On April 6th, 2017, everything I had ever wished for came true. I was happily married to my soul mate, we had created a beautiful home, and a family of two boys and finally a daughter. Ava was my third baby, my most planned, anticipated and prepared for baby. All of my dreams had come true, but I was not ok.
If I am honest with myself I had signs of anxiety while I was pregnant with my daughter. I could not handle anything confrontational. I left my job five months earlier than I planned because I could not handle it. I worried about being a mom to a girl often. I was a boy mom for nine years. I had never had a mother daughter relationship with my own mother, and something inside me kept telling me I was unworthy of my daughter. I just thought I was having normal pregnancy hormones.
The day she was born I was so happy and grateful. Our family was complete. My nurse had told me not to put her in my bed because if she fell off the hospital bed onto their floor it would crack her skull. That’s when my panic attacks (that I did not even know were attacks) started. I could not sleep while my husband held her because I was so scared something would happen. When the photographer came in to take Ava’s photos I felt so panicked because she was taking her pictures on the bed without me touching her. I kept worrying my baby was going to fall off the bed. I remember my sweet husband trying to calm me and get me through the five minutes of photos that felt like hours.
When we were finally home I was crying all the time and still could not sleep while the baby slept or while my husband had her because of my worries. I just thought that was normal that I would feel better soon.
Six weeks went by like that. I was not sleeping or leaving my house. At my six week checkup with my OBGYN, I told him what I was experiencing. He did not care. He just asked me if I wanted to stop nursing and of course I said no. Then he told me there was nothing he could do. He could not prescribe me anything while I was nursing and left the room.
One day I woke up and I felt empty and scared. The worries that were in my head those weeks before were now on overdrive with no hope in sight. It was a constant replay of worries in my head and no matter what I did. I could not escape them.
Every time I walked down the stairs with her, I could see her falling. If we were in the kitchen everything in there that was sharp I could see hurting her. The thoughts were debilitating. I believed I had lost my mind. This was not ok to be scared of everything in our home. Then I was worried I was going to hurt her. I did not have a want to hurt my baby. I had an extreme fear that I would. Then I was scared for my husband to leave me to go to work.
The hours alone felt like torture. Then I had the fear of hurting myself. I could not leave our bathroom doors open any more. Walking by the bathroom gave me flashes of ending my life in there. Every time I looked at her, my brain would tell me how selfish I was to have her and then thinking about leaving her. Then the depression, shame and hate of my myself flooded me. I did not want to worry or be sad. I hated myself for being sad at such an amazing time. The anxiety and depression took my happiness. They made me believe my life was over, that I would never feel like once did.
I went to my best friend that once struggled with postpartum depression and told her how I was feeling. I told her I was scared to be alone that something was wrong, and she sent me away. My body felt like a constant tingle, and I was trapped in my mind on a hamster wheel of worries. The depression feeling was the worst. I felt empty and a feeling of dread nonstop. I kept trying to make myself feel better. I went for runs, I went outside, I did yoga and I got out of the house and stayed busy. Nothing I did helped and each time it did not help the depression would get worse. I was drowning inside and no one even noticed.
It took about three weeks of feeling like I was drowning with no way to help myself before I could not fake being ok anymore. My husband found me on the bathroom floor in a ball crying and just saying over and over again I don’t want to feel this way. I am extremely lucky to have a husband that understood. He told me it wasn’t my fault and that he thought I had postpartum depression. Finally!! Just hearing those two simple statements gave me a light in what seemed to be an endless dark tunnel.
I went to my regular physician and was prescribed Zoloft and in less than two weeks I could feel my head finally raise above the water. I finally felt a little bit of hope that I could swim my way out of this storm. I found a postpartum specialist by calling the PSI hotline and starting seeing her every week, then once a month. My daughter is 17 months old now, and I can very gratefully say I am fully recovered from postpartum depression and anxiety.
At first I wanted to completely erase all memory of my struggle. Now I hope I never forget. Remembering how I felt and being able to feel better reminds me that I can overcome. Remembering that there was a time in my life where nothing made me feel happy or ok, not even my family, makes me appreciate every single thing that brings me joy now. I look at people different now, remembering there was time I was drowning on the inside and no one knew. Now I smile at strangers and when someone is unpleasant with me I do not take it personally because now I completely understand that we never know someone’s struggles.
The lack of awareness to such a common problem deeply saddens me. My OBGYN could have treated me before it got that bad. I lost months of my life, my last baby’s newborn time due to the lack of awareness and I want to help fix this problem. I was lucky my husband understood postpartum depression, Without his understanding, I might not be here. If you or someone you know is struggling please know that you are not alone or to blame and with proper help you will feel better. You will find yourself again! Not only feel like yourself but a even better self.