I’m grateful to be a mother. I love my baby girl more than it is possible to describe, however, my journey into motherhood was not as smooth as I expected (you can read about my infertility struggles here). It’s not easy to write about this but I feel like talking about it is therapeutic.
After giving birth 6 weeks early, I had this gut feeling of being lonely—the baby was in the hospital, my husband was working evenings and I was at home by myself most of the time. With no baby in the crib and no baby inside me. During my daily commute from hospital, I thought about how leaving my little girl felt like having a limb removed. I cried every night, but I thought that’s normal, considering. But things got worse after we brought our daughter home from the hospital. At first, it was constant anxiety, worry, and a state of despair and hopelessness. I was anxious about everything there possibly was to be anxious about, including how much she was eating, sleeping, peeing, and pooping. And it didn’t help that she couldn’t latch on my breasts properly and I wasn’t able to breastfeed her, which made me feel even more inadequate. The lactation consultants were trying to help show me how to get my baby to latch, reminding me how important breast milk was. They were just doing their job but I felt like an utter failure as a mother. My two midwives and my mom who lives 7000km far from me, tried to reassure me that if I wanted to give the baby formula it was perfectly fine, but I didn’t want to give up on breastmilk so I kept pumping my brains out. I was tired, in pain and feeling overwhelmed. I was in despair the moment my husband left for work, and hysterical if he was a few minutes later coming home than he said he would be. I discovered that being a new mom was very isolating. I was mad at myself, at my body, and also at everyone else who just couldn’t understand how I felt, so I took to walking with a stroller everyday, regardless of the weather. It really made a difference for me. That, and my husband who was extremely supportive, and would spend countless hours talking me through my feelings…
After few weeks, I conquered my depression and became a confident and happy mom. I didn’t take any medication (I told myself that I was exaggerating my own symptoms, that I was just overtired – big mistake) but there were some things that helped me get back on track – walking, eating well, giggling with my baby girl but most importantly, taking a little bit of time out for myself each day.
I decided to tell my story to encourage other moms to seek help at the first sign of depression and anxiety and not just dismiss it as hormonal changes, like I did. Getting out of the house, talking to other people, and sharing my feelings helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in going through this. It took some time to open up, but once I did, it was a relief.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM (POSTNATAL) DEPRESSION? PPD is a specific type of depression which affects women after childbirth. Symptoms include sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, crying, anger, anxiety, irritability, even thoughts of self-harm. Exhaustion, life stress, and lack of social support — all factors common to women who have recently given birth — can increase the risk of developing postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. If you think you have postpartum depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
Illustration: Nora Calvo Martin for CHICHI