I always struggle to decide whether or not to share serious or depressing things online, especially things of a personal nature. Nobody wants to hear about sad stuff and there is still so much stigma surrounding mental illnesses that as I write this, I am arguing with myself about sharing it with you. I want to keep things light and happy, but I have also gathered strength and understanding from hearing the stories of other mothers who have gone or are going through a similar struggle. That being said, here is my story.
After deciding to have a baby and assuming it would take a long time (possibly years) to get pregnant, we were caught off guard by that plus sign on the test after just the first try to conceive. I had the easiest pregnancy ever; I stayed thin, had very minimal nausea, and felt pretty great. Pregnant me was stinkin' adorable. I spoke to my giant belly often, singing Nirvana songs and musing about how different and exciting life was going to be. I painted furiously during that time, cranking out many of the smaller works currently for sale in the shop. I had a blast.
Baby Echo came a week before my due date and was absolutely beautiful and perfect. Her skin was pink and soft, her cheeks were chubby, and her cry sounded like a mewing kitten. I expected to be ecstatic, shed a few happy tears, and accept my new role as a mother with grace and ease. But when the doctor laid her on my chest and I held her for the first time, I didn't feel bonded at all to her. I was terrified, exhausted, and feeling guilty for my apathy toward having an amazing new daughter. My guilt grew when I made the choice not to breastfeed, giving it up after two clumsy attempts. All I wanted to do was sleep and be left alone.
For the first few weeks, I slowly adjusted to taking care of a new human while recovering from the long labor. I had a wonderful support system thanks to long, out-of-town visits from my mother, grandmother, and husband and in-laws. I took Echo on walks, laughed at her funny faces, read books to her. But I still felt off. I wrote those feelings off, figuring after I recovered physically, everything would kind of fall into place for me emotionally.
Then I got my first postpartum period and fell into this weird overwhelming anxiety loop. I had watched a scary movie that day and images of it kept flashing through my head non-stop. I couldn't stop my mind racing from this insane buildup of worries I didn't even know I had. I became scared of holding Echo. I was freaked out and reluctant to go near my baby. For three days, I cried a lot and ate very little, hating myself for being so down. I thought I could snap myself out of it, that I was being selfish and stupid and a bad mother. And really, I didn't want to be a mother anymore. I wished for Echo to have a better mother than me. I wished to run away.
On the third day of this, I hesitantly called my doctor's office and told them what was going on. I remember feeling a lot of shame admitting what I was going through. I had read about postpartum depression and hormonal imbalances before having Echo and I understood that a great deal of women have felt the same way I was, but I was still so embarrassed that I couldn't fight those feelings on my own. I was afraid my doctor would turn me away or think I was wasting her time. I realized that what I had was no different than having a cold or the flu. It was a chemical imbalance that could be treated.
I am so glad I sought help early on. It was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family. I am slowly healing with medicine, clean eating, and light exercise. I even found a counselor who is helping me pinpoint where my various worries are coming from. I still carry some unnecessary guilt and anxiety, but I am doing considerably better. I successfully installed two shows and even braved a radio interview on WKNO.
I love my kid. In spite of all my discomfort and fear, I always have. She is happy, quick to smile, and generally awesome. When people ask me how we're doing, I am swift to reply with a big grin, "Great! Motherhood is awesome!" And motherhood is awesome in its way. But it sure isn't easy. I'm taking it day by day. If you're still reading this, I thank you. If you are going through something tough, I am sending you all my love. Never be afraid to admit you need help. Everyone does sometimes.