Michelle and I met back in college, and although we didn’t share many classes, we certainly shared a love for sunning on the schools rooftop or park near by. Michelle always had that killer cheek to cheek smile and upbeat energy that lit up even the dullest room.
It turns out, though, that even the brightest smile can vanquish in the face of Postpartum Depression – a topic that still manages to be shoved aside, silenced, and not given the attention it needs. Happy Mama, Happy Life right? But how do you GET there? Lucky for us, Michelle was kind enough to share her story in hopes that it would open up a conversation that needs to be had about a matter that exists at the very core of your new family.
Her journey wasn’t an easy one, but her bright smile is back and bigger then ever.
Below is her story.
In the last few months of my second pregnancy, I had already started with the mom guilt. I was a massive whale in the humid August heat, with no access to the backyard (new homes being built on either side of us and damage done to our property in the process rendered our backyard a major safety hazard for our toddler). I was mostly in my underwear on the couch with the air con blasting as my son mastered the iPad. I felt like a complete failure.
But I soldiered through it, and in late September Mini Scace 2.0 (we’ll call him Baby G) was born when OG Mini Scace (we’ll call him Lil’ C) was only 19 months old. I felt more prepared this time around – I knew what to expect; sleepless nights, wearing pads slash adult diapers for 3 weeks, having a baby attached to the boob 24/7, and all that good stuff. We hired a super nanny and I thought all the corners would be covered! I planned to bond with the new babe, rest and recover, bask in the glory of fresh baby scent, and embrace the gruesomeness of new motherhood. We had this. So we thought.
And then it all went down.
I was experiencing your normal postpartum hormonal craziness and wasn’t happy about the no sleep situation, but again, I was expecting it all. What I was not expecting was the resentment I was feeling towards my new, amazingly sweet and adorable baby. At first it was mostly because I felt like I was missing out on precious quality time with my older son, which in turn had me feeling like I was doing my first born a disservice, that I was somehow impeding his development by not spending enough time with him. And so the cycle began. And quickly got worse.
I loved my baby, I knew I did, but alongside that love came real resentment towards him which seemed to grow and grow. I would cringe when I would hear him cry and had to nurse him. When he woke up in the night I wanted more than anything for him to just fall back asleep. I started beating myself up over these feelings and thoughts. How could I feel anything but love towards this cherub?
Baby G was the kind of baby that smiled for everyone, and would make everyone smile back. He was pure joy and happiness… and yet, at times I wished that I had never had him. I really hated myself when I had those feelings and to be honest, I still do at times. #workinprogress
I breastfed my first son for well over a year, and I think I made it to 5 months with Baby G (cue more mama guilt). I wanted to not have to be his only source of everything. I was actually hating it and I missed my solo days with Lil’ C. It’s hard to write this now. I get emotional thinking that such a short time ago I was not enjoying my life and my family.
The resentment turned to anger, the anger turned to sadness, and the sadness led to numbness. Something was not right. I was not right.
Anxiety and depression took over my life at around 5 months postpartum. I can’t count the number of mornings my husband would be late for work or miss work all together because I was a sobbing mess of tears on the floor of our bathroom saying “I can’t do this” over and over again. Simple day-to-day tasks were like climbing a mountain. I would have panic attacks about going to the grocery store. I would look at myself in the mirror and I had no clue who was looking back at me. I was empty. I was frozen.
At times I wanted my life to be over. Suicidal thoughts are some of the scariest thoughts that have ever crossed my being – they come from a dark and awful place. Guilt always trumped those feelings though, as I could never ever do that to my family. I would rather suffer for a million lifetimes than put my husband and sons through that kind of hurt. I lived in this darkness for almost 2 more months.
So there I was 7 months postpartum and knew that I needed help. I didn’t know if it was postpartum depression for sure but I knew that I needed medication and /or serious therapy. I went to my family doctor and he listened as my husband held my hand and I sobbed about how awful of a person I was. He ran a bunch of tests to make sure it wasn’t a thyroid thing, and when all the tests came back clear, he put in an urgent referral to a clinic that specializes in postpartum mood disorders.
