If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I shared that I struggle with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. That was a really tough thing for me to share, and I was so grateful for the outpouring of love and support I got.
I’m sharing my story because May is Mental Health Awareness month. Mental health, especially for new mamas, is something we don’t talk about nearly enough.
The CDC reports that 1 in 9 (!!) mothers experience some sort of postpartum depression or anxiety and that 1 in 4 are still experiencing those feelings at their child’s first birthday. Most alarming of all, around 45% of those mothers do NOT seek any kind of help or treatment.
WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING MORE ABOUT THIS??
As alarming as the statistic is, I can completely understand and relate to the mothers that do not reach out. I was one of them…
Advice, and Opinions and Do this…but don’t do that….its coming from every angle. Everybody, and boy do I mean everybody, has an opinion on how you should do things. I’ve had random strangers stop me in the parking lot of the grocery store stop me and tell me that I should or shouldn’t be doing something with my child. Even well meaning opinions and advice, can be hurtful sometimes.
I’m not sure what it is about being a mother, but people loose all filters. It’s like we have some big stamp on our foreheads “I’m not hard enough on myself, please point out all the ways you think I’m wrong.”
And while I am a huge fan of social media and the amazing connection we can make there, it can be a catch 22. You see on Facebook or Instagram your favorite bloggers or celebrities, or even old friends and see their seemingly perfect lives. They are the picture of motherhood, that one you’ve envisioned since you were a little girl. Perfect hair, painted nails, clean house, and of course the cutest best dressed, happiest baby you’ve probably ever seen. And even though we know that’s not always real life, that they have hard moments too -that right outside the crop lines of that picture there is likely a mess just like yours or that two seconds after that picture their baby had a complete and total meltdown-its nearly impossible not to compare.
And speaking of that vision you had, you know the one when you were playing with your dolls imagining how it’d be. How you’d have the cutest little round belly, and that detailed birth plan (where every box was checked), and you’d feed your baby just the way you wanted, and you’d react to your baby’s cues with only excitement and love, and you’d just fall right into that role. It’d complete your life and you heart.
Yeah, I had that one too. And you know something? A lot of really good things happened…after a 2 yr battle with infertility, I was blessed to get pregnant and I had a healthy pregnancy and I gave birth to a perfectly sweet and squishy little boy. And oh was he just so, so perfect. The moment our eyes locked, I knew he was mine. My heart felt complete.
And we came home, and we thought it was good.
Breastfeeding was really hard for us (you can read about our journey here), but we had some great support and worked through it.
But oh he cried, and he cried. And he didn’t sleep…I’m talking up every 2 hours until after his first birthday. And I didn’t always know how to make him happy. And sometimes when he cried, I got upset, because I couldn’t help him and I just wanted so badly to make him happy. And my husband, ugh, he couldn’t do anything right…he never helped at the right times and he never said the right words…..my vision was crumbling.
Nobody really talked to be about postpartum mental health. There was a pamphlet in my hospital discharge folder. But really, what exhausted, new mom takes time to really read that stuff. My mom is a Social Worker, so of course she encouraged me to watch for certain things and reach out if I needed help, but I was in denial. It was just me, I’ve always dealt with anxiety so I just considered it “normal”.
So many nights, after I finally got my son to sleep, I cried and cried. And I had terrible thoughts, about how my baby and my husband would be better off without me. How so much was wrong, that surely I must be the factor that needed to be eliminated. And when morning did come, I rarely wanted to leave the house…I was so tired, I felt so worthless, I didn’t have any desire to get ready-because surely I would never look like the beautiful women I’d hoped I’d be like. And I pushed my husband so far away. Anytime he tried to help, I lectured him on what he was doing wrong. And then, I got mad because he wasn’t helping….I could go on and on. But the point is, waves were crashing in and I was drowning. And I didn’t reach out. Sure, I tried to talk to my husband or my mom, or occasionally a friend. But I usually down played the severity of my thoughts or ended my thoughts with something like “but I know this is just a part of being a new mom”
As my son neared his first birthday, things started to get “better”. I wasn’t forever irritated at my husband, my son settled into a better sleep pattern, I got my job as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. Life felt good, and I was going to be okay…
Part 2…coming soon