A little about my past with depression:
Depression has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve talked about my life openly here on my blog, including my issues with depression. It’s not only impacted my life but also the lives those in my immediate family. The more awareness I kept in the back of my mind when facing everyday situations, the more I felt equipt to handle what challenges walked into my path. (I spoke openly about this here in this Vlog.)
When we found out we were pregnant, I was elated but also extremely anxious. A huge piece of pregnancy, I knew, was the hormonal imbalances and changes that were sure to shift my mood. The saint that he is, my husband has always been open to learning more and more about me and my broken past. I was very open with him when it came to my concerns over having postpartum depression when I came home from having the baby. Because he is a very hands-on guy and also wanted to support me as best he could, he took off almost 2 months from work to welcome home baby K.
And so it began.
The moods didn’t kick in right when I got home. I know that we were way too focused on caring for a tiny human for me to even have the brain space to think about my emotions. I struggled with nursing from the moment we left the hospital and feel that’s where most of my moodiness stemmed from initially. I immediately felt I was an inadequate mother because I wasn’t able to feed my baby the way that God structured my body to be able to. I jumped head-first into too many Facebook groups and websites that only added fuel to the fire. Before I knew it, I went from having that “new mom crazy glow” to sinking deep into a hole of sadness and stillness and just not giving a sh** about a whole lot.
I openly shared my “new mom” journey on my personal Facebook profile and here on my blog. Each day seemed REALER than the next. Some days I was so caught up in my adorable love bug that I felt elation and no sense of negativity at all. Yet during other days I could barely muster the energy to get out of bed, let alone snuggle with this beautiful little miracle who I was learning to take care of.
What did postpartum depression look and feel like for me?
Sometimes I felt numb; I felt disconnected. Other times I felt angry; I wanted to run away. I immediately dispised breastfeeding. I felt like a failure and didn’t want to do it if I wasn’t doing it right. I supplemented with formula, which made me feel like I wasn’t able to feed K properly. Looking back, I was only adding more unneeded stress to myself. I also felt secluded. Every new mom feels some sort of isolation when the mission is to feed a baby and sleep intermittently through their cries it seems. I was once extroverted but not hated the idea of leaving the house. The thought of having to take care of K and be around others [especially in a public setting] wasn’t on my list of “things I wanted to do for fun.” I became a recluse and stayed in the house because it was where I felt safe and controlled. I felt inadequate for K. For no reason at all I would think that I wasn’t a good mother, so why try to be? I began to compare myself to all of the other successful breastfeeding and smile-doting mothers I saw out and about. I felt distant from K even though I was with her all of the time.There were times I remember handing K off to her grandparents of to my husband and going into the other room to just cry. It would happen for no apparent reason. I would look at her and wonder if I could take care of her or if I was good enough to. I felt disconnected for what seemed like forever. I knew in my heart that I loved my baby girl, but I would have no energy to smile as tears gushed from my face uncontrollably at times.
Thankfully, I opened up to those closest to me about my feelings. I knew that in order to be the best mom I could for K, I had to be my best self and recognize that these feelings were valid but temporary. My DH didn’t understand how I felt but made sure to be there for me when I needed someone stronger than myself to take over. Friends who I am forever grateful for reminded me what a great mother I was and that I would only get better over time. They reminded me that this season in life was temporary and that I was doing the best that I could. Reminiscing back to my darkest days of depression lead me to OPEN UP and not hide. Hearts opened and ears listened so that I wasn’t as alone as I felt on the inside.
I came out of the fog.
I remembered that I wasn’t to hop back into my post-baby body journey too soon. Yet, I knew that exercise was such a vital part of my healing in life and would continue to be during this phase. As soon as I was cleared to move, I took the doc’s orders one step at a time. I began walking slowly and rebuilding my core safely. I used my discipline as a fitness trainer and focus as a mom who wanted to mend properly. (Here are posts where I share tips on coming back into fitness post-baby.) I was able to continue my fitness journey post-baby safely. The endorphins from each workout seemed to ease the negative vibes formulating in my head. I remembered that patience was the key to me seeing progress in the long term after having K.
I got rid of anything around me that didn’t serve a positive purpose in my life. That came in the form of social media accounts, people around me, things I was doing, TV that I watched, music that I listened to – I made a decision to cultivate positivity all around me. I knew that in order to be my best for my daughter, I had to use the energy I had each day for what was best for us. I also let go of CONTROL. Only God could see the landscape of what was ahead of me, so I would do myself no justice stressing out over what was out of my control.
I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel but worked to grow into a more positive space each day.
It could all be in my own head, but I felt a huge sense of relief once K weaned at 5 months. It seemed that right after that, the pressure of being her main source of nutrition fleeted and I could focus on feeding her period. She took well to solid foods and loved almond milk from the jump (she never did well with dairy.) I felt that I could have my boobs back. I felt that K could get the nutrition she needed even if I didn’t provide it to her. I knew that didn’t make me a bad mom, but instead, a mom who cared about the well-being of her child no matter which avenue it took. The fear I had of not being able to bond with her aside from nursing was gone. She and I grew closer together even after our private boob-to-face sessions ended.
I confided in my doctor. She knew of my history with depression and anti-depressants. We discussed me staying off of medication as long as I checked in with her periodically at our appointments. My bout with postpartum depression lasted well into when Ki was 5-6 months old; this was about the same time my mom came to stay with us because of her own health. God gave me the strength to handle what seemed like a flood of emotions and issues in our home.
I needed to find my other outlets.
I remembered my mission on social media: to keep it real so that others who need to hear my truth can relate to me. I journaled the first year of K’s life on my blog and on my personal page as a way to document how I felt. Writing posts became more about being rooted in realness more than ever. I made a promise to myself when I began blogging and sharing my journey in 2012 that I wouldn’t only share the highlight reel. If social media is a part of our daily lives, why not be the person who speaks the truth. There are enough profiles that create comparison issues in us; we need more honesty to help us relate and process different seasons. I quickly realized that I was not alone in how I felt and that opening up about my day-to-day kept me aware of the process.
Postpartum Depression does fade but reminds me to keep sharing.
I’ve always reminded myself that any season, whether good or bad, is temporary.
Corinthians 4:17-18 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
I trusted in God to remind me of his purpose for helping me become a mother. K is going to be a gamechanger in this world and needs a strong mom. Being a strong mom also taught me to allow others to help me. If it weren’t for our support system around us that included friends and family I know I wouldn’t have handled this phase as well.
I have a renewed sense of self that allows me to be the best mama I can be, the best wife I can be, the best daughter, friend, and family member I can be. I’ve been reminded that I am only human and am not expected to be perfect or not have flaws.
K and I and I are closer than ever now, even minus the boob show. She has her own seasons where she wants to be clung to my ankle and I don’t argue with those because I know they’ll fade also. I’m proud of the mom I’m becoming and grateful to be able to share our journey through life in whatever way possible.
If you’re a mama reading this who feels alone or unsure if you have PPD, know you are NOT alone. Know that you aren’t meant to tackle this thing solo and that people DO care about you! Know also that “baby blues” or “PPD” can take on different forms in everyone. Many times we’re stuck wondering if we ‘just’ have “baby blues” or actual “postpartum depression” and talking to a medical professional to get the proper treatment steps can be just the solution for that inquiry. No matter what the title is, what you feel is REAL. You’re going through a LOT of transition whether you’re a first or second or whatever time mom. These feelings don’t have to be defined to be felt. Having support around you that is positive and understanding is the key to getting through this season in life. Knowing that it doesn’t last forever and will fade can give hope to enjoy life with your little one in the future!