The year I lost myself to postpartum depression

I didn’t admit I had postpartum depression until long after it was over.

After our daughter was born, I was consumed with guilt that I felt anything other than joyous. After all, I finally had the baby girl I’d always wanted — ruffles, headbands, lacy dresses, Mary Jane socks and all.

I also had an amazing toddler who made me laugh and planted sloppy kisses on his new baby sister. I had a husband who loved me and worked hard at two jobs. I wasn’t racing against the clock at the end of a maternity leave because I didn’t have one — I was lucky enough to work from home.

What did I have to be sad about, exactly? It all sounded great, in theory.

Except for the fact that my baby girl screamed for hours every single evening unless I held a soother firmly plugged into her cry-hole, draped her over my sweaty forearm and walked the floors wishing I could just go to sleep.

My toddler destroyed his room daily, required numerous ER visits for his daring antics, and don’t get me started on the stressful ear surgeries and speech therapy visits because, right, he didn’t speak … at all.

My husband was never home because of his two jobs and we only had one vehicle, which means he had a vehicle — always — and I was stuck at home — always. We fought too much. We didn’t understand what the other person was going through because we were worlds apart.

I was back to work (from home) before I was even allowed to drive after my C-section, and there were days when it felt like I couldn’t string two sentences together. Days when both of my babies screamed while I tried, desperately, to finish an assignment. We were broke and it felt like it was all my fault.

I was scared to tell people how I felt in case they’d throw me into a psych ward against my will. I thought about the mothers who dress their children in their church clothes, take them for ice cream, tuck one under each arm and jump off a bridge. Was I going to get to that point? I didn’t recognize myself or my thoughts.

I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed if I took medication for depression or anxiety, and I wasn’t willing to give that up (see above: broke). I thought people would think less of me as a mother — that I was too selfish or weak to handle life with two kids. I wondered why none of my friends seemed to feel this way, and figured there was something very wrong with me.

I cried in the shower. I said nothing.

Back then, I didn’t know postpartum depression is incredibly common — affecting up to 1 in 5 women who give birth. I didn’t know you can safely take certain antidepressants and still breastfeed. I didn’t know it was OK to ask for help and admit I needed it.

I fought and scraped to get through the darkest year of my life, and the clouds parted eventually. Our circumstances slowly improved — we went from three jobs and one car to two jobs and two cars — and things felt easier.

If I could go back and talk to that blank-eyed girl, disheveled in cut-off yoga pants and a nursing tank, jiggling the baby that wouldn’t ever stop fussing while a toddler screams nearby in his booster seat, I would remind her that she’s not alone. That it’s OK to feel like everything’s falling apart. That it’s a hard season, but it’s not going to last forever.

Yes, I made it out of postpartum depression, but it didn’t have to be that hard. It didn’t have to be as hard as I made it.

I would tell her to speak up.

So what do you think?

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