My postpartum depression story starts long before I gave birth to my baby boy. I truly believe it started the day I found out I was pregnant. I remember crying on the phone with my mom just minutes after a positive test. She was so excited to have a grand baby, but I felt like my life was already over. I kept telling myself “it was just not in my timing, but I’ll accept it and be happy soon.”
Unfortunately, even after trying to speak truth into my life, it never happened. My pregnancy became more difficult every day and by the time I was 10 weeks pregnant, I was dealing with terrible morning sickness, full body hives, and a kidney stone the doctors wouldn’t give me pain medicine for because I was pregnant. I HATED my unborn child. He was causing me so much grief and physical pain already, how was I supposed to love him? But I kept on telling myself that I did, I told myself that everything would get better, and of course, I told everyone that knew about the pregnancy that everything was so perfect and I couldn’t be happier.
At 20 weeks, I finally announced my pregnancy. It was so hard because I still didn’t want a baby, and here I was telling the world he was on his way. Everyone congratulated me, and asked how I was doing. I told them I’ve seen better days, and they said “just wait. It gets worse.” And they were right. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone. I quit my job, barely went to any of my classes, and spent the majority of my days in bed. I didn’t want to live anymore if that meant the rest of my life was going to spent wallowing in sadness and pain. So I finally asked for help. I told my doctor how I was feeling and was expecting her to throw me in an insane asylum. But she greeted me with so much empathy and encouragement. She helped me get an appointment with their on site counselor who only works with pregnant and postpartum women. My first appointment with her, I sat down, cried and told her everything that I was thinking and feeling. She gave what I was feeling a name—antepartum depression. She explained that it didn’t make me a bad person and that I wasn’t alone. After a couple counseling appointments, we then decided that starting antidepressants and continuing counseling would be the best plan of action for getting my depression under control. She sounded convinced that it was the solution and that I would feel better soon. I thought that this change would be the end of what I was going through, that I would slowly start to become happy, maybe even excited, about my pregnancy. I thought this would be the end of sadness and guilt and lies. I thought this would be the end of my depression story.
But it wasn’t.
After a few weeks, I had an appointment with my OB and she asked me how I was. “Terrible. I want to get run over by traffic or have a stillbirth or fall down some stairs or something” is what I honestly wanted tell her. But after being told I SHOULD feel better, all I could muster up was “I’m doing good.” This spiral went on for months—I lied to everyone about how I was feeling because I felt like something was wrong with me until I just couldn’t do it anymore.
At 37 weeks pregnant, I remember myself sobbing on the bathroom floor forcing myself to throw up because I hated myself. I hated my pregnant body. I hated feeling him move, constantly reminding me that he was on his way. But mostly, I hated how alone I felt. I had completely isolated myself for seemingly no reason at all. I crawled out of the bathroom and into the kitchen and all I wanted was a way to end it all—because what I was doing obviously wasn’t enough to end the depression that completely wrecked my life. I picked up a knife and stared at it for awhile. I contemplated slitting my wrists right there. But i hesitated, and thought about it just long enough for my husband to walk in the door. I immediately put it back and ran to him telling him I needed to go to the ER. He smelled the vomit on my mouth and thought I had taken a ton of pills and pleaded with me to tell him what happened. I assured him I didn’t do anything and off we went. We both cried the whole way there, I felt like I had failed him as a wife and he felt as though he had failed as a husband.
I sat in the emergency room for over 24 hours with my husband holding my hand until they found a hospital that could comfortably accommodated both a pregnant and psychologically unstable person. I was there for a week, and honestly, it was awful. I missed my cats, I missed my husband, I missed my friends. My first day there, I was wheeled up to labor and delivery to check on the baby, and the lady who took me upstairs asked me “what did you do to get in here?” I wanted to scream at her, I wanted to tell her everything, I wanted to make her feel as terrible as she made me feel. But again, all I could say was “nothing. I didn’t DO anything.” I cried the entire time she babysat me during my non stress test. She wheeled me back down and I cried some more. Finally, I got to see the psychiatrist and he decided to just up my medicine. I didn’t like it, but I obliged. After a week, I begged them to let me leave because I did not want to deliver my baby there. I remember realizing that in that moment, I called this child that I was carrying MY baby for the first time in my entire pregnancy. They decided I was stable enough for them to let me go home and I spent the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy in bed, hopeful but still sad.
My due date was the saddest day of my pregnancy simply because I was still pregnant. I wasn’t excited about meeting him, I wasn’t excited to be a mom, but I was beyond ready for him to be out of me. I thought once my pregnancy was over, I would go back to normal. The next morning I woke up and knew it was time to go to the hospital, after 19 hours of excruciating labor, a terrible infection, and pushing a baby out well before I was 10 cm dilated, I finally had a baby. They put him on my chest for about a minute, and I felt emotionally numb. He was crying and I was so sick and so tired. Because of my infection, he was rushed offed the NICU where he stayed for 4 days, and honestly, I was grateful. I didn’t have to take care of him for 4 whole days AND I wasn’t pregnant. I slept, and they would call me and tell me he needed to eat every 3 hours. I hated it. I hated breastfeeding, I hated getting up, I hated holding him. I wanted to tell the NICU nurses to just give him a bottle, but I didn’t want to seem like I was as terrible of a person as I felt I was.
When they finally brought him in my room, I held him for about 24 solid hours, praying that I would love him. And I still felt nothing. He was just this tiny little thing that I wanted to hand right back to his mom—but I was his mom.
We finally got to leave after 5 long days, but I was not excited to be home. Breastfeeding was strenuous on us at first, and he had lost a significant amount of weight in the hospital so our first appointment with the pediatrician was the next day. They told me to feed him every two hours, and to wake him if he was asleep to feed him. Because my husband (obviously) isn’t capable of breastfeeding, that responsibility fell to me. I grew to resent my husband, my baby, and myself even more than I had previous. And after 3 months of breastfeeding, changing a diaper, and then pumping EVERY two hours, I blew up. My baby wasn’t gaining without supplementing, I was not producing enough, I was angry, I was sad and I was so, SO tired. I spent all of my “free time” sobbing uncontrollably feeling like I was completely alone.
I finally opened up to my counselor and told her that it wasn’t working. SOMETHING wasn’t working. She immediately got me more appointments booked and asked me to bring my husband to one. He willingly went and told her how sad I had been acting and she seemed absolutely shocked that I had hidden it for so long. She upped my medicine significantly and immediately got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, we also decided that stopping breastfeeding would be in my best interest. Being more open about all of these terrible thoughts I was having with my counselor opened brand new doors for me. She never showed disgust towards the things that I said, that even I was ashamed of. She showed me statistics about PPD and how COMMON it is, especially for someone that had struggled with antepartum depression. She made me feel “normal” for the first time in almost a year.
And I cried.
But this time out of joy.
Over the next month, I got my medication where it should have been from the beginning. And if I had been honest about how I was feeling, it probably would have gotten there much quicker. I learned so much about myself this past year, but the greatest lesson that I was given was to not be ashamed of myself. My mental health does not define me as a women, as a wife, or as a mom. It’s been a very long, difficult road, but I can happily say that I am finally able to say that I love my baby, and he truly has made my life so much much better. I often times still find myself feeling guilty about how much I missed out on in the beginning simply because my depression told me that I wanted no part of it. But when I catch myself in those thoughts, I remind myself of all of the moments my sweet baby boy and I get to share because I didn’t end our story when depression had its grip on me.
I fought, I fought so hard.
But I won.