“All I have ever wanted is to be a wife and mother. I love being a mom. But when I am bobbing above and below the waves of postpartum depression and anxiety, I am so tired of motherhood.”
I am drowning. No matter how strong I tread water, the waves continue to crash into me. Each time I attempt to catch my breath, I am shoved back underneath the surface. I don’t stay there though. I simply continue to bob up and down, managing to catch just enough oxygen to keep me going.
Eventually, the waves cease and relief flows through my bones once again. I swim for land and I allow my body to fall onto the warm sand. The sun beats down on my back and it feels good to lie there and just listen to myself breathe. Everything feels right again.
I find the strength to pull my tired body up off of the ground. It is when I begin to take that first step home that it happens. Another wave — much larger than the first — steals away my normal and carries me out into the deep waters once again.
This is postpartum anxiety and depression.
After I gave birth to my daughter last October, I felt all of the things a first time mama is expected to feel — excited, tired, sore (really sore), a little clueless (okay, maybe a lot), and absolutely in love. The first few weeks at home were challenging, but other than a touch of postpartum blues the first week, I felt great. I was LOVING mama life.
I permanently left my job late in my third trimester to prepare to be a stay-at-home-mama upon our daughter’s arrival. It has been such a blessing for our family.
Not having a career “waiting” for me helped ease a lot of stress of early motherhood that would have been there otherwise. I did not have a maternity leave countdown in the back of my mind, a desk in an office gathering dust, or a climbing email inbox. I could focus one-hundred percent on being a mama.
Better yet, my husband switched jobs that allowed him to be more present, too. He no longer felt pressure to be in the office by 7 a.m. each morning and work through dinner each night. Saturdays at the office were no longer a thing. We could not be any more thankful to be so incredibly blessed by God. We know a lot of families do not have the opportunity or ability to create this work-family balance; we recognize how amazing and special it is for us.
To top it all off, we were blessed with an extremely chill newborn. (I do not like to use the terms ‘good’, ‘easy’, or ‘bad’ to describe newborns because I do not think that babies can be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and I think no matter how chill a baby is, parenthood in general is never ‘easy.’) We had very little trouble with breastfeeding, she almost immediately began sleeping in three-to-four hour chunks, and we rarely witnessed her at a level-10 meltdown.
So although my nipples were sore, I was never well-rested, and my body was still recovering — I felt pretty normal. I was enjoying #momlife.
At three months postpartum, I felt confident I had avoided the postpartum depression and anxiety I heard doctors and fellow moms mention throughout my pregnancy. I just figured it only happened to moms with colicky babies, moms without help from their partners (and single moms), or moms who struggled with breastfeeding, etc.
So when the waves of postpartum anxiety and depression came crashing over me, I started drowning…in silence.
At first, I thought I was just having a bad day. But then the bad days kept coming.
So I started to think I was just a bad mom. This created a breeding ground for negativity and lies. The belief that I was a bad mom left my mind vulnerable to attacks from satan, and boy did he attack. My mind was constantly filled with things like:
“Why did you become a mom? You’re obviously not cut out for this.”
“There go all of your dreams of a big family…GONE. You could never handle that.”
“You cannot even survive a full day without screwing something up. Just give it up already.”
“Your daughter deserves a better mom. You are ruining her.”
“Snap out of it. You are so weak. Other moms do not struggle like this. You are clearly overreacting.”
Even as I write these words, I can feel the negativity start to creep into my thoughts. I still feel the self-doubt tugging at the heaviness looming in my chest.
This is postpartum anxiety and depression.
It starts as thoughts you can shrug off at first. Then as they become more frequent, you begin to believe the lies. Guilt sets in. And then you just get tired.
Tired of not feeling good enough.
Tired of failing.
Tired of trying to hold it all together.
Tired of the day-to-day.
Tired of being a mom.
That last one hits hard. Tired of being a mom.
All I have ever wanted is to be a wife and mother. I love being a mom. But when I am bobbing above and below the waves of postpartum depression and anxiety, I am so tired of motherhood. I want to be done. I want to quit.
It is here, at this lowest-of-the-low point, where my WORST thoughts occurred. The “what-if” thoughts.
“What if I ran away so my family could live a better life without me?”
“What if my screaming daughter just fell out of my arms and onto the floor?”
“What if my whiny, squirmy baby slid out of her tub and under the surface of the water?”
I know they are just thoughts, lies that satan put into my head. I know I never would have entertained these thoughts. But what I did not know when they first started was they are normal for moms with postpartum anxiety and depression.
It took me a long time to write those thoughts down. Admitting these thoughts ever crept into my head is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
“It was these dear fellow moms, the same ones I assumed never struggled and had it all together, who showed me their own scars from postpartum depression and anxiety.”
But I am allowing myself to be vulnerable. To be honest with you. Because for the love of all things holy, I wish someone was vulnerable and honest with me.
Now, don’t get me wrong — there were people who told me they suffered from postpartum anxiety and depression after their pregnancy. My OB/GYN handed me pamphlet after pamphlet filled with information on postpartum anxiety and depression.
But there was no one who told me I might think about gettin’ outta dodge, or think about what would happen if my daughter fell out of my arms or under the surface of the tub water. There was no one who told me this was normal and that I wasn’t a psycho-lunatic.
It was not until I finally decided to share my struggles with a few close friends that I started to feel better. They reassured me I was okay, I wasn’t a psycho-lunatic, and directed me to the seek the help I desperately needed.
And praise Jesus they did.
It was these dear fellow moms, the same ones I assumed never struggled and had it all together, who showed me their own scars from postpartum depression and anxiety. They encouraged me, prayed for me, checked in on me, and loved me. I am scared to think about what these past six months would have been like for me if it wasn’t for these precious mamas.
My wounds are still healing, but I hope talking about them will help some of my fellow mamas. I still struggle some days, and that’s okay.
We do not have to drown in silence. We do not have to be ashamed and scared to ask for help.
This is postpartum anxiety and depression. This is normal.