What is postpartum depression? That is a question I had once never thought I’d have the answer to. When I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2015, I was afraid. I had never wanted children, and so my pregnancy caught me by surprise. It threw my whole life off course and changed every plan I had made for myself before I knew of her. Needless to say, I was petrified. I didn’t think I’d make a good parent and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The days to weeks, and the weeks to months, and in time I had grown to love the little blueberry that was growing inside me. She was our blueberry. My partner and I started calling her that when we found out I was pregnant. At that time she was no bigger than a blueberry, and my dreams were about as big as a blueberry, too.
When I first held my blueberry I felt the weight of the world being lifted off my shoulders. They say that most people are hit with the baby blues almost immediately after giving birth, but that wasn’t the case for me. I was hit with an overwhelming sense of happiness and love. I felt like the rest of my life would finally make sense. I got little sleep in the hospital – and not just because she spent the entire two days crying. I couldn’t sleep because I had to savor every moment. A week after I left the hospital, my world came crashing down.
They warn you about the baby blues, but no one really warns you. No one told me that I would cry a river’s worth of tears in a matter of 24 hours. No one told me that I would feel this deep, dark, crushing despair in my chest that would consume me until I hardly felt human anymore, let alone felt maternal. No one told me that I would grow to hate my partner because he actually got to leave. He got to go to work and talk to full-grown people while eating lunch without a baby screaming at his breast. No one told me that I would look at the baby I carried for 40 long weeks and not recognize her. No one really told me.
It shook my world up.
Two weeks passed and I still felt so sad, so angry, so anxious, so scared.
What is postpartum depression?
This was a question I had become so familiar with. I asked my doctor, I asked my daughter’s pediatrician, I asked everyone I could because I had no idea what was going on with me. I was told what symptoms to watch out for, and I was told I was at a greater risk being that I had a family history of it, but I wasn’t told that it could present differently in some people. I wasn’t told that some people would experience postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD symptoms more than they would show depression. I wasn’t told that I would have intrusive thoughts so terrifying they would leave me bound to the house for days, weeks, months on end. I wasn’t told how terrified I’d be to leave the house, to cross the highway, to visit friends and neighbors because everything would seem like a threat to my baby. I wasn’t told by anyone that I might begin to believe that I was the threat.
No one told me.
So, what is postpartum depression then?
It’s a dark, crushing despair that will creep on you even if you feel like you’re on top of the world. It is a monster that may take what you feel should be the best days of your life away from you. It may rob you of your joy, keep you awake at night even as the baby sleeps, the ghost that whispers anxieties in your ears every time the baby cries, the monster that hovers over you when the strangers at the supermarket give disapproving stares. Recovery, however, is different. In recovery you’ll realize how much stronger you will become. It will teach you to love like you’ve never loved before. You will learn how to survive.
That first year with my first was the longest year of my life. It is only because I spoke my secret that I was able to receive help. Since then, I have made it my vow to tell everyone I know what it is like. Not a day goes by where I don’t wonder how different my first year with my daughter could have been if someone had just told me.