For Maternal Mental Health Week, I want to speak very frankly on my postpartum period and how difficult postpartum was for me. I feel the need to be honest about my experience and write it down so that someone else who sees what I went through knows they aren’t alone. I’m here for you, I understand you, and I know for a fact that it is harder than they make it out to be.
There’s a lot of things they don’t tell you about motherhood until you’re in it. Sometimes I feel like the lack of information is so those of us with uteruses don’t make the decision to NOT have children. Because who would make that decision willingly, knowing what they know after childbirth? The crippling anxiety when baby first comes home, the depression that threatens to swallow you up, the habits you create to make yourself feel better: checking their breathing through the night to calm the fear that they’ve died in their sleep, triple checking every room to ensure there’s nothing that could start a fire spontaneously, not traveling up and down the stairs with them for fear of falling and killing them. They don’t tell you how bad it gets, because who would ask for that? You truly don’t know how bad anxiety can be until there is a tiny human who depends on you for their entire life. The fear of messing up, that any second you spend away from them they will think you’ve abandoned them. Any attention you don’t give to them they will think you hate them. There should be a manual for this, you think. You sit in the baby’s room at 3am after another night of not sleeping and you silently cry thinking of how hard it is and how you wish somebody had just warned you. They tell you it gets better, and please believe me it really does…but it gets really, really bad before you ever start to see any light. I don’t say that to scare any new moms or to discredit any that have been in the game. I also don’t need commentary from moms who didn’t experience it and will undoubtedly say it “wasn’t that bad”. I get it. Everyone’s experience is different and thank god for that because I wouldn’t wish what I have been through on my worst enemy. But my experience has definitely shaped me and how I see motherhood. As a mom with mental illness prior to my pregnancy, nobody could’ve prepared me for the whirlwind of illness that was waiting for me after childbirth when my hormones were attempting to regulate themselves. I thought about suicide so frequently that the thought became like a tenant in my brain. It took up space and didn’t pay rent and had no problem reminding me it was there. I kept my distance from people I loved because I didn’t know how to be happy for them and I didn’t know how to process them being happy for me when I was so unhappy with myself. I researched Post-Partum Depression almost every day, hoping to find some information that would help me. Something that would make it click and force PPD and suicide to evict the premises and allow me to be happy with the tiny human I just created.
It took four months after my child’s birth before felt like myself again, and this Maternal Mental Health Week reminds me that I am not alone and that other mothers have experienced this same pain. In my process of healing from not only a traumatic pregnancy but a traumatic birthing experience, I’ve learned what I need to heal may be different from others. While others find healing in mommy groups and online discussion posts, I found my healing in a therapists office and SSI medication. Both of those paths are okay and normal. A healthy mom is a happy mom, and a happy mom makes for a happy baby. With this quarantine forcing us apart, please be sure to check in on those in their postpartum period, ask if they need anything even if you can’t physically be there to provide. They need you, even if they don’t know how to say it.