ParentingThe Pain Project

The Pain Project: You Cannot Fix It Yourself

I found myself lying face down on our bed, sobbing. Through tears, I wailed to my husband, ‘I just want to be myself again. I’m not me right now.

First Comes Love, Second Comes Marriage, Then Come the Baby in the Baby Carriage!

I had always been a strong, capable, confident person. I got a bachelor’s and masters degree in marketing and event planning. After dating my high school sweetheart long distance for years, we moved to Texas and got married. A couple of years later, we decided we wanted to have kids, so we began trying. I’m sure many couples can identify with this exciting, nerve-wracking time of waiting to conceive.

It took us awhile to get pregnant—longer than I thought it would. Like many hopeful mothers-to-be, I spent months in anticipation of that blue line on the pregnancy test. Waiting with bated breath, Joe and I were overjoyed when we finally became pregnant.

He’s Here! I Should Be Happy, Right?!

After a healthy pregnancy, I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy with no complications, and all seemed well. Except it wasn’t. Nursing complications and lack of sleep compiled feelings of frustration and even anger. Life became a storm of emotion, often too much to handle. Without any family or community surrounding me, motherhood felt like a daunting task I wasn’t sure I wanted anymore. 

Recognizing PPD/Anxiety

I spent my days filled with a huge weight of dread brewing in my chest and stomach. Daily tasks became full of anxiety. Unfortunately, my main trigger occurred 5 or 6 times each day: every time I had to put the baby to sleep. I was so accustomed to being in control, and an unpredictable human being with erratic sleeping patterns brought a crushing burden of stress. There was a time when I couldn’t even be alone with him. The second I started putting him to bed I felt anxiety and tension build up in my body and I needed to physically release it. I’ve always been a calm person, never a door slammer before having kids. I never hit my baby, but I slammed a lot of doors after he was born.

Anxiety and anger weren’t the only ingredients in my daily cocktail of emotions. A deep, gut-wrenching sadness took over, and I often found myself weeping. My grief was so immense it felt like someone I loved had died. I asked myself, “Why am I feeling this way? I have a healthy baby that I wanted for a long time, and I should be happy!” But I realized I was mourning my old life before motherhood. I was mourning the loss of what it was like, of what I was like, before my baby. 

And then came the guilt.

I felt like I didn’t deserve to be a mom. I thought my son deserved someone better than me. On top of all the anxiety and sadness, I felt the guilt so many new moms feel when life after baby is harder than expected. I kept thinking, “I’m supposed to be happy.”

Crossfire of PPD

The period after our son was born became the hardest time in our marriage. For starters, sleep deprivation took a horrible toll. Like many couples with a newborn, Joe and I were running on little sleep, so we were starting at a point of heightened irritability. He didn’t know quite how to help me, and being an independent person, I had a hard time accepting his help. He didn’t know what to do and would see me crying all the time. We weren’t connecting.

It was hard for me to focus on him or our marriage when I couldn’t even care for myself. He didn’t understand what I was experiencing, and neither did I. Without a support system, life fell into a downward spiral. Up to that point, we had never been yellers or fighters, but during that time we started yelling, cussing at each other, and fighting. A lot.

Getting Help

Things finally hit a climax in that moment on my bed when I realized I wasn’t myself. I didn’t recognize who I was anymore, and I desperately just wanted to feel normal again. It was then that I found a counselor who specialized in maternal mental health, and who was able to help me. She encouraged me to join a moms group, which I did—that was huge, to connect with other moms and to realize I’m not the only person dealing with these feelings.

My counselor also advised me to fill myself up with positive things in an intentional way. She suggested writing down Bible verses to read in times of anxiety, or in moments of sadness. If I had a free moment, I would step outside and read scripture instead of checking Facebook. I began researching and learning about postpartum depression and anxiety, and have since educated myself far more on what I was going through. 

Steps to Recovery and Healing

Telling Your Story

Even before the birth of my son, I started a blog where I normally shared lighthearted things like recipes or baby milestones. After I met with my therapist, I had a strong urge to tell my story on the blog, but at first I really didn’t want to. A lot of women feel shame over their battle with mental health, and it’s a really vulnerable thing to talk about. I eventually fought through my fears and posted my story. As soon as I verbalized my experience and my feelings, I immediately felt freedom, like a huge weight had been lifted. I think telling my story was definitely a turning point.  

Making a Plan

With my second baby, things have been so much better. I’ve still had hard days, but nothing like it was before. The second time around, my husband and I were proactive and intentional about preparing for the possibility of another bout of postpartum depression. Before our son was born, we focused so much on the birth, and on having enough stuff for the baby. But this time we focused a lot on our postpartum plan. Sometimes the focus is solely on the baby, and the mom gets pushed aside. I made sure to make myself a priority. 

Build a Support Network

We got really practical and decided to ask for as much help as possible. We made a list of everyone in our community we could call and made sure we had resources lined up ahead of time. I was now a part of a moms group, and we joined a church as a family. Having a community around you in the season of raising kids is imperative.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

It seems that we are usually our own obstacle when it comes to getting the assistance in times of struggle. People are often happy to help once they know there’s a need. For us, that meant once a week someone came over and helped out with whatever I needed at the time. Sometimes it was washing dishes, holding the baby so I could sleep, or simply bringing food. Then I always had something to look forward to, something to count on. In the midst of the loneliness and isolation of motherhood, I consciously built in times of conversation with another adult.

Advocate for Others

Motivated by my experience, I began volunteering with the Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas when our son was about a year old. It’s gratifying to see that my struggle hasn’t been in vain, but that because of it, I can help others battling with similar feelings. My desire is to encourage other women and provide resources for those who need them.

What I Want You to Know About Postpartum Depression/Anxiety

I’d like for women, and others around them, to know that it’s not their fault. It’s a chemical hormonal imbalance in your body. You cannot fix it yourself. There HAS to be help involved, whether it’s a therapist or medication, or both. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s totally normal and it happens to a ton of women. You can get over it. It feels like it’s going to last forever, but it won’t. There is an end.

Make a plan. Never be ashamed to ask for help. And give yourself tons of grace. There are still some days where I wish I could quit being a mom for a day. And that’s totally ok. That’s normal. You’re not alone.

If you have a story to share relating to postpartum depression or anxiety, we’d be honored if you’d share in the comments. We all need each other on this journey.

If you think you may be struggling with Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety, Kacie would be happy to talk with you. Please contact us so we can pass along your contact info.

Additional Resources:

If you think you might be in an emergency, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

** Follow Katherine’s blog at https://katherinelfischer.com/

** Follow Kacie’s blog at http://sweet-paleo.com/

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