Ever since I was a little kid, I loved babies! Being only 18 months old when my sister was born, I didn’t understand pregnancy but my first interaction with my little sister was priceless and joyful. My Mom’s pregnancy with my first little brother is some of my first memories of her round belly growing and I loved every single part of it and thought pregnancy was so beautiful. Even as a five year-old, I couldn’t wait until it was my turn and after two more siblings, I knew motherhood was an aspiration I was sure of.
From Sisterhood to Motherhood
September 25th 2016 we welcomed down-right, flat-out, the most perfect baby boy into the world. I birthed him and he birthed in me a love; a new love that I had never felt before–he was my baby and I was obsessed. Kadyn was born at 6:17pm on a Sunday night. My family passed him around; introducing him to the craziness that would become his norm. We were all so in love. When I got him back in my arms, I recall thinking randomly, “what if I accidentally dropped him and he was gone just as quick as I had him?” What? Where did this horrible thought come from? My literal wildest dreams just came true and I am thinking of the worst thing that could happen right now? Totally caught me off guard. I didn’t like it, but quickly tossed it aside.
What I didn’t realize, was it was only the beginning…
The three days in postpartum were filled with so much love and visits. Breastfeeding seemed to be going well because he latched with ease and I thought that’s all there was, (see my blog My Breastfeeding Journey). Within the first week of us being home, I started having issues with breastfeeding. The struggles I had would turn into my slippery slope; it perpetuated the “baby blues” into full blown postpartum depression and I had no idea.
Let me take a second to admit that I used to think depression was all in someone’s head. Basically I thought it was like when you’re a teenager and we were “so depressed” but we didn’t even know what it meant. I tackle many situations with a ‘mind over matter’ mentality, and a big pet peeve of mine is when people complain about things that are within their control to change. I am ashamed to admit using these approaches to depression. I will always feel guilty for my incorrect opinion and hate that I had to experience it myself before I developed sympathy. If you’re someone who believes what I used to believe, I’d recommend changing your perspective, stat. Depression is not something you can think yourself out of, I learned this the hard way (the way I often need to learn things).
Having this mentality would prevent me from seeking help when I started experiencing it myself. In my defense, what I didn’t know about depression prevented me from noticing it manifest within me. What did I have to be depressed about? I had a huge loving family, an amazing husband, two good jobs, a cute little house, financial stability, and now my baby boy! Feeling so-called “depressed” was downright illogical. I took my thoughts and emotions, unjustified, waded them up and tossed them to the side. This was silly! In my eyes, I had the perfect life and there was no reason to make waves by admitting the emotions I felt and the thoughts I was thinking.
My 6 week postpartum appointment came and my midwife began asking me questions about things I was feeling. I made the things I was feeling seem like small deals; like I wasn’t struggling. I didn’t want to be specific because I was scared they would take my baby away. Being unaware that feeling this way was totally NORMAL, I didn’t say anything. I just wanted the questions to stop. One of the symptoms of PPD was that exact fear. Again, something I didn’t want to voice! How could I? I pictured someone coming in the room and taking my baby away if I admitted to having something wrong with me or went into detail about some of the things that would cross my mind.
I was scared. I didn’t know the difference between a ‘mother’s instinct’ and just paranoia! What if I didn’t worry enough and something bad happened to my baby and it was all my fault? These dark thoughts and worries were taking over! I’d pray and pray, I would convince myself it would go away on its own, and continued to handle it alone.
My beliefs were a huge factor in my hesitation to come forward; Jesus can cure anything. He is our Redeemer, our Healer. What would people think of me as a Christian if I admitted to suffering from depression? Would it hinder my friends from accepting Him? The enemy had a foothold, he was lying to me and didn’t want me to get help. God gave us doctors, He gave us counselors, and the allowance to create medications to help people. Taking medication is not a sin. I realize now that God was probably trying to get me to come forward, He wanted me to seek help and ask the people He gave me in my life for support, He wanted me to be honest.
Beyond “Baby Blues”
As Kadyn approached 10 months old, the irrational thoughts hadn’t stopped. I finally realized it probably wasn’t going to go away on its own! My baby was almost a year old and I felt like I hadn’t made the most of his first year of life. Every milestone, felt accompanied by five fears that prevented me from enjoying it. I finally made a call I should have made seven months before, I mentioned thinking I had postpartum depression and made an appointment to see a midwife.
