Here's a place to talk about the relationships in your life whenever you want.
I started smoking the day after my daughter was born.
After a rough pregnancy where I suffered from severe morning sickness — hyperemesis gravidarum had me vomiting every few days for the duration of it — I had joked about having a celebratory cigarette when it was all over. Then I found myself on my balcony, forming a new bad habit to cope with my postpartum depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11% to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. Every woman suffers from the hormone slide known as the "baby blues," which typically resolve within two weeks, yet it is just as normal to feel much worse than that.
When I talked to other people during my pregnancy, I knew what I was in for. Almost every mother warned me how difficult the first few days, weeks, months and even year are. All of this advice discouraged me so much that I wondered, What the hell have I done?
I was due January 9, and throughout fall, I felt like a ticking time bomb, a life free and full of potential that would come to an immediate roadblock after Christmas.
At a routine appointment, I mentioned these feelings to my midwife, who immediately placed me on a small dose of Zoloft, telling me this would hopefully prevent postpartum depression from forming later.
The first day that my daughter was alive, I felt nothing but elation, amazed and in awe at this tiny creature I managed to push out after a 20-hour labor. The next night in the hospital, the baby laid screaming next to me while my husband slept. I had to get up and go to the bathroom; I was in extreme pain, and it would take 15 minutes or so to deal with the bloody mess that gushes out for weeks.
Surely I can just get a little time to myself, I thought. I was wrong and I knew it then and there. The days of uninterrupted time to myself to do anything were now gone, and I decided I absolutely hated that.
That first week home, I tried my best to stave off those bad feelings. I took the time to shower, put on some makeup, and still managed to cook dinner at night. At first, it made a difference, and I didn't feel anything other than content.
A few days later, I started to run a constant fever from lack of rest and time to heal. I needed to sit on a doughnut-shaped pillow due to soreness, and I couldn't sit down to drive. Two weeks passed by, and I noticed that while I had lost the baby weight, I still had a little, loose, jiggly belly that wasn't quite the same as my former tight, flat stomach.
I felt like shit. My formerly active sex life with my husband took a dive due to my bad self-esteem and pain as I began to feel so distant from who I used to be. I used to be fun, I used to be beautiful, I used to do more than feed a kid 'round the clock and change diapers. At 20 years old, my life was over.
I decided that I regretted motherhood.
With leaving behind a family rooted in the Northeast to move to the Midwest, I had zero help and began to feel so alone. My husband had two separate eye surgeries in the weeks after I gave birth, and it was up to me to run the whole show while I couldn't even take care of myself so I could heal.
On a particularly low night, I left my husband with the baby and ran sobbing out of my apartment and drove off to sit in the parking lot of a diner while I wondered if I would be better off dead. When I came home, I eyed the sharpest knife in my silverware drawer out of desperation, wondering if physical pain would end the emotional despair. Eventually, I realized that something was wrong and needed to change.
Like I had been advised to, I sought help. I wrote. I ranted. I made public my distaste for this new lifestyle, because being brutally honest and getting it all off my chest makes it feel so much better.
Motherhood isn't fun; in fact, it's a total load of bullshit. I love my daughter, but as a stay-at-home mom, I hate the expectations and tied-down lifestyle. I'm now eight weeks postpartum, and I struggle daily to feel as if I am worthwhile, or that I matter as much as my kid. The lack of sleep has been taking its toll, and I spend a good portion of my days wishing that the newborn phase was over.
But that's just what it is: a phase. It'll pass, just like the depression that accompanies it. Everything in life is temporary. It's awful, it's degrading and it hurts my pride, but part of surviving is learning to "embrace the suck" as some would say.
Every day is another day that has passed, therefore every day can be considered a victory in the battle to overcoming this. I have an appointment with a new, female therapist next week who has experience with postpartum depression. There are steps to be taken on the road to recovery.
A handful of my friends and former coworkers are currently pregnant, and if they were gushing to me during pregnancy about how they could not wait to hold their little bundle of joy, I wouldn't spoil it for them. But if they came to me in the postpartum period, frustrated after weeks of sleepless nights that have left dark circles under their eyes, I would offer all the help they need, and I'll remind them that feeding them, taking care of them and just being there for your baby means that you love them.
When it comes to postpartum depression, as we heal we need to be honest with ourselves and everyone else. We can despise the trials of motherhood and even regret it at times, while still unconditionally loving our babies.