This is the first time I’ve admitted I had postpartum anxiety or depression. To be honest, it took having my second child to realize that what I was feeling after my first was born wasn’t just the typical “baby blues” emotions and exhaustion of motherhood like I had previously attributed the feelings to.
How I Went Undiagnosed
I remember when he was just weeks old – I was running on close to no sleep, in immense physical pain from his undiagnosed tongue and lip ties ripping me apart, I would look at him and I would force a smile. I kept thinking that he deserved a happy mother. He deserved to feel happiness. I would never put him down because I didn’t want him to feel unloved. I was constantly trying to think of what a good mother would do and fighting to do that, no matter the cost to my mind, body, or well being.
“Babe, do you think you’re dealing with Postpartum Depression?” My response to my husband was always the same, “No. I’m just tired.”
I remember filling out the PPD questionnaire at the doctor’s office. Those things are pretty darn easy to lie on.
‘I have felt sad or miserable.’
- My answer? ‘No, not at all.’ *Thinks in my head – I’m happy I’m a mom. I love my son. How could I respond with anything different? What kind of mom is sad?!*
‘Things have been getting on top of me.’
- My answer? ‘No, I have been coping as well as ever.’ *Thinks in my head – I don’t want to appear needy or weak.*
‘I have been worried or anxious for no good reason.’
- Ummm…not me! These are all very valid reasons! *Fills in the bubble for, ‘No, not at all’*
Now, as I watch my seven month old army crawl across the tile living room floor, I am reminded of how much I limited my firstborn. The day that Nolan started crawling, images of a bruised head or him finding something to put in his mouth and choking flooded my mind. It wasn’t just a fleeting thought, it was an overwhelming, can’t get out of my head, dooming fear. So, Nolan was limited to a play area that I built, enclosing our large sectional couch with a play gate, with foam matting covering our tile. Nolan and I spent months sitting in that area together. Gated. Protected from harm. But what did he lose by being ‘kept safe’?
I can still hear my mom saying, “Liz, I’m not going to drop him,” which she said countless times as I rushed towards her in a panic anytime she moved while holding him. Or my brother saying, “Liz, you would put him in a bubble if you could, wouldn’t you?” The answer is yes…I probably would have. I didn’t want to be that mom. I didn’t want to feel those fears – the fears so large that they were crippling. Crippling for me and crippling for him.
What experiences did I prevent him from having because of fear of a bruise? What fears did I pass on to him? What impact did I have on his inner voice?
I wasn’t only limiting Nolan. I, too, was limited. I was limited in the joy I could feel with each new milestone. I was limited in the individual I could be outside of ‘mom’. I was limited in the role that I could play in others’ lives – friends, family members, etc. My mind was too occupied with worries to be present for others.
So, is it just the baby blues? Or is it something more? I have definitely reflected on what I could have done differently, how others might have helped me, and what advice I have for other mamas. I’ll be sharing that in my next post.
For now, just know that I’d start by saying…
YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR BABY.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE WEAK.
Give yourself grace and stay tuned for more.