The hospital stay went as smoothly as it could. I ate well, got more sleep than I ever would’ve expected, and Aspen was nursing unbelievably well. The birth didn’t go as anticipated, but I was treated well, and my daughter was here. I was over the moon, and felt closer to Matt than ever! Then, we got home.
At first, I thought I was fine. This motherhood thing was new, and almost felt like a fog, it was unreal. These must be normal new mom feelings. I mean, it’s all a bit overwhelming for any new mom, right?
I ate less and less everyday. Not only was I so busy with Aspen that I practically forgot to eat, but I didn’t even feel hungry. I only ate so that I could nourish my milk for her. I hardly got any sleep, and yet I wasn’t tired. Where’s this sleep deprivation everyone talks about? Insomnia kept me up at night. I found peace in being awake and busy with Aspen, so that I wasn’t laying in bed alone with my thoughts.
I had no interest in anything. Matt and I had some good shows and movies recorded for these early days, shows and movies that I would normally be interested in. Ellen didn’t make me laugh anymore. Playing video games required too much energy, I couldn’t focus anyway. I was going day by day, just surviving, just existing. She was still latching well, and slept enough that I wasn’t totally ripping my hair out. This isn’t too bad, I’ve got this.
Then, breastfeeding became increasingly more difficult. My breasts became engorged as my milk came in. The pain of engorgement didn’t even phase me. It was the blood curdling cries of a newborn infant, desperately needing to nurse, but struggling to latch. “You can do it!” I encouraged. “It’s okay, you’ve got it!” I reassured. It took her longer and longer to latch with each nursing session, and she wouldn’t nurse for very long before falling asleep, or choking on the oversupply. I couldn’t stop anxiously watching her sleep, dreading the moment she would cry for milk. I had a constant unsettling feeling, an uneasiness that made me want to crawl out of my skin.
Then, the fog started taking over. Why can’t I do this? I’m a terrible mother! She hates me! I failed at giving birth naturally, now I can’t even breastfeed?! The self-doubt and loathing was cringe-worthy. I snapped at Matt for the most insignificant things, then I cried hysterically when he tried to defend himself. I cried about everything. I cried about nothing. Then, I would feel numb, and just blankly stare, feeling nothing at all.
Matt took over caring for Aspen. I was completely uninterested in life. I laid in bed, hearing Matt struggle, and yet lacked the willingness to help. Aspen started to feel like a stranger to me, like I was suffering for someone else’s child. I was sitting in the glider chair, holding my precious baby girl, and I felt nothing for her. I looked at her and just grieved. Motherhood is nothing like I thought it would be. It’s not just hard, it’s terrible! I don’t know who I am anymore, nothing makes me happy, and for what? I don’t even feel love for my baby! I was utterly shattered in that moment. I couldn’t get a hold of myself. My heart felt literally broken.
I carried her downstairs, trembling from the fear that I can’t do this. I’m not capable. Matt was making dinner, and through a face flooded with tears, I choked, “I need help.” My dearest husband. He nodded and just hugged me with his healing embrace, Aspen swaddled between us. We stood there like that for a while. The relief of admitting I wasn’t okay released my panic. I sniffled occasionally, trying to catch my breath. Matt looked at me intently, “I’ll take care of it,” he said. “Here, just eat.”
And just like that, I was on the road to recovery. The fog of depression and anxiety only took about a week from Aspen’s birth to completely take over. Initially I was stubborn. I thought I could cope on my own. Looking at my daughter, and feeling nothing drove me to get help. I need to do this for me, I need to do this for her. Motherhood will be everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I will love this little girl to bits and pieces. First things first, you need to get help, mama.
There’s more to come, this is only the beginning of my PPD/PPA journey…
Are you struggling with the postpartum period? It’s more common than you think, and you are not alone! In fact, nearly 1 out of 5 women struggle with postpartum depression, and the vast majority of affected women aren’t identified or treated. Know that help is available. I am in treatment, and I am genuinely happier than I have ever been. I have been battling depression and anxiety long before having a baby. It took having a daughter to finally get the help I have always needed. It’s not always easy, but it is unmistakably worth it! Please don’t suffer in silence.
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