Everyone asks me, “How did you get into the whole sleep consulting thing?”. I typically tell them about my non-sleeping kids, the lack of sleep, and about wanting to learn more about baby sleep so I could help other families. But…there is more to the story. It’s a combination of non-sleeping kids and mental health struggles.
I have dealt with depression most of my adult life. I have been on some form of anti-depressant since I was 26. I was in graduate school and hit the lowest point so far in my life. I went to class but that’s it. If I was at home, I was in bed. I finally got the courage up to speak to a doctor and the rest is history. I was 38 when I had my first child. I was ecstatic! At my first appointment, I was told I needed to wean off all medications while pregnant and while breastfeeding, if I chose to do so. So…that’s what I did! I wanted a healthy baby, right? I was the perfect example of having risk factors and being told to discontinue medication. I was not informed there were other options for me. It was a non-negotiable. Pregnancy sucked. I hated every minute of it. Seriously. I was on complete bedrest at 32 weeks. My son decided he was coming at 36 weeks. He was a healthy, beautiful baby boy.
Unfortunately, I had to stay for 10 more days due to late onset pre-eclampsia. I expected to feel relieved and joyous over this miracle that I had brought into this world. However, depression was twofold after birth and I immediately requested to go back on meds. I assumed I couldn’t breastfeed so I quit that too.
On top of the intense depression, I was guilt stricken for not being able to do the one thing I thought a mother was supposed to do. Feed her child. I remember sitting for those first 6 weeks of my maternity leave just holding my baby. Sitting in his nursery, rocking and holding him. Never speaking to him, snuggling, or anything. I was emotionless. I suffered in silence. I had waited my whole life to get married and have a baby. Why was I so miserable? The antidepressant helped but sleep deprivation didn’t. I was exhausted but I managed to pull myself together, go back to work at 6 weeks, and put on a good front for everyone to see. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my child. I did. I do! I just never felt that connection that I thought I would when I first saw him.
I had my second child at 42. I stood up for myself this time. I told my physicians I was staying on the medications. I didn’t want to go through what I went through after my son. It definitely made a difference in the intensity of my depression postpartum. However, a new symptom reared its ugly head. Anxiety. Woah! I didn’t want anyone to hold her. I was terrified of something happening to her. Terrified of doing something wrong. Terrified I wasn’t making enough milk and she was going to die. I wasn’t aware of support groups and was so tired that I couldn’t even imagine going to therapy. Plus, I could totally handle it, right? These feelings are real!
My children are 5 & 7 now. I still struggle with both depression/anxiety and I hate it. I feel like I am not the best wife and mother that I can be and I’m failing my husband and children. I constantly have to tell myself “You don’t have to be perfect. You just need to show up”! If you know someone who may be dealing with similar feelings…just ask her.⠀I have vowed to leave no sleep deprived mother behind!