Nine years ago, I had a high-risk pregnancy with our second son. This meant being in and out of the hospital and regularly seeing specialists to try and prevent pre-term labor. Fortunately, I delivered a healthy, beautiful, full-term boy. But, I quickly realized something wasn’t right – with me. Physically, I was recovering, but mentally, I wasn’t okay. It went beyond “feeling low;” I was in an unbelievably dark place. Thoughts that my tiny kids would be better off without me NEVER left my mind. I had never felt this kind of anxiety/depression, and I am not even sure that either of those titles quite describe what I was going through.
Unfortunately, nine years ago, there were fewer people advocating or educating about postpartum mental health. I felt so completely alone and completely broken. I didn’t dare say a word to anyone about the darkness I was feeling because I was worried they would think I was a bad mom or even take my kids away. At six weeks postpartum, I went to my doctor’s appointment and tried to put a socially acceptable spin on what I was feeling. I had hopes that he would prescribe me something that would help, but I also didn’t want to feel judged. Although I left the visit happy to have a prescription for medication, I knew it wouldn’t be enough.
After a few weeks, I finally reached my breaking point. I knew that I was running out of options and finally got the courage to share what I was going through with my husband. I am so grateful for his love and patience. The first words out of his mouth were, “Why have you been keeping this to yourself for so long and not letting me help?” He encouraged me to get out of the house regularly, take care of myself physically, and meet with a counselor. It took a lot of time, but I very slowly started feeling like myself again.
Three years later, I was pregnant with our third child, but secretly terrified that I would have to endure the same horrible experience again once he was born. I worked up the courage to talk to my doctor about what I had gone through. She was amazing and helped me to be proactive and get on medication several weeks before delivery to avoid the same outcome. It worked, and I was able to enjoy the time that followed the birth of our last baby.
I am grateful both that the paradigm of postpartum mental health has shifted and for advocates who help share that the issues are very real. I had never had concerns with my mental health before this experience, and I truly have a new sense of empathy for anyone who is or has been in this battle. I hope that sharing my experience will help other women get help sooner than I did and know that you don’t have to suffer alone.