I’m writing this for all the mothers who will come after me, and for all of the mothers that came before me and felt too ashamed to speak up. For fear that it might make them look less capable, crazy, or less of the amazing mother that they are.
I am the mother of a beautiful, intelligent, perfect, three month old baby girl. I am also the wife of a wonderful, caring, kind husband who has epilepsy. I am also a working mom, a breastfeeding mom, and oftentimes, it feels that the entire world rests on my shoulders.
Since having my baby girl three months ago, I have struggled with the upheaval that has become my life. I have all of this energy running through my veins, but I have no motivation to get up. I cry at the drop of a hat, I have panic attacks. The only thing that brings me joy is my baby girl. But there are moments- when she is inconsolable, crying in my ear, that I feel that the world is closing in around me. My breath quickens, I feel sick and sad, I cry with her.
Once I was holding her in the kitchen, singing Baby Beluga to calm her, tears streaming down my face. Adam appeared behind me and took her from my arms, and I buckled over and cried. Why am I feeling this way? How can I fix it? How can I function as the wife, employee, and mother I need to be?
The day I first reached out for help- eight weeks post-partum- I was met with odd resistance when I explained my panicky moments. My OB wouldn’t prescribe anything and referred me to a primary care doctor, which I didn’t have since moving here a year ago- I frantically called every doctor, psychiatrist and women’s health center I could find, hyperventilating in my car while my baby slept soundly in her seat- tears streaming down my face. “Help me, please. I need to talk to someone.” Each one said the same thing: “We can’t get you in for three weeks.”
It was only when I said the words out loud that I knew I couldn’t hold inside any longer, “I can’t make it three weeks. I need someone today.” That I was taken seriously.
When I began to share my story, mothers flocked to me and shared their own post-partum struggles. “It’s normal,” they said. “I went through it too.” In fact, nearly 85% of new moms experience some sort of post-partum mood disorder, but we don’t talk about it! We don’t know what to say to each other to help each other out, because it makes us seem less of a “put together” person- someone who is struggling emotionally when they have everything in the world to live for- how selfish can you be, so worried about nothing!
When you’re in the hormonal bubble, it’s hard to see outside the walls of it. It’s hard to explain it to your mom, or your best friend, or your partner. Some days, you just exist. Some days you stare at your computer and do your work and keep your head down, feigning a smile when a co-worker asks how you’re doing. At the end of the day, you race home to see your baby- the only thing that brings you joy. And for a few hours, everything is okay.
We need to erase the stigma that comes with post-partum mood disorders. You’re not alone; I’m not alone. The transition back to work is hard, the transition into motherhood is hard- but so incredibly worth it. I’m a work in progress. I’m a career woman chasing my dreams- while juggling a marriage, a household, my mental health- and my new, perfect, baby girl.