Having a baby is supposed to be a joyful experience, right? Whether it’s realistic or not, that’s the expectation women face when they become mothers.
But for many women the transition into motherhood is far from joyful and not living up to that expectation leads to feelings of failure and shame.
How do you cope when your new role as mother brings on a perfect storm of change that has you completely overwhelmed?
When everyone is gushing over your baby and reminding you to cherish every second, what does it mean when all you want to do is run away and escape?
It means you’re not alone.
One out of every six women experiences postpartum depression or anxiety. I am one of them.
I was anxious from the moment my first son was born. I passed it off as sleep deprivation and typical new mom stress, but it got so bad that I eventually stopped sleeping completely, and started having panic attacks and scary thoughts.
The lack of sleep began chipping away at whatever coping skills I had left. I was struggling to hold it together and began having frequent bursts of rage that left me sobbing and filled with overwhelming shame. I would yell and scream, slam doors and throw things. On one particularly awful day, I put my foot through the wall after what seemed like endless attempts to get my son to nap.
Never in my life have I felt such shame and guilt. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I felt like a monster.
So when people asked me how I was enjoying being a mom, of course I lied. I had a beautiful baby, a supportive husband, a nice home, and a good job to go back to when my maternity leave ended. In my mind, I had no business being unhappy and certainly no right to be absolutely miserable.
I managed to hide what was really going on from most people, but my husband lived with it every day. He knew the truth and he knew that I needed to face it.
Four months after giving birth I told my doctor I wasn’t ok and that I needed help.
With medication and regular check-ins with my doctor, the anxiety and depression gradually began to lift. Within weeks, I started to feel lighter, happier and healthier. I started to feel like me.
So many women suffer in silence because they feel too ashamed to speak up about how they really feel. Any mother will tell you that having a baby comes with a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. Sometimes fleeting moments of beauty and light are overshadowed by the dark and ugly symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure. For me, it was the strongest decision I’ve ever made.
Postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders are very treatable with professional help, so please talk to your doctor if you’re struggling. It’s ok to say you’re not ok. You’ll be glad you did.