“If I needed you to stay home tomorrow would you?”
“I want to, but you know I have to go back to work.”
And, with that the discussion was closed. The baby blues were real. Or, what I thought were just the baby blues were real. It had been 16 days since we had our first child and I was not okay. Every time I stepped into the shower, I would nearly crumple to the floor with sobs. Every time I thought of my husband going back to work, I pleaded with him to stay.
“It’s just the baby blues. Your hormones need to get back to normal. It will take time.”
But, I didn’t feel fine. Deep down, I knew something was wrong, but if my husband said I was still okay, then I must be okay. If my best friend told me that her friends had the same feelings, then I must be okay. If the blogs all told me that baby blues would only last a few weeks and only two weeks had passed, then I must be okay.
I was okay. Right?
Then, the dreaded Monday when my husband returned to work arrived. I woke up early. I even got a shower before babe woke up. When babe did wake up, we had a feeding and made sure the pup had fresh water and food, too. I got us all dressed and we went for a walk around the neighborhood. I actually did feel good for the first time in days. The day was beautiful, humid, but beautiful. Baby was content and rarely cried that day. We got into a nice groove that week and I finally felt that I had this mom thing down.
The weeks passed and the anxiety subsided. Well, it subsided until Sunday evenings when I thought about the week beginning with my husband leaving us for work. Every Sunday I would cry. I would stand in our living room and ask my husband to hold me. He did his best to reassure me that I was doing great, but it wasn’t enough. His words felt empty. I now know they weren’t, but they did feel like that.
Slowly the anxiety that crept into every crevice of my body began to visit me during the week, but it visited me with different faces. I would find myself washing bottles, when all of a sudden my heart rate would speed up. I would be folding laundry, when all of a sudden I would become angry that I was stuck at home. I would see my husband walking through the door each evening and want to scream at him for no real reason. I started questioning our marriage.
“He doesn’t get it, so he must not care. He doesn’t even notice that I’m sad.”
What I didn’t question was why others didn’t see what was going on with me. To be honest, I was good at acting like it was all okay.
“Oh, those baby blues were pretty rough, but I’m all good now!”
I told everyone that line. I told my parents. I told my husband. I told my best friend. I told my friends at church. I even told strangers.
“It was rough, but I’m swell now!”
I lied and I did it well. That’s why no one knew that I needed help. They did all ask how I was, but who really wants to talk about the bad side of becoming a parent? Right? I wish I knew how wrong that was at the time.
The weeks passed by, and I felt myself detaching from my baby. I loved (and still do) love that tiny human with every fiber of my body. I did everything humanly possible to keep babe growing and happy and thriving. Yet, I wanted to run away nearly every day.
Then, the day happened.
The night before the day my husband and I got into a huge argument. I don’t even remember what it was about, but it was bad. It was so bad he slept in the guest room and I told him that we didn’t need him. We would be just fine without him.
The next day I was crying every time babe was crying. I didn’t want to put babe down. We stayed in our pajamas all day. We kept the house dark. We ignored calls. We deleted text messages. We cried and cried. I felt alone. I felt like I was being pulled deep into the ocean and I couldn’t breathe anymore. I couldn’t see the sun anymore. I just held on to babe and let myself drown deeper and deeper into the freezing water. I was scared of my emotions. I was scared of who I had become. I was scared.
“Get help now,” I told myself.
For nearly two hours, I dialed my OB/GYN’s office and then hung up. Dial. Hang up. Dial. Hang up. Dial. Hang up. Then, I finally let it ring.
“Hi, I need to make an appointment.”
“I just saw my doctor for my six week follow-up, but I think I have postpartum depression.”
“Do you feel like you’re a danger to yourself or others?”
Did I what? No! I was just sad, not suicidal!
“No, I just feel really sad.”
“Okay, hold on one moment.”
That moment felt like an eternity.
“Your doctor would like you to come in first thing Monday, does that work for you?”
I won’t go into details about how the conversation went with my husband that evening. I won’t go into details about how my appointment went that following Monday. I won’t go into details about how I shared the news with certain family members or close friends. I won’t, because each of our stories are different. Some stories have now ended in victory. Others are still on the journey to fight postpartum depression. And, others ended with funerals of moms who simply could not find the help they needed in time.
There are nearly one million women a year who struggle with perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Let that sink in for a moment: one million women each year.
Do you want to know what’s even worse? Only 15% of those women will seek help. That’s nearly 850,000 women who suffer in silence. That’s nearly 850,000 families that will suffer in silence. That’s your sister. Your best friend. You neighbor. The stranger stuck in traffic next to you on the interstate.
Now, if you’ve continued to read this, and you even for a fleeting moment think that you have postpartum depression, I want you to know something. I need you to know something.
It is okay to not be okay. You are not any less of a woman. You are not any less of a mother. You are stronger than you think. It’s time to let someone know that you need help.
If you’re in the Charleston-area, please visit Postpartum Support Charleston for information, local resources, and support groups.