I’ve debated writing about this topic for a very long time. Postpartum depression is not an easy subject to discuss with anyone, from your doctors or nurses, your own mother, your husband, your friends, your other mom friends… the list goes on. However, in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to finally open up about it on this platform. I wish someone was honest with me, and I hope I can be for someone what I needed when I was experiencing this.
Postpartum depression is still a thing that is merely whispered about and then swept under the rug. However, the truth about postpartum depression is that is does exist, whether or not we as a society decide to talk about it.
And why don’t we talk about it? Maybe it’s because motherhood and parenting is analyzed to a horrifying degree; that if a mom allows her children more than the suggested screen-time she is a bad mommy. Maybe it’s because motherhood is an actual job, despite popular belief; that waking up every three hours with a screaming baby is not easy, nor is dealing with teething or colic. Maybe it’s because it takes so little to be considered a bad mom, and so little to be considered a good dad. Maybe it’s because there is still a stigma against both working moms and stay-at-home moms.
Maybe it’s because moms just can’t win.
On top of all the other struggles and judgement mothers deal with on a daily basis, who would want to be judged because their mental illness, too? Whether or not we like it, there is still stigma surrounding mental illness. That stigma in combination with the pressures of motherhood create a cesspool of guilt, sadness, competition, and isolation. It’s just not healthy, and in a lot of cases it’s easier to deal with the struggles in silence.
I genuinely never imagined that I could have ever been affected by postpartum depression. My pregnancy was easier than most, the baby was healthy (thank God), and my husband, family, and friends were supportive.
Then our son was born and I didn’t feel an instant attachment to him. Even now, while writing this confession, I feel guilt in admitting that. However, it’s the truth. I was given this new person to take home and I just felt like I didn’t know them at all. All of my other relationships in life required learning about the other person and slowly fostering a relationship with them. With my son, this connection was supposed to be immediate and it just wasn’t. In addition, I was the saddest I ever was in my life and I didn’t know why.
I was waiting for that Hallmark-happiness. I was waiting to radiate joy. I was waiting to soak up the joys of parenting and wallow in the sisterhood of motherhood.
But it just never happened. At least, not for months.
I remember people asking me, “Aren’t you the happiest you’ve ever been in your life?” And I, of course, would lie and say, “Yes!” But inside I was very sad, felt isolated, confused, and didn’t feel like a mother. I cried every time I was alone and couldn’t eat or sleep. The nurses in the hospital called this “baby blues” and assured me that this would only last two weeks. After the two week mark, I still felt horrible. I couldn’t bond with my son, didn’t want to talk to anyone, I still wasn’t eating or sleeping, and my sadness was unending.
I decided I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, so I called my doctor and she demanded to see me that day. Sure enough, after a few tests and talking it out, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression soon after. My son is almost one now, and although there are still a few bad days, I’m happy to report that I’ve been feeling good for the past few months. I finally feel bonded with him. I finally feel like a mother. I finally feel happy.
However, I cannot help but to wonder that if I didn’t seek help, would I have felt better by now? There are reports of 1 in 7 mothers experiencing postpartum depression in the first year after having a baby (Postpartum Depression). Sadly, a lot of women experience this alone and in silence.
The only way this is ever going to get better is if we are there for our fellow sisters. After being diagnosed, I wanted to be transparent about my struggle. It was real. Once I started talking about it, I had so many other women confide in me about how bad they felt, too, after having a baby. What is even worse is that so many of these women told me that they didn’t talk about it in fear of being judged.
I cannot speak for any other women, but I, for one, am not judging any other mother who experiences postpartum depression. It is a hard thing to endure and so many of us do endure it, even if we don’t talk about it. It cannot be helped, it is real, and our emotions and experiences are legitimate voices in the community of motherhood.
The next time your friend has a baby, ask her how she is feeling. Ask her how she is sleeping at night. When a family comes home from the hospital with their new bundle of joy, they aren’t just bringing home a new baby boy or girl. They are also bringing home a new mom for the first (or second, or third, or fourth) time, and they also need support.