The Brochures Don’t do it Justice

I want. I need… put into writing, what Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety looked like for me.

It didn’t look anything like what the brochures told me it would look like. It didn’t feel anything like what you intellectualize before having a baby. When you thought to yourself “if I have these bulleted feelings, I’ll speak up and tell my dr!”. “I’m an informed, smart person who will make smart decisions upon having this baby.”

For me, PPD/PPA was a sneaky vixen that tricked my mind into thinking that every new mom felt like this. That I was living in a cruel joke of a world where no one tells you that as soon as that baby pops out, you will never feel the same way again. The sneaky vixen told me that we’d made a huge mistake. We weren’t supposed to have a baby. That what I thought I wanted more than anything my whole life, was something that just wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel like this baby I was holding was mine. It belonged to the universe but I wasn’t his mom.

I felt wholly and completely inadequate. HOW on earth was this baby placed in our care, when we did not deserve to be his parents. I’ll never be able to raise this child properly.

This part makes me so sad now. Because I think this is the part of the illness, when at a much higher degree, leads to mothers doing the unthinkable. I never thought about doing that but I understand and have empathy for the mind-set that gets them there. I can only explain it as thinking that your baby would be better off without you. But even that is just an intellectual interpretation of that feeling. It’s indescribable. Read Brook Shield’s “Down Comes the Rain”, she does a brilliant job of explaining these feelings.

If you knew me during that time period, you’re thinking “I had no idea” or “how were you hiding that?”. Here’s the thing. I had no idea myself. That’s the tricky thing about mental illness. When you’re in it, especially for the first time, you have no idea. All the symptoms mirrored what a new mom should be feeling – or so I thought.

The brochure says “You can’t sleep”. Duh, of course I can’t sleep, I have a newborn, dummies.

The brochure says “you feel hopeless”. Ok, yeah, so maybe I just have the baby blues, I’ve read about that.

The brochure says “sudden weight loss or gains”. First of all, dummies, how can you have two extremes for the same symptom? Yeah, I lost all weight and then some in about two weeks postpartum but damn, breastfeeding really takes those pounds off.

These were all ways I rationalized my thoughts and feelings.

I didn’t let on to anyone how I was feeling. You may be thinking “if she was hiding it, then she knew she had it”. This is something I’m still trying to figure out. How did I not know I was sick, but knew enough to not show that side in public? The only thing I can figure is that the same way you wouldn’t bombard an acquaintance with how bad your day was; I wasn’t going to bombard my friends and family with my “bad day”.

“After all, all new moms experience this pit of hopelessness, but it’s become very obvious that we just don’t talk about it” – that is how twisted my thinking was. So, I never reached out for help for PPD/PPA. I probably still have unresolved trauma from that time in my life. Which is what i’m trying to work through by writing this.

The story does have a happy ending though. I grew out of PPD. I didn’t have a miraculous recovery, it just took time, years really, to move past it. It wasn’t until it was out of my system that I was able to look back and retrospectively understand what I was gong through. It wasn’t “Something that happens to everyone and no one talks about”. It was “Something that happens to people who have a chemical imbalance in their brain and no one talks about”.

In retrospect I can pinpoint events that probably contributed to my downward spiral. I went into labor three weeks early, completely unaware and unprepared for a 5lb. 10oz baby. In the same week he was born, my grandfather died and my father-in-law died. The baby also came down with the worst case of colic you’ve ever heard of. Screaming from 5pm – 11pm for almost 2 months.

I compartmentalized faster than you’ve ever seen someone compartmentalize and I pushed all that aside. I can do this, i’m strong. But the strong can crumble and no one is strong enough to withstand chemical imbalances in your brain.

After the birth of my second child, while I did experience baby blues, it was no where near the extent of my first child. This really clued me in to the fact that something was wrong the first go-around. The fact that I immediately bonded with this lil’ peanut and knew she was ours and she belonged in our family. That is what I grieve about for my first experience with motherhood. That I didn’t get to experience the deep, full human experience of having a baby.

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