Before the birth of Elly I couldn’t have believed the dramatic struggle and difficulties I would face becoming a new mom.
Elly Henrik made her arrival two weeks early on November 11, 2015. A day that could not have come soon enough for me. I was eager to meet our beautiful baby girl and excited to start dressing her in all of her new pink outfits! I felt I had prepared myself and was in perfect condition to take on the responsibility of another’s fragile life. I’d guessed, like for most, giving birth was nothing like I imagined.
After a long and sleep deprived 24 hours and a four-hour marathon of pushing, I was finally rushed to an emergency cesarean section. Now here she was — a fragile newborn in the arms of her mother, her life depended on me. Not only is my life forever changed, I also had no clue what I was getting myself into. Thinking about it now, nor do I think I ever heard the honest struggle from other new moms.
The first week home with Elly was surreal, my first thought: ‘wow all they do is sleep and poop, I got this!’ Boy was I in for a rude awakening. Lightly put, Elly was a colicky baby eventually being diagnosed with an under developed digestive system, which we were told could be the cause of 80% of her discomfort and crying. She continued to have severe acid reflux (GERD) which left us not only feeling — but actually being –helpless. Thankfully we were able to find Elly the relief she needed which resulted in three medications a day for no less than her first seven months of her life.
Within a week of beginning her medications Elly’s discomfort had been lessened tremendously, but I still felt broken and sadly, Elly felt like a burden to me. That’s when I began to realize there was a bigger issue starting to unravel, and this was not the pleasant experience I had heard from others.
HELLO Postpartum Depression!!! It’s already hard being a new mom, dealing with all of the hormonal changes and adjustments you naturally go through after birth – it’s also enough to make you feel like you’ve gone crazy. Plus, the want of my old life back, and feeling I might never feel normal again. The immediate overwhelming worry that came over me once we made it home from the hospital, was completely foreign. For days, all my thoughts amounted to were: ‘how am I going to keep this precious little human alive?’
It’s not about me anymore….
All I have known for the past 32 years is me. Sounds pretty selfish, doesn’t it? Well, it’s the truth. I have never known selfishness like as this.
Within a month of Elly’s birth I knew in my heart that this was not simply “The Baby Blues.” I was seriously struggling with becoming a new mom, accepting my new life and to be completely honest, accepting my new baby. I felt zero connection with her and I wasn’t sure if I loved her or even if I knew how to love her.
All I thought about was escaping this feeling of suffocation. The reality of being a mom and possibly never having my old life back.
I became a crying machine that couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a mom or if I even wanted to live. I would just sit staring at the wall wondering when I was going to wake up from this horrible nightmare! How could I be going through a terrible depression during such a magical moment: the miracle of life and the gift of a beautiful precious daughter?
Giving birth and being a mother for the first time is much more intense than I could have imagined or anyone could have prepared me for. As I found out, it’s that much more difficult when you’re battling depression and the chemical imbalances that result from giving birth. I cannot begin to express how powerful the mind can be during a life changing season such as this.
I am truly baffled by the lack of awareness regarding postpartum depression. Believe it or not, postpartum depression is not openly embraced in today’s modern culture. This inevitably makes the healing process that much harder. I am here to help spread the word. There is help out there! We may sometimes have to search for it, but it’s there. First, we just have to be open with our feelings.
The key to overcoming any struggle is self-awareness. We might not know what we are even looking for but if there is any question, that’s clue enough to seek additional support. There were more than a few late nights and early mornings when I was sure I couldn’t make it. I would shiver, my body literally trembling. Self-doubt, guilt, anxiety and more, consumed me. I wanted to disappear from the face of the earth. Physically, the constant twisting and knotting in my stomach made me ill. I remember curling up into a ball and crying for hours. Many times wondering why I would ever have chosen to be a mother in the first place. I dreaded mornings and I dreaded nights counting each hour of each day that passed.
