When my daughter was born I was in complete bliss. Her presence in this world after her 3 older brothers was one that was longed by each of us. She completed our family. Before her birth I envisioned falling madly in love with her, and being so swoon with the idea of having a daughter that nothing would be able to phase me.
Then my world was shaken and turned dark by postpartum depression. The feeling of joy seemed impossible. There was no longing to hold my newborn baby, or spend time with my sons. The only thing I longed for was total and complete isolation. If I wasn’t isolated, then I was angry. If I wasn’t angry, then I was sobbing.
I felt like I had failed. Failed at being a loving mother, and a present wife. I finally broke, and thankfully my husband was there to catch me. He held me as I called my doctor, and supported me in seeking my own therapy. Postpartum depression had consumed me and I couldn’t make it any further alone. I needed help and support.
My journey was filled with emotional highs and lows. My postpartum depression suppressed and then relapsed. I grasped tightly onto the skills I learned in therapy to get me through the tough times, and I celebrated when I was mentally and physically present for the good.
It took two years to feel fully recovered and stable. Two years of rediscovering who I was after postpartum depression left its scar on me. Now, as I write this I look over and see my daughter. She will be turning four in a couple months. I adore her and her brothers more than I could have ever imagined. I look at her and I am reminded of the lonely time I experienced after her birth, and I am thankful for it.
Postpartum depression taught me a lot. It showed me the importance of supporting new mothers. It taught me the depths depression can lead someone into, and that sometimes with postpartum depression mothers can experience less common symptoms like anger, and irritability.
Having a support system is crucial for new mothers. Support can come in many ways. One is being there to listen, and allowing a safe place for her to express the dark and lonely feelings that may accompany postpartum depression. Another, is to normalize asking for help. Mothers have a pressure to do it all. This can create a sense of failure in asking for help. Lastly, educate yourself and educate others on postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can happen to any new mother. If you have a woman who is or will one day be a mother in your life, support and love her by creating that safe place. The safe place that can provide her some light if postpartum depression tries to bring her darkness.
Jessica Szmanda, MA, LADC
Individual and Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth and Families
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If you’re in a crisis, call 911.