One year after the birth of my son, I found myself sitting in the dark with my husband tearfully announcing that I felt empty. As a therapist I had heard this word tossed around many times during sessions with clients who struggled with depression. I absolutely never thought I’d find myself here.
About 6 weeks postpartum I had felt my usual anxiety creep back in to my life. I have dealt with generalized and social anxiety with panic attacks for nearly 20 years so I knew how to cope and push through. I was a pro at not letting my anxiety overtake my life. Except now things were somehow different. It felt different. My anxiety was beginning to spiral. I found myself in my head often with constant worries about how I was bonding with my child, was I doing my best as a mom, was I doing my best as a wife, was I doing my best for myself? Panic attacks that I had not had for years started to creep back. I became discouraged. I fell into a dark space of self-doubt and frankly, I was depressed.
I had all of the clear cut signs of Postpartum Depression as well. But, it took me 6 months to call my doctor to finally let her know how I was feeling. But frankly, I wasn’t very honest about the real depression I was experiencing. It would take another 5 months before I would work up the nerve to even tell my husband. Why? Because there is so much guilt surrounding postpartum depression.
There is a misconception that if you are depressed then you find absolutely no joy in life. Well, that is absolutely not true. My son and my husband are the loves of my life and the reason why I was determined to feel better so that I can give them the very best of me. I felt guilty that I was sad when I am beyond grateful for my life and my family. I felt guilty when I would look at my son knowing that a dark cloud was keeping me from being fully and wholly present with him. But thanks to the outbreak of public figures speaking about postpartum depression and anxiety, I knew that I could beat this. I had to get over my guilt so that I could be my best self.
Fast forward 1 year and 2 weeks after my beautiful son was born. Before I had discussed my concerns regarding my depression (ugh, it still makes me cringe to admit it) with my husband, we had decided that we wanted to have another baby so that our son would be close in age to his sibling. A built in playdate! Something neither myself or my husband had with our 11+ year differences between us and our siblings. Since it took us 7 months to conceive our son, I thought I would have time to really amp up my mental wellness through yoga, meditation, and discussions with my doctor. We had also decided that we wanted to move to a different state much sooner than expected. But again, since it would most likely take me a few months to get pregnant all of this was really no big deal.
Of course God and the universe laughed at my plans. We conceived on the first try. We were shocked. But were we really? I mean we were trying, right? That’s what we kept saying. My husband was overjoyed. And he kept asking me if I was happy. But to be honest, I was terrified. I had so many mixed emotions. While we wanted, and still want, a big family, I all of a sudden felt mournful for my son. He was no longer going to be the big man on campus and would be sharing my energy with a new little one. I already felt like I had nothing left to give. How was I going to give my all to two babies!? I felt scared for my marriage. I knew my husband was so incredibly happy. His greatest joy in life is being a father. I wanted to make him happy but how were we going to do this again when we are both so tired and still want to make time for each other? I was angry at myself for feeling this way. I was worried I wouldn’t get better. I was worried i’d continue to feel alone and empty. And i’m so glad my husband picked a fight with me one night shortly after we found out we were expecting.
Because it literally changed everything.
What started out as a conversation regarding how we spend our time together, turned into a snot and tears fest of me finally confessing how i’ve been feeling for months. And my husband, after quietly listening, said “I knew you weren’t yourself.” Part of me sighed in relief because, yes! This wasn’t me! Despite the fact that I had been feeling this way for so long, I knew that I was not this person, which means I don’t have to remain this person that i’ve become.
We vowed to speak to my OB/GYN doctor about my feelings during my 8 week checkup. I had been preparing what to say for days. I was so worried I would lose my composure trying to explain myself. But surprisingly, I didn’t. My doctor helped me fill in the gaps when I couldn’t find the words to what I was trying to say and we set about a postpartum plan to help prevent my feelings from spiraling much deeper when my hormones rollercoaster even more after birth. Later at the same appointment, we had a sonogram of our newest little one, and instantly, I felt my self-doubt, worries, and sadness melt away. I genuinely remembered what this was all about. They say your heart grows with every child you have, and I believe it. I felt an instant calm seeing my little one wiggle for the camera. I’m already in love and I know everything will be okay.
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