I suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of each of my two beautiful children. It is soul sucking. It gets in the way of your most important job, the one you have longed for and want to be perfect at. Being a mother while experiencing depression is one of the worst things I can imagine, and it’s all too common.
My first child never figured out how to nurse. No doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant could make it work (they all said to just keep trying). My friends, who emphasized the importance of breastfeeding, had easy and positive experiences. I felt like such a failure and held on for weeks until it was obvious my son wasn’t thriving.
Because I felt so much pressure from those around me, I decided to pump around the clock. I hated every minute of it. We hardly ever left the house because it was so time consuming. Additionally, my son was miserable whenever I ate dairy products, and restricting them was difficult.
I was so depressed, but I didn’t realize it. I knew that getting out of the house would make me feel better, but when I was finally ready to leave, it was time to pump again. I was angry, especially at my body for not being able to “work right” and feed my child. I remember spilling a bottle of milk I just pumped, and I cried for a long time. My husband didn’t understand (he thought it was literally just spilled milk). To me, it was my worth and purpose that had spilled and was gone.
When my son turned 6 months, I finally had the courage to feed him formula. Life started to get easier, and I felt occasional joy. We didn’t have any type of support system, but were starting to make some friends and get out more. One day, I realized I finally felt better.
When my son was almost 2, my daughter was born. This time, I was determined breastfeeding would work (because I was more informed), but I also knew I needed to give myself a break if it didn’t. No one at the hospital could get her to latch. My doula and friend came to visit after I got home from the hospital and had minimal success. I was feeding my baby with a syringe because I wanted to avoid the bottle as long as possible. The idea of pumping again gave me severe anxiety, and luckily I had the sense to eventually choose formula. My husband was very supportive and helped me deal with the sadness of feeling like a failure again.
Additionally, I experienced a hard recovery, which didn’t help with the depression. The week after I started feeling better, I dislocated my knee cap–twice! I couldn’t walk for weeks, and the depression got worse. Even as my knee was finally healing, I started having back and arm pain. I wanted so badly to go outside and live a normal life. I wanted to play on the floor with my kids. Instead, I was on the couch, watching their lives go by. I was held back not only by the pain, but by debilitating depression.
The back pain is still here, and it’s frustrating that it still holds me back, but I feel so much better now. Before I got help, I did not feel human. I was watching everything go on around me and never felt a part of it. But thankfully, this time, I recognized the problem and asked for help. It was so hard to tell my husband that I wanted to go to therapy. It was so hard to admit that I needed to be on medication. But because of those things, I am able to enjoy life and my family. Please know that there is a happy ending! It may not be what you imagined, but it does exist. Even though life is not perfect, it is beautiful, and I am a part of it.