When I found out I was pregnant and started thinking about new motherhood and what it would look like, postpartum depression wasn't part of the picture. So when I found myself holding a newborn, crying for no reason, and feeling anything but myself, I was lost. What I thought would be a joyful time in my life, turned out to be difficult, scary, and sad. It's easy to look back and be upset that I was forced to endure something so debilitating, but I refuse to be ashamed of my postpartum depression. In the end, it's part of my mom story, has given me invaluable lessons, and has shaped the kind of mom I am today.
While I've been in therapy before I became a mother, I've never had a mental illness overtake my life the way postpartum depression did. I felt like I wasn't really living, but rather watching my life from the outside. There was a veil of sadness, exhaustion, and uncertainty that kept me an arm's length from my baby, my partner, and my support system, and that veil was reinforced by the social stigma attached to postpartum depression. I spent far too long suffering in silence, because I was so afraid people would judge my parenting the moment I said I needed help. Thankfully and luckily, my partner researched the signs of postpartum depression, knew I was suffering, and encouraged me to seek the help I needed and deserved. With the assistance of medication, a mental health professional, and people who loved me, I realized that not only was postpartum depression common, it was something I didn't have to hide.
That realization was not only life-saving, it helped me understand that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I can now talk about my postpartum depression with confidence. I can say this was part of my story, but it doesn't define me. I can speak with other women and feel connected to them instead of judged by them. So, no, I won't be ashamed of my postpartum depression, and here are just a few of the reasons why:
According to the Center of Disease Control, an estimated 11 to 20 percent of postpartum women experience postpartum depression. Of course, I had no idea how common it was until I experienced it myself, asked for help, and was informed that while I felt alone, I was anything but.
I had nothing to be ashamed of, because while postpartum depression is serious and impacts every woman differently, it's also much more prevelant than most new-moms think. I wasn't "broken" and I wasn't "messed up," I was just a new mom trying to navigate a new life with haywire hormones, lingering trauma, and an overwhelming exhaustion that exacerbated the entire situation.
It Taught Me To Ask For Help
I'll never forget the moment I realized I needed help. I had gone four days without anything close to resembling sleep, I was crying for no reason whatsoever, I didn't want anyone to touch me or be around me, and I was starting to feel lost in what was my new life. I looked at my son and didn't feel close to him, and I knew I needed some help.
I'm sure that moment would have come later on in my mom life if I hadn't of endured postpartum depression, but I'm thankful that it happened when it did. I had an undeniable teaching moment in which I was forced to realize that I cannot do this mom thing by myself, and that was a freeing moment to experience.
It Helped Me Learn That Motherhood Isn't The Same As Martyrdom
After my son was born and until I was pushed to the brink thanks to postpartum depression, I thought I had to do everything by myself in order to qualify as a "good mom." I was responsible for every feeding, every diaper change, every nap time, every late-night cry, every baby bath; every single thing that required effort. I didn't even want my partner to hold my baby, because what kind of a mother would I be if I just sat there and didn't care for my child, right?
Then postpartum depression set in and I couldn't physically, mentally, or emotionally handle every single aspect of parenthood. I was forced to rely on my partner, my mother, and my support system. Thankfully, that necessity lingered long after my postpartum depression ended, and I have learned that martyrdom and motherhood do not have to go hand-in-hand.
It Brought Me Closer To My Partner
For a while there, postpartum depression was a wedge between my partner and I. I pushed him away because I was afraid to admit that I needed additional support after my son was born. Of course, he wasn't having any of that. He knew when to step in and helped me find the professional help I needed. We grew stronger because of postpartum depression, so while I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone (and really hope I never experience it again) I am not ashamed to have gone through it, either.
It's Part Of My Journey As A Mom
Honestly, I can't be ashamed of anything that has brought me to this specific point in my life. I am the mother to a smart, healthy, funny, and wonderful 2-year-old toddler. I am a working mom who (sometimes, on my good days I guess) found a balance that allows me to parent and advance my career simultaneously. Who knows what my life would look like if I didn't experience postpartum depression, right? Maybe I wouldn't have learned the lessons that carried me through epic toddler tantrums, scary parenthood mistakes, and other taxing situations that only motherhood can provide.
I Wouldn't Be Ashamed Of A Broken Bone...
I endured seven knee surgeries in the span of two years because I broke my tibia, fibula, and knee cap. I have never been embarrassed to admit I broke several bones, or talk about how I overcame that physical injury. Mental health is no different.
...And My Mental Health Is Just As Important
My mental health is just as important as my physical health, so why should it be treated any differently? I refuse to allow the social stigma of mental illness make me feel less than. If anything, I should be proud that I overcame postpartum depression with the help of my support system, a professional, and medication.
It Helped Me Realize I Wasn't Alone...
Postpartum depression is a liar, and can trick any new mom into thinking they're alone. At least, that's what happened to me: I was convinced that I was the only mom to ever feel within and without; unsure of the decision to have a child and instantly guilty that I wasn't as happy as the mothers I saw on social media.
However, when I reached out for help and opened up about my experience with postpartum depression, I realized that I wasn't alone at all. I never was, and I never will be, and that lesson has stuck with me through every other part of motherhood. When I think I'm the only one going through nasty sleep regressions or toddler tantrums or just debilitating exhaustion, I remember the time another mom said, "Me, too," when I shared the fact that i had postpartum depression. We are never, ever, alone.
...And Helped Me Connect With Other Moms
The moment I opened up and shared the fact that I had postpartum depression, I was inundated with stories from other women. It was truly incredible. In the span of a few minutes, I felt closer to women I thought were "picture perfect" mothers who never faced a single problem or endured the overwhelming feeling of self-doubt. Now, those women are my closest friends, and I know that I can turn to them for anything and everything, because we've all endured postpartum depression together.