This was a Friday. The referral wouldn’t be received until Monday and I should call then to see when I could get an appointment. That weekend I had a sense of hope. Steps had been taken that I had been afraid to take, we were going to make this better… I was finally going to start to feel better.
Well help didn’t come as easily as I thought. This clinic was so busy, I was told I wouldn’t be seen for 2, 3, maybe even 4 more months. I was gutted. I called my husband in tears. I was desperate. The thought of now having to wait months to get help was more than I could handle.
I could write a whole other post about the state of our system and how fucking disgusting and downright dangerous it is to tell a mother who is CLEARLY suffering that she has to wait because this isn’t just about her life, this is directly related to her children’s well being. I was lucky enough to have someone at home to cover me, but if I hadn’t… well I don’t even want to think about what would have been.
So hubs jumped into action, my hero, and called the clinic back and said we need to figure something out NOW. They told him to take me to Emergency. He took the day off work, we went to Emergency and it was just plain awful.
The intake nurse asked me why I was there. I told her how I was feeling and that the women’s clinic told us to come. Her response was “They told you to come here??” Let’s just say things went downhill from there. They put us in a small room with no windows, nothing on the off-white walls just a couple of chairs and an empty coffee table. I was in full panic mode at this point. Crying, shaking, this awful habit I have of picking at the skin around my nails.
We waited for hours. I had to tell 4 or 5 different people in detail that I basically hated my baby and had thoughts of killing myself. I was spent. We were told that someone could see us in 3-4 hours but at this point I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to be in this hospital, I was made to feel that postpartum depression wasn’t a situation you go to the Emergency Department for, and I needed to get the eff out of that room.
I wanted to leave. I needed OUT and was willing to pay someone privately! But before I could leave, they separated my husband and I (who was the ONLY source of grounding that I had) and the on call physician proceeded to pepper me with questions. This is kinda how the convo went:
Dr: Are you sure you want to leave?
Me: Yes I am sure I want to leave.
Dr: Why do you want to leave?
Me: (sobbing) Because I have been sitting in this room for hours and I can’t sit here for 4 more hours.
Dr: Well why don’t you want to sit here anymore?
Me: Because I feel very uncomfortable.
Dr: What exactly is making you uncomfortable?
Me: I don’t like hospitals.
Dr: Why don’t you like hospitals?
This went on and on. I am NOT fucking joking. All the while they were asking my husband a load of questions outside of this room and I just want to get the heck outta there. My husband really put things into perspective when he calmly asked the doctors if they would repeatedly ask a person with a broken leg to try walking on it to prove it is broken. “Then why are you making my wife rehash these same awful stories and thoughts over and over again?” We left.
I managed to see a psychiatrist that week, and the first time I met with her, we spoke for nearly 2 hours. I was officially diagnosed with Postpartum Depression & Anxiety and prescribed Sertraline (generic version of Zoloft). Around week 4 of taking the meds I started to feel better. Better enough to start putting myself back together and do all the things the depression was holding me back from. Yoga and meditation have been essential in my healing process, along with eating better and finding time to take care of myself.
I am now 9 months postpartum and can confidently say that I am in a MUCH better space. Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns and shit gets real fast and furiously with two young kids, but I am making sure to do what grounds me and nourishes me best (wisdom imparted on me by a fellow #rebelmama Catherine Cowan, who was a big guiding light for me when I was in the darkness).
In doing this I am a better person for myself, for my family, for my friends and most importantly a better mother to my amazingly wonderful boys.
Now I shall impart on you the wisdom I have gained from this ride:
- You MUST take care of yourself.
- You MUST be nice to yourself.
- NEVER feel ashamed to ask for help.
- You are NOT alone.
I made it through this storm and although I know that there will be more, I am now ready and better equipped to embrace the adventures that lie ahead of me, and know now that you have to weather the storm in order to see the rainbow.
Photos by Aleksandra Jassem