Winter in Utah is hard, but it was even harder after I had my second child and felt trapped indoors with a newborn and a toddler. My second baby and I had a rough start. She was colicky and had reflux; she cried all the time and didn’t sleep well. Additionally, my toddler didn’t talk to me for about 2 weeks after bringing her sister home, and I think that was what started my descent into anxiety.
I would wake up in the morning, determined that today was the day things got better, only to be in tears within the hour. I would call my mom crying, and she would drive an hour to help. My husband couldn’t talk to me because I would get so angry with him. I was just so angry all the time. I remember one night the baby was crying and I was trying my best to calm her. My husband came in offering help, and I told him to go back to sleep. When he wouldn’t take no for an answer, I pulled back my fist and told him to get out. The next day he asked if I thought I needed to go to anger management, but I was offended he would even ask me that.
There were nights when I wanted to leave the children because I felt they would be far better off without me. I will admit that I shook my new baby once, which scared me and took me a long time to tell my husband. But even through all that, I would not admit defeat. I was a young mom living in a community where the pressure to be “perfect” and “do it all” is very high. I couldn’t ask for help. I wasn’t depressed (I had suffered depression in high school and this was completely different). I loved my baby, but I couldn’t feel that love for her and that broke my heart.
After 5 weeks of fighting, I finally called my doctor’s office, and while I waited for an appointment the nurse told me that if I felt like I was going to hurt myself or the baby, I needed to go directly to the emergency room. I think that is when it hit me just how serious this was.
I eventually was prescribed a medication that I was reluctant to take, but I took it anyway. I was also evaluated by a psychologist, where I learned that anxiety is part of depression. Looking back on my life, I can see that I had suffered anxiety for a long, long time–long before my children were born. Within a few days, it was as if a fog had lifted and I could see clearly. I was finally able to deal with my anxiety before it took over my thoughts. I was able to feel love for my children and husband again, and I was able to ask for help.
Almost 2 years after having our second baby, we moved our life and family to Melbourne, Australia. While in Australia, I got pregnant and gave birth to our third baby girl. Through a support group for mothers, I met 7 beautiful women who had just had their first babies. We spoke of the trials and hardships of motherhood and supported one another. Additionally, I had home visits for a few weeks after giving birth from the local midwives to make sure I was doing well. The support for new mothers in Australia has astounded me, and I couldn’t help thinking how much I needed this when I was in Utah.
I’ve learned so much about postpartum depression. I’ve opened up about my experience, and I speak honestly about it when asked. I don’t hold back how debilitating it can be. I don’t sugarcoat it. We still live in a society where mental illness is taboo. We just don’t talk about it. After I opened up about it, I found many of my friends had been dealing with the same thing. That was such a comfort to me. I’ve become very passionate about speaking up regarding my experience.