After Me - Reconciling the old me with my new life
“ One of the worst parts about symptoms of postpartum depression & anxiety is they don’t feel like symptoms….THEY FEEL LIKE WHO YOU ARE” - 2018 The Postpartum Stress Center.
I was only 21 years old when i was told i was expecting my first little princess, & in the midst of wrapping up my first year as a preschool teacher after spending three years working in the restaurant industry. If any of you have worked in the restaurant industry before, you know how crazy it can be... Working the dinner shift and then going out to party with friends/coworkers until the early hours of the morning because you don’t have to be back at work until 4pm.
But when I got pregnant, everything changed. I’m sure you can imagine being so young and stepping into motherhood surrounded by friends who are still in a carefree, immature stage of life. It wasn't easy. When the transition from “fun Fancy” to “soon-to-be-mommy Fancy” began, so did my transition from being surrounded by many friends to becoming a mother without a tribe.
Three months after I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, I found myself pregnant again. Then, when my son was one and a half, I was surprised to find out I was once again pregnant. And when my third child was only nine months old, again that little test came back positive. For those of you keeping score, that makes me 27 with four children.
For a long time I was so focused on trying to be a good mother I forgot to take care of myself. Five years of pregnancy, working, being a full-time student and a full-time mother didn’t give me the opportunity to cultivate and sustain friendships. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who understood that.
I vividly remember the day my 3rd kiddo Maritza, or Marimoo, was born via C Section. It was one of the most intense days of my life! After the surgery was over, the nurse took me back to the room with my husband in tow holding our newborn. He sat next to me with our beautiful little girl and attempted to place her in my arms. I refused to hold or even look at her. I burst out into tears and sobbed for what seemed like forever. I was so overwhelmed with the fear of not being able to be a good mother to more than two children it physically consumed me. The nurse in the room talked me through it, cried with me and comforted me enough for me to move past that moment. But the shame, anxiety, and depression only intensified after my youngest was born. I had no idea that being honest about how I was feeling and reaching out to others was essential to being a healthy woman and mother.
By the time my youngest was five months old, I was completely paralyzed by the flood of emotions that I now know to be postpartum depression and anxiety. Unexplained weeping, dizzy spells, anxiety attacks. You name it I had it. I didn’t want to burden my husband. He was so busy working his handsome ass off with a full time job and coaching for the local high school. And honestly? A big part of me just felt there was no way he would understand. At least not without judging me, anyway. He tried to “cheer me up” as best he could, but it was all for naught. The burden I felt not being able to be the sexy, fun, cool woman he fell in love with didn't help our situation. He never complained or criticized me, but when you have postpartum depression you beat yourself up enough that it feels as though the whole world is against you. It was actually my husband who convinced me to go see a doctor. These are the exact words I can still hear in my head today, “I'm not trying to make you feel bad babe, but I know that there is something going on. Something's off, something is wrong. You're crying all the time, you don’t eat, you don’t talk and when you do you're freaking out over the littlest things.”
So with much reluctance I did just that. I scheduled an appointment to see my doctor to which - get this - I had to take all 4 of my babies 5 and under to because I had no sitter. Amidst all of that chaos I believe the doctor understood just what I was going through. She cut the questionnaire short, put her clipboard down and gave me a big hug and a box of tissues. She looked me dead in the eyes and said “You're doing great mama, but now it’s time you let someone take care of you!" After another ugly cry session, I set up a few sessions to talk to a therapist.
I still struggle day to day but I have HOPE now and mom friends and that makes a world of difference.Now, the stigma surrounding postpartum depression has all but disappeared. It's not only accepted, but completely understood to be a common product of giving birth and support for suffering mothers is readily available. We also have access to numerous virtual mom groups via the online community we know as Facebook. So even if the demands of motherhood prevent us from getting out in the world, we can log on, click a few buttons, and find support waiting for us out there in the void. I have been so lucky to meet quite a few amazing mommies I can relate to... and, let’s face it, connection is the key to staying sane in this mom life. There’s a reason why people say, “It takes a village.”
I know how lucky I am to have been the sole caretaker to my babies when they were young. But I won’t lie and say that it wouldn’t have made those early years easier to have had people who I could lean on and spend time with on a regular basis. That support would have made my experience as a mother a lot more enjoyable. Every mom and every parent deserves- no, needs- a healthy support system to be a great parent.
For almost eight years I lacked that balance, but I’m happy to report that I am actively making a commitment to myself to change that for the sake of my mental health and my family.
"The secret to change is focusing all your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new" -- Socrates