You are not alone, mama!
There I sat feeding my beautiful girl, Haven, knowing how lucky I was to have a perfectly healthy baby with ten perfect little toes and ten perfect little fingers, but deep down I was feeling something weighing heavy on my chest that I couldn’t explain. Haven was born on July 13th (7 days after her due date). The labor, well let’s just say it could have gone a lot smoother, but it was by far my biggest accomplishment to date. Childbirth was very empowering! But, who would have guessed it would be just the beginning of my struggle.
Let’s rewind 10 months to before I found out I was pregnant (keep in mind I am 35 year old at the time). I loved my life, wonderful, supportive husband, 2 cats and a super hyper yellow lab named Jax and a great job that gave me the financial independence to do as I pleased. The only thing missing was a baby, right? See, I always wanted to have a family of my own, but it never felt like the right time. Looking back it was more that I never pictured myself in the mother role. My husband and I never really had the discussion about kids because we were just content. One day while laying by the pool I asked Brian if we were going to have a baby. My reasoning being that if we were, we should start trying because I was getting old. Well, that was not a good enough answer for Brian as his response was, “Babes, I want you to want to have a baby like Kim Kardashian wants to have a baby” (how he even knew that reference I have no idea, but that is his sense of humor). So from that moment it became a “silent” agreement that we would just STOP trying NOT to have a baby. And...BOOM the tests were positive!!!
My pregnancy was awesome, no morning sickness, no food aversions, no cravings (except, really cold salad and frozen yogurt and the occasional Cadbury mini egg). To be honest, I never felt so good about myself, it was the first time in my life I accepted my changing body and the fact that I had to go up a size or two with no judgement. I laughed and felt alive in a way I never did before. Early into my pregnancy, we had decided that I would not return to work after Haven was born. This knowledge gave me a lot of anxiety, as well as, excitement and nervousness. How was I going to survive without my own paycheck?? Work was always my outlet.
Now, let’s fast forward 13 months. I was 7 weeks postpartum, after all of the hoopla of family visits! There I sat full of emotions nursing my baby and wondering why everyone said, “This is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you.” HUH?? What am I missing? Why do I not love this? Why am I so on edge all of the time? How do people make this out to be glorious and fulfilling? I am definitely missing something. Well, these questions began to burn deeper and deeper within me with every passing week. I loved my baby, instant love, a love I never felt before, BUT she drove me nuts!! Why can’t I get anything done? My favorite past times where gone - no more reading in the sun, no more naps with the cool breeze coming in the window, no more showering, no more pedicures, bathing, cooking NOTHING!! Total isolation from my previous life, and I hated it. The only thing that saved me was getting out of my house EVERY morning. I would go anywhere I could that I knew people would not mind hearing a crying baby - Target, Babies R Us, the mall, anywhere I felt comfortable. The problem was I would eventually need to go home, not to mention with no job I really had no business being at any of these places as they all have an entrance fee of at least $50. I mean who doesn’t go into Target without purchasing something they NEEDED.
It was around this time I found FIT4MOM. Finally, I had a real reason to leave the house every day! I did, however, still feel like something more powerful had control over me and finally, enough was enough. I couldn’t understand the chemical imbalance I was feeling and it drove me loony. I started googling (complete google mom here) and what I found was eye opening. I had postpartum depression. There are different levels of PPD, but I was basically text book.
I questioned how my doctor didn't notice I had some symptoms. I mean all I had to do was check off some boxes on a piece of paper, right? Looking back, were they SERIOUS? Checking off boxes on a piece of paper is really going to help them determine whether or not a new mom, second time mom or adoptive mother had PPD? Questions kept pouring into my head. Why isn’t there help after that baby is born? Why doesn't anyone want to see me now in their office? Why me? You have that baby and BYE, good luck with that little human! Well, I was lucky enough to take matters into my own hands and I am so grateful that I did! I was prescribed a small dose of anti-depressant, enough to "take the edge off." Everything changed, finally it didn't matter that I had not vacuumed that day or that the counter had a crumb on it. That little 1/2 pill gave me time to reconnect with my ever changing baby girl and allowed me to connect with her in the moments that I will never get back.
A week after I was diagnosed my husband came home from work with news that one of his coworker’s wives had just committed suicide because of PPD. This is no joke! I was so taken aback because now I was embarrassed that his coworkers thought I was a crazy person. I am extremely grateful I never had those thoughts, however, I can see why one would. What scares me is when I tell my story to my friends who are moms (the same ones who told me how great being a mom was supposed to be), they come out of the woodwork saying “oh yeah, I felt that too”. My response is "oh really, then why didn’t you tell me this before??" No one talks about PPD because society has put such a negative spin on it. Social media is also to blame because no one will post the bad stuff, just the picture perfect stuff making them look like super mom, which can cloud the mind of new moms who want to strive and be perfect. I was one of them!
I don’t really know where I am going with this rambling, I am not a writer and I am not even sure it makes any sense. I am better now, well off my meds at least. PPD is temporary, but I am still struggling trying to recognize who I am as Haven’s mom. I love watching her grow and have even played around with the idea of having another baby, you know because I am now 36!
Becoming a mother has changed me and it is definitely making me a better person, as well as, giving me new opportunities to help others. I will carry the weight of having gone through PPD during those vulnerable first few months, but hopefully this little snip-it of my journey can reach at least one mom that is feeling like she is alone and isolated and let her know that she isn’t!
FIT4MOM LSBWK NoVa saved me when I was at my lowest point. One class and I was hooked. Most importantly, it gave me a reason to leave to house EVERYDAY! I am so grateful for this village and the friends that Haven and I have made. If there is one thing I have learned, there is no such thing as being perfect in motherhood. THE MOTHERHOOD IS REAL!
** If you or anyone you know have symptoms or questions about PPD please contact Postpartum Support VA, a non profit organization that helps new moms........ you're not alone!
**Cheryl has been a member of FIT4MOM LSBWK NoVa since October 2016 and is mom to Haven (July 2016). She is also one of our Stroller Barre and Stroller Strides Instructors and teaches at Kingstowne Shopping Center and Springfield Town Center.