It’s the end of january 2019. I’m sitting in my hospital room holding a tiny pink bundle fresh from heaven and anxiously awaiting my discharge instructions.
The nurse brings in a questionnaire for me to fill out. You know the one, with the scales about suicidal thoughts and inquiries about mental health. I read them all out loud and laugh my way through it. What a ridiculous notion that I, having finally reached the finish line of this marathon esque pregnancy could ever consider being unhappy. I did have the world’s most perfect baby, after all.
The time we’d been waiting for had arrived. The I.V. was removed from her chubby infant arm, that weird meeting with the billing department was over, and the car seat check complete. Baby and I were both diapered and ready for departure.
We arrived at our carefully prepared apartment and gingerly lifted her small frame out of the carseat. It was so quiet. No one would be coming to check on me, no more tests, no nurse coming to relieve us so we could nap. I felt a wave of something, but to my surprise it wasn’t relief.. It was fear.
Upon realizing we have no food, My husband offers to run to the store and pick up some groceries. He tucks me into bed and puts her next to me in the bassinet. She’s fast asleep, making the sweetest baby coos in the world. My exhausted body falls into a feverish sleep, no doubt made stranger by the lingering traces of hospital grade painkillers. Suddenly I am pulled out of my sleep by her cries. I panic.
What does that mean? Is she hungry? Uncomfortable? Oh no. Is she dying? I start to wonder exactly how cold it is in our tiny duplex, all the while realizing how staggeringly unprepared I am to be alone with this baby.
A wave of pure terror passes through me. I pull her out of the bassinet and start to sob violently.
I call Caleb and cannot even form a sentence I am so distraught. He tries to calm me over the phone “What happened?” He asks me over and over again. I couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. He rushed home from the store sans groceries. He’d been gone 20 minutes.
That night I chalked it up to hormones and what would most definitely be deemed “Normal” new mom behavior.
The following weeks are all a blur to me now, but I know they were full of similar panic attacks and that gut wrenching fear that had buried itself deep in my heart and would. Not. leave.
Every day opened up a new list of possibilities in my head about what could go wrong. I had started to feel inadequate as a mother, and even in my happiest moments of newborn bliss, I couldn’t shake the heaviness I felt all around me. I tried to be calm and collected but felt like I was drowning in quicksand. When It came time for my 6 week postpartum checkup, the nurse read me the same questions and I found myself pausing before affirming that yes I was perfectly happy and no, I did not feel a hint of depression.
On the drive home I found myself going over those questions again and again, knowing my answers portrayed a false sense of peace I wasn’t feeling. My heart sank.
I don’t want to be the girl with postpartum depression and anxiety.
I said out loud to my empty car. And then, with tears welling up in my eyes
I don’t want to be the girl who can’t sleep at night because she lives in fear of everything.
That night I took a deep breath and said out loud for the first time “I am not okay.” Caleb looked at me and, after a long pause said “I Know. How can I help?”
So we got to work. I researched therapists and medications and Caleb held my hand as I white-knuckled my way through answering those mental health questionnaires honestly. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. My doctor genuinely cared about how I was feeling. My therapist told me that I wasn’t crazy. My husband asked me over and over again how I was doing and listened to every bit of my tearful answers.
Now, a year out from those first steps into prioritizing my mental health- I know that I was never alone, but at the time I was sure that I wasn’t a good mom, that I was incapable of caring for my daughter, and that no one would understand how I felt.
I don’t think we hear often enough how important it is to reach out when we’re hurting. And, to be honest, I don’t think many of us feel like reaching out is an option when we are in a state of hurt.
But I want to remind you that it matters! Talking about postpartum matters. Being honest with ourselves and our loved ones about our true mental state is crucial to our success as mothers.
I deserve to feel peace and so do you. So if you’re hurting, tell someone. If you’re struggling, surround yourself with people who will remind you that you are never alone.
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