fumbling, shaky arms.

She asked my husband to accompany the baby for her first bath, and as they wheeled her out of the room and her cries started to recede down the hallway, I felt relieved. And more than a little ashamed and horrified. What kind of mother was I? How could I not adore my baby? What was wrong with me? I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience; my own thoughts were alien.

If reading this makes you cringe and judge me, I’m right there with you. I feel awful about my reaction to my first moments of motherhood, and I know I always will. Even now, as she turns 7 years old, the memory still brings up a sickening gorge of emotions. I’m disappointed in myself as a mother; I’m sad for the loss of the early moments I imagined we’d share, and I’m angry because I feel betrayed by my own brain.

Thankfully, I’m sure my experience is less common. I know — like so many aspects of motherhood — there is a spectrum, and each woman’s experience varies, sometimes profoundly, from that of others. And really, my day-one experience could’ve been an outlier, indicative of nothing other than the essential truth that birth is one of life’s most unpredictable events.

That it became more than that is at least partially the result of the other powerful emotion that overcame me in those early moments, hours and days: loneliness.

Turns out, being someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what is expected — of what you’re told is “normal” — is incredibly isolating. I believed no one would understand my feelings, and I felt deeply ashamed. I could never share the truth of these moments with anyone because I knew in speaking them out loud, I’d be validating an experience I desperately needed to deny. I knew I’d be subjecting myself to judgment; already creaking under the weight of my own self-loathing, I knew that would be more than I could bear. So I shoved it down, stuffed it in and refused to accept or acknowledge it.

And in my case, it did become more than those first moments. Those feelings, bottled up inside, festered. They darkened much of my early experience as a mother. Because I was too ashamed to talk about how I was feeling, no one understood the depth of what I was going through. Because I didn’t speak up, no one recognized I was slipping further and further into depression.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how things might’ve turned out differently if I thought that maybe there were others who could relate. I can’t say for sure that things would’ve been vastly different. There is one thing I know with certainty: I would have felt less alone. And that is why I share my experience now.

Here’s the thing: motherhood isn’t a fairy tale. It wasn’t for me, not on the first day, or after. New motherhood is a range of experiences and emotions. This was mine. If it bears any resemblance to yours, I want you to know that you are not alone. And if it doesn’t, I hope you can have compassion for the women in your life whose experience is different.

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz


Author’s note: I’m a survivor of three perinatal mood disorders — prenatal depression, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety — which I’ve experienced to varying degrees both during and after three out of four of my pregnancies. This is the story of my worst experience with postpartum depression, after the birth of my second baby. If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, please know that hope and healing are possible.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom.

I was certain I’d be in love with my babies from day one, and that the happiness of motherhood would far outweigh any struggles I might encounter.

But darkness? Despair? Guilt and shame and the overwhelming desire to run away?

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

As I stared at the face of my stunningly beautiful baby girl, I knew her dark eyes and bright smile should have made my heart explode with joy.

I had been thrilled the morning I saw the little plus sign on my pregnancy test, and I loved watching my one-year-old’s face light up with excitement whenever we talked about “the baby in mama’s tummy.”

But then, about halfway through those long 40 weeks, something began to change. I began having early contractions, and was put on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy in order to avoid early labor. At the same time, I was no longer as happy as I had been, and I began to lose interest in my normal activities.

Sometimes I felt all the emotions at once. Other times, I felt dull and flat. At first, I thought this change in my personality was because I was bored being on bed rest.

But, deep down, I knew something just wasn’t right. What was going on? I needed to find out. I went to visit a close friend, who is also a psychologist, and was diagnosed with depression.

When sweet Sofia was born at 39 weeks, I was certain that now, I would begin to feel well. But 10 days later — in the throes of night-feedings, a colicky newborn who refused to be put down and postpartum hormonal chaos — I hit rock bottom.

One horrible night is etched in my memory forever. Sofia had been screaming inconsolably off and on from midnight to past 3 a.m., refusing to be put down and refusing to sleep. At less than two weeks old, she already had terrible acid reflux, which only exacerbated her colic. I dreaded most nights with her, but this night seemed worse than normal. My body ached, my head pounded, my breasts were sore and painful from her newborn latch. My tired mama heart was desperate to comfort my baby, and nothing I could do would stop the crying. All I wanted in the world was sleep. Sweet, uninterrupted sleep. I began to beg God for it. Was that too much to ask? Sofia was not cooperating, and with every wail, I became more frantic. The tears began to stream down my face and my heart began to sink into despair. That night, even in the loving arms of my husband, I felt utterly alone.

And the nights continued like this for many weeks. I would go from tears of desperation to tears of anger in the same minute. I wanted to scream at my precious daughter, and a few times, I did. Afterwards, I was always full of intense shame and remorse. Sometimes, I felt like I was going “crazy.” I would see shadows out of the corner of my eye, or feel like I was not really present in the room I was standing in. I hated those feelings, and often, I hated myself.

My heart was in a dark place. I began to think I should never have become a mother, and that my children and husband would be much better off without me. Although I never contemplated suicide, I had fantasies of running away somewhere to hide in a hole and sleep for the rest of my life.

I convinced myself my children wouldn’t miss me, wouldn’t even remember me, and that my husband could find someone better to take my place. I just wanted relief from motherhood, which felt so totally overwhelming to me.

It took four months of this torture before I became brave enough to listen to the concern of my friends and family, and ask my ObGyn for help. He prescribed medication to me, and within two weeks, I noticed a cloud began to lift from my head. A few more weeks passed, and I felt the spark of a range of emotions coming back to my heart.

Although the medication wasn’t a magical “cure-all,” I began to look for hope again. I clung to my faith — faith without feeling — and slowly the weeks passed and I was coming out of the darkness. I was finally beginning to feel a deep love for my beautiful baby, who before had seemed like such a difficult burden.

There is no way to sugarcoat it. Postpartum depression was the worst experience of my life. There were days and nights that I was certain I would die of lack of sleep, or despair. There were times I wanted to run away from it all and never come back. But now, on the other side, I can see how strong I really was. 

I stayed in the fight. And you can, too. If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, I want you to hear this loud and clear: No matter how hard it is now, keep fighting. I promise you, it will get better. It will take hard work. You will want to give up. But if you persevere, you can be well again. You will be yourself again, and you will be better than you were before.

And I promise, no matter what your demons whisper to you in the darkness, you are needed, you are loved, you are worth it. 

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Joe Gardner.

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.