When I was pregnant, I knew I had a high risk of depression. Depression ran in my family and one of my sisters experienced ppd with all three of her children. Another reason I was at risk was because if the terminal illness of my dad, who would lose his battle with cancer when I was 8 months pregnant. I thought I knew what to look for in terms of signs of depression, and I even started seeing a counselor about a month before my dad passed away. However, I didn’t know was that anxiety can also be part of postpartum mood changes.
The birth of my daughter and the first several months were so far from my ideal experience. The birth was traumatic for me and breastfeeding was so hard and riddled with complications that I found myself crying at every feeding. The stress of it all made me feel like I was on a sinking ship- all of my energy went towards keeping myself from sinking. I’ve always been hard on myself, an overachiever who expected the best, so when motherhood turned out to feel so hard and impossible, I was sure there was something wrong with me. I thought I should be superwoman, I guess. I thought I was expected to do everything: take care of the baby, take care of my family, take care of the house, and leaving my own self-care at the bottom of my list of responsibilities. Even surrounded by helpful family I was ashamed to ask for help, only relenting when I was at the point of pure exhaustion.
Eventually, I started reaching out to friends who had babies within the last year, all acquaintances before my pregnancy. At first only by text, then phone calls, and finally meeting up for walks or coffee. The thing that really started to bring balance back to my life was hearing what these women had to share about their experience. They each said the same thing: everything I was experiencing was normal, that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and that we aren’t meant to do everything ourselves.
At 6 ½ months we reached a point where breastfeeding was no longer feasible. I was devastated and ashamed. Devastated because the experience was never easy and didn’t last as long as I had hoped, and ashamed because I thought I should be grateful that I was able to breastfeed in any way. I had friends that would have loved to have even the experience I had, but were not able. During the process of coming to terms with the reality that our breastfeeding relationship had come to an end, I knew I wanted to do something positive with all of the emotion I had, I knew I wanted to help other women. That’s when I reached out to Baby Blues Connection. I wanted to volunteer, to be able to give back in a way that was both healing for me and useful to new moms who need someone to listen to them, assure them that they too don’t need to be superwoman, and that they will be okay.
It has been a long, sometimes very hard road to have balance and be aware of when the depression and anxiety creep into my life. There have been many moments in the last 11 months of my daughter’s life that swing me back into chaos rather than balance; going back to work, the breastfeeding battle, trying to maintain a strong bond with my partner, the anniversary of my father’s passing, and sometimes just overwhelming stress from that need to be superwoman. It’s been hard to continue to tell myself that I need to take care of myself, that it’s okay to ask for help, that I don’t need to be superwoman. It’s a journey and one that I’m glad eventually led me to Baby Blues Connection.