Sending up the Bat Signal

I know a woman who is amazing, smart, strong, kind. She recently had a baby. My friend  is now in a place that many other amazing women have been in before — that dark, lonely place of depression and fear.  And we, you and me, are going to help her. I am going to share my story of post-baby depression (again).  And then you are going to share a bit of your story or a bit of encouragement in the comments section. Please, please do this.

Post-baby depression sucks.  Actually, it’s worse than that: It is suffering.  It is shame.  It is soul breaking.

I remember feeling like a shadow of myself – thin and stretched and so tired.  I couldn’t summon the energy to talk to my husband or to coo at my daughter.  At night I would rock my perfect little baby and cry, or just stare out the window at the street lamp, unable to connect with the tiny person in my arms.  And then I couldn’t sleep.  I was so tired and I couldn’t sleep.  I was so afraid that if I let my guard down something terrible would happen.  If I slept I was certain I would lose my baby. I would lay in the guest room so as not to wake my husband and I would cradle a pillow to my chest trying to keep myself together, trying to keep my aching and empty heart in my chest.  I would think about what a terrible mother I was, what a failure.  I couldn’t tell anyone how much I was hurting – I didn’t have the words, I didn’t have the energy, and I was so ashamed.  How could I want a baby so badly – go through all that we did to get her – and then feel like this?   How could I be such an awful person?

This went on for months.  What people had told me would be some of the most joyous and wonderful months of my life were quite possibly the worst, most wretched months I had ever had.  I thought no one knew.  But people did.  I know now that my parents and my husband noticed.   But they were scared to talk to me about it.  Finally my acupuncturist talked to me about it.  He told me it was OK, it was normal, he told me I was not alone.   And he told me I would be OK.  I believed him.  His words were a spec of light in the dark pit of depression.  I did what he said – I made an appointment with my doctor, I talked to my husband and parents.  And the relief was immense.  It was huge.  It was like the first warm sun of the spring.

I made some decisions.  I went on medication.  I asked for help.  I talked about my feelings and fears a little more.   And slowly I found my way back to the light, to myself, and to my daughter.

So to my lovely and amazing friend: You might be feeling alone; you are not.  No one tells you that becoming a mom is incredibly isolating.  It is.  You may be feeling sad.  You may be feeling mad.  You may be feeling worse than you have ever felt before.  It’s OK.  There are others of us who have been there.  We can help you.  There are lots of us waiting to grab your hand and pull you up into the light.

(You can read another of my posts about depression here.)

Don't worry, my friend will get this.

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18 thoughts on “Sending up the Bat Signal

  1. Amber Burgin Hoyle

    Amen.
    I haven’t had my baby yet, but I have no doubt that I will probably experience postpartum depression…only because I have a long history of depression. But even if I hadn’t, I know it’s a real possibility for so many women. I’ve heard from a lot from other moms who have experienced it and hearing their stories have only given me strength. I decided to stay on my anti-depressant while I’ve been pregnant to avoid any problems. I’m prepared that after the baby is born, I will likely need to increase the dosage to help with the depression and changes I’ll be going through. There is nothing shameful about medication. It changed my life when I was a teenager and I have never been afraid to take it since. Zoloft has worked wonders for me but everyone is different and sometimes it takes trying a few to find one that works for you. I think the most important thing is getting your medication from a psychiatrist and not a general doctor because they are much more informed on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and can help you find one that will work really well for you.
    For the mom that is going through it right now, hang in there sister. Talk to someone about medication, talk to other moms, give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling…it’s OK. There is nothing shameful about depression. There are a ton of people that love you and want to support you, even those that don’t know you. We’ve got your back while you’re not sure you have your own.
    Love ya.

    Reply
  2. Niki

    I am dying to fly right out to your friend, scoop her up, and give her the biggest hug ever! Depression is so achingly lonely, and it’s so funny how you can be with your baby 28 hours a day (some of them count for double, I swear) and still be SO ALONE. (Plus, babies don’t make very good company in that they never hold up their end of the conversation and won’t make you chocolate chip cookies.) I have absolutely no doubt that had I not ALREADY have been on anti-depression medication, I would have been right there with you and your friend after Charlotte was born. Medication saved me from the depths of depression when I was 20, and it continues to keep me on an even keel throughout the beginning of motherhood adventures over a decade later. Forget what the Scientologists say and any other hangups you might have about medication and GET SOME!! So, step one in the plan to escape depression is to visit a psychiatrist. Step two is a whole lot cheaper and much more fun.

