I love motherhood, but it doesn’t love me. That was the message I was telling myself to try to maintain some semblance of sanity. I just wasn’t cut out for it and it wasn’t my fault. Some women are naturally called to be mothers, some aren’t. I feared I fell into the latter category.
But, I’d so badly wanted a child and was beyond joyful at the thought of him throughout my pregnancy. I rubbed my belly and talked to him and thought of him and sang to him and painstakingly went through every detail of his nursery and clothing and bath products and ….
He was my world before he was even in this world, yet, after he turned one, I felt detached from life, shaming myself day in and day out for not relishing the daily duties that come with being a mom. In some ways, I yearned for my old life. I felt like I was flailing and failing. Motherhood just wasn’t feeling right anymore. It wasn’t the love fest I’d once had. Something had changed.
At the same time, I wanted nothing more than to be a great mom. I missed him when we were apart and yearned to be reunited. Yet, when I was with him, I found myself feeling alone and lonely and counting the minutes until naptime or bedtime some days. I couldn’t begin to understand these feelings or where they were coming from. I wasn’t present. I was lost. I was down a rabbit hole and just going through the motions. I hated myself, but loved him endlessly. I began spiraling at the paradox of it all.
Depression came rumbling in at a speed I couldn’t have ever braced myself for.
And to add a little dash of insult to injury… I’m a therapist. I’m a family therapist. And here I was—drowning and struggling in life, in marriage, in motherhood, in mental health—and couldn’t find a way to dig myself out. I was being eaten alive by the guilt and shame that filled my body every day. I felt beyond overwhelmed. I had to find a way to stop the drowning.
I wish I could tell you there was an easy answer that pulled me out of it, but there’s not. I put a name to it thereby unearthing it, even if just a smidge. That’s the first step. I talked to friends, to family, to therapists and to doctors. I slowly found ways to take care of myself again (spiritually and emotionally and physically) so I can take care of my son. To show him, authentically, the happy and fun mom that’s inside me, but just can’t seem to find her way out some days. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and perhaps to raise a mom, too.
I’m back to feeling like me again, but I haven’t forgotten the hurt and the pain that I felt those days. I’m still scared sometimes because it came without warning and it left without a goodbye, and so perhaps it still lurks outside my door. I don’t know if and when we’ll meet again. But what I do know is that I can overcome. I believe we all can with the right help and support.
Postpartum depression and depression (in general) are ugly dark beasts and the best of us face them alone many times. We don’t know how to talk about it or ask for help. I know personally and professionally that sharing our experience brings light to that darkness and helps relieve some of that stigma. We are all just humans. But it’s embarrassing to admit to anyone, especially other moms, and even more so to ourselves. The fear of being judged or misunderstood, or not understood at all, adds weight to my fingertips that otherwise would want to fly with feeling and take refuge in the outlet that has been my go-to always, writing.
And so here is my story of overcoming, of winning myself back and FEELING like the mom I intellectually know I am now despite the fact my mind sometimes likes to tell me otherwise.
If you struggle or have struggled with symptoms of postpartum, please share this article and include your experience. The more we can talk and relate and validate, the less heavy this feels, the more connected we will be. Let’s create the love fest.
*Note from the editor: According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year show signs of postpartum depression symptoms. So let’s just say that’s 15% of four million live births in the US annually—that means that approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone. And, still, it’s considered taboo to talk about—people that is NUTS! We need to talk about this, we need to offer support and love and endless strings of “YOU ARE NOT ALONE SISTER.” You are not alone, you are not the first person to feel this way, nor will you be the last. You are not a bad mother or wife or person. Talk about it. Send support into the world. Love hard.