My Struggle With Postpartum Depression

postpartumdepression

(This post has been hard for me to write, but I am glad to be sharing my story.)

It’s two a.m. and I’m not sleeping. Again.

My newborn son has finally fallen asleep. I have been waiting for this moment all day. I’m exhausted. I should be sleeping.

Instead, I’m sitting in bed scrolling through baby message boards on my phone, falling into a deep rabbit hole of anxiety. I type question after question: “Is he eating enough?” “Why isn’t he sleeping?” “Is his poop normal“, “Am I interacting enough?” The questions go on and on. I know I need to sleep, I know the baby will be up in a short hour. But I can’t calm my mind.

Every night I search for an answer that I know I won’t find. I search for a way to justify the way I feel or a way to convince myself what I’m feeling is normal. But I know it is true: I am suffering from postpartum depression.

I waited my entire life to have a baby. I spent my pregnancy on cloud nine researching products and organizing a perfect nursery where I sat daydreaming about life with my baby.

After the birth of my son, I was overjoyed. I had an easy delivery (as easy as a C-section can go) and after five days, I was excited to go home.

I knew I would face challenges as a new mother, but I thought the love for my son would overpower them. Those first few weeks are a blur.

I felt anxious about everything. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t bonding with my baby. I felt overwhelmed by simple tasks. I would dread the end of the day, not wanting to face another never-ending night of doom and despair.

I had an enormous support system and visitors flooded in. I’d put on a smile and say all the right things, becoming an expert at masking my inner turmoil; too afraid of the judgment I would receive if people knew the truth.

I loved my son, so I chalked my anxieties up to the “baby blues” which the internet says dissipate around six weeks. So, I waited.

Six weeks came and went. As I emerged out of the fog of the newborn days my anxiety only became sharper.

Every day would end in tears. When my husband came home and ask me how I was, I’d sob uncontrollably. My husband would ask, “What is causing this?” And I would say I felt alone, lost, and like a failure and I had no idea why.

I was unraveling.

I had scary visions. I pictured my son falling out of my arms and tumbling down the stairs and cracking his skull open. I stood at the top of the stairs, paralyzed. I pictured him cold and blue, dead in his bassinet. I’d wake up and pat the bed frantically, searching for his unresponsive body, only to turn to my left to see him sleeping peacefully.

I felt unmotivated and couldn’t get out of bed until noon. Leaving the house on my own triggered panic attacks.

I would hold my beautiful baby and try to force myself to feel the love that I knew I felt. Because I did love my son, more than I thought was possible. But there were days I would stare down at his perfect little face and feel nothing. And it tore my heart apart.

I felt like such a failure. Any mother who truly loved her child would never think these thoughts, right?

I felt selfish. If I really loved my child I would stop these negative thoughts and perceiver, right?

I was terrified to admit how I felt, afraid to sound whiny or like I was looking for pity. I wanted to be like the strong and confident mothers that I felt were all around me.

There was nothing that I wanted more than to be a mother yet I felt so alone and sad. Postpartum depression felt like I was grieving a loss of something that I never knew.

I finally hit my breaking point. One night my husband and I were chatting before bed. I started crying and couldn’t contain myself. I ran outside and crawled into the backseat of my car and wailed for ten minutes. I didn’t want my husband or my baby to see me. I didn’t want to see myself.

I gained the courage to walk back inside. I asked my husband, “Do you think something is wrong with me?” I could see the fear in his eyes; he didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I sat down and bawled, too afraid to say, “I have postpartum depression” out loud. Finally I whispered, “I need help.”

All the thoughts that had been haunting me for the past seven weeks poured out. I told him that I worry he doesn’t love me anymore because I turned into a monster since the birth of our son and that I worry my baby doesn’t love me – that I wasn’t bonding with him and never would.

The following morning I went to the doctor. Sweaty and shaking, I told her everything. She looked me in the eye and said, “I’m so glad you came.”

Relief washed over me.

She explained that more women than I think feel like this. That there is nothing to be shameful of, that motherhood is hard.

She recommended I start taking Lexapro, explaining that the side effects of having a depressed mother were certainly worse than any side effects of the drug in my milk.

I walked out of that doctor’s appointment with a confidence I hadn’t felt since before my son was born. I had a plan and I was ready to take care of myself.

It’s been four months since I started my recovery and I’m still taking one day at a time. There are still hard days that end in tears, but, the good days outnumber the bad days.

Knowing that I am taking the best care for myself, and in turn my son, gets me through.

The American Psychological Association states that 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression. It is much more common than you think. I share my story to encourage others to speak up and get help.

The more we share our stories, the more we will diminish the stigma surrounding postpartum depression.

My debut into motherhood was nothing like I expected, and it left me broken. But, my true, loving, strong self was hidden beneath those crippling thoughts. Support is out there. I only wish I would have sought it sooner.

 

 

  • Katie – I am so glad you decided to share this. I feel like so many women go through this, and don’t feel normal, and the more people that come out and talk about, the more people will be able to get help. Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to post this. You’re the coolest. 🙂

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you, Laura. It was hard to push that publish button, but now I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t tell you how many other women’s stories I read while up in the middle of the night worried about myself. It’s good to share and it is not talked about enough.

