When I was a little girl, the one thing that I couldn’t wait to be when I grew up was a mom. I loved baby dolls more than anything and to me, they were real. They were my babies! We celebrated their birthdays. They went everywhere with me. I named them, first and middle name. I loved babies and would dote on them anytime I saw one. People always commented to my mom that I was going to be the best mother someday. So imagine my excitement, just one month after our wedding, when my husband and I found out that we were going to have a baby! My husband still makes fun of the way I ran into the room with tears in my eyes and said, “Aren’t you excited?!” Those were 9 very long months. I couldn’t wait to hold her and snuggle her and rock her in her room while we gazed at each other lovingly. I would stare in the rear view mirror at her carseat, that we installed way too early like lots of first time parents, while I drove to work each day and would just imagine how amazing it was going to be to have her there with me all of the time.
The time finally came for her birth and I was a nervous wreck but so ready to get this love story started. As soon as she was born, they put her on my chest and I grabbed her and sobbed. I was so happy. She was finally with us and she was perfect. I was instantly in love, the way I knew I would be.
That night, I was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep. Our daughter,…well, she just wanted to scream, and scream and scream. She was so unhappy and I didn’t know why. She wasn’t latching on well but I didn’t know that at the time. Lactation consultants had come by and said things looked great so I thought everything was fine. So why was she screaming?! A nurse finally came and took her to the nursery for a while (something they had back then). But when they took her, I bawled. I felt like she needed me. Why was I letting them take her away? My husband convinced me to sleep.
When we got home, I felt like my life was finally complete. We had our home, our dog, our new baby. But our new baby was miserable. She was up all night. I still thought I was feeding her, so again, why wasn’t she sleeping? After our first visit to the pediatrician, we found out why. She was quickly losing so much weight. She was starving! The pediatrician looked at me and said that she needed to come back in a few days and if she was still losing weight, we would need to supplement with formula. I was so angry. Formula….the one thing that I was so against. I mean, wasn’t that the stuff that they told us all about in the breastfeeding classes? Wasn’t that the stuff that they pretty much referred to as Satan’s milk? Our breastfeeding teacher was a breastfeeding nazi. She made me feel that formula should never be an option. Breastfeeding is natural, something that all women and babies could do. So we went home and I started pumping and we fed our baby girl a bottle. And she was so happy and she slept,….finally! I spent that next entire Saturday at a lactation consultant’s house trying to get everything worked out. Nothing was solved. She said the latch looked good. I was producing plenty (thank you fenugreek for your magic) but still our baby wasn’t getting much. I felt defeated. My husband didn’t understand why we couldn’t just stop at the store and buy some formula and call it a day. I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t what I had planned. But at the same time, why couldn’t I just do what our baby needed? I saw a woman at Costco that week with a cart full of formula and she looked so happy. Her baby was happy. She and her husband just seemed to bounce along through the store, living the dream, the dream that I had wanted. So why couldn’t I do it? I still don’t know. Hormones? I blame everything about how irrational I was back then on hormones. They can make you nuts!
So I pumped, every 3 hours, for 3 long months, at home, in the car, wherever we had to go. It was awful. I felt like a slave. I was so unhappy. Our baby girl was finally eating and was gaining weight but she was still miserable. She screamed anytime we went in the car, the ENTIRE time. She screamed if we went out in public. She screamed if we went to friend’s houses where there were too many people, or we had family or friends over to our house. She was so tense, so angry and always had this very serious look on her face like she was going to punch the next person that came near her. We couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything. My husband worked at home, upstairs. My days consisted of helping our baby girl roll over one way, then the other, then back again and then I had to video it and then take her pictures. Then I would take her pictures in her cute outfit and then change her and get more pictures. Meanwhile, I was still in my pajamas. I tried so hard to be this happy mom that I always wanted to be. I tried to rock her but she would just cry. She never slept. I never ate or got dressed or left the house unless it was to check the mail. And then everything changed. My mom came to visit. I finally had company. I had someone to go places with, even if our baby was unhappy. I had someone else to help me settle her. We went to the pool! She helped take care of her at night because I had finally given in and switched to formula. Life was so great. And then it wasn’t. My mom went back home. The day that she left was one of the worst days of my life. I cried all day. I just couldn’t stop. The next day, I cried more. I was so sad, like more than just sad, but really depressed. It finally hit me. I had some pretty severe postpartum depression. I had been a kindergarten teacher before having our baby. I was used to working and being around people and dressing up for work and being gone from 6:45 in the morning until 6:30 at night. I was so busy. I never stopped. I was never alone. I loved it. And now suddenly, I was isolated all day every day. I called my doctor that day and started on some medication right away. It didn’t take long until I felt a million times better. I felt like I could handle so much more without feeling like I was going to break down. A teacher that I had worked with put a playgroup together. We started going once a week. And then I joined a Meetup group for stay at home moms and I met more and more friends and life improved so much. I met other moms who were also going through the same things. We could talk and relate and laugh and cry to each other. I finally had my “village”.
I see moms come into my studio all of the time who just have that look in their eyes. They are where I was. I can see it. I can sense their fear when they talk about their spouse returning to work. I see moms who struggle with breastfeeding and are afraid to use formula. And I see the front they put on like I tried to do because nobody wants to be sad after having a baby, during the time that is supposed to be the most joyful time in your life. Nobody tells you that you might go through some really hard, hormonal, depressing times. Nobody tells you that breastfeeding might not work and that formula is OKAY. People just want to see you living the dream. So that’s what we try to do. But it’s not always that way. I want all moms out there to know that if you are going through some of the things that I have been through, you are not alone. You are surrounded by so many other moms out there going through the exact same things. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get some help or to join some moms’ groups. We all need help. We are not super heroes. We are all just doing the best that we can.
While going to sleep last night, I started thinking about all of this. I have no idea why but I feel like moms out in the world need to know that postpartum depression isn’t just something that you read about in a magazine. It’s real. It affects many of us. So let’s all be the village that we need for each other. When you meet a new mom. Give her a hug. She probably needs it more than you realize!