Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I Should've Been Happy {my battle with postpartum depression}

Twelve years ago, today, I gave birth to my second son. After several years of secondary infertility and a previous miscarriage, it is safe to say that I wanted this baby more than anything in the world. My husband wanted him, as did our seven-year-old old son. He was welcomed into our family with joy and was loved beyond words. 

Despite all the love, we spent the next seven months miserable. There was a cloud of sadness, anger, and apathy hanging over us. I cried all the time. The baby cried all the time. My oldest looked at me and said, "You are not the mom I used to have." And my husband, he had no idea what to do, but he knew something was very wrong. 

The memories of the first seven months of my second child's life are unclear. It is like watching a movie through a haze, many moments are fuzzy, and other moments completely gone, large gaps of nothing. I don't have many actual memories, but I know that I wasn't myself. I didn't act like myself or think like myself. My behavior was that of someone else's or rather like a very lost and ruined me. 

The few memories I have are very clear though. I remember nursing my son and crying the entire time, every time. I remember that my son did not gain weight fast enough. I remember my doctor encouraging me to supplement with formula. I remember family encouraging me to stick with breastfeeding longer because it was best, and after all I didn't have any trouble nursing my first son. I remember feeling ashamed and confused because all I had wanted was this child more than anything, and I was failing him and my oldest son. I remember feeling useless, hopeless, and wanting everything just to end. 

Summer 2003

Finally, after seven months of toughing it out, I bought a can of formula and stopped breastfeeding with the encouragement of my husband. After the first 48 hours, I started feeling better. Within two months, the fog lifted completely, and my son and I were very different people. He was a happier baby. I was back to feeling a bit more like myself, a bit broken but on the mend. Finally after nine months of despair, I began to feel the overwhelming excitement of mothering a new baby, that same feeling I had after my first son was born.

Looking back, I know that I should've talked to my doctor about postpartum depression. But when I was in the thick of it, I couldn't make proper decisions for myself. I didn't want anyone to think that I was ungrateful for the child that I had prayed for so fervently. I didn't want anyone to think that I wasn't strong enough to perform the daily tasks of mothering that I saw so many women around me doing with such ease. I kept thinking I would wake up one morning better. I didn't. I needed someone to tell me "Hey, I see that you are struggling. Let's make some changes so you can get better." And I needed to hear it many times to believe it.

Today, my second child is happy and healthy. He is almost taller than me and looks a bit like me with his curly, dark hair. He is also a sensitive child and has a tendency towards melancholy (just like his mother). When I look at him, I feel this deep connection to him. Sometimes the depth of the connection surprises me but is not shocking that it is there. We fought the battle him and me, and we survived. I wish we hadn't suffered those first months together, but wishing doesn't change things. 

Summer 2004

Last week a group of amazing women shared the stories of their battles with postpartum depression and anxiety. Their stories inspired me to tell my story. It is only through open, honest conversation that the isolation of depression will end, and healing can begin. If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, there is help. Please talk to your family, friends, your doctor. You can find more information here.   

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