The constant and almost overwhelming anxiety was with me every minute of those hours. Soon the idea of feeding and taking care of myself began to be too much. This was also taking its toll on my body. Guilt crept in on a daily basis. My mind racing, how on earth am I going to pretend I’m happy for the sake of this precious baby? I became convinced that my sweet Elly was better off without a mom like me. Maybe she would have a better future if I just didn’t exist. Believe me this is extremely difficult to admit, but it’s the truth. I had to face what I was feeling. I couldn’t wrap my head around the reality of these awful thoughts and feelings, when we clearly made the choice to bring this little innocent baby into our lives. Elly didn’t ask to be here, with a mother lost in despair.
With some encouragement, I began the process of calling hospitals and clinics hoping for some light. Being the December holidays, this in itself was a challenge. I couldn’t have done it without the emotional support from my wonderful husband and loving family. I honestly would have not taken the steps to help myself had I not had them by my side.
A week following, I enrolled myself in an outpatient clinic for women with severe postpartum depression. My initial thought was at the very least it could be a break from the stress of my new daughter and our new lives together. First I had to get myself together enough to get there in one piece. It took more courage than I thought I had. My first long four hour session wasn’t enough of an escape. I was at my lowest point and needed more than I thought they could offer. For at least a week I struggled with getting myself out of the house and on the road to my sessions. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this routine was to the benefit of my own sanity. More importantly, a benefit to my healing and the healing of my family. After only a week I found myself believing it was possible for me to feel better, and that confessing these crippling feelings might be the best medicine for me. Even if these feelings were harsh, looked down on and misunderstood by others.
If you’re reading this and you yourself are going through a difficult time, please know you are NOT alone. We all have our struggles. Some people may seem to make it easier than others. This does not make any of us a bad person. Continuing with treatment was the greatest step I could have taken for me and my family. Treatment for me consisted of intense four hour meetings with physiologists and counsellors. As well as spending time with a group of other moms facing the same depression.
The simple fact was, that I wasn’t alone. That there were other women going through the same storm was what truly helped me to open myself up, to tell my story and hear the all too similar stories of other women. I now have many different tools to help me understand and overcome my feelings, expressing the truth, dealing with the feelings that threaten to take over my thoughts and mind. Best of all, I learned how to fall in love with Elly. Soon, I was bringing Elly with me during my escapes. Together, we were making progress. It’s not easy packing up a screaming 10-week old with fear of hitting bumper to bumper LA traffic.
Sometimes the fear and doubt was enough to make me want to turn around and head back home. BUT we did it. Four days a week for three months. Finding help and owning my terribly relentless feelings were the best decisions I have ever made. I didn’t know it was possible to get where I am today, and it hasn’t happened overnight. I would be a liar if I said that now, every day is full of smiles and endless joy. It simply isn’t. I still struggle, but I struggle in a different way. A way that allows me to know I can overcome each day’s struggles — with confidence. Me, being the best mom I can be. I now have the desire to, the need to raise my daughter in the healthiest way I am able.
There is no such thing as a perfect baby, a perfect Mother or a perfect upbringing. We are all too unique to share the exact same feelings, stories and milestones. But one similarity we all share is that it is possible for all of us to overcome feelings of guilt and helplessness along with the ability to overcome any burden that we might be facing. The best way to help yourself heal is to be painfully self-aware, to seek help and to set obtainable goals each day.
With a healthier mind and the education I have gained, I have a better understanding of myself and my postpartum depression. Today, I still am involved in support groups, Mommy groups and anything else that can help me be a great Mommy to our sweet Elly. Sometimes the most meaningless conversations with other Moms are enough to lift my spirits. All of these help me recognize and appreciate the progress I have made.
So if any of this sounds familiar, don’t wait. You aren’t alone. Reach out, be vulnerable and you might be surprised at the feedback and experiences of other Moms sharing our struggle of postpartum depression.
– Melissa Koren
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