** I wrote this several months ago, and looking back on it I just feel so sad for that girl. Four months later I am much happier, much healthier, and am still so grateful to that friend who validated my feelings and encouraged me to talk to someone.
“Around the third day post partum, your emotions will hit a peak, and you’ll feel sad for a little while. If that doesn’t go away, come see me, because you may be suffering post partum depression.”
Those were the words of wisdom my doctor gave me after an excruciating 24 hour labor, which followed an exhaustingly difficult 40 weeks of pregnancy. I nodded through tears as I held my brand new baby girl.
Three days later, I felt that peak. I spent the whole night crying for no reason, as I watched my daughter softly breathing next to me, and her father sleeping soundly on the other side of her. I woke him up and asked him to hold my hand while I sobbed. Clinging to him with one hand, with my daughter gripping my pinky finger on the other hand, I thought to myself this is it, this is the depression my doctor warned me about.
After a few weeks, it faded, and I felt normal. Sure, I was tired and cranky at times, and I would often get irrationally angry at my husband. Why couldn’t he breastfeed for a change? But for the most part, I felt like myself.
We made it through the first year; it definitely wasn’t all sunshine, but we made it. And by her first birthday, we felt stronger than we had ever been in our relationship. Then her birthday passed, and it was time to start back to work.
I took a job that was several steps down from where I had been pre-pregnancy. Multi tasking had always been a skill of mine, and I loved big projects, but as a new mom I was acutely aware of the fact that a busy job and overtime didn’t mix well with my desire to be the one to put my little girl to bed every night. Plus, I told myself it was a good way to ease back into the working world.
I spent the first
month week crying on my drive in every morning. I would drop my daughter at daycare, see the distress on her face, and cry. I would get to work and find the simplest tasks overwhelmed me. I would have three stacks of paperwork, and it would take me half an hour to decide which one to start with. The anxiety over making a mistake was crippling. Many times, I would eschew working to instead create a family budget on just my partner’s income. Could we manage? Could I quit working?
This isn’t the “me” I remember. This isn’t the version of me who wanted to climb the corporate ladder, and run a company. This isn’t the person who got up each morning and got dressed, excited to go and tackle a complex problem at work, and felt the intrinsic satisfaction of a job well done. What was wrong with me – had I gone soft?
Four months passed, and I silently suffered. I didn’t dare express any of this to co-workers lest it be held against me. I didn’t share with friends or family, because I was afraid of their reactions. Each evening, I came home from work, picked at my supper, and then took my baby girl to bed at 7:30pm sharp. I laid there next to her while she slept, watching Netflix on my tablet, telling myself that tomorrow I would have a better day. I started to lash out when my husband asked why I didn’t get up and spend time in the evening with him. I really started to yell when he suggested I wasn’t pulling my weight around the house. After all, how am I supposed to do laundry or dishes when I work all day, and am needed by the baby all night?
Finally, I reached out to someone. I felt like the only person in the world who felt the way I did, and I felt like if I didn’t tell someone, I would go crazy. Literally crazy. I told a dear friend of mine, who is also a mother, how I felt. I was expecting either a joke about how all mothers feel that way, or judgment about how I wasn’t handling motherhood very well. What I got was very different. She said to me, and I quote: “I love you. Go to the doctor. GO NOW. GO GET HELP.”
I realized that the anxiety, the exhaustion, the quick turn from normal to angry – none of it was normal. None of it was an adjustment period I had to get through, and none of it meant I had gone soft. Post partum depression is a very real thing, something that strikes a lot of new mothers. But new mothers aren’t the only ones who can be affected; just because your child has made the leap from baby to toddler, doesn’t mean you are immune.
My post partum depression didn’t hit until a year after giving birth, and it didn’t come in the same form that my doctor, parenting blogs, or friends had warned me about. I learned that you should never suffer in silence. If something feels wrong, tell someone. Don’t keep it bottled up because social media tells you that a good mother should be able to work, clean the house, prepare fun dinners, and do brilliant sensory crafts on weekends with a smile on her face. I wish I had reached out sooner. Now that I have discussed it with a doctor, and with those closest to me, I’m finally enjoying being back to work and regaining that piece of myself outside of the home.