I came across a quote the other day that kind of stopped me in my tracks: “Something I believed would be the making of me became something which nearly broke me.”
It immediately made me think of the scared new mom I used to be. I mean, I guess in the grand scheme of things, I’m still relatively new to this whole mom-thing, but my confidence is leaps and bounds stronger than it was when I saw this quote and felt it deep within my soul. My mind and body are in a much better place now than I used to be, and that’s all because someone loved me enough to make me get the help I needed, even when I wasn’t willing to do it for myself. I had pinned that quote to one of my Pinterest boards so many months ago, and that quote struck me at a time when I wasn’t feeling strong, when I was wracked with self-doubt and feelings of profound inadequacy. When I saw it the other day, it snapped me right back to those dark days that I don’t like to think about much anymore. This quote resonated with me in a time where I said things that literally break my heart to even think that I once uttered out loud.
It would just be better if I wasn’t here anymore.
Those were the words that came out of my mouth, twice, two separate times, exactly a week apart when our baby was three and four weeks old. Of course, with the blessing of hindsight, I know now that the second time Jeff heard me tell him that, tell him that he should just find a new wife, one who could actually be a mother and a wife and not a mess, was the one that really scared him. It scared him enough to call the hospital and ask what he could do to get me help, because there was no way that this could be right, that I could be this scared, this anxious, this despondent. It was absolutely the right thing to do and turned out to be the single best parenting decision we have made to date. Even when I was angry at him for making that phone call, when I was so ashamed, it was the right decision, and it changed the whole trajectory of those first few months of motherhood for me.
It would just be better if I wasn’t here anymore.
The thing is that it’s not like I felt suicidal. I didn’t have any violent thoughts or tendencies or actions. I didn’t want to hurt myself or the baby. I didn’t have a plan for what it would look like or even what it meant to not be here anymore. I felt an almost constant need or instinct to flee, to run away. I was afraid all the time and constantly worried about failure. I was worried I was doing everything wrong and that I wasn’t going to feel connected to this sweet creature I’d created.
Before I even said the phrase “It would just be better if I wasn’t here anymore,” out loud in the presence of anyone else, I had thought it countless times. I would whisper it to myself while I pumped, while the baby cried and wouldn’t latch, while I couldn’t turn off my thoughts the second I would lay down to try to sleep. I was in total denial that anything was actually wrong, though. Even when I would lay the baby in his bassinette in the middle of the night, both of us crying, throw on my boots and winter coat and sob to Jeff that I had to go. Even when I left my house at 3 in the morning in my nightgown, got in my car and drove down the street of our neighborhood only to catch myself and say What the hell are you doing? Where are you going? and turned around to cry at home.
Even then, in those moments of complete chaos, I told myself that yes, it was awful, and this couldn’t be right, but how many other people go through this? After all, didn’t they say the baby blues are normal during our birthing classes?
By the time I got to the emotional state where I said out loud to another person — It would just be better if I wasn’t here anymore — it’s like everything in my body was screaming for help, like it just knew it couldn’t continue this way. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I didn’t know why I couldn’t just rise up and shake it off. I was in denial that this was anything beyond the “normal” baby blues, as they say, because I was paranoid that if I admitted it, that if anyone else found out that I felt like this, that someone would take away my baby. It didn’t help that I’d googled “difference between baby blues and postpartum depression” and other things of the like, and read horror story after horror story of what could happen.
The day my husband called the hospital and we showed up for that forever-long intake evaluation appointment, it felt like an emotional roller coaster between soul-crushing shame and almost euphoric relief. Even after that first appointment with a revolving door of mental health professionals, it wasn’t until about half way through my first day in treatment that I realized that this, what I was experiencing, was actually postpartum depression and anxiety and while it’s not normal, it’s not abnormal and these feelings didn’t make me a bad mom and it didn’t have to be like this.
The treatment I received, the follow up I had with my therapist, the grace I learned how to give myself … these things have made me the mom I am today, the one I’m proud to be, the one I’m confident about being. These days I don’t worry if someone else is better suited to be there for my boy; I don’t worry endlessly that I’m doing this whole mom thing wrong; I don’t worry that I can’t handle this. I don’t hide in shame anymore, I don’t cry in the shower anymore, and I don’t feel the need to run away anymore. But it took work, and it took the support of other people, and it required me to admit that what I expected and what reality is were different and that was OK. It required me admit that I was scared, but that was OK and to keep going even though I was scared. It required me to admit that it’s OK to ask for help and to receive help when it’s offered. All of these things are still things I have to be intentional about and dedicate effort to on a daily basis; it’s an ongoing process for wellness.
To the mom who has thought it would be better if she wasn’t here anymore, who cries all day long, who lies to her friends and says that motherhood is an amazing gift and it is coming naturally but really just wishes she could run away, I see you. To the mama who is worried that she doesn’t love her baby like she’s supposed to, who is scared to be alone with her baby because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen, who is so lost that she is googling how to be a mom, I see you. To the mom who was paralyzed by anxiety at the thought of her partner going back to work, who can’t sleep, who feels the shame of these feelings down to the marrow in her bones, I see you.
And, mama, I’m telling you, it gets better. It doesn’t have to be like this, and this is temporary. Ask for help. Tell your spouse, your best friend, your doctor, your kid’s pediatrician, your parents. Tell yourself that you deserve better than this, you deserve more than feeling like this. There are all kinds of programs, professionals, medication, and therapy to help with this, to help you.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time, struggling with sadness or depression and/or dealing with what could be postpartum depression/anxiety, you can find more information and resources here. If you are in crisis, stuck in a dark place emotionally, and/or can’t see a way out, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit this website (there’s also a chat feature). It’s free, it’s open 24/7, and it’s available for anyone and everyone as a resource.