I am a woman with OCD, a form of anxiety and depression. When I found out I was pregnant, I was excited but also nervous, knowing that I was at a higher risk for postpartum depression since I had depression already. My sister-in-law and one of my closest friends, was pregnant with a girl as well and we were due in the same month. She had her daughter first, and she was so happy as a new mom. I remember her assuring me I would feel love like I never had before when I got to hold my little girl. I couldn’t wait.
April 21st, I was induced, and 19 hours later in the early morning hours of April 22nd our little Clara came. All I can remember is shaking and feeling so hungry. I enjoyed holding Clara for the first skin-to-skin contact, and thought, “Oh she’s so beautiful,” but no overwhelming sense of love came. I thought I just needed some more sleep and food, and then it would come.
I felt that motherhood wasn’t worth it. I didn’t love my baby. I resented her, and all that she took from me, and how hard she made my life become.
It didn’t. The hospital was a stressful time. Clara had to go to the NICU for a few hours and breastfeeding was not easy. Latching was a problem and the nurses (especially the lactation consultant) made me feel anxious. I felt like I was already failing as a mother to this perfect little being. We left the hospital, my mom came to stay with us for a week, and then Clara got jaundice. Goodbye bonding time. All it was for that first week was feed, change, and put under the lights. Clara had to get tested every day to see if her bilirubin levels went down. I remember being distraught over that. I was having anxiety attacks with the change of having a new person in the house. Soon, crying ensued and my aunt told me to get on medication. I called my psychiatrist and got a prescription. That helped, for a while.
Then, it was about that time to head back to work full time. I was starting to get used to a routine with my daughter at home, and now I felt the pressure to figure out pumping, making dinner, and taking care of a baby, all after eight hours of work. The weekend before I was to return, family gathered for Clara’s baby blessing in our church. I was so anxious. Some family members didn’t understand me and wondered why I was anxious when Clara cried and why I didn’t want to be flexible with the schedule. I remember at dinner that Saturday, I left because Clara was crying, and I just sat in my car, trying to breastfeed her, and cried. I felt that motherhood wasn’t worth it. I didn’t love my baby. I resented her, and all that she took from me, and how hard she made my life become.
Being raised in the Latter-day Saint faith, I felt so much guilt for the anger I harbored. That night, postpartum psychosis hit. I woke up with a terrible thought to harm my own daughter. I was scared and ashamed, but I didn’t tell anyone that night. The next morning was no better. My nerves were on end and I cried most of that Sunday during and after the blessing was performed. I remember my mother-in-law looked at me with concern and asked what the matter was. I could only sob that I didn’t know. Then the work week began, and my boss immediately sensed my stress. I couldn’t pump, focus, or work. She sent me home. Home to my parent’s house where my hungry daughter was waiting and crying. I felt so angry. I asked my parents if I could take a nap. After the nap, I heard Clara crying again, and I had the thought to end my life. Before this I had never been suicidal. Looking back, I realize it was the psychosis. Thankfully, the plan to end my life didn’t happen. I ended up telling my mom that I wanted to die, and she quickly called my doctor and Clara’s pediatrician, and he demanded I go to the hospital. So I went. Those 7 days in behavioral medicine were hard. At first, I didn’t feel like myself, and I couldn’t handle anyone mentioning Clara when I had visitors. Eventually I got put on some medicine that ended the psychosis. By the end, I wanted to hold my daughter and be with her.
My battle wasn’t over. Unfeeling comments, sometimes from family members, made me feel belittled and there were many times that I felt suicidal again. Saying ten gratitudes, calling my best friend who had postpartum depression as well, and relying on family saved me that summer.
My work was supportive through it all. Whenever I couldn’t handle my daughter’s crying, my husband, dad, or mom would hold her and put her down to bed. I remember countless days when I felt like a horrible wife, not able to cook, smile, or clean the house. I would yell at my husband when my daughter was crying too much. I would yell at her. So many times I felt like I shouldn’t have become a mother, that I was failing this perfect child from heaven. I looked at my sister-in-law with her baby and how much she loved her, even when she cried with colic. I hated their relationship, wishing I had that.
It took nine to ten months for the postpartum hormones to leave my body. Another hospital stay, different medication, and more help from outside sources. Something finally worked. I remember the day I woke up and felt lighter, happier. When Clara would cry, I felt compassion, not anger. Since that February day, I have been getting help from counselors and medicine, and slowly weaning off the medicine, which is my goal. I shared in a written essay about my experience with my in-laws and even though I don’t know if they truly understand, I feel better about myself. I accept that the disease was not me. Motherhood was very different from what I expected. I know, though, that I am the best mother that I can be and no matter my faults my daughter loves me. My husband forgave me. I am learning to forgive myself and not blame myself for this disease. I am the face of motherhood. I am the face of postpartum depression and psychosis.
About the Author: Allison is a full time working mom with a passion for children with disabilities, lover of all things nature, and an avid runner. She enjoys reading, crocheting, and spending time with her family. Weekends are her favorite.
Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.