I cried, a lot. When I say a lot, I don’t mean I shed a few tears, but instead it likens more to a torrential downpour. I had the ugly crying face on repeat, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better.
After giving birth to Aria, I made sure to shower every single day. I read that keeping up with hygiene would help new mothers get back to a routine that promoted mental health and self care. It was time to myself and I obsessed over it, but I used that time to cry. No one would see me break into a million pieces everyday and it didn’t matter how many minutes passed by, no one would ask questions about taking a long shower. It was my hideaway.
Postpartum depression, defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, is a mood disorder in women after childbirth that often results in extreme feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and sadness. Although postpartum depression and the “baby blues” share many of the same symptoms, the blues usually go away within a couple of weeks while postpartum depression can vary for a longer amount of time.
I wondered if I was suffering from PPD, but no, I thought. I couldn’t be. I continued to feel inadequate, worthless, and unfit for the role I was given as a mother. Other times, I felt disgusted with myself and with my body. I knew it took 9 months to have a baby and the recovery period could take longer, but I still couldn’t stand to look in the mirror. I saw someone who was tired, someone who was inexperienced. I saw stretch marks, I saw sagging skin. I saw someone that I didn’t recognize and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know her. Perhaps most of all, I felt alone and ashamed.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, one in nine women are affected by postpartum depression, adding up to more than 3 million cases per year in the United States. The baby blues, according to American Pregnancy Association, affect 70 to 80 percent of mothers after childbirth. As a result of this, a majority of mothers continue to feel isolated and many remain unaware that there are others who are going through the same string of emotions.
You are not alone. This does not make you a bad mother.
I was lucky enough for my mother to stay with us for a few days, I sure needed her help. Aria screamed and cried, and as her mother, how could I not figure out to soothe her? I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to have all the answers.
I remember my mom coming into the room in the middle of the night and telling me to get some sleep, but instead I stood and cried along with my newborn. When my mom left to go home, you guessed it, I cried then too. I was distraught, and even with so many people just a phone call away, I was overwhelmed. I thought of all the women raising their babies without support from others, why should I get to ask for help?
The first few months were such an emotional rollercoaster for both my husband and I that I’m truly surprised that we finally made it on to the other side. I was exhausted and fed up. I was nursing and I even began to feel resentful towards that. He doesn’t get the work I put into this, I would think, he just doesn’t know what I’m going through. We were up every few hours and after I went back to work, it just seemed to pile onto the stress. We fought constantly, but we eventually settled down and communicated with one another.
I’m thinking of you mama, and I think you’re doing an amazing job.
The key here is communication. If you are feeling stressed, saddened, or alone, talk to your doctor. Communicate how you’re feeling with your loved ones and understand that none of this is your fault. A baby is such a dramatic change in life, and while babies bring so much joy and light into our world, we rarely talk about the darker side of things. We are all in this together and as women and mothers, we have to stand together and open up the discussion. Seek help and make your mental health a priority.