A tiny hand wrapped around my finger. Soft snores bundled in my arms. Staring down at a tiny nose and a perfect pout. This moment makes pregnancy and labor all worth it. It’s what comes next, the dreaded postpartum stage, that terrifies me the most. The cramps, breast pain, and overall weakness. The intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and the weight of unsolicited advice. Would I be pregnant again? Probably. But could I go through postpartum again?
I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety until my third baby. My OB had asked me if this had happened with my previous pregnancies. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Don’t lie to me.” She’s been my obstetrician for years, so it was like talking to a concerned friend. I cried to her and admitted, “Probably, but honestly, yes.” No one told me my outbursts, mood swings, and crying were abnormal. Everyone around me just ignored it, chalking it up to it’s just baby blues. You’re being rude to everyone. I’ll take the baby; go take care of yourself.
My in-laws came to help us when I had my last child. With unforeseen circumstances, I had no choice but to be okay with it. My husband knew I didn’t want extra people in the house, but I couldn’t help but feel like a burden to him. So, I accepted it, thinking it would take a load off my shoulders.
People say to accept help when it’s being offered to you, but what if it does more harm than good?
The added bodies in my home made me feel suffocated. Too many voices, opinions, and questions invaded my space. I didn’t want someone else yelling at my children. I didn’t want someone bragging to me about how much sleep they got. I didn’t want to feel crowded. I wanted to be left alone with my children. I felt pushed against the wall, so one day, I shoved back.
And it exploded in my face.
I complained to my husband.
He said, “Let’s not let this ruin our weekend.”
I found a sliver of confidence to stand up for me because no one else would. I guess that’s what happens when you’re tired of being second best. But that’s the thing: I’ll never be number one. Or anyone’s number one.
I will never forget the feeling of being dismissed and belittled for expressing my feelings. I was rude. I hurt their feelings. I ruined Christmas.
But where was the support I needed? I needed someone to defend me and my needs as a postpartum mom; to see me. Everyone saw the baby. Everyone wanted to help the baby. Hold the baby. Rock the baby. While people attended to the baby, my husband, my kids, I was pushed aside to fight my battles alone, ones I couldn’t win.
I was struggling in my own body. So many things were out of my control, and I felt like I was drowning. As if I was in a glass box banging on the walls, where everyone was looking, and no one was truly seeing. I couldn’t speak up. I had no energy left for myself to fight. And if I did, what would have been the point?
My newborn got me through the darkest of nights. Despite the battles I suffered, night feedings, and sore nipples, my baby was the constant getting me to the next morning. Even to this day, my youngest gives me hope for another one along the road.
But can I do it knowing history will repeat itself?