I see you there sitting in the dark; you’re shaking and terrified, left wondering how on earth a little baby, so small and harmless, could completely break you. Maybe your birth experience isn’t how you planned it. Or maybe you didn’t plan for anything other than to just let your body do the work and you’d go with the flow. But the pain was intense and real, the labor rapid and you were left feeling exposed and unprepared.
There was no joy or love when your baby came into the world—just utter relief that it, your pregnancy, your labor—was over. Now you’ve been left alone to care for a helpless newborn while you are trying to recover physically and emotionally. You haven’t had time to think about your experience and make any sense of it. All you know is that right now your baby scares you. His cries cause you to panic—literally. Going near his room, his crib, his changing table—whatever—takes every ounce of courage you can muster.
They said the transition to motherhood would be hard, but you didn’t think it would look anything like this. Despite talking about your anxiety with your doctor, you’re told that it’s normal to feel anxious and it’s something that all new moms experience. You can’t help but think—“how the hell is this normal?” and if it is “I’m a total failure.”
It took you over an hour to get yourself ready to even get to the doctor’s office. You couldn’t remember if you’d eaten breakfast or brushed your teeth as every conscious thought is directed towards the anxiety that’s gnawing at your chest. You feel it in your throat, choking you. It’s in your hands and arms, they won’t stop trembling. Your voice quivers when you try to speak. You can’t sleep, no matter how exhausted you are. You can’t stop obsessing over how horrible you feel, and the responsibility you have to keep you and your baby going, day in and day out.
Well Mama, this isn’t normal. You’re not a failure. What you’re experiencing is an anxiety disorder and postpartum depression. You need to talk to another doctor about how you’re feeling. And if they dismiss you, talk to another doctor. Find a therapist. Go to the emergency room. Keep going until someone takes you seriously and says, “you’re sick—but you will get better.” With proper treatment and time, you will beat this.
The anxiety will fade, the depression will lift and you will start to find joy again. Your baby won’t scare you. Sleep will return. And the more you talk about your experience, the more mamas you’ll find that can relate.
They’ll come along beside you and say, “hey, me too!” There are countless women who have walked this road before you and they’re circling back to come along side to help carry you until you have your own two feet firmly back on the ground. And even then they won’t let you fall. They’ll keep walking the road, sharing their love, their experience and wisdom.
You’re not alone. You never were. And you will get better.
The Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit that raises awareness & provides peer support for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. To see some of the ways we provide moms support, visit http://postpartumprogress.org/community/.