forewarning: this post is long and personal. if you’re not fully committed to me, you may want to sit this one out.
I like to write positively on this blog. There is so much about motherhood that can be labeled F.M.L. and while that stuff can be hilarious and real, I just never found my knack with complaining positively about motherhood.
I feel like I have done a bit of a disservice with this aspect of my blog, though, because I get emails and people reaching out asking me how do I do it? How do I keep it all together? How I am such an inspiration.
From the bottom of my heart, you don’t know how much I love hearing that, but I need it to be known that I have bad days, too. Really bad days.
I struggled with post partum depression for over a year and am really just now starting to feel okay. I’m still not feeling okay enough to post about it, but I feel like it’s a necessary step in this blog and in my own life. There are parts of my life I keep private here, and I thought depression would be one of those things, but I would never want to come off as pretending I’ve just “got it all together!” when I face the same struggles as every single mother out there.
I didn’t feel the need to write about my hard days as I was working through them because that wasn’t going to help me. It helps me to write about the happy parts of my life so I can reflect on how many things I have to be thankful for, even when sometimes it’s really hard to feel thankful.
Also, I was ashamed to admit that it was hard for me to feel thankful about anything. I thought, who do I think I am feeling sad about anything?? what do I have to be sad about?
But that’s the thing about post partum depression.. often times there’s nothing to be depressed about, and that alone is just… depressing.
For the first 3 years of my marriage, my life was impossibly happy. My life with a toddler and infant was my favorite time ever. I felt so happy! I prided myself on being a good and loving mom, I enjoyed it so much. Night time feedings didn’t bother me, I enjoyed them thoroughly. Toddler tantrums made me anxious, but I could see how much they were teaching me, and teaching Harlo, and teaching us about each other. I felt ready for everything that motherhood had to give me… well almost everything.
Up until Stella was 11 months old, she was the sweetest little mama’s baby you’ve ever met. She loved to nurse and I loved to provide that to her and I felt so bonded and so connected to her through nursing. During our nursing sessions, I used that quiet time to sit down and thank God and just meditate. I would pray about how thankful I was for my life and grateful I was to be able to nurse my sweet baby. I had always wanted to nurse Harlo longer, and I felt lucky to be able to have such a good go with Stella.me nursing my little Stella.
I never really considered weaning Stella. I never had an age limit or a plan to quit, I just enjoyed every second of time I had with her… not fully realizing that time would come to an end at some point. And it did. It came quickly an abruptly and I wan’t ready for it at all.The very last day I would ever nurse my baby.
Photo credit: YAN
The first night Stella wouldn’t nurse to be comforted at a late night waking, I thought I was cool with it, but burst into tears (a rare occasion for me) as soon as Brady came in to help. The next day, I’d find myself tearing up every time I realized she was done nursing… and the next few days as well.
A week later, I told Brady, “I just can’t believe I’m this sad… I just feel so sad.” but I couldn’t say anymore without crying. I had a hard time even looking at Stella without crying. Logically, I knew she was just coming up on her first birthday and that it was a totally successful time-span with nursing, but somewhere inside of me I felt crazy. I felt like time had pulled the rug out from underneath me. Where in the world did that year go? I started to dwell.
For months I lived in this foggy sadness but I was too afraid to say anything. I’m still afraid to say anything.
People will think I’m crazy for being so sad over my 1 year old not nursing anymore.
But Stella not nursing was just the tip of the iceberg. For the last few years, I had thrown myself into pregnancy and labor and delivery and planning a natural birth and so on. I was a mom to babies, and the role fit me so well. I couldn’t grasp what my life would be like if I wasn’t a mom to babies. With each milestone, walking, the first birthday… while I was happy to celebrate such big occasions, the sadness just seemed to sink deeper. One day in particular, my head was so foggy with sadness that I finally scared myself enough to ask for help. I told Brady that this sadness wasn’t going away, that it wasn’t just about nursing anymore (6 months later) and that I think I needed more help than I could give myself. I had been eating right, going on walks, doing yoga, meditating, praying.. I had been trying to just pull myself out of this funk. To wake myself up. But for the life of me, I couldn’t force myself awake. I called my doctor and admitted that I thought I might have post partum depression (which they didn’t consider because I didn’t have a newborn, I had a one-year-old) but in my own research, I found that PPD can onset anytime in the first two years after birth. TWO YEARS. That seems like a long time, and an even longer time when you’re in the drudges of depression.
PPD is such a misunderstood sickness, in my opinion. I always thought that women who got post partum were women who couldn’t adjust to motherhood as easily, or who felt too overwhelmed. Women who don’t enjoy being mothers, is sort of what I thought. I adjusted just fine so I assumed I would never have PPD. But in fact, it’s almost the opposite. I liked being a mother so much that it literally hurt. I was so connected with my babies that it pained me to watch them grow into toddlers. I was so happy that I felt sad that it might end. And once that depression grabs hold, nothing can shake it.
Having PPD for me was sort of like living in a colorless world. The sadness made me numb to any other feeling. I knew I enjoyed things, I knew things made me happy, but with depression at my side, I couldn’t feel any of that enjoyment, love, or happiness. It was like eating my favorite meal with no taste. It made me full, but there was no satisfaction. It was so unbelievably frustrating.
I am a mom who likes to live naturally. I feed my kids healthy, mostly organic meals. We take vitamins daily. We cure sicknesses with essential oils.. I’m a self proclaimed hippie. However, I’ve never been against western medicine, I just feel it has it’s place. When none of my natural remedies work, we look outside the box and see what western medicine has to offer us. I treated my depression the same way.
I hated the idea of taking medication every day to make me feel happy, but it became necessary for me. More than wanting to be healthy or natural, more than not wanting to rely on medication for anything, I wanted to be myself again. I wanted to be the great mother I knew I was. That made the decision to medication rather easy.
I wish I could say that when I turned to my last resort that everything was peaches and pumpkins (is that a thing?) but it all honesty, I ended up trading one symptom for the next. My first medication made me feel less depressed, but it drained my patience to pretty much nothing. So, I was feeling happy as long as no one made any noise or movement that I didn’t thoroughly approve of. Not a remedy for someone with two young children. My second medicine made me feel a little more happy, super productive but gave me debilitating anxiety attacks. I tried a few more with similar results. Finally, I came to terms that post partum depression is like any other sickness. You can’t just snap yourself out of it, and in my case, you can’t just take a pill to make it magically go away. Once the sickness runs its course, you’ll be free from it’s pain.
I’m happy to say that toward the end of the summer, just over a year later, I got hints of myself back. I had not been taking any medication and decided to embrace the fact that I was depressed. I decided not to be ashamed anymore. I had given birth twice in the last few years and this was just something I was going to have to go through.
It seems like when I finally had accepted it, it started loosening it’s grip. C’est la vie, I suppose.
Now, on the other side of depression, I can see how I have benefited. My perspective on life changed and is now more centered. My faith grew more in that year than it could have in a lifetime, I’m pretty sure. And I feel pretty much exactly how I felt about going overdue with my second baby; it was miserable while it lasted, but it was for the best in the end. I learned so much and I’m glad to have experienced such raw motherhood.
I’m glad I could share this part of my story with you. It took a lot of courage, but I feel peace in my heart. I hope that if anyone is struggling with PPD reading this that you may feel hopeful of life on the other side, and that you might be braver than me and open up about it. I pray for each one of you struggling in your life.