Written by: Jessica Meadows, Guest Contributor
5 Days. 120 hours. 7200 minutes.
This is the amount of time I spent at an inpatient psychiatric facility in December of 2010.
My son was 6 months old.
It has taken me almost 7 years to pen my experience suffering from Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. My hope is that by sharing my experience, although still painful and fresh in my mind, I will help other moms who are suffering in silence to seek help and to not be ashamed of feelings or thoughts that they are having.
Childbirth was not at all the picture I had painted in my mind. There were no birds singing as I pushed my child into this world while my adoring husband held my hand and gazed lovingly at our miracle. I had an emergency C-section after sixteen hours of labor.
Defeated. I felt so defeated.
How could my body have failed me? As women, we are programmed to birth our babies through hours of pushing and screaming, not by surgical means.
Inadequate. I felt so inadequate.
Motherhood was totally unlike the new mommy posts I was so used to seeing on Facebook. You do not get to sleep while your child is sleeping, if they sleep at all. Babies, especially mine, cried. He cried all the time thanks to colic. I didn’t instinctually know how to handle him, as so many experienced moms told me I would.
I returned to work full time when my son was a mere 6 weeks old. By this time, the depression had crippled me. I struggled to get out of bed every day to go to work, but I longed for the relief I felt when I dropped my child off at our sitter's house. She knows exactly how to care for my child, I reasoned. She has done this for many children before.
But in reality, I felt he was in much better hands at her house than at home with me.
At three months postpartum, I was still waiting for my “mommy instincts” everyone told me would kick in. But where were mine? I drove to my mom’s house after I picked my son up after work every day because the thought of being alone with my child scared me. Panicked me. How is it possible that I felt no connection to this little human who shared my body for nine months? Ashamed and afraid, I did not speak of these feelings to anyone. Not even my husband who I felt I could tell anything.
Failure. I was a complete failure.
My mom intervened and took me kicking and screaming to see my family doctor in August of 2010. She could tell I wasn't myself. Three months later and countless medication changes, I had become progressively worse. The daily panic attacks, my relentless crying, racing thoughts, detachment from my child, and mom-guilt, all became more than I could bear. Thoughts of suicide entered my mind on a daily basis, multiple times per day.
I knew without a doubt that my child was better off without me. He deserved a mother much better than me.
On December 14, 2010, with my mom in the chair beside me, I finally broke down in my doctor’s office. “Tell her everything, Jessie,” my mom lovingly coaxed. So I spilled my guts. I confessed all of my feelings, thoughts and anxieties. I admitted I had a plan to take my own life. Knowing that I could no longer run from my issues, I agreed to inpatient psychiatric care. I just wanted to feel better. I just wanted to be the mom I longed to be in my heart. I was willing to do anything to be better for my son’s sake.
I slept for twenty-four hours after I arrived. It was the longest five days of my life. My family and husband cared for my son. The smile on my baby's face when I saw him for the first time after those five days is permanently etched in my mind. I knew I was on the long road to recovery.
And long was no exaggeration. The next three years were an uphill battle. PPD doesn't develop over night and it isn't controlled overnight either. I had to fight every. single. day. Some days, the depression and anxiety won, and other days I could claim small victories. I attended counseling regularly and stayed on my medications.
I am proud to say that through prayer, an excellent support system, medications and counseling, I have overcome the demon that is Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
I gave birth to my second child in November 2016 and I have not experienced the same severity of symptoms that I did after the birth of my first child. This time around, I knew the signs. I had coping mechanisms. I was educated on PPD and Anxiety, and the nightmare these illnesses could bring about.
I have exposed myself and poured my heart out to simply say, it's ok and there is hope for all you mamas battling this illness. It’s ok if you don’t feel like yourself after your baby comes. It’s ok if you have no clue what you’re doing. In reality, there isn’t a new mother on the planet who does. You don't have to live up to the fairytale of motherhood that society implants in our minds - it's not real.
Your baby just wants your love.
So, seek help. Don't be ashamed to take medication, or participate in counseling if that is what works for you. It’s ok to do yoga and have time to yourself to regroup, if that is what gets you through. There is no shame in wanting to get better to be the best mother you can be. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem and that you need help.
Postpartum Depression is a very real mental illness. Educate yourself. Know the signs. And if you find yourself in a place of desperation, as I did six very short years ago, I beg you to seek the help you need.
Jessica Meadows is native of Eastern Kentucky living in Lexington, with her husband and two children, Jaxson and Ellee. Jessica loves being involved in her church and although stressful, she loves being a full-time working mom. To her, life is all about finding balance and being the best mom and wife she can be.