Postpartum depression is defined as “depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue”.
Most people seem to think postpartum depression is something that just happens and goes away all at once. In my experience postpartum depression is something that comes in waves. There are days and maybe even weeks at a time that I feel like I have gained control over this new life, then there are days where I feel completely lost and I can’t see things clearly. Eventually, the beauty finds its way back to me.
We found out we were expecting Lia in January of 2016. From the day we found out we both began to read on anything and everything related to babies. Marcos read “The Expectant Father” and educated himself on pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. We felt really prepared for everything that could come, including postpartum depression. The book included tips on how a partner could help when their significant other was suffering from postpartum depression. With all that research and preparation we thought we had it all under control.
When Lia was born, Marcos took two months off work to stay home and takeover as much as he could. Marcos picked up Zoey from school and had dinner ready on time. If laundry needed to be done-he did it. Determined to create his own bond with Lia he was in charge of all diaper changes. Being the supportive partner that he is he was awake every single time I was up to nurse to cheer me on and make sure I was keeping myself fed and hydrated. At the time Lia was born Marcos was working 375 miles away and had to do so for a few months before he could relocate. As soon as he had to return to work I felt the walls around me caving in. All of the work I had to do seemed to add up on each other and I began to feel like I could not handle it anymore.
I remember a few days after Marcos went back to work I broke down crying. I cried to my mom and she responded with, “You can’t cry. You need to just figure out what you need to do and do it.” I felt like a child who had just been reprimanded and just pushed what I was feeling back. A couple of weeks later it caught up to me again. Not only was I exhausted, but as a first time breastfeeding mother I felt these chains to Lia 24/7. I felt like I needed to get away so bad but could not.
I found myself crying repeatedly but feeling like I had no choice but to keep on pushing through them. Finally I broke down. The exhaustion caught up to me and I felt like I could no longer go one or more so that I did not want to. I contemplated on whether my kids would be better off if I just left. I was so unsure in my ability to take care of myself and my family.
Lia is now 8 months old and I cannot say that I am always okay because I am not. I love my kids so much, but being a new mother is exhausting. Lia used to sleep from 8pm-6am only to wake up, feed, and go right back to bed. I was finally starting to feel “normal” when she decided to start waking up every 2-3 hours again. I feel like a zombie many days. Currently as I am sitting here writing this piece I am fighting between the decision to go to sleep or to stay up and work. More times than not the only time I get to myself is the time after everyone is in bed. Marcos is up for work really early so his bed time is pretty close to the girls’ leaving me a good hour or so to myself if I want. The hard part is-I don’t always want to stay up. I need my rest too.
I feel horrible thinking this some times but I long so much to be able to truly get away for a bit. I mean completely disconnect myself from everything. I want to sleep again. I want to be able to pee in peace! To me, the worst part of postpartum depression is the guilt we can feel to take care of ourselves first. We all know in the back of our minds that we need to take care of ourselves in order to care for our kids but lets be honest-very few of us actually do that. Most of us keep going until we are burnt out, until we are at a breaking point. Why? Because we are moms and we are supposed to do it all. Guess what-we are only human. We go through these immense physical, psychological, and hormonal changes for 10 months, give birth to a tiny human, and then dedicate our lives to caring for those tiny humans! How can we not become depressed? Our world gets turned upside down in a matter of months and we are expected to simply handle it all.
There are days I still want to cry, less than before but nonetheless they are still around. I never sought out professional help. I did not feel it was to the point of needing medication nor did I want to have to take anything so I decide I needed to find ways to help myself. The first step was finding someone to talk to about it. I joined a mom support group on Facebook which made a huge difference in the way I saw things. I put out a post explaining how I was feeling and was overwhelmed with the amount of support and advice I was being given by complete strangers. Although Marcos was extremely supportive he did not understand what I was feeling like these women did.
It is so important for us to talk to each other about how we are feeling. Fortunately for us postpartum depression is acknowledged more than in years past. There is help out there and we need to encourage each other to seek it. Postpartum depression is not something you can plan or prepare for or simply “snap out of it” as many people like to think you can. It comes unexpectedly at times and if not addressed can spiral out of control. Having a group of women who could relate to the way I was feeling helped me better communicate and understand that what I was going through was completely normal. . I made friends with whom I spoke to consistently about what I was feeling and took their advice.
The best advice I got was to take at least 30 minutes to myself. Those 30 minutes can make or break me. There are times that because we are so busy I do not get time to myself and by 3-4 days of it I just want to scream and lock myself up in a room. I found that I had to be very open with Marcos and tell him what I needed from him-to leave me alone or let me leave for 30 minutes for my own sanity. Some times it seems impossible to leave him alone with the girls and I find myself storming off to get away. Today I said I would take out the trash and I did do it but I walked to the further dumpster in our community. It was the most I was able to get away and let me tell you those 10 minutes were not enough.
Maybe once Lia sleeps I will feel better, maybe once Lia is older. Who knows? I am simply hoping that one day at a time I can handle what comes my way. I just know that some times I need to be selfish to feel sane. Some times I need to be selfish for the well being of myself and for my family in the long run.