(Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Ali Adams.)
I’ve written this over and over again. Each time highlighting, deleting, and starting over. How do you write last year I hated my daughter and my life in a way that sounds eloquent? The truth is you don’t. Postpartum depression isn’t eloquent. It’s not neat and tidy, it doesn’t sound pretty and it definitely doesn’t fit into the vision that you’ve always imagined motherhood to be.
Instead it consumes you from the inside out. It holds you hostage, pushing you under the waves, drowning you. And while you silently suffer you have responsibilities. You have people that need you. It attacks you in the most vulnerable moments of your entire life. It reshapes who you are and you watch yourself almost helplessly become someone you never wanted to be.
