The Thing No One Talks About (Postpartum Depression)
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my husband had just started medical school. We had just gotten married and moved, and BAM. We weren’t planning on having babies until a little further down the road, but hey, God’s plan is better than mine. I was a twenty-three-year-old newlywed looking for a job. I wanted to put my BioSci degree to use. Actually, I felt like I had to put it to use. I owed that to my parents who were still paying off my student loans (God bless them for that). Then I got my first big girl job as an insurance agent. I would commute to a town thirty minutes away to sell health insurance while my husband was in school during the day. Salary + commission! YEAH BABY.
I was terrified to tell my new boss that I was pregnant because I felt like they were going to think it was shady that I never divulged that information during any of the interviews (I was 20weeks when I got the job and not showing at all). So stressful. Looking back on those days even now makes me cringe.
That was probably the most difficult year for our marriage. My husband and I would pick at each other over the littlest things because we were both so stressed from work and school. Then our son was born, and things got worse. I had to have a c-section following my 37-week appointment because I was dilating on my own (4cm). I had been planning to give birth naturally, just to see what it was like and to say that I did because I’m vain like that. I had also planned my maternity leave perfectly so that it would sync up with my best friend’s wedding. All of the plans I had completely went to hell.
Maternity leave turned into a debacle all its own because I hadn’t been employed for a full year prior to giving birth, I wasn’t eligible for short-term disability or paid leave, and I hadn’t wracked up enough vacation days. I was on the phone every day with HR trying to figure out how to get a minimum of eight weeks out of this– a c-section being major surgery. Lucky for me, I have some major connections, and we were able to get it settled, but not before I about lost my dang mind dealing with all of this.
I went through some major postpartum depression that year. I felt like I had no control over anything. I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything about my stupid maternity leave. I felt alone because I had no friends in the town we were living in because all I did was work. I felt out of control because I had all these expectations of what having a baby would be like, and it was nothing like what I had planned. I couldn’t bond with my baby. But I sucked it up because I knew I wasn’t supposed to be feeling like this. I had a great life. I had a husband who loved me, a beautiful and healthy baby boy, a mother that cared enough to stay with us for the first couple of weeks to help with the baby, a well-paying job, and the list went on.
I sucked it up until I couldn’t anymore. I don’t remember or care exactly what my breaking point was, but there was a point where I hit rock bottom, and I needed help. I quit my job so I could focus on me.
I struggled to get out of bed. Waking up every day was painful. I was scared to take my baby out in public because what if he started crying and everyone started looking at me? I felt like I was never going to be able to go out to eat or shop or do anything really ever again (or at least until he is five). Depression twists your mind to a point where you become irrational. And the scary thing is, you don’t see it.
I was so ashamed that I had gotten to this point, but you know what the hardest part was? No one but my husband and I and our families knew this was even going on at all. If you saw me in public, I would turn on the usual charm, smile and all. I would bask in the what a perfect little family you have and the you must feel so blessed. You can literally fool the world, and all it takes is a smile.
My husband and I started seeing a family counselor (because that’s totally normal for a 24/25year old couple, right??), and she helped point us in the right direction. We figured out what was causing all of the bitterness between us, and we learned how to effectively communicate with each other. Basically, we had to grow the hell up and stop competing with each other– we’re supposed to be on the same team.
I also started taking an antidepressant. Let me tell you, I felt like a whole new person. I felt normal. How I made it that far in life without Wellbutrin, I’ll never know. It was a game-changer for me. I had more energy than I had had since high school, and I was just happier. I could take the baby out in public, and guess what? If he cries, he cries. No one cares– no one is looking at me or judging me for being a bad mom. People have their own problems to worry about. And if they don’t, then they can bite me. I don’t care. Babies cry (usually in quiet public places), totally normal and okay.
The real light for me came with the move back to our hometown. We were back home. Our families are here. I reconnected with old friends and forged new friendships. I had forgotten I was meant to be a social person because spending time with people has lifted me up in ways that an antidepressant just can’t. I started walking with a friend every morning to get outside. Definitely need to pick that back up– we took a hiatus in the summertime because 100 degrees and toddlers = no bueno. Now that it’s cooler, I am running out of excuses.
We had our second baby shortly after the move, and I knew I needed to be proactive in seeking help. I knew what signs to look for, and I made it my mission to talk to my doctor about my situation. PPD is something that hits you hard and fast, and it screws with your mind. Baby blues are normal. PPD is not. PPD is all-consuming, and if you think you have it, I implore you to seek help. Your family will be better off for it. My husband’s and my relationship has grown so much over the past two years– he’s seen me at my worst, and he’s helped build me back up to where I am today. I am not ashamed anymore that I’ve struggled with depression. I am just that much stronger for it.