Updated: Jan 17, 2021
So over the past few months, I have done a lot of reflecting and looking back on the first five months of Ellie’s life. If you have read my posts on breastfeeding and reflux you are well aware that the first few months were no walk in the park, which is extremely common for mothers. I struggled mentally and physically, I cried often, I doubted my ability to be a mom, and I genuinely wasn't sure if things would ever get better.
Being in the mental health field and having experienced severe depression and anxiety at various moments in my life, I was quite aware of what rock bottom looked like for me and I knew all the signs....yet somehow I significantly downplayed my postpartum experience. Because I was able to still find joy in things, laugh, eat, shower (barely), and get by I did not initially identify my experience as a mild combination of PPA and PPD. Despite my educational background and experience, I felt I needed to have more symptoms in order to qualify for such a diagnosis.
I cried multiple times a day and felt that some days would just never end.
I would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night not because Ellie was awake, but because I was so fearful something would happen.
I questioned every decision I made and lacked confidence in everything I was doing.
I blamed myself for my inability to breastfeed Ellie.
I thought by having a baby with reflux I was being punished somehow.
I questioned how much I actually really loved Ellie because I was having all these thoughts.
I felt I had lost who I was as an individual and instead had just become “mom.”
Looking back all of these things clearly indicated something was wrong, and if I were on the outside looking in, I would have suggested to whoever was going through this to seek some additional support. However, because I brushed off how I was feeling and didn’t score high on those pretty awful postpartum screenings you get when you go to your kid's pediatrician I was blind to what I was actually going through.
Full disclosure, I now see a therapist. An amazing social worker who I cannot only feel supported by but relate to when it comes to both my personal and professional life.
Now there were a few things both personally (that had little to do with being a mom) and professionally that pushed me to make this decision and it really was one of the best choices I could have ever made. I forgot how much I missed actually having a therapist - I know that may seem weird and it could be that I like therapy so much because I am in the field myself, but I am just being honest. After several sessions and reflecting back on my experience to catch my therapist up to speed, I then realized all on my own that what I had gone through was actually varying levels of postpartum anxiety and depression.
I then thought to myself, how could I have missed this?!?
You're in the field, you dummy!
How could I have not recognized the signs and symptoms and been tuned in to what was going on both mentally and physically? I still don’t really have the answer to that question, but I do know now that I am on the other side of things that I am not the one to blame.
Really no one is.
Experiencing PPA and PPD are so much more common than you think and nothing to be ashamed of. So many people I have talked to share similar experiences yet often had little insight into identifying what they were actually going through
I realize that what I have experienced is extremely mild in comparison to so many moms out there and to those of you still struggling I send my love and the biggest virtual hug.
With that being said, I’m not writing this post for sympathy because I’m okay and I was able to work through it. I’m writing it because there needs to be more conversation about postpartum depression and anxiety out there. I’m writing because I hope that if you have some of the symptoms I had and fall more under the mild category that you choose to reach out to someone who specializes in maternal mental health and can help you regain your identity and your strength. We as moms go through so much and we have learned through our societal norms that we are supposed to suck it up and push through all while keeping a smile on our face.
Well, I’m here to tell you that is the biggest pile of bullshit I have ever heard.
I often ask my clients how they can fill the cup of others (like their children, their spouse, or their friends) if their cup is empty? In reality, it’s just not possible.
You can do what you do to get by, but at what cost? We have to take care of ourselves in order to be there for the ones that need us most and I think as moms this is the number one thing we forget. We are allowed to feel our feelings whatever they may be because they are valid and often warranted and there for a reason.
You are NOT alone in this fight, mama, even if sometimes it feels like it.
You are strong, courageous, and you are worth feeling happy and at your best.
I know it may not be easy, but if you are struggling I encourage you to take that step and reach out to someone who can help. It may be challenging in the beginning, but I guarantee it will be worth it!