It’s worth noting that this pregnancy was different from the beginning. I didn’t feel as good as I had with my first son: no energy, ever-present nausea, and a general feeling of “I’m not myself.” Most unsettling was that I didn’t feel the instant (in-utero) connection with this baby that I felt with his brother; it was as if I had no attachment to the child I was growing. He was there, I was his vessel, and that was the extent of it. It was alarming to say the least. I was terrified that this would continue, that my baby would arrive and I’d experience all the horror stories I’d heard other moms talk about, that he would continue to be a part of me but one that didn’t quite fit.
Mercifully, those fears were unfounded. He arrived and I felt all the wonderful Mama Bear things you expect to feel, so I thought I was in the clear. I chalked my more difficult pregnancy to being older and busier and nothing more. I left the hospital barely giving postpartum depression a second thought. I had my husband and my boys, and I was walking on air. Until I wasn’t.
I thought I was in the clear. Weeks passed and aside from being sleepy and sore, I was feeling mostly great. I didn’t realize that while in most cases the onset of postpartum depression is immediate, you can be fine for weeks (or even months) and then suddenly you don’t recognize yourself anymore. I was okay for about six weeks, and then I was very much not okay.
What not enough people tell you is that PPD wears many masks. For me, I never wanted to hurt my baby; I felt connected in all the right ways. I adored and loved him so much it was overwhelming, just like it was with my older son.
No, I didn’t want to harm him or myself, but when I brought him home I didn’t realize I’d also brought home some new friends: sadness and anger. Both were pervasive and all-consuming. There was no logical reason for me to feel either and certainly not to the extent that I did, but my every waking moment was one or both of these emotions, always to the ultimate degree.
I don’t know exactly what PPD does. I know it’s chemical and hormonal and shows itself in various ways. I know that there is tremendous shame associated with it because what kind of mother is selfish enough to be unhappy when what she should really be is grateful for a healthy baby? Don’t you know there are people who would die to be in your shoes? How dare you feel sorry for yourself! You should be over-the-moon.
It takes nine months to properly “cook” a baby and at no point in any of them does anyone mention that in the aftermath you can feel both immense joy and paralyzing despair. It’s not always an either/or.
This was my rock bottom. Truth be told, I’ve struggled with depression off and on throughout my life. I thought I’d summarily dealt with those issues and tucked them neatly way in the box labeled “Things I no longer think about.” A month or two into my dance with PPD, I realized that perhaps I hadn’t actually worked through anything; maybe I’d just pushed it down far enough that it didn’t come up anymore. It occurred to me that PPD brought those things back into the fold, and it honestly felt like someone was rubbing salt on the wound that was my existence.
In that darkness, I somehow found a penlight of hope; I decided that I couldn’t live this way anymore, that I had to first address the immediate issue of postpartum depression and then begin to really deal with my stuff. I wasn’t sure how to do such a thing, and I would try a lot of things before I found anything that felt like it was even slightly beneficial.
I began a total overhaul, from the inside out. This was the beginning of my journey to better. The woman who often found herself thinking “They (my family) deserve so much better than me” was finally saying “I deserve better than this.”
I want to know: Have you experienced a “rock bottom” in your own life? What changes did it inspire?