What Postpartum Depression Looks Like

Postpartum depression, you are the thief in the night.

I'm fine. I'm not depressed.

I'm just angry and irritated at my husband all the time. 

But I'm super productive and I get out of bed, so, I'm not depressed...

I just feel trapped

and angry

and resentful of my child

(...but doesn't every first time mom feel that way, if she really told the truth?)

And all the other moms around me seem to be fine with THREE kids

So apparently I'm the only one who struggles, and being the strong woman that I am, I'd like to keep that to myself, thankyouverymuch.

I'm fine. I'll just keep going. 

I'll just keep pretending I LOVE MOTHERHOOD... when the truth is... I really liked going to work so I could feel like I accomplished something. 

My life is no longer mine. I am with a babe at my breast, all day, all night. I hardly sleep. My body is not mine. My time is not mine. My plans fail on a regular basis. My hands are never free. I am stuck. I am chained. 

But I can't tell anyone this.

HE can go skiing. But I can't even take a shower, or get to the store without barf all over me, a poop blowout up baby's back, or having to stop to nurse, or driving ten minutes with a screaming infant in the back seat. God help me. I feel so out of control. 

But... do I really have the right to complain? My planned home birth was awesome, my pregnancy was great, my child is healthy and beautiful, I have so much to be grateful for, so I shouldn't be upset, or ungrateful AT ALL.

And then, sooner than planned...

I'm pregnant again. 

Here comes our second child. His birth - all 9.5 lbs of him - passes through my body with no pain. His birth is rapid and ecstatic, and joyful. I want to do it again.

I still resent my husband most of the time

And we have no money

And I feel like I'm drowning with a not-quite-two year old and a newborn...

But then I remember that my mother - my dear mother - had SIX children at my age, and NINE children by age 38. I can do two. My sister has two children with disabilities, one requiring constant care. I can do this. 

Postpartum Depression is a label that does not fit me AT ALL.  My newborn is 5 months old, and when my husband's business collapses, I started a business of my own out of necessity (and inspiration)... and it's thriving. It's the year 2009, and I'm seeing 30 prenatal massage clients a week. I'm growing so fast I have to hire employees to help. I'm making a real difference in the community. I'm a doula now too, on call for as many as five births a month; I'm also now a paid musician, performing music on stage four nights a week; I'm super busy and my husband... well, in addition to trying to get some new work-from-home endeavors off the ground, he stays home with the kids. He sings them to sleep. He sees my baby's first steps. I barely remember my second child's babyhood. It's a blur. I don't love the burden of providing for our family.

I wish I could just be a mom. 

And then I remember, THAT was hard too.

Something feels really wrong. 

I can't breathe.  And I still resent my husband most of the time. He can never do enough. I hate where we are in life. I make sure he knows that it's his fault. We have lots of ups and downs. I'm sinking. 


Postpartum Depression... You sneaky little bitch. 

It is now 2015. My children are both in school, ages eight and six. And my husband? We've been separated for almost two years. 

It's brutal to hear my children cry themselves to sleep sometimes. One night, after their daddy moved out, my youngest (who learned American Sign Language as a baby) signed "Sad. Mom. Dad. Family"-- because the sobs that are shaking his little body prevent him from speaking. 

It has taken me EIGHT YEARS to realize my workaholism is a way of avoiding depression, that I thrive on the highs of accomplishment. I am so busy that I don't ever have to stop to feel anything. And this, in some ways is a good thing. But clearly, like any addiction, it costs me dearly. It costs me my connection with my children. It costs me my marriage. 

Last summer, I mentioned to one of my sisters that everything, and I mean e v e r t h i n g just felt SO hard. 

Like, I'm hungry, but preparing food sounds way too hard. 

Or, I'd pick that spoon up off the floor...later.

"Yeah," she says, "you know that's how my depression feels. Everything is tooooo daaaamn haaaard."

...Which doesn't make sense!  That's just... laziness and resistance.

I notice that some days I just can't handle anything. I have NO patience. NO tolerance. Lots of anger. The smallest misstep sends me into a spiral of hopelessness. Some days I fantasize about rolling my car to make my death look completely accidental.

One morning, you know, the WORST MORNING EVER - I keep my children home from school -- both crying their hearts out because of my angry interactions and frustration with them...with everything. I collapse on the couch in despair. I AM THE WORST MOM EVER AND I SHOULD NOT BE A MOTHER. I call that same sister, sobbing, not able to speak, and she knows. She knows I need help. After we hang up, she sends a text message saying, "Hang on Bec, the cavalry is coming." 

She sends mom over to get the kids. She sends over my brother who happens to be in town, to sit with me. He listens with love to the nonsense pouring out of my mind and mouth. He brings me Starbucks. He reassures me I'm okay and everything will be okay. Two more sisters call me to check on me. They know. They have struggled too. 

I realize

these might be signs of depression.

My midwife agrees, maybe I might function better with a prescription - just to TRY it. Mrs no-drugs-natural-childbirth-natural-everything agrees to manage her mental health with a prescription. I keep it in my purse for a week just to give me time to wrap my head around it. It's terrifying to me to take that step because it seems to go against everything I believe.

It changes my life.

Five days into my prescription, for the first time in over a decade, I wake up "happy" like, normal baseline happy. And it is in that moment that I realize by contrast, how I have been living - underwater gasping for air - thinking THAT'S normal.

Zero feels wonderful when you're used to -10. 

I feel like myself, a self I haven't felt in almost a decade. I can't believe I waited this long. I am so sad. I cry now, for a different reason. I cry because I am so sad that I didn't know. That I didn't get help sooner. 

Postpartum Depression, I finally open up to face you

I had no idea for eight years and maybe more...that you were running my life. 

Nothing is wrong with me... or maybe if there is, it's simply that my brain just doesn't produce enough serotonin, that's all. I am not to blame.

Nor is the father of my children. 

I was convinced HE was the reason I felt terrible all the time. Now, I'm not certain. In fact, I wonder how it would have been different had I had the resources to support HIM emotionally.

Oh Rob, I'm so sorry. Please, please forgive me. I didn't know. I'm SO sorry.

Postpartum Depression,

You took my marriage, you took my joy. You took my peace. 

I finally understand. I see you. I know what you are.

I grieve. I grieve a lot.. but I finally understand. 

And I'm healing

and dealing

with postpartum depression.