After giving birth to my second baby I felt like I was trapped in darkness and had lost myself. This is my postpartum depression story.
Life has been a struggle for me this past year. I went through a postpartum depression period where I could barely muster the energy to get off the couch to use the bathroom. This darkness slowly crept in a few months after my second baby was born and lingered for nearly a year. It’s always amazing to me that as I open up and talk about my postpartum struggle, I find more women that had similar experiences. So, if you are struggling, or did struggle, just know that you aren’t alone.
I was not officially diagnosed with postpartum depression, or depression in general during my first year postpartum. It was not until later that I was retroactively diagnosed. I felt like I didn’t have a postpartum depression story without that official diagnosis. So I referred to this time as a “dark period” or postpartum “struggle.”
The Baby Blues
My postpartum depression story started about 3 months after my second daughter, Bellamy, was born. Just as Virginia was starting to transition into Fall. My husband was back to work. I was totally on my own during the day to figure out my new life as a mom of two kids. As the days passed I found them to be more and more overwhelming. Bellamy still had a late night feeding session and was sleeping in my bedroom. She was also a fairly early riser, usually waking for the day between 5:30 and 6. I felt exhausted and alone.
During this time, Bellamy wanted NOTHING to do with Jesse. She screamed whenever he tried feeding her or holding her, so we had given up on him helping. Instead, he moved to sleeping in his office. This was partly my idea. It meant that I could keep and prepare all of Belle’s bottles and formula in the bedroom. And watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy while I fed her. However, my relaxing TV time slowly became a time where I felt totally isolated.
I started wishing for Bellamy to get bigger so she could sleep in her own room. And I resented her for her early morning wake ups. These feelings then led to extreme guilt and thoughts like: “Why couldn’t I just enjoy my time with her? She’ll only be this little once, I’m a terrible mom for wishing these days away!”
I also felt a lot of guilt for how I parented Mara. She would wake up for the day right as Bellamy would go back down for her first nap. I’d go into her room feeling like someone that hated their office job. I just wanted to sleep! Or be alone! I definitely didn’t feel ready to parent a toddler after being up with a newborn. My solution was letting her watch endless hours of Daniel Tiger and Sofia the First while I laid on the couch.
While laying there I’d think about all of the other things I could or should have been doing. Instead, I felt glued to the couch. And anytime one of the girls needed me I was annoyed and overwhelmed. I dreaded mealtimes and groaned over diaper changes. So, I dealt with all of these negative feelings by eating. I’d eat whole cakes or a pan of brownies in less than 24 hours. These bad eating habits led to more negative feelings about myself, more tears, and of course, unhealthy weight gain.
A Little Break in the Darkness
I felt stuck in this cycle from September until Christmas. I’m not sure if it was the joy of the holidays, or just the healing of time, but it was like a candle had been lit in my darkness. It wasn’t a bright candle, just a small flicker of my old self. I slowly started having more good days, but the darkness would always take back over, hitting me like a semi-truck. After the holidays, I thought that perhaps I just needed a vacation. So I went to Florida to visit my best friend. The trip was great, but my fog of darkness never quite lifted. I was devastated when I got home and realized that I was still sad and frustrated. Most days I didn’t even recognize myself when I looked in the mirror.
I spent months obsessively thinking of my life before having two kids. Imagining how happy and productive I was. How often I left the house and how much energy I had. I kept thinking about it and talking about how much I missed it. My husband would ask me questions about what I did then and challenge me to implement some of those practices. I resisted. I felt anxious and scared to change the way I was living, even if it sucked.
Randomly, one morning in May I decided to wake up about 30 minutes earlier than Belle’s usual wake up time. I went downstairs, made my coffee, and sat in silence. When Bellamy woke up, I wasn’t mad and I felt less stressed than usual. I felt like I had more time in my day. I tidied the house and even took the kids to the park. By the time the girls went to bed that night I was exhausted, but happy. So, I woke up early again the next day and the day after that. After 4 or 5 days it felt like someone had finally opened the curtains and let the sunshine into my soul. I felt awake and happy for the first time in awhile.
It’s not just the act of waking up, but the fact that I do something for myself. Some days I just watched InstaStories or a show, others I sat with my planner and planned out the week. I usually ate breakfast alone during this time and preppred the girls’ food. When they woke up we all got dressed right away. Then, I did chores like empty the dishwasher or fold laundry while they ate. All of this is usually done by 8 am, so we have an hour or two to play or get packed up before we have anywhere to be. I think I just feel prepared for the day, so I don’t automatically wake up overwhelmed and stressed.
Now, I know that a few weeks isn’t a long time and my postpartum depression story may not be totally over. I still have work to do, but I love feeling like myself again. I have energy. And motivation. I’m ready to do the work to fight back the darkness and keep the lights on!
Since writing this blog post, I’ve had many more struggles with depressive episodes. I sought counseling and medical help in Fall 2019. I was officially diagnosed with PMDD a few months later. PMDD, or Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder, is a more intense version of PMS. It often results in depressive episodes, anxiety, fatigue and extreme mood swings. Read more about my struggles with PMDD here.