Trigger Warning: Depictions of Anxiety and Depression
This post was originally published on Lottie & Me on August 21, 2018.
Hey, mamas! Let's face it. Sometimes motherhood isn't exactly what we thought it would be. Our expectations fail us in big ways. We really, really want to be happy and cherish every minute, but sometimes we just can't. Our bodies won't let us. Sometimes we get diagnosed with PPD.
According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 mothers will experience Postpartum Depression (PPD). I am one of those mothers.
How it Started
Depression and anxiety have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. They are a part of me. Anxious is my normal. So when I went in for my first post delivery checkup, I waved away the doctor's concern at my score on the PPD screening. "That's just me," I said. "That's normal."
My doctor didn't believe me. She said this shouldn't be my normal. But I'd gone my whole life without medication. I didn't need it. I could handle my anxiety. After a great deal of convincing, she finally let it go with one caveat--that if my anxiety ever interfered with my day, if I stopped feeling "normal," I would call her.
For six months of baby wellness appointments, I shrugged off the pediatrician's questions. "Don't worry. My OB knows. This is normal." And when I would cry without warning or suffer panic attacks at a rate I hadn't experienced in years, I pushed my doubts away. I've always had anxiety. I'm stressed. Every new mom is stressed. This is normal.
The Tipping Point
In June, I broke down. Lottie needed to eat, but she wouldn't take her bottle. Anger and frustration drowned me like a tidal wave. I began yelling at my beautiful, precious baby. I tried to force her to take the bottle. The minute she started to cry, I snapped out of it. I set her down and began sobbing. I called my husband in horror and made him come home. Over and over, I said I was sorry. That I had failed. That I would never be a good mother. When my husband tried to return to work, I begged him to stay.
I didn't know who I was anymore. I didn't understand what had happened to me. But in the back of my head, I heard my doctor's voice, and I knew that this, this was not normal.
The Long Road to "Normal"
Two months of medication, and I am light years away from where I was that day. Because PPD is an illness, just like any other illness. Because PPD is not me. Who I was that day, was not me.
Despite knowing all of this, I still struggle with the notion that having a baby made me more depressed. I waited for years, pining for a baby, and when God granted me this precious miracle, how did I respond? By being depressed. I hated that. I still hate that.
For six months, I lied. Every time someone asked me how I was doing, I said good. Isn't motherhood wonderful? It's really the best. Don't you just want to cuddle her all day? I would just want to cuddle her all day.
You know what? Even the medicated version of me does not want to hold my baby all day. Because that's exhausting. Being a mom is exhausting. And the expectation that having a child, being a mother, will complete us, will make us happy, is a fat load of bull.
I love Lottie. I love her to pieces. She is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I am so blessed to spend my days with her. But I am also a person, a whole other person completely separate from my child that doesn't get to exist separate from my child ever again.
That's a hard transition. That's hard when you're healthy, and well rested, and not doubting your every move. Multiply it by 10 with PPD.
Last week I stumbled across the website She Reads Truth, a women's devotional group. I know faith isn't everybody's thing, but right now, some days, it's my only thing, and I've been grasping to find the right words to make me better. To take away this guilt and self-loathing my PPD has left me with. So I downloaded their app, and I started one of their study plans, Holding Tight to Permanent. The very first passage was this:
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.1 Corinthians 13:4-5
You know the rest. It's probably one of the best known passages out of the entire Bible. In fact, it's been my favorite passage for years (thanks, Nicholas Sparks). But that night, those words hit me. Blew my eyes wide open.
Because my daughter, she loves me like that. She loves in the purest way. She doesn't remember my breakdown; she'd forgiven me seconds after it passed.
What Lottie does recognize is that Mama plays more now. She laughs when Lottie laughs. When Daddy comes home for the day, Mama doesn't immediately go to bed. Now, Mama takes Lottie swinging and to the library and never tires of peek-a-boo no matter how many times she's already played.
Lottie is patient and kind, but mostly she is forgiving. If Lottie can still love me, then maybe I should love me, too.