Much of this season’s storyline on Nashville has centered around Juliette Barnes’ battle with postpartum depression. And Hayden Panettiere, the actress who plays Barnes, has also been very public about her real-life postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter in December 2014. Panettiere has been working hard to hold her life together, and now she’s made the choice to go back to treatment for a second time.
“The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life,” she tweeted earlier this week. “Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!”
As a mom who had serious postpartum anxiety (yeah, that’s a real thing) after each of my children was born, I will say I’m wishing her more than luck. I wish her courage, peace, assurance and, most of all, strength. Because it takes a seriously strong woman to admit she’s struggling.
Motherhood is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, but for something so natural, it sure doesn’t come naturally. While I’m sure there are some moms who take to new motherhood like a Kardashian to a makeup counter, for me, it was a sharp learning curve — so sharp I veered off the road more than a few times. I remember dark nights spent pacing for hours next to his crib, convinced that if I looked away from my baby for one second, he would die. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I wore a permanent mask of terror as I questioned every single decision I made. And the worst part was that I didn’t even realize this wasn’t normal new-mom behavior. All new moms worry, right?
Finally my husband made me get help, and my doctor quickly realized what a bad state I was in. While I never did in-patient treatment like Panettiere, I did need medication and weekly check-ins with my doctor. At first I felt like a failure, but as I opened up to more and more moms, I realized how many of us struggle.
Somehow we’ve all internalized the Mother Martyr persona — the woman who gives up everything for her kids even if it means hurting herself. It’s seen as not only right but heroic somehow. But while every mom I know would throw herself in front of a speeding truck to save her child, I don’t think motherhood requires a sacrifice of everything you are. In fact, I don’t think it’s healthy for you or the baby to do so. One of the best things you can show your child is how to take care of themselves by taking care of yourself. Plus, a child who grows up thinking his mom sacrificed all for him will feel either entitled or guilty.
When moms suffer, children suffer — it’s as simple and as complicated as that.
I wish I could give Hayden Panettiere a big hug. I wish I could tell her it gets better (it does!). And I wish I could tell her (and any other mom struggling with overwhelming feelings postpartum) that there is absolutely no failure or shame to seeking help. Your baby gets only one mom, and you are the most important thing in the world to their health and happiness, so the best way to be good to your baby is to be good to yourself.
Hang in there, Hayden. More of us are rooting for you than you know.
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