Summary: My story on post-partum depression
I’m a private person, so only a few people know about my struggle with post-partum depression. This is one of my most honest blogs and it wasn’t easy to write, but I think it’s important to share my story.
Before the birth of first child, I’ll admit I knew nothing about babies. I hardly ever babysat, and I had only changed one diaper. As if I wasn’t anxious enough, the baby was breech and wouldn’t turn, so we had to schedule a C-section (more about that in a later blog). On December 10, 2010, at 6:11am Maddex burst into the world kicking, screaming, and peeing.
It’s a strange experience watching a baby being pulled out of you and then whisked away. I was stuck on a table being stitched up, in some strange out of body experience. I got a quick look at him and then he was gone.
After an hour or so, once I was all settled in the room and hooked up to a million tubes, the nurse finally handed me Maddex. Immediately, I was told, by a nurse, to try feeding him. Silly me, I thought breastfeeding would be this magical, natural moment, but it was difficult. Somehow, after much frustration and stress on my part, I managed to get food into him (more on that in another blog).
Later that day as I lay in the hospital bed, I remember looking over at my son in his bassinet and feeling indifferent. Everyone talks about the love and immediate connection you feel toward your newborn, but I didn’t feel that. I watched him from across the room as if trying to figure him out, but I wasn’t antsy to hold him. I let other people take care of him. I would nurse him and then hand him off.
When I came home, I was exhausted, hardly able to keep my eyes open for more than twenty minutes at a time. My mom came to help for the first few weeks, and I’m glad she did. I felt like I would never get over this exhaustion. I would sleep for hours at a time only waking up to feed the baby. It hurt to move because of the C-section, it hurt to breast-feed, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the life of me.
I felt the depression coming on almost immediately. Was this how my life would be now? Would I ever feel normal again? All I wanted to do was sleep.
The first night at home felt strange. He was sleeping in his bassinet and I missed him. I missed him being in my belly, and I felt an aching emptiness. All these feelings felt strange, like nothing I had ever felt before. I found myself crying a lot, in the night or the shower, anywhere I was alone. My emotions were all over the place.
The day my mom left, and I was alone with Maddex for the first time, I cried. I had no idea what I was doing, I was anxious and scared, and I still didn’t feel an emotional bond. He felt like a ‘job’ to me, like laundry and the dishes. It sounds harsh to say it, but that’s honestly how I felt.
There is a reason moms don’t talk about post-partum depression. We are supposed to immediately feel connected to our babies and then perfectly care for them. If you feel indifferent, then you must be heartless and probably a bad parent. Society puts too much pressure on women and how we are “supposed” to be. The reality is that bonding can take time. Not to mention, most first-time parents don’t have a clue what they are doing.
It is perfectly normal to feel the way I did, but no one told me that. I thought I was supposed to fall in love and have this amazing bond from the first moment I saw my baby. All the feedings and diaper changing were overwhelming.
Over time, the anxiety and self-doubt began to ease. I healed from the surgery and slowly regained energy. Things began to normalize. One day, I looked at my son and I felt a love I had never felt before. The feeling finally hit me and though it hadn’t been immediately, it did come. He was no longer a “chore”. He became my world, and, in that moment, everything changed.
Being a first-time mom is hard; it is the most intense on the job training one can ever have, but we learned together. I still get anxious and afraid I’ll do something to mess my kids up later in life, but I do the best I can.
I was well into my second pregnancy before I realized I had experienced post-partem depression. I hadn’t understood exactly what it was. I thought it meant crying all the time, being overly emotional, and avoiding the baby altogether. My experience was more about feeling anxiety and helplessness, mixed with a sense of dread.
I was afraid I would have post-partum depression with my second child. I sought help and went to see a counselor for several weeks leading up to the birth. I felt much more confident the second time around. My experience with Mila was completely different. I felt a bond almost immediately and I was more hands-on. I didn’t have any post-partum depression with her.
Now, my baby is almost 9 years old and our bond is still strong. At the time, I had no idea that thousands of other women experience what I did. I felt alone and I felt like a horrible person. I doubted my ability to be a good parent and I struggled in silence.
My advice to others is to ask for help. Do research to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of post-partum depression. It’s okay if you don’t feel an immediate bond with your newborn, it will come as you get to know him/her better. Find someone to talk to and don’t be afraid to voice your feelings honestly. Every parent goes through moments of self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration. At the end of the day, if your child is happy, healthy, and loved, then you are doing it right.
A few more pictures: