Motherhood is a remarkably rewarding role that I was extremely excited to take on someday, but I totally underestimated the extent to which my life would change. I ended up with postpartum depression and it was not a pleasant experience, to say the least.
Admittedly, I never sought professional help. This is a personal choice that I made when I first started to experience the symptoms of postpartum depression including persistent feelings of sadness and anxiety. There’s no doubt that professional help is warranted and incredibly helpful in many situations but I felt that I could fight back on my own.
I wanted to work through things on my own. How did I get out of the dark cloud of sadness and anxiety? Whenever I sensed it descend upon me, I let go and let it happen. This turned out to be the best alternative to keeping it all bottled up inside and ignoring the problem. I had to force myself to get out of my head and to see myself through the eyes of an outsider. This practice helped me tremendously because I was then able to rationalize my thoughts. I was then able to see things in a more positive light. Seeing all of my blessings and making mental gratitude lists were instrumental for me in overcoming such sadness and anxiety.
The guilt and denial were overwhelming at times. The bond that my daughter and I share is strong and beautiful. Also, the act of being a mommy actually came quite naturally to me. That’s why experiencing postpartum depression confused me so much. I constantly felt guilty for all of the negative commentary that was running rampant in my mind. I felt like something was wrong with me. To make matters worse, I denied it all. I kept it all bottled up inside until I suddenly burst and unloaded it on my husband. It took me a long time to forgive and allow myself to accept how I felt and move past it.
The baby’s needs always come first but I still matter. I was ready to happily put my baby first in all matters. However, I didn’t expect to have to plan my showers and meals the way that I did in the first several months after her birth. Fortunately, I come from a family in which the women take care of the new mother immediately after she gives birth, so for the month following my delivery, my mom, grandma and some other relatives took care of me. This way, I was able to focus on caring for my baby. They also did this so that I would never be alone. In my culture, it is believed that a new mom should constantly be surrounded by loved ones immediately after giving birth so she won’t fall into a pit of depression and loneliness. Therefore, we left our small city and stayed with my parents for a month. Lo and behold, as soon as we returned to our own home, I started to experience mild symptoms of postpartum depression. Because I was so consumed by caring for my baby all the time, self-care went out the window. It took a while for me to regain the habit of caring for myself as well as my family. In order to combat the feelings that arose from self-neglect, I had to intentionally carve out some time in my day to self-care and “me” time.
My relationship with my husband changed dramatically. I knew that things would change between my husband and me after we became parents but I didn’t realize just how much. We went from being college students to parents and the transition in our relationship wasn’t exactly smooth. After our baby girl was born, all of my attention was given to her and admittedly, I sometimes forgot about the needs of my husband and our needs as a couple. Quality time was especially lacking in our relationship. This in itself was extremely difficult to adjust to. I feel so incredibly blessed to have a man who challenges me to be the best version of myself but we were struggling to find time for us.
Everyone sees my adorable and lovable baby and looks right past me. Before I was pregnant, people always saw me for me. When I was pregnant, most people went out of their way to accommodate me and make me feel comfortable. However, after our baby was born, people started to actually look past me to coddle my baby. At first, I was in such an impenetrable state of joy that I overlooked the feeling of annoyance at the dramatic shift of attention. I also knew that these were mostly well-intentioned loved ones. People who didn’t mean to totally ignore me and reach for my baby every time they saw us. I had to alter my mindset in order to set myself free from the feelings of sadness that would descend upon me in these times. Instead of feeling hurt and overlooked, I started to relish in the fact that my baby is so adorable and totally deserving of all the love and attention.
The expectation to “succeed” by everyone else’s standards multiplied. We have been so fortunate to have so much familial support both emotionally and financially. However, the pressure and expectations to suddenly have everything figured out are crushing. When I felt down about my financial struggles, I reminded myself that money is important but not the most important thing to a happy life. I also reminded myself that I am young and have my whole adult life to realize my dreams and ambitions. To really get somewhere though and make actual progress, I had to get up and take action. Writing down my short and long-term goals and specific intentions were also essential to overcoming my constant state of anxiety over money.
Hormonal changes and emotional rollercoasters overwhelmed me. Instead of being extra driven to “succeed” and be productive, I was unmotivated and lethargic. Aside from fulfilling my mommy duties, I was doing little else. Of course, I had alternating good days and bad days, but it was a generally frustrating place to be. I had to release the negative feelings associated with postpartum depression somehow! Instead of finding a healthy outlet, I often lashed out at and berated my husband about one thing or another. After many unnecessary arguments, I had to make a change. I started to take a step back and admit to myself that I was acting irrationally. I also started to forgive myself because, hello, a human just came out of my vagina and I needed to give myself a break.
I became a total homebody and virtually nonexistent social life. Living in a baby bubble can be a tad lonely. Due to my depressive moods, I often chose to stay at home instead of venturing outside and interacting with people. After weeks of basically holing up in the house, I began to go on daily strolls with my baby as well as other activities that I didn’t do before. I made more of an effort to get out of the house and engage with other people on a regular basis. This did wonders for my mental health. One of the triggers for my postpartum depression was the fact that I couldn’t relate to my friends the same way anymore. Despite this, I began to reach out to them and make more of an effort to hang out. Turns out, my true friends were there for me all along. I broke down to my besties over the phone on more than one occasion and had so many heart-to-hearts. It was beyond therapeutic!
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