“There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.”
–Julie B. Beck
I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than sheer, unadulterated vulnerability, especially when talking about Postpartum Depression. It goes without saying that this is no easy topic to casually talk about, but I will muster every ounce of my own power, strength, and vulnerability to just simply begin the conversation. Call it the “baby blues” or the “fourth-trimester”, any new mother can attest to having experienced it’s wrath. Yet you hardly read, hear, or see any real life mama own all of the ugly, upsetting, and down right exhausting realities of Postpartum Depression. So let talk about it; let’s start the conversation.
I mean to bring the topic of Postpartum Depression out of the darkness and into the light. I can very well give you facts and figures, but I want this to be discussed beyond the realms of the OBGYN’s office. I want to encourage you to tell your own story of Postpartum without shame or anxiety or fear. So I’ve decided to start the conversation by letting you into my own experience with PPD, the entirety of it, not just the swept up, buttoned up version, but the good, bad, and completely hideous. My goal and hope is that from this, we all may not only feel a sense of camaraderie, but that new and expecting mothers can find solace and kinship in the emotional rollercoaster that they will encounter.
“I didn’t experience this depression right away; it would be a build up of many outside factors that had become my family’s circumstances that would trigger my depression.”
That’s the interesting thing about PPD or any form of depression; it all begins with a trigger or triggers. A trigger could be a major life milestone, a memory, or comment, anything that brings up any negative thoughts that can be construed as self-depreciating or harmful.
Right before my daughter was born, my husband was fired from a job that had us both on staff; in the past year, we moved from our friends and family to work on this staff, so you could imagine the devastation we both felt after his job was terminated. Alex would be out of work for 2 months before he found another job and I would be on unpaid maternity leave.
The first trigger was our financial situation; we had quite a few bills, a student loan payment, and new expenses that we had to factor in because of Joy (our daughter). Once Alex was back at work though, things became a bit easier. However, I had a few more triggers that contributed to my depression.
A second trigger manifested in the form of involuntary isolation. Where my husband I live isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis; we live about 30 minutes from the nearest freeway and 45 minutes to 1 hour away from our friends, family, and loved ones. At this point very few people knew about Alex’s new job and while he would be at the dealership all day, I was at home with Joy, just her, no one else and me. Newborns aren’t too bad, but as the months went on and she became fussier (and there was no soothing her), I longed and even at times coveted our old community and friends who could have been of some comfort.
A third trigger in all of its practicality was exhaustion. As silly, or not silly as it may seem, because I wasn’t used to my new sleep schedule (or lack there of), everything was amplified. Now before you go thinking, “Why isn’t Alex getting up?” he does when I wake him up…the problem is that I don’t wake him. Some days he goes from a closing shift to an opening and due to the nature of working for commission, sometimes Alex will stay at work for 12 hours. His work is exhausting; my work is exhausting too, but at least I have the ability to try and nap once the baby is napping.
But I’m leaving one important piece out of my story, the effects of my depression. The part in which I hope any reader/mom/person can feel a little bit like they’re not the only ones in the world that feel the weight of depression.
About a month and a half ago, we were overdrawing from our checking account (again), Alex was dealing with indecisive customers, I was up with the baby 2-3 times a night, and I was still feeling a little bitter about the effects of Alex’s job termination. All of these things were piling on top of each other and it was a day where I was completely alone without Alex to help or be a shoulder to cry on; Joy had absolutely no desire to nap and by the time bedtime came, she was wailing. I tried everything and anything to calm her down, but nothing worked. I had become so overwhelmed by it all that out of the heat of the moment, I threw an empty baby bottle at a framed wall graphic. The moment I heard the glass shatter, I began weeping; Joy stopped crying as I began. I remember myself trying not to hyperventilate as I kept apologizing to my baby girl; over and over again, “I’m sorry honey, I’m sorry honey, I’m sorry honey…”
Then, as if I could not feel anymore embarrassed or shameful, Alex came home and saw the aftermath of my trigger build up. I remember the look of frightful concern on his face bouncing back and forth between our child and me. Although he didn’t think I would harm our baby, he carefully and calmly transferred her from my arms to his. As I began to explain what had happened and the emotions and causes leading up to it, I began to feel like falling jello, weak and heavy.
“I had lost control of my ability to process all of my stresses, insecurities, and all of the changes that had piled up in the past year.”
I used to look back at that moment and think of myself being at rock bottom, but now I see a mother trying her best for her daughter and husband, despite her exhaustion, loneliness, and worry. I thought that if I just mustered through and kept to myself, I could eventually get to the next day without anyone knowing that I was struggling so hard on the inside. My family and friends wouldn’t be burdened by the sad, negative feelings that had become my daily battle.
A day or so after my outburst happened; I tried to find a real example of a new mother going through what I was going through. Not just something that had a smile stamped on or a trendy picture carefully staged, but someone just being honest and real about her own experience with depression. I understand that I ask for much; talking about your own battle with PPD takes vulnerability, but we need to make this a normal conversation that exists outside of the doctor’s office. For moms who have no idea what they’re doing, we have an opportunity to normalize this stage of Postpartum.
In an age where influence is becoming more accessible to people, wouldn’t we want to use our influence to invite other mothers or fathers to feel a little less alone in the world? I think that we need to challenge ourselves to use our influence, our power, and our experience, and use those things to spark this ongoing conversation.
Mary is an amateur graphic designer, worship leader, and an enthusiastic baker living in Washington State with her husband, Alex and her daughter, Joy. She is passionate about authenticity, vulnerability, womanhood, and spirituality.