Postpartum depression crept up on me just when I thought I was in the clear. I had seen it firsthand with my husband, and I was exhibiting totally different signs. If you’re struggling AT ALL as a parent, do no hesitate to reach out! There are amazing resources that are free of cost, judgment, and exist only to support you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, even if you don’t feel you have the strength, time, or energy to talk to anyone else right now.
The night my son was born was the first night my husband and I had ever spent apart.
Two nights later, it stretched to nearly a week, as my husband underwent treatment at the local psychiatric ward, and I moved in with my in-laws to care for my newborn.
Everyone says that having a child will change your life, and it’s absolutely true. I envisioned lazy Sunday mornings with our son between us, reading stories and lounging in the sunshine. This isn’t to say that we do not have those things (we do, and it’s EVERY morning, not just on Sundays!), but our road to getting here was a little bumpier than most, and I want to share our story in hopes of reaching out to others like us.
The hardest thing either of us has ever done is seek treatment. For me, this stemmed from an aversion to conventional medicine, and the inability to ask for help.
Postpartum depression is not a weakness. It’s not something that you can will yourself out of. It is a very real, very normal diagnosis that can safely be treated TODAY.
For my husband, depression manifested as uncontrollable fear and anxiety. Xander’s birth was a catalyst that brought to a head all of the self-doubt, rejection, and phobias (rational or otherwise) that he had accumulated his entire life. My husband’s love for our son is the strongest thing I’ve ever witnessed, but in those first days, he absolutely could not cope. He underwent intensive counseling and psychiatric help, which completely transformed him as a person and prepared him for our new lives as a family of three.
For me, depression came sweeping in as I approached six weeks postpartum, and started dreading the thought of returning to work. I couldn’t put Xander down because I could acutely feel the seconds ticking by and was afraid to miss the limited time I had during my maternity leave. It was difficult to find the time to care for myself after his birth, and some days he never left my arms. I remember replaying his birth over and over in my head and missing the days that had already passed. I felt guilty that my baby was seeing me cry so much. But I had bonded with my baby. I adored him. I was able to function and didn’t ever consider that what I was feeling was classic postpartum depression.
No Parent is Perfect
Becoming a parent is HARD. Your body hurts. You’re mentally and physically exhausted. You are terrified and amazed by every single sigh your child makes. You feel with every fiber of your being the potential to screw up.
And we all fall short in one way or another.
If you are a parent, do something for yourself right now. Drink a glass of water. Take five deep breaths. Know that you are not alone in this journey and that you and your child will be okay.
I was lucky enough to have a doctor who recognized depression in me immediately. She started me on a low dose of medication. I will be honest…the first day on Zoloft, I felt like someone was trying to tear me away from my baby. My greatest fear was not being able to care for Xander, and the overwhelming need to hold him started to wane. I remember taking a shower and crying harder than I ever had, and telling my husband that I couldn’t take the medication after all.
And then, about an hour later, I felt better. Significantly better.
I have watched myself transform from a slightly reclusive, overwhelmed parent to one who is full of love and ambition. I have seen my husband completely transformed. The love we have for our child is unfathomable, and every moment is joyful. We get to experience the world again, through his eyes, and it is beautiful.
I was afraid that asking for help and getting treatment would damage my bond with my child, or put me on some sort of watchlist where I was in danger of losing my son. These fears were absolutely unfounded.
Find a moment for yourself today to feel gratitude for your child, and to nourish your body, even if it’s just drinking a glass of water. (I don’t know any parents who aren’t dehydrated!). Recognize that asking for help is setting your child up for success in the future. You wouldn’t want your child to suffer unnecessarily, and neither should you.