Awesome Mom Memes Made Me Overlook My Postpartum Depression

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postpartum depressionAny mom who openly refers to their adorable child by using an expletive is my people. I love moms online and in my everyday life who discuss their struggles, their (slight?) dependency on alcohol and their (sometimes?) desire to just walk away or lock the bathroom door and cry. It’s motherhood for real, right? It’s not all Pinterest parties and kissing boo-boos. Motherhood and parenthood, in general, is a struggle. It’s a lovely, amazing, horrible, struggle.

But for some, the struggle is actually real. It was for me, and I missed it for years.

I had a really easy first baby. My pregnancy was tough, the birth was touch and go but after he was born it was all the things you hear. I’m pretty sure there were even birds singing in the background when I first held him. The kid slept so much I had to wake him up to feed him! He latched easily and was never colicky. As a toddler, he had his moments for sure, but he was easy to distract out of a tantrum or settle into a game. And he loved to play by himself – utter bliss.

When he approached three, my sweet and easy kid started getting a bit harder – fighting bedtimes, picky eating, big emotions… and I was also VERY pregnant. But I was optimistic that life would be better once I had the baby…right?!

Baby 2 was born and the birth was awful. Again. It was a boy. Again. And here I was with another C-section to recover from and a 3-year-old terrorist and I wasn’t hearing any birds singing when I held my new baby. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d heard the gates of hell opening up somewhere. Baby didn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a time, he screamed a lot, and so did I. But everywhere I looked, I saw solidarity: everyone was struggling! All the blogs and Instagram posts were telling me I wasn’t alone. We all feel horrible and we are all in this together.The problem was, I really did feel horrible. I was unknowingly in the midst of a deep postpartum depression (PPD) but I didn’t even notice. I’m surrounded by people who know all about PPD and I, myself, have been depressed before, but I didn’t see it. I just thought I was really bad at being a mom of two. I thought I had made a mistake by having a second child. I had gone from being a great mom (because that must be why my first child was so well behaved) to a horrible mom. On the outside I was doing all the right things: laughing with my kids, hugging them, playing, keeping them safe, spending time with my husband… the stuff good moms are made of. But I couldn’t even see that because inside I was screaming. I was screaming at my kids, I was screaming at my husband and I was screaming at myself.

I went back to work and had to quit because I couldn’t be what I needed to be for my clients either. My other job forced me to quit because I had “stopped being a team player” because I no longer joined in for lunch or office banter. I was definitely not thriving and there was no one to blame but myself.

For almost two years I thought I was just bad at being a mom of two. It literally never occurred to me that I was depressed. I read the blogs and laughed with the memes and felt comfort knowing it was hard for all of us. But there was no Ryan Gosling meme to tell me, “Hey girl, you’re depressed, get that checked out.”

It wasn’t until I saw a post somewhere listing some less common symptoms of PPD that I did a double take and realized, “OMG, I’m depressed.” Easily irritated, pouring myself into work, excessive self-criticism, sensitivity, inability to ask for help because I felt guilty. . . I sat with that for a few days, analyzing my feelings and reactions because God forbid I think I’m depressed when I’m actually just a sh***y mom and wife.

When I finally decided I was pretty sure I needed help, I sat my husband down and started to explain. He kept trying to help me feel better and tell me I was a good mom and wife and everything I was saying was just how I felt but I was doing a great job. This was not what I needed to hear. Finally, I just yelled, “I’m sick!” He stopped and finally understood and we both knew we had to figure something out.

As a mom, it’s okay to feel bad and overwhelmed sometimes. We all do! And it’s amazing that there are so many voices out there using humor and honesty to help us feel like it’s ALL ok. That is important!

But postpartum depression comes in so many forms. It’s not just dark thoughts, lack of motivation, and not bonding with your kids. I didn’t have those symptoms. As my therapist said, “I know your life is hard and there is a lot on your plate, but you don’t have to FEEL like this. You don’t have to suffer.” As a team, my husband and I found help and we’re still working through it. Some days are still hard, but I am so happy I saw that one blurb about PPD symptoms and I listened to myself and gave myself a break. It’s a process, but I’m getting there. And in the meantime, my sister texts me most days with this: “You’re doing a great job, mama!” It really does help to hear that from someone!

 

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