In less than 2 weeks my first-born starts junior kindergarten. This parenting milestone has this mama feeling all the feels. I cry just looking at him. Emotional eating is at an all-time high – not great timing. But is it ever? As my baby bear prepares to leave the den I can’t help but reflect on where our story together began. O’s first year of life is an important one in my journey. It’s where I hit rock bottom. It’s where I got back up and fought. Fought to live. If I don’t turn my health around and live the life I fought so hard for, this storm I weathered will have been for nothing.
Side note – I posted about my struggle with postpartum depression a few months back on my personal Facebook page so for some of you here it may sound familiar 🙂
When I got pregnant I was so lucky to have a doctor who proactively enrolled me in a program at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto called Reproductive Life Stages for women suffering anxiety/depression during pregnancy and during the baby’s first year of life. Though I didn’t suffer any symptoms during my pregnancy, I had a history of them and she wanted to ensure I had a support system in place just in case I needed it.
The day O was born we lost everything in a flood. While I can usually speak lightly about it 4 years after the fact, it was devastating and often still brings tears to my eyes. The days that followed bringing O home from the hospital were some of the darkest days I’ve ever had. Breastfeeding was hard. Bottle feeding was hard. Sleeping was hard. Smiling was hard. Breathing even seemed hard. It didn’t help that he would let everyone soothe him but me. I remember one defining moment where he was just crying and crying for what felt like hours and I looked down at his beautiful little face and felt nothing but failure.
I had dreamt my whole life of being a mom and the expectations for me to rock it was high amongst family and friends. And so, for the most part, I faked it. Looking back at my Instagram you’d never have known the demons I was fighting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved O from the moment I saw him. But the fear, the guilt and the sorrow that followed in those first few months were nothing I could have ever prepared for. I remember I’d be driving on the highway and having flashes of myself driving into the median. Or ones of me holding my sweet baby boy over the railing of our second floor and letting go. Those flashes were the scariest moments of my life and it was then I knew that I had to get help.
I was lucky. F*ck I was so lucky. Luckier than a lot of moms who go through postpartum depression alone. I had a supportive husband, family, and friends all around me. Not every new mom is so fortunate. And so three months after O was born I began weekly therapy and group sessions both on my own as well as with other moms going through the same thing. At the beginning of every personal session, my therapist would ask me two terrifying questions:
1. In the last week have you thought about hurting yourself?
2. In the last week have you thought about hurting your baby?
How was this my life? Why me? “Have you thought about hurting your baby?” That one hurt the most. Are you f*cking kidding me? It took a few months but soon the black cloud began to lift. I could finally breathe again. F*ck that fresh air felt nice. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a bad mom. Every week my therapist and the group helped me chip away at the guilt and the fear until eventually, it was a mere shadow of its former existence. The one guilt that still haunts me to this day are those missed moments. The ones when I was so engulfed by sadness that I didn’t get to enjoy some of my sweet boy’s firsts.
Looking back at pictures I wish I could reach through the camera and shake myself. I wish I could tell myself that it would be okay! That I would fall into a comfortable routine as a mom at my own pace and that I’d make a lifelong friend in the process. That O would be healthy despite being formula-fed and that’d he’d be a super smart, loving and goofy kid despite our rocky beginning. That I’d go on to have a second baby with no symptoms of postpartum depression and the ability to support friends through their own experiences with it.
Over the past four years, I’ve taken every opportunity I can to share my story. I’ve learned I am not alone. I’ve learned I was lucky to bounce back the way I did. Most importantly I’ve learned that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it affects more moms than you might think. If you know a new mom be sure to ask her how she’s doing. While it’s our first instinct to focus on the precious new addition, not enough focus is on the new moms. Don’t be afraid to ask her hard questions if you sense something is off – it could save a life.
If you are a new mom and aren’t feeling like yourself and cannot cope, please tell someone. There’s no shame in asking for help. I am proof that it gets better and there is light at the end of the darkness.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore
If my story helps even one person it will be worth it. Let’s talk about mental health issues, not hide behind them. My story isn’t over yet, and neither is yours;