What is the saddest you’ve ever felt? What is the darkest period you’ve ever been through?
Have you ever felt completely without hope?
I held her close to my chest. She was dressed in a sleeper and I could feel her heat radiating against me like an electric blanket. Instead of looking at her, I stared at a random point across the room.
Looking at her just made it worse. Made it feel more real.
I was 5 months postpartum with our daughter. I loved her more completely than I could ever love anyone, and I felt her love every time I held her. I was so conflicted by that. I didn’t feel as though I deserved the love she showed me, and I didn’t feel like I deserved to love her.
Love was reserved for those worthy of the emotion, and I certainly was not one of those people.
It started almost right after she was born. Nursing was a battle. Her latch was so painful that I was in tears every time I fed her.
There was so much I could have done. I could have seen a lactation consultant. I could have switched to formula. Instead, I allowed myself to slowly start to slip away. That’s what felt natural to do.
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I allowed myself to bask in the darkness I felt creeping up on me as the days passed. I allowed myself to hide in the loneliness of new motherhood. Nursing allowed me to hide unnoticed during family parties. It gave me space to let my feelings consume me. It was simultaneously isolating and fulfilling.
New mothers need anything else but isolation. They need community and support and advice and love. The last thing they need is to feel completely alone. But I chose that. I felt my sadness growing over me like a new skin, and rather than tell someone I was struggling, I put on a brave face and struggled in secret.
Diagnosed with depression
I had been diagnosed with depression when I was 13.
I was medicated for most of that time but around the time my daughter was born, I was going through a phase where I didn’t accept that medication could help me. And then I got pregnant and used that as an excuse to not seek treatment. After all, I didn’t want anything to affect the baby.
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By the time I was 5 months postpartum, I was in probably the darkest place I’ve ever been in my life. It would have been so easy to say something, to just tell someone that I needed help. All it would have taken was a two minute conversation. But I chose not to. It was easy but it felt too hard.
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I wish I was dead
I wished I was dead almost every minute of the day. The only thing that kept me going was my love for my daughter and my husband, and not wanting to leave him with the responsibility of raising her alone.
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I didn’t want her to grow up and ask questions about her mom, and leave him with the burden of explaining why I was no longer around.
I was hanging on by a thread, until one day the thread snapped and it all came spilling out in a puddle of tears and shame. I told my husband that I really needed help. He promised he would help in whatever way he could. And that started my journey to getting help again.
What I’ve Learned
I have learned so much since then. I could write a whole book about it, and it has been part of the reason I started blogging. I wanted to share my struggle with other people going through the same thing.
- Nursing is not the end all be all solution. My issues with nursing were really what triggered my postpartum depression and if I could tell new moms anything, I would say: There is nothing wrong with formula feeding. They say breast is best, but really a happy mom is more important.
- Be honest with your partner. There might be simple things he or she can do that can help ease some stress for you. They are there to support you.
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- Reach out to other nearby family or friends. It can be hard once your partner returns to work. Don’t be afraid to call your mom or someone else who lives nearby. Ask if they can come over periodically so you can catch a nap or a bubble bath. I’m sure they are happy to help.
- Don’t neglect yourself. You were this whole amazing, complex person before you had a baby. There are corners of your heart that motherhood will never satisfy. Read books. Take classes. Work out. Travel. As your child grows, make sure you are growing too. It is something you will not regret, and your child will thrive as they watch you thrive. A happy mom makes for a happy child.
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Don’t forget: the transition into parenthood is incredibly difficult. Make sure you take extra precautions to care for yourself. Because you matter.
You matter so very much.
Update: My daughter is now 4 and such a joy. She is the sweetest, most tender little soul. We also gave her a sister 2.5 years ago.
About the Author
Jen is the writer behind the blog, Diffusing the Tension. She lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband and two children (ages 4 and 2). She has bipolar disorder and frequently writes about her experiences with that. In her spare time, she is a bookworm, TV junkie, and fitness nut.
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