I am pretty much an open book. I approach life no holds barred because we connect the most with people by the experiences we choose to share; in hopes that someone else can relate on some level, and find comfort in knowing that they don’t have to go through life feeling isolated.
That being said, It felt important to me to reach out to other new moms about the peaks and pits of living life postpartum. More specifically for me, trying to overcome the emotional aspect(s) of realizing your basic needs and desires will forever come second to this tiny person you created, and are still very much getting to know.
I knew to go into my pregnancy that the chances of my experiencing PPD/PPA were pretty high because I have struggled with anxiety and a bit of depression for as long as I can remember. What I did not fully consider, however, was how the impact of adding another person, hormones, and an overall sense of disarray, would amplify these sensations tenfold. The heaviness of what I was feeling was an entirely different beast that I had no clue how to get a handle on.
I couldn’t tell you the exact moment that I was convinced I was losing my mind, but I can recall the meltdown that it led to.
I had been trying to breastfeed unsuccessfully for over two weeks; she just wouldn’t latch and screamed every time I put her on my boob. It was stressing her out, it was stressing me out…we just weren’t on the same page and it was pushing me to the brink of insanity. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t my baby want to bond with me? Did I fuck up by giving her formula in the hospital? (the answer is no because her sugars were low and that is beyond anyone’s control. Subbing formula was the best thing for her, and that’s all there is to it.) I had so many thoughts and feelings of failure as a new mother, shame in my own body, and felt completely defeated by all my well-intended delusions of how things should have been. Nothing was giving way to my misery, and her attempts to acclimate to her new surroundings.
During all of this, I was still actively pumping to at least try to compensate. If she wouldn’t latch, I held some comfort in knowing she would at least be getting the nutrients of the breast milk. Luckily, I had a great production, and it was what kept me going for the time being; until the overwhelming sense of dread and panic set in.
I woke up one morning, and just didn’t feel like myself. I had racing thoughts, I was scattered, disoriented, and felt very uneasy. My wonderful fiance had noticed this almost immediately and asked me what was going on. I honestly didn’t know. I shrugged it off and chalked it up to the ‘baby blues’ they tell you to expect for a few days shortly after giving birth.
Fast forward a week, and at this point not only am I having these racing thoughts and overall feelings of dread, but I am no longer sleeping. Like, at all. If she was beside me in her bassinet, I was anxious and terrified of her waking up or stirring. If she was in the other room with her dad (who at this point was trying to force me into taking naps and resting) I couldn’t stop obsessing about her every whimper, or would get up to tend to her, as if he couldn’t handle it (he could, and most times better than me, in case you were wondering.) I had also somehow absolutely, without a doubt, convinced myself that I was going to die. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of how or why, but just know that there wasn’t talking any logic or sense into what I knew would be my imminent death. (I know, dramatic much?)
I had somehow absolutely, without a doubt, convinced myself that I was going to die.
The night that it came to a head, I had gone through a particularly hard day. Travis had just gone back to work, so it was just me and this tiny person, who I barely knew, and would freak out if I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her in time. I didn’t know that I could get through the day without him, and being cooped up inside just made things so much worse for me. I had way too many thoughts going through my head to just be standing idly by. At this point, the only thing keeping me busy was pumping. All day. NUMEROUS times a day. So much so that It was hard to continue to try to get to know and love on my baby girl. I was preoccupied with my obsession to get this ONE thing right, all the meanwhile, it was secretly putting all the more pressure on me to be ‘the perfect mom.’
After what must have been my 9th pump that day; sore nipples, a screaming baby, and not enough production to keep up with the demands of her growth; I was done. With everything. I went into our room and completely lost it. The ugly, drooly sob. I didn’t even know why I was sobbing. I was just exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. Travis came in, and I finally just told him about my fears, the anxiety I had been feeling, my disdain for pumping, but the constant guilt I had felt for not continuing to do it, and how I just knew I was failing at being this little girls mom.
I was preoccupied with my obsession to get this ONE thing right, all the meanwhile, it was secretly putting all the more pressure on me to be ‘the perfect mom.’
After talking me off the ledge, he did the very best thing for me, knowing it was what I needed to hear. He said it out loud so that I could interpret it outside of myself. He told me that it was okay to quit. He reminded me that ‘quitting’ did not mean what I had made it out to; that our baby would thrive because we loved her and that my fixation on trying to pump or breastfeed had nothing to do with my abilities as her mom. He gave me the permission to forgive myself and told me I needed to go visit my doctor. So I did.
God bless the nurse that saw me. Seriously. I was a puffy-faced mom zombie who was running on no sleep, carrying around my weight in shame, and couldn’t get a word in edgewise between my sobs and wretches. She didn’t even blink before telling me that what I was feeling was 1000000% normal and that I would be okay. I wasn’t in fact dying, and that if she needed to, she would fully check me out and get whatever tests done that I wanted to reassure me. That in itself was enough to steer me back in the direction of sanity. She was a blessing. She made me feel human again. I walked out with my prescription for Zoloft, and a forgotten sense of normalcy.
Looking back on the entire 4+ weeks leading up to my finally deciding to get help, I am glad that we decided to get educated on what all the possibilities were; even if we weren’t sure that they would affect us personally. None of us are exempt from the ravages of having a baby and all that it entails. There is NO SHAME in asking for help, because the people who love you want the beginning chapters of motherhood to be a beautiful, enjoyable time; and this may not be the case for some of us, and that’s completely okay. Don’t be afraid to speak out and share your struggles, you never know who may desperately need to hear it.
If you are looking for resources and don’t know where to start, I have included some links below. Also know that nothing can substitute an actual visit to your doctor, who probably knows you and your situation best.