postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthDear New Mom,

I barely remember my first Mother’s Day.

My son was born five weeks early in April 2009. Not carrying him to term made me feel like I failed at motherhood before I even got started. By the time Mother’s Day rolled around, I didn’t feel like there was much to celebrate. Between the breastfeeding struggles and the total exhaustion, I certainly had no interest in putting on my party hat.

As weeks progressed, I grew more and more anxious. I couldn’t sleep. I would quietly cry as my husband slept soundly by my side. I’d cry in the shower. I felt like a failure. I felt alone. I felt completely incapable of being a mother. I felt like my son could not possibly love a screw-up like me.

Eventually, I convinced myself that these were all just the “Baby Blues.” Things would just get better with time and at my six week postpartum check-up, my OB agreed. However when I returned to work ten weeks postpartum, I was completely overwhelmed. Between the workload, the not sleeping, and now my already weak milk supply dropping, things took a turn for the worst. I felt like I dropped down a deep, dark hole and I couldn’t get out. Something started building inside of me. It was new and it was ugly and it was powerful.

It was RAGE.

That rage finally made me realize that something was really wrong and that I needed help.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do was admit to my husband that I thought that I had postpartum depression. That was 12 weeks after my son was born.

With my husband by my side, I went to my doctor and tearfully explained my situation. She didn’t judge and she gave me some great advice: the best gift you can give your child is a healthy mother. And that really hit home. We then made a plan to get me better. I decided to give up breastfeeding and began taking medication for postpartum depression. I started being more open with my husband, telling him how I was feeling, asking for help and letting him help me. I started going to counseling.

It was a difficult journey, but with time I felt so much better and by August 2010 I felt confident enough to stop medication. I spent the last few years working on taking care of myself as well as my family. Now it is May 2013, my son is now four and there is no doubt that he loves me. I am expecting my second child in June. Am I scared that postpartum depression may strike again? Hell yes. But I made it through before and I know that with help I can do it again.

Every woman’s journey into motherhood is different. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. If you are in a dark place, please take that first step and ask for help. It’s hard, but necessary. You can do it. The darkness of postpartum depression is temporary and with help you can see the light again. There is life beyond the sadness, loneliness, the anxiousness, the rage.

Give yourself permission to take care of you.

I’m rooting for you.

~ Lori

Lori Lynn Bollinger paints scenery for theatre by day and is a kinda-sorta blogger by night. She writes about her adventures in pregnancy, parenthood and everything after at I Can Grow People. Follow Lori on Twitter at @ICanGrowPeople.

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Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on all things related to emotional health around pregnancy & childbirth, is a service of Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of postpartum depression and similar illnesses. Please consider making a donation today, Mother’s Day, so we can continue and expand our work supporting maternal mental health. Thank you!