Like most expectant mothers, my pregnancy was filled with people exclaiming “Having a baby will change your life!”, “It’s the best thing you will ever experience!” and “This is the happiest you will ever be.” I had very high expectations to be a glowing new mom with a happy baby and a feeling of absolute joy. Through the months of discomfort, morning sickness and preparation, I imagined a movie-like experience of motherhood. However, my dreams and expectations quickly came crashing down 3 days after delivering my beautiful son.
When I arrived home from the hospital, I showered and changed as we had visitors stopping by. As I got dressed, I felt a deep, gut-wrenching sadness. I wasn’t sure what it was, but something felt “off”. After the excited family members left, everyone reassured me this was just the baby blues. However, over the course of a week, I had two panic attacks and cried constantly. I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by family and friends who supported me. I knew something was wrong, but I continued to be reassured it was just my hormones and the baby blues, even by doctors. It took 3 weeks, before I finally reached out to my mom and husband, and explained that I needed help. I contacted my insurance to get information about a post partum support group. It took 2.5 weeks to get in for an evaluation, where I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression and Anxiety. After the evaluation, I was able to start attending weekly meetings, run by a counselor, with about 12 others moms and their babies. This group helped me tremendously. It gave me a reason to leave the house, regardless of how low I was feeling. It made me push myself to overcome my anxieties about walking downstairs, driving and even packing a diaper bag. Most of all, though, it helped me understand that I was not crazy, horrible or alone. PPD/PPA is a horrible darkness that overcomes the sufferer. After a week or so of being home, I began struggling with Intrusive Thoughts. These thoughts were vivid, horrifying images of my son getting hurt as I walked downstairs, drove or even held him. I was terrified. My anxiety was extremely high all the time and I felt hopeless. One of the worst parts of the PPD was the fact that for three months after my son was born, he didn’t feel like he was mine. I knew I loved him and I always made sure his needs were met, but I felt no connection to him. I struggled a lot with this connection being that I created and carried him for 9 months. I cried, because I felt like I was watching someone else’s baby, not my own. To this day, 10 months later, I’m not sure what triggered my PPD and PPA. I have a history of anxiety and depression from my teenage years, which increases the likelihood of PPD. I don’t think there was one factor that triggered it, but I know that I’m still working through it. After attending the group, I began seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist. I did not want to take medication initially, but I realized that I needed the help in order to really be able to fight this battle. I am still on medication and still see a counselor regularly; my hope is to learn to cope with the anxiety and depression so that eventually I will no longer need the help of the medication. The support and encouragement of my husband, family, a couple of close friends and an online community has been extremely important in this journey. From cooking meals, to date nights, to babysitting, I have overcome a lot with their help. Along the way, however, I’ve also encountered negativity from people who don’t understand PPD/PPA. As a new mom, was told “every new mom experiences this, thousands of people have done it this is no different,” “you should be happy, your son is healthy and not be such a bummer.” As a nursing mother, I was told I was “poisoning” my child because I was taking medication. I encountered people who thought I was dangerous for my son, because their only experience with PPD was reading about mothers who killed their children. I wish no mother suffering with PPD/PPA would have to encounter these negative comments. I wish they would be able to find resources to help them fight. To those moms who are struggling and fighting, I want you to know that this does not make you a bad mother, a monster and it does not define you. I want to encourage you to advocate for yourself and reach out for help. I want to encourage you to search for community resources (there’s not nearly enough, but there are some) to help you overcome this. I want you to know that asking for help makes you a good mother, because you are doing what you can to be the best mother to your child. I want you to know that you are strong enough to overcome this. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.