  • When I read Last Anniversary last month, one of the characters suffered from PostPoartum and I remember when I was reading her side of things I kept thinking oh my I wish she would just tell someone how she is feeling!!! She must feel so alone and scared in her thoughts and having to put on a show for everyone must be so exhausting. But it was just a book and now I am reading your story and I am so glad that you shared it. There is someone out there that is going to read this and know that it is ok, that they aren’t alone.

    • kwalshmac

      That is my hope! I spent way too many nights up in the bed in a panic and so ashamed. In those dark moments it is easy to remember that we are not in control of this sickness. Help was so easy to find and now I’m finding all these other women with similar stories.

  • I am so proud of you for speaking up and sharing your story! My best friend is also suffering from postpartum depression. It is so much more common than people think. Mommyhood is hard, but I can tell that you are definitely rocking it! Wyatt is lucky to have a mom that is taking care of herself so she can take care of him.

    • Faith Martin

      Oh Katie, I’m so sorry for your rough times and so proud of you for seeking help. Nothing to be ashamed of and not your fault. Glad you are feeling better- happy days ahead! Love you lots!😘💖

      • kwalshmac

        Thank you! Took me too long to realize I had nothing to be ashamed of. Thanks for your support.

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you! I hope your friend is getting support and feeling much better each day. I’m sure it helps to have you by her side. It’s such a scary and lonely experience.

  • Oh Katie, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m not a mom yet or anywhere close to being one but I know it’s something I really want when the time comes. I have a ton of friends who are either new mommies or are pregnant now and I know reading your story would be beneficial so that they know they are not alone if they are feeling the same things then it’s ok to get help. Stay strong.

    I’ve read your baby stories and it is totally obvious that you are a fantastic mommy and that you love your little boy so very much! 🙂 xoxo

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks Kathleen. Motherhood is so hard and we all adapt and cope in different ways. It’s hard to remember that we aren’t in control. I never thought this would happen to me. Thank you for your support!

  • Oh honey…I’m so happy you are working towards self improvement. I get it. That anxiety and depression can grasp ahold at any point and it just seems to take SO. LONG. to figure it out. Like..ONE OF THESE DAYS I will snap out of it. But then it kind of…doesn’t. And you KNOW you are sort of crazy but you can’t stop it. My fear with birth isn’t the birth itself, although that is it’s own scary subject. It’s the depression. I have always felt that if I gave birth in the winter it would further my seasonal depression and I would spin out of control. But who knows.
    Anyways, thank you for sharing your story. More people need to be so brave. 🙂

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you, I’m doing much better these days. And yes, it’s hard to remember (or admit) that you can’t always control your emotions. Mental illness is so often misunderstood or made to be a shameful experience. I hope this post helps someone else. And oh god, the winter is so terrible with a baby. I’ve also always had seasonal depression, but being stuck inside with a newborn while feeling so alone is very hard. Even getting out of the house takes so much work, all that bundling haha. I know you will do great when your day comes, reach out for friends and family.

  • I am so so so proud of you for writing this. it can be so scary to write things like this when you don’t know if anyone else has felt like this (even if you know that deep down a lot of people have). I’m also so proud of you for reaching out to your doctor and taking care of you (most importantly) and your family. that’s the biggest, most important thing.

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you, it took me too long to realize that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I spent many nights reading other women’s stories and then eventually realized, “ok, I can talk about this, I’m going to be okay”. I hope this does the same for someone else!

  • I’m so glad you were able to get help and are doing better. Wyatt is lucky to have you as a mom. <3

    • kwalshmac

      Thanks Allie! Speaking up was hard and I wish there wasn’t such a stigma around it. It is so common.

  • You are SO amazing. How brave of you to share this, friend. You are an incredible mom for getting the help you needed.

    • kwalshmac

      Thank you! I hope others realize the same. Motherhood can be so hard and complex.

  • Radmila

    Katie,

    Thank you!

    Your words were as if you were reading my mind. I’ve read your piece about 30 times and it calms me to know that we are not alone. It’s been 4 months since I’ve had my daughter and every day we take baby steps together, bonding and sharing new experiences. It’s only now I feel comfortable enough to speak about this.

    Your words have resonated with me and I appreciate the courage and power you had to write this much needed piece to all those motyets out there.

    Much love!

    • Radmila

      Moyets was to say mothers. Auto correct. My apologies.

    • kwalshmac

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that you are feeling this way. I’m so glad that my story could help you relate and realize that you are not alone. Please speak up to others or see your doctor if your thoughts continue. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt just by openly talking about my feelings. I was shocked that it took me about 5 months after my son’s birth to feel like I was getting the hang of it. If you would like to speak more, please feel free to email me. My thoughts will be with you, stay strong and love on your little girl.

  • Heather

    Thank you for sharing your story. I finally admitted I am suffering as well from PPD and it feels good to admit it. My support group of friends and family has been great. I’m being tested for thyroid issues as well as any vitamin deficiencies to see if there is anything before anti depressants. I’m wondering-are you still on the medication? I’m hoping if I go on them that it’s a short term thing as I’ve never had depression before. Us moms need to stick together!

    • kwalshmac

      I’m glad you felt some relief after admitting how your felt. That can be the hardest part. And yes, I’m still on the medication. I started it in October and my doctor recommended that I take it until at least May. When she first said that, I was a little shocked and did not want to be on it for that long. But now that May is creeping up, I’m a little timid to stop medicating. I feel great on the meds and still have not so good days and would hate to take any steps back. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help!