I was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and was prescribed an antidepressant that would take four weeks to take full effect. By the time Kadyn turned one, I was starting to feel free from the bondage of my own mind. I realized that if I would have come forward and talked to my support system earlier, I may not have needed to get on medication, also my reason for this blog.
Residual guilt was there, I felt awful for my refusal to handle this at a sooner time. Again, unnecessary, since my hesitation to come forward was also a normal symptom of PPD.
Wasting No Time…
With my second baby, I wasn’t going to waste any time. I asked for the same prescription minutes after being admitted to the postpartum wing. I still deal with some thoughts, but they’re not running my life and the medication simply keeps the symptoms under control. I am not a zombie or a slave to medicine and I keep an open line of communication with my many people who are supportive.
I am sharing my story because I have many friends who are either new Mamma’s or will become a Mom for the first time in the coming months. Though this probably goes without saying, I want to remind you this does not replace professional advice, I am simply a mother sharing my experience in hopes that it’ll help even one of my sweet friends.
Ten Things to Remember
If you’re pregnant, have a small baby (even if it’s your second, I know Moms who didn’t get it with their first baby, but did with their second) please remember these 10 things if you start feeling a little off within the first six weeks of you having your baby:
1. You’re NOT alone, approximately 70%-80% of women experience “baby blues” and 10%-20% experience PPD*. You’re bound to have a friend who has dealt with it.
2. Do not be afraid to come forward– you will not get your baby taken away. I talked to a counselor in postpartum with my daughter and she said verbatim: “your baby won’t get taken away unless you’re abusing her. Your thoughts will not get your baby taken away.” I wish someone told me this with my son.
3. Call your doctor. The second you say “postpartum depression”, they are on it. They want to help and are ready to help to the fullest extent. Don’t be embarrassed, I beg of you! Also, if you already have a past of depression, its extra important to talk to your doctor before you have your baby and make a plan.
4. Birthing a baby does not automatically mean you know everything! It’s okay to ask for advice or help. You’re not a bad mom if you don’t know something. Placing the burden of thinking you should have all the answers on yourself can contribute to PPD. There’s a difference between motherly instinct and thinking you should have all the answers. Also, don’t feel weak or incapable if you say yes when someone offers help. A shower or a short drive can make more of a difference than you realize.
5. It can happen to anyone! It doesn’t matter how much money is in your bank account, it doesn’t matter if you’re happily married, or you generally feel happy. Hormones are mean like that and can attack anyone.
6. I can’t stress this enough: feeling certain ways or having thoughts does not define you as a mother, AT ALL.
7. Social Media cannot replace face to face interaction; watching the outside world through a screen can make you feel secluded and can prompt unhealthy comparison to other Moms to surface. Not to mention having news stories constantly being shared cannot be good also.
8. Talk to your partner, discuss the different indicators for both of you to look out for and make a plan together for how to tackle symptoms.
9. Try your hardest to get out of the house. Go get a coffee! Having a five minute face to face interaction with a barista could help a ton and you can bring your baby. I also found people’s compliments on how precious my children are, made me feel like I did something right.
10. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Read that again. To be honest, I still struggle with this one now with two kiddos. Taking care of yourself does mean taking care of them. Don’t take it too far but if your cup is empty, you can’t overflow into anyone else, let alone offer a drop if you’ve spent everything you have. Even the Lord rested on the seventh day, not because he had to, but to set an example for us.
Remember, WOMEN ARE AMAZING. God made us special, He made us strong and capable of so many amazing things, goodness, even I surprise myself sometimes. But it’s HARD to be a mom and no one should have to go it alone. Even if you’re not experiencing PPD, a support system is crucial. My mom told me about her small group of other Mommies when I was a baby and how much it helped them get over new-mommy hurdles. She said no one was depressed. In my opinion, it may have something to do with lack of social media in the 90’s…(lol).
I get messages from moms-to-be all the time, you can find someone to message and hopefully now, you’ll feel comfortable messaging me. I don’t always recommend posting in ‘Mommy Groups’ because it can be counterproductive when you get so many different scenarios and advice from basically strangers. I did say it can’t replace face to face interaction but it is useful for reaching out quickly when you feel in a slump.
I am here for you, girl. Always!
I really this helps some fellow Mommies.