I would like to introduce you guys to Chelsea. Chelsea is a contributor for the Fourth Trimester series, and today she will be sharing her experience with postpartum depression. Chelsea is an Air Force wife currently living in San Antonio, Texas. She’s also a recently Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Her daughter Piper is now 3.5 years old.
Take it away Chelsea…..
A few months before I became pregnant with my daughter, who is now 3.5 years old, I was sitting with my husband in our apartment in South Korea talking about the future. I remember being upset because I had no idea “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Lacking a college degree and moving every couple of years for our military lifestyle, I didn’t have a career to speak of and I really had no idea what I WANTED to be.
I did, however, know that someday very soon I wanted to be a mom. He hugged me and lovingly said, “I think you are meant to be a mother.” That one short statement was something I thought about over and over again through my experience with post-partum depression (PPD). I felt like I was failing at the one thing I wanted most in life and the one thing I was meant to be. We all hear about the sleepless nights and the less than optimal times we will get a shower, but we don’t hear much about PPD and the shame you feel along with it. I never thought PPD would strike me. And, come to find out, nobody else thought it would either.
My introduction to PPD was masked by anxiety; lack of sleep, lack of control, and a mountain of little 30-minute naps by the little one that left me with little time to do much besides sit for a minute. I felt like the moment she started napping longer would be the moment I felt better. As time went on, that anxiety slowly turned into a depression and self-shaming because I felt like I couldn’t handle being a mom in those instances. I couldn’t even get her to nap. I read every blog, every article, and snip-its of many books, and still my husband and I felt like we were guessing. We started reading a book called Babywise, which advocates getting your child on a schedule at a very early age. The people that swore by the book told stories of their children sleeping through the night at 6 weeks of age. When I failed at getting my child on a schedule like the other success stories, I felt like a failure. The Babywise method might work for some children, but my failures to implement the schedule only increased my anxiety. Along with my anxiety, I experienced the all-too-familiar sleep deprivation, and the pressures of learning how to actually be a mom, and literally being a lifeline for this new little baby who I loved with my entire heart. Those pressures continued to weigh on my shoulders until my anxiety turned to PPD.
I finally acknowledged my depression when my husband left for a 3-week work trip, known as a TDY, in the military. There was no single event that caused me to self-diagnose my depression; I just knew I felt off. I knew I had already been struggling internally; how was I supposed to handle 24/7 with a 3-month-old that didn’t sleep and no family nearby? Not only that, but the friends I did have nearby thought I was doing really well with being a new mom. It’s easy to put on a fake face in front of others to make yourself and your friends think you are doing well, but inside, I was on the verge of collapsing. I made a phone call to my husband in tears at first asking him to come home early because I felt alone and needed help with our child, but then rationalizing that he needed to be there for his job and I could make it the remaining time he was away. It was then, that a few very close friends learned that I was severely struggling. In the end, my husband did come home a week early. But the depression did not stop there. It went on for another 6-8 months.
Postpartum depression can look so different to many people and the symptoms are not always obvious. I still have a hard time recounting these examples. This is what postpartum depression looked like for me. I would lie on the floor crying, with my husband wrapped around me in a hug trying to console me. I would lay in bed, feeling the guilt of wishing we hadn’t had a baby because I felt she deserved better. I was told that I had been having a hard time for long enough, and I needed to get over it. Leaving the house in my car when my husband got home from work and going to a nearby parking lot to call my sister while sobbing. I was 10 pounds below my pre-baby weight within 3 months post-birth due to nursing, stress, and not eating enough. People told me I had to go get professional help and not doing it because I was afraid to be so vulnerable and open up to someone I didn’t know. Finally, and the most difficult of all, telling my husband not to buy a handgun for home defense because what-if?…What if it got so bad that I let that be an option to harm myself. It took me over two years to tell him that’s why I didn’t want a handgun in the house.
I am here to tell you, amazing momma, that YOU are enough. You are not alone in your thoughts and feelings, you are not a failure and you WILL get through this. Three years later, I wish I had gotten professional help. Not getting help in the form of therapy was my biggest mistake and regret. I think I would’ve healed much quicker than I did. And that weight that was put on my husband wouldn’t have been so heavy. Throughout my journey with post-partum depression, I did have phenomenal support from some very close friends and family of mine who did their very best to love on me, help me, support me, and tell me what a great mom I really was. We also hired a certified baby sleep consultant because when your 7-month-old is still crap napping and waking up multiple times a night, you call in the pros. Don’t let fear stand in your way of getting the help you need. Your health and well-being are paramount. You made a human, and that in itself makes you phenomenal.
Did anyone else tear up after reading this?? Thank you SO much Chelsea for sharing your story. It’s stories like these that make me so proud of this community we have built together. If you’re interested in sharing your story of something you struggled with during the “fourth trimester” whether it be physical & emotional please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for stopping by today to read Chelsea’s story! XO- Lee Anne