I am the type of person who likes to research everything and be as informed as possible, so going into my first pregnancy I was aware of PPD. I knew I had a higher risk since I have a history of depression (I was first diagnosed at age 18). Still, somehow, just by virtue of my awareness, I thought it wouldn’t happen to me.
I experienced prenatal depression and anxiety but did my best to ignore the signs. Of course, depression and anxiety cloud one’s ability to make rational judgments and decisions, so it’s no surprise I didn’t seek out specific support resources. Instead, I focused on preparing for the birth and chalked my feelings up to first-time mom jitters. My birth team was wonderful and supportive in countless ways, but they were not knowledgeable about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
I had a wonderful home birth with no complications. The stage appeared to be set for a positive postpartum experience, like all the books say. Instead, on the second day of my son’s life my world came crashing down around me.
Having lived with depression for nearly two decades, I thought I’d already experienced the worst of the worst. Surely nothing could be worse than the night I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Nothing could compare to the complicated emotional turmoil of mourning the death of an abusive parent.
I was wrong. My first child had just been born; it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. Instead, I felt a thousand times worse than I ever had before in my life. I cried constantly. I was terrified of my newborn. I existed in a state of one never-ending panic attack. Awful, scary thoughts entered my mind and refused to leave. I couldn’t understand how someone could feel the way I felt and still be alive. If this was motherhood, I was certain I had made the worst mistake of my life.
But at my core, I was still me: someone who researches and wants to be informed. Somehow, amidst the hellish fog I was living in, I thought, “Something isn’t right.” I turned to the Internet and desperately began looking for help. I found Postpartum Progress. I found a local support forum. I reached out. I got connected with a therapist and psychiatrist, and made appointments right away.
I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I sobbed through my first appointment with my therapist, positive that I would feel this way forever. But she wasn’t worried. She told me that with the right treatment, PPD is 100% curable. I didn’t believer her. My case had to be different. It was too severe. There was no bringing me back from this. In my case, maybe it wasn’t even PPD at all, but rather a fundamental flaw in my character and proof that I wasn’t cut out to be a mother.
It took a long time, but I did come back. It was a long, difficult road – longer than I ever anticipated – but finally, I became myself again. More than that, I became an even better version of myself, one with more compassion, understanding, humility, patience, and joy. I am now dedicated to helping other moms who are suffering from PPD and dedicated to educating the public so that hopefully, one day, no one will have to go through what I did. I am proud to call myself a Warrior Mom, and thankful every day for my beautiful, perfect son.