Postpartum Depression Isn’t Just the “Baby Blues”
She was 7 pounds, 3 ounces of pure pink squish. I was gutted. Literally, because of the c-section — but also emotionally. Not in the “I love her so much I can’t breathe” kind of way, but more like, “I think they must’ve taken my spirit and soul out with her.”
I wasn’t sure that having kids was in my future. After years of chronic pain, specialists, procedures and diagnoses, I’d made peace with the idea of a childless life and a happy family of two. I filled up my days to convince myself that nothing was missing: I had a dream job and great friends, I traveled, we had dates at new restaurants, I pursued my master’s and spoke at conferences and slept in. My gosh, did I sleep. My life was full.
For my husband, our daughter felt like a missing puzzle piece arriving to his heart; a tiny person to fill a gap that sat empty, waiting for something — waiting for her. For me, her arrival was a wrecking ball. Years of convincing myself I didn’t need a child had worked. When she appeared, I didn’t have space for her.
But babies don’t wait for you to become ready.
Motherhood ripped a hole in my life, leaving me with shards of who I once was and nothing to file down the edges. Everything that I once used to cope was gone at 1:33 p.m. on a sunny Friday afternoon.
I can’t sleep.
I can’t exercise.
I can’t drink.
I can’t grab a bite with friends.
I can’t mark things off my to-do list.
I can’t enjoy the predictability of… any piece of the life that existed before.
The sharp edges of my former life struck and stung while I settled back into our home, a shrine to “the way things were.” And then came the grief, the shame and the guilt. For feeling so selfish, for not being appreciative of the tiny blessing in front of me, for failing at motherhood only two days, then two weeks, then two months in. And mostly, for failing to act happy when people would gush, “Isn’t motherhood just the best?” and I thought, “My God, it’s the worst.”
I was a shell of a person; my hands meant only for changing diapers, my breasts meant only to nourish an insatiable mouth and my feet meant only to walk miles of living room to calm a foreign, tiny beast.
When I looked at her, I felt panic instead of love.
My husband intervened when the thought of something happening to her made me feel relieved rather than concerned.
Postpartum depression isn’t the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression is being swallowed up by the rising tide of blood, milk and tears pouring out of you without warning.
The addition of a new baby does not come without loss, even if it’s just the loss of who you were before being someone’s mother. And sometimes that loss is hard to manage. We have to stop approaching new mothers with the assumption that they’re bathed in love, when in reality they could be drowning in grief.
Our sweet girl is nearly a year old now, and it eventually got better. I went back to work part-time and dropped her off with a nanny. I stopped pumping and she started sleeping. I increased my medication. She giggles when we raise our eyebrows or pucker our lips and she forgives me with her unwavering affection while I still fail at motherhood, 48 weeks in.
I’ve put my life back together these last few months, though it doesn’t look like it did before. It’s more mosaic than shiny picture, with torn edges and yellowing glue and the mismatched pieces of the women I’ve been. And she, my sweet daughter, was so worth it.
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Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.