    Jos, I know I didn’t meet you until you were already pulling out of your post-baby depression, but I do think that having someone to hang out with who also has a newborn really really helps. You and I had our own therapy sessions, don’t you think? I just know your friend would really benefit from making a mommy friend. Not just in an artificial big mommy group play situation either — you need one on one (well, two on two if you count the babies) time to cry, laugh, commiserate, brainstorm, complain, and compare. You need to join a parent & baby class together and then make fun of the perky, former beauty queen teacher afterward. You need to go on outings together to figure out the logistics of shopping at Kohl’s and dining in public at Blue Coast Burrito with infants. You need to go for long walks with strollers to get some endorphins pumping through your system. The key really is finding someone with a similar-aged baby who also hasn’t figured out motherhood already. It’s a proven fact!!

    I’m still not 100% sure what made me invite you for a one-on-one playdate after we met in that ridiculous mommy group, but I’m sure glad I did. I can’t imagine how I would have survived Charlotte’s first year (or my pregnancy with Peter, or those wild times right after he was born) otherwise!

    Reply
  3. joslyne Post author

    Niki,
    You so saved me. Really. Having you was such a huge and important gift — one I’m still not over loosing. I miss you sooo much. You motherhood manageable for me.
    xo

    Reply
  4. Jules

    This is actually a subject that is very near and dear to me as I suffered from horrible post-partum depression after the birth of my second child. The word “horrible” does not begin to capture how awful it truly was. It nearly destroyed me. It did destroy me. It made me say and do things that I would never have thought, said, or done had I been in my right mind. It is still very painful for me to remember those dark days. In fact, I almost didn’t respond to this post because I really did not want to revisit that time in my life. I don’t have any great advice because I know that when I was in the middle of the depression, there weren’t any words I would have found helpful. It was that dark of a time. Jos, I hope that your friend has people who know her well enough to know when she is not “being herself” and that they will be brave enough to step in and help her, even if she says she doesn’t want the help. I agree with all of the suggestions about medication – Prozac finally saved me, and probably saved the life of my child as well (yes, it was THAT bad). I would tell your friend to be very, very gentle with herself, because post partum depression has a vested interested in ensuring that she is filled with guilt, shame and despair. I would tell her that she will eventually bond with her child, even if she doesn’t feel it at the moment. I would tell her that for many of us (and I am including myself in this one), becoming a mother is a process, rather than an event. Mostly I would tell her that she does not have to hide her feelings and pretend – there are people out there who understand, and who are cheering for her as she puts one foot in front of the other, and slowly moves through her days. Please give your friend a big hug from me xoxo

    Reply
    1. joslyne Post author

      Jules, Thank you for sharing this. It *is* hard to talk about and remember. Thanks for helping all of us feel less alone. xo

      Reply
  5. Janah

    I read this post this morning and wanted to wait until I had a moment to respond thoughtfully (the baby is napping). While I didn’t have post-partum depression, I was very tearful and emotional and cried at the drop of a hat in those early weeks. It’s a very steep roller coaster ride – the transition to motherhood – and lonely lonely lonely. I had a lot of support and still I felt isolated and alone. Trapped. And then guilty – how could I feel so badly when I had all this support? It is so necessary to reach out and hear other people’s stories – that’s what helped me feel less alone – and to BE with other people. Someone bearing witness to your experience can be so healing. I hope this has been helpful (baby is waking up), I just know I wanted to hear everybody’s stories to feel less alone.

    Reply
    1. joslyne Post author

      So true, Janah. Motherhood is hard, isolating, lonely, crazy-making *without* adding depression into the mix. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  6. Sandee Decker

    My perspective is shorter than those above, but it goes back 35 years.Hindsight is bliss is something I have told Jos many times. Making decisions and not knowing what the outcome will be can be unnerving. Parenting is difficult to say the least, but I can say that all the saddness depression brings happens to many if not most mothers. Some mothers may not want to admit it, but the actual admitting it, and then seeking help is the quickest way out of this deplorable situation..

