I sat at my computer at 3 AM, clicking through the pictures of what had happened the week before. I was exhausted, yet I couldn’t pull myself away. As I looked at the images of myself with my newborn baby, I felt as though I was looking at a stranger. There I sat, staring at the screen. Wondering why I felt nothing but emptiness and confusion.
Was this motherhood?
I looked down at the sleeping baby in my arms and yearned for feelings of elation, gratitude, and love.
Staring at the perfect tiny person I had created, I felt nothing. If my feelings of disconnect, emptiness, and despair were normal, surely someone would have mentioned it to me. Why was I getting so many congratulations when I felt more deserving of condolences? No, this couldn’t be normal; someone would have warned me of this.
I let the tears fall down my face, surrendering to the despair.
After giving birth, I found myself in a thick, all-consuming cloud of darkness. A darkness I didn’t expect, didn’t understand, and for the life of me could not overcome. It felt like a heavy weight I never got a break from carrying. I couldn’t even fight it; it was the most overwhelming feeling of helplessness I have ever experienced. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to make it go away. I wanted to change my mind and overcome it. At the very least, I wanted to understand what this huge weight was that had consumed me.
But I got lost in it. I lacked the ability to see that it was even a thing, and instead assumed it was my new identity. This angry, desperate, hopeless person was the new me.
My depression was made worse by the fact that no one had told me it could potentially happen to me. I was blindsided. There are three main issues that we as a culture are creating by not talking more about postpartum depression.
1. We Deny
I knew so little about postpartum depression when I entered motherhood that I wasn’t even able to identify and accept that is was happening to me. The thought didn’t even cross my mind that this misery I was fighting through was a mental illness. I was unable to see clearly that an actual condition was taking over my mind. Being able to see this depression as what it is would have given me the ability to understand it, accept it, and get help. Instead I saw it as my new identity as a mother, which caused me to associate my baby and my role as a mom with the terribly negative things I was experiencing, thus throwing me deeper into the hole.
2. We Feel Ashamed — and We Stay Silent
I became someone who thought they hated motherhood. My baby made me miserable — and while I didn’t want that to be my reality, it was. I didn’t want this to be my story, but it is. Feeling those kinds of things inflicted the most intense feelings of shame I have ever experienced. Labeling myself as a “bad mom” because of how I felt towards motherhood destroyed me. I made a vow to myself to never tell anyone how I felt. No matter how bad things got, I promised to never let anyone know I was broken. I was better than this, I had to be. My shame silenced me, and when dealing with any kind of depression, silence is anything but golden.
3. We Tell Ourselves It’s Our Fault
I took full responsibility for what I was experiencing. I kept telling myself that I should be grateful. I had a happy, healthy baby boy in my life. This was something many people only dream of. I should be happy, I should be grateful. But I wasn’t. I was sad, mad, and confused, and it was all my fault. It had to be, what else could it be? I didn’t know I had depression, I only knew I was a terrible mom, and that comes with a lot of guilt.
You see, I was led to believe there was a “right” way to feel after giving birth. And when that wasn’t my experience, I was left feeling empty, confused, and broken. I felt alone — like I was the only person to ever suffer in this way.
But normalizing the conversation about postpartum depression — educating others on its potential impact and fostering an environment of acceptance — could have saved me from getting lost and consumed in the shame and guilt of feeling broken in my motherhood. Keeping quiet and hiding my suffering only dug me a deeper hole.
In truth, I was only alone because I thought I was. The road to recovery is paved with understanding, education, and connection. The longer we pretend as though postpartum depression is a rare and terrible thing, the longer we allow guilt, shame, and silence to convince women they are the problem — that they are the broken ones.