Trigger Warning: This piece contains details about one mom’s struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety which may be triggering to others.
There I was with a pregnancy test in-hand and tears streaming down my face. It was a positive.
“I don’t want this right now. I can’t do this again.”
I kept repeating that to my husband, but he kept reminding me that this is what we had planned for over the last couple of months.
We knew we wanted to grow our family. We knew what age gap we wanted between our first-born and our would-be second child. Yet, none of that mattered in that moment.
During that moment in time, I had been off of my medication for postpartum anxiety and depression for just over four months and after a few rough days at the beginning, I felt back to normal. I was handling chaotic life moments in stride and I was able to talk out my feelings once again. I wasn’t crying in the shower or biting off my husband’s head when he asked how my day had been for the umpteenth time. I felt good.
Until that positive.
In that moment, all of the ill-placed shame from my battle with mental illness came over me and I once again felt helpless.
With my first-born child, I was on cloud nine for the entire pregnancy. Yes, we had some complications and I felt like it was an uphill battle, but I was elated to be pregnant. I was mentally prepared (or at least somewhat aware) of how postpartum depression or anxiety may creep into my life, but I had the research and I was ready to ask for help if I needed it. That first pregnancy was good even through all the bad.
But, this pregnancy would be different. I knew what I previously had only read about. . .
I knew how postpartum depression could cripple me and leave me curled up into a ball on my couch without a meal or shower for days. I knew how postpartum anxiety could leave me stranded in my driveway and with a text on my phone bailing on a play date. I knew how isolating it could be to feel like motherhood wasn’t for me.
Those first few weeks after finding out that our family would be growing felt like a blur. I made the appointment to see my doctor and I only told one or two others about the news – mainly for prayers. I felt like I needed to be excited about this precious person. But, all I felt was guilt and fear. I felt so guilty that this little one could already sense my apprehension at welcoming him or her into this world. I felt so afraid about the fact that postpartum depression is likely during subsequent pregnancies if you have had it before.
“We will get through it again,” my husband told me one evening when I told him that I felt like I was losing control again. “What can I do to help?”
When my husband asked me that question, I didn’t have an answer for some time. I felt in denial still and I felt like it was a lost cause to even plan for anything. But, the planner in me realized that it was time to manage this and take control of what I could while I could.
And, that’s what we have had to do over the last few weeks. I’ve established recurring therapy appointments and I’m ready to start a new medication if that’s what is needed. On those days that I’m really struggling with finding my joy, I go back to the fact that this is manageable. It will not be easy and there will be no quick-fix, but it is manageable.
So often we focus solely on the mother’s physical well-being during a pregnancy that we neglect her mental health.
There is no shame in admitting that motherhood isn’t easy or that we don’t feel okay. There is no shame in admitting that this isn’t what we planned and that we feel like we’ve lost control. There is no shame in admitting that we need help.
And today, sister, I am here to tell you that you are not alone in walking through your journey of postpartum mood disorders. Whether you have decided to have one baby or on your way to ten, your mental health is important and you are not alone.