I remember when we first started trying to get pregnant and also when we started telling people that we were pregnant that a ton of people said the same thing: “You have no idea how much your life is going to change.”
And they were right. We really had no idea.
I’m sure there are some women in the world who have it all so together, who are so good with kids that they can have a baby and not really even miss a beat. I don’t know that I’ve ever met any such woman, but I’m sure they do exist. But it’s definitely not me. I was so unprepared for motherhood and all the emotions and hormones having a baby would bring to the forefront.
Admittedly, we had an abnormally stressful first few weeks of Noah’s life. My father had been sick. Noah was born and went to the NICU for six days. I got pretty sick, too. My dad died, and Noah and I hit the road for the funeral when he was only about 2 weeks old. Then at 3 weeks, Noah got to live through his first natural disaster, the Tuscaloosa tornado on April 27; this displaced us for several days thanks to lack of electricity and clean water.
So, as if the normal hardship of postpartum emotions and having a new baby weren’t enough, I had all this to deal with, too, and it ended up just being too much for me. I felt like the baby was crying all the time, and neither Bobby nor I really knew what to do with him. I was so anxious that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I would be hot one minute and cold the next. I would get so frustrated with the baby’s crying and screaming that the only way I could respond was to cry and scream, too.
On the darkest of days, sadly, I even went so far as to declare that I didn’t want to be a mother, that I just wanted things to go back to how they were before the baby and that I hated him. I think even as these words were coming from my mouth I really did love him, but I hated the way I was feeling, and he seemed to be the direct cause of that.
Well, yeah, having a baby did lead up to some of these things, but ultimately these feelings were not normal. Every day, I would enter this terribly unhealthy well of sadness and anger. It would start with one thing (maybe sadness over my dad’s death or frustration that I couldn’t figure out why the baby was crying), but it would build up more and more until I finally felt like my life was over and that I could never possibly be happy again, that I was a terrible person and mother. Bobby told me he was concerned I had postpartum depression.
I finally reached the end of my rope and called my doctor. I hated the idea of needing help for my emotions; it was just one more thing for me to feel guilty about. I felt like I should have been able to handle everything and control my emotions. Thank goodness Bobby kept insisting that I seek help.
After I described what was happening, my doctor prescribed an antidepressant and a hormone supplement and told me to take a Tylenol PM if I needed help sleeping. The prescriptions weren’t a magic remedy for everything that was wrong; in fact, they took several days to make any difference at all. But I felt immediate relief that I had taken a step to make things better and also knowing that there was a legitimate medical reason for me having such terrible problems with everything.
It has also helped to be able to talk about these issues openly with my friends and to realize that postpartum depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. I think a lot of women fail to seek help they need because they feel guilt and shame about their condition, or maybe even are in denial about what it is.
I still have my down moments. I still feel sad and angry about some things, some days more than others. But I also feel like I can deal with the emotions and the reality of my situation. I’m actually able to enjoy my son now, which, for that first blurry six weeks of his life, I felt like I would never be able to do. I will be stopping the hormone treatment in another week and will likely stay on the antidepressant for six months before reevaluating with my doctor.
Motherhood isn’t easy, and I don’t expect it to ever be easy, but it gets better every day now.
Edited to add: After I finished writing this, I came across this post on And Nobody Told Me. I could have written a large part of it myself. It describes so accurately what the first several weeks of motherhood were like for me. And it helps me know I am not alone!