Ashleigh's Story

I still remember looking at my newborn baby in the hospital thinking to myself, “Everyone says that
you’re going to instantly fall in love with your baby, yet I don’t feel anything in particular for this little
human”. I had somewhat of a difficult birth and my son had been taken away immediately after he was
born. We never had the immediate skin to skin, I never got to be the first one to hold him. I even asked
my husband “Doesn’t it feel like we’re just babysitting someone else’s kid right now?” That being said,
anytime a doctor came in and made my son cry, I would break down bawling. It was a very confusing
and emotional time for me, but we brought the cute little stranger baby home with us.
As soon as we got home I was miserable. I was in so much pain from the birth (which included an
episiotomy that wasn’t healing very well), my life had been turned upside down. This pregnancy, while it
was welcome, had not been planned which was hard for me to accept since I’m a planner in nature and
had no control over this significant time in my life. The relationships in my life had changed, I felt like I
lost friends because I had crossed over to the “dark side” and we were no longer in the same phase of
life. I was bitter and resentful to all the women I knew who were moms, they never told me how awful
this was going to be. Everyone just made it seem like it was this beautiful, wonderful, magical time,
where you come home from the hospital, snap back immediately after giving birth to a baby sasquatch
and then sit around and cuddle your quiet, sleeping newborn all day. My husband helped me the best
he knew how, but in the middle of the night when the baby would wake up hungry and he’d say “I’d get
up but I don’t have a boob”, I just wanted to smother him with his pillow. He’s seriously lucky to be alive
today!
On top of the guilt I was feeling for being unhappy, I started having as what I could only describe as day
nightmares. I would play out my infant son’s funeral in my mind. I would always try to push these
thoughts out of my head as soon as they crept in.
I felt so guilty for feeling so unhappy. What kind of mother was I? I started going to a nursing support
group in my community, where there were other new moms who were going through the same things
that I was going through, and feeling the same feelings. I wasn’t alone! These groups became my safe
haven each week where I was finally feeling like myself again. I started exercising. I began to open up to
others in my life about how I was feeling. Through this I was able to get through the misery, I fell in love
with my baby and I started loving myself again. Life was good again.
Three years later I gave birth to my daughter. This time it was different. The pregnancy was planned I
had a quick and uneventful birth, she was put onto my chest immediately after being born. It was
instant love. Maybe because I was already a mother, I understood that love you feel for your child, so it
was already there? We got to go home right away, life was manageable. My toddler went to daycare,
my husband worked from home so I could at least have a shower when I wanted to. Then I started to
have what I described as “day-mares” of terrible things happening to my three year old son, These
terrible scenarios would involve him dying tragic and horrific deaths. It got to the point where if he was
out of my sight I would experience horrible anxiety. If I became fixated on his safety it would consume
me, I could barely breathe. Then I noticed that I was feeling overwhelmed all of the time, like a huge
weight in my chest. I recognized that this was not normal. I had a baby who slept well, a toddler who
was in a good daycare and a husband who worked from home. In the grand scheme of things, I was
really lucky. The breaking point for me was one day I was home alone with my baby. I was trying to get
myself ready to get out the door and go to a mom and baby fitness class that I had been attending every
week. I could not bring myself to get dressed and get out the door. It was then that I realized that I was

not myself. I’m a social person and I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the house. It also occurred to
me that I had been experiencing extreme fatigue. I just chalked it up to being tired from getting up with
the baby, but some mornings I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed. Because I hadn’t been
“miserable” initially, like I was with my first, I hadn’t recognized that I may be experiencing postpartum
depression. Because my symptoms had manifested into something different the second time around, it
never even occurred to me what was happening until that day that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the
house.
I have had experience with supporting family and friends with depression and anxiety so I knew that I
needed help. I am the first one to tell people that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. On
top of everything else I had also experienced two tragic deaths of people close to me during that time,
my best friend while I was 7 months pregnant and my cousin when I was three weeks postpartum. With
everything I was experiencing and everything I had gone through, I recognized that this was not
something that would go away on its own so I immediately made an appointment with my doctor. I had
a lot of people depending on me, most importantly my children, I didn’t have time to be unwell.
After meeting with my doctor I started on antidepressants right away and started to see a counsellor.
The medication made a huge difference in my life and I started to feel like myself again. It wasn’t easy,
as the medication does have significant side effects if I missed a dose. I learned that the hard way, but it
was a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to be my best self that I could be. I stayed on the
medication for about a year and a half. After I had been done breastfeeding for a while and my
hormones stabilized, I decided to try going off of the antidepressants. The withdrawals were hard, but I
was determined to give it a try. After about a month I felt the anxiety creeping back in. In consultation
with my doctor, I made the decision to go back on antidepressants. I’m not sure how long I will need
them, maybe forever. But I’m okay with that if that’s what it takes for me to be my best self so that I can
be there for the people in my life.
The message that I want to put out there to all new moms, whether it’s your first time or not, is that it’s
okay to not be happy every waking moment. It’s also okay to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re a
failure as a mother. It means you’re human.

Do you identify with Ashleigh's story?

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