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3 Things Postpartum Depression Stole From Me (and 3 Ways I Got Them Back)

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I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) until I reached my breaking point and was hospitalized. I had sought help for the unpleasant and scary emotions I was feeling when my daughter was two weeks old, and was deemed sleep deprived and prescribed rest. Had my desperation been appraised and my symptoms been attended to, I believe PPD wouldn’t have had the chance to take any of the following away from me:

1. Enjoying my daughter’s first smile.

I have a picture of the first time she smiled, but I don’t remember it. I remember her being colicky, crying and screaming constantly. I remember being relieved when she fell asleep and disappointed when she would wake. I look at that picture all the time, and try so hard to remember the moment when she smiled.

2. Joy.

Her first bath could have been fun. Our first outing could have been exciting. Instead, both were plagued with anxiety and worry. I felt no joy when I held her, and saw no light in her face. I was surrounded by a grey cloud that settled over my head and my heart, preventing me from having any happy or pleasant feelings about myself, my new life as a mother or my baby.

3. Self-appreciation.

My body had just done this extraordinary thing; carried a tiny human for 37 weeks and delivered her healthy and beautiful into this world. I was completely unable to see the wonder in what was the happiest event of my life, and had nothing but negative thoughts about my postpartum body. I hated my body, as some postpartum moms do, but with such an intensity I fantasized cutting off my sagging belly with a pair of kitchen scissors. Instead of seeing my body as an amazing giver of life, I saw it as a disease that could not be cured, or tolerated.

PPD may have stolen pleasant emotions, special moments and self-esteem from me, but then I found the right combination of weapons to get all of that back:

1. I demanded help.

I didn’t feel like I loved my daughter, and I knew that was not how a mother was supposed to feel about her new baby. I hated myself for not bonding with her, and that hate turned into suicidal ideation. It was at that point that I voluntarily admitted myself into the mental health unit of the hospital and got the help I so desperately needed.

2. I studied her baby book.

I may not be able to remember many of her firsts, or many of the little moments we shared with each other, but through pictures and little notes I left her as she grew, I could recreate those memories and cherish them from then on.

3. I fought PPD with medication and coping skills.

While in the hospital, I was prescribed medication and taught coping mechanisms that made me feel like me again. I left the hospital a new woman, and a new mommy. Through therapy, deep breathing, coloring and journaling, I was now a mother with PPD who could cope with her baby’s cries, survive the sleepless nights and finally have a realistic image of my body.

I won. I took back what PPD stole from me during my daughter’s first year of life. I still feel the sting of lost time, but I don’t let it take away from the time I have with my daughter now, and the time I will have with her in the future. We have so much to enjoy, experience and do together, and I will be able to cherish every moment because I am a fighter, and I beat PPD.

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Originally published: May 27, 2016
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