    You ARE a good person.
    You ARE a good mother.
    You WILL love your daughter to pieces, but there are times you will want to box her ears. 🙂 Even when she is 35…haha!
    In time you WILL forget this terrible feeling.
    Give YOURSELF time and ACCEPT help whenever you can.
    The BEST is yet to come!

    Reply
  7. Lisa McKay

    Having a baby is like living through an internal earthquake – an earthquake of the kind that levels cities and triggers tsunamis. While I don’t think I’ve had PPD in a classic sense, I have struggled (and am still struggling) with Post Partum Anxiety. Sending all good vibes to your friend. She’s not alone in feeling overwhelmed by motherhood.

    Reply
  8. laci

    DEFINITELY been there..i had a high risk pregnancy so I was constantly on edge so i didnt enjoy my pregnancy. once my daughter was born i felt distanced from her. i felt like it was too good to be true and she would be taken away from me. i pumped breastmilk instead of breastfeeding & i felt that made me a bad mother. she was a fussy baby and there were many nights those first 2 months where i walked the entire house rocking her as we both cried. i wasn’t eating, i wasn’t sleeping, i felt like the epitome of a bad mother. i just had a overwhelming feeling of sadness & crappiness. then 1 day my best friend came to visit (my daughter was about 2 months old) and she saw how frazzled i was and how lost i seemed. she told me that it would pass, that i was a great mom, and that i needed to get out & away from the baby a little. so i started taking walks, alone, once a day when my husband came home. somehow this helped. it allowed me to breath, to de-stress, and my friend was right..it did pass. it took about 5 months, but it passed. just hold on dear

    Reply
  9. kayleighsmommy2008

    DEFINITELY been there..i had a high risk pregnancy so I was constantly on edge so i didnt enjoy my pregnancy. once my daughter was born i felt distanced from her. i felt like it was too good to be true and she would be taken away from me. i pumped breastmilk instead of breastfeeding & i felt that made me a bad mother. she was a fussy baby and there were many nights those first 2 months where i walked the entire house rocking her as we both cried. i wasn’t eating, i wasn’t sleeping, i felt like the epitome of a bad mother. i just had a overwhelming feeling of sadness & crappiness. then 1 day my best friend came to visit (my daughter was about 2 months old) and she saw how frazzled i was and how lost i seemed. she told me that it would pass, that i was a great mom, and that i needed to get out & away from the baby a little. so i started taking walks, alone, once a day when my husband came home. somehow this helped. it allowed me to breath, to de-stress, and my friend was right..it did pass. it took about 5 months, but it passed. just hold on dear

    Reply
  10. tyff

    Take care of yourself and cut yourself some slack. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help. I did not have depression , but I do remember the very intense emotions combined with the sleep deprevation. Also this feeling that I should be the one to do everything…even though there were lots of people who wanted to help. Let them help and try to let go of guilt.

    Reply
  11. Anne Linder

    I’m late to this party, and I’ve been thinking about this post for days… but haven’t written anything because, well, in part because I’m dealing with my own depression issues at the moment. Makes me so damn unproductive. Fortunately, Miss Niki said everything I wanted to even better than I could have. Motherhood is SO HARD, especially in the first few months, and I truly believe we were not meant to be cooped up alone with our babies the way we are now. We need mothers and sisters and friends and other women and babis who can give us a break, let us know we are doing alright, and reassure us that it will not always be this way. Go find those people any way you can, even if you never see them more than once. I know this is hard if you are an introvert. It will be worth it. Or even just go out for a walk by yourself with the baby. My counselor made me promise to do that every day if I did nothing else, and it really helped. That, and getting sleep. THere, a willing helper, earplugs (and possibly a breastpump and tight sportsbra) are your friend.
    IT WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THIS WAY. You will sleep again, you will have time for yourself again, you will learn to navigate your changed relationships, you will have moments where you feel like those clean, pulled-together moms in the parenting magazine ads. Depression is a lying bastard. Things will get better. Lovely friends, let’s print this out and put it in a cabinet where we can all be reminded of it daily:

    My hugs to you. Hang in there.

    Reply
    1. joslyne Post author

      Thanks for this, Anne. I’m sorry you are spending some time in “the pit” (as I call it) right now. Sending some love and light to you. And . . . where did find that print (or whatever it is)? I must have it!

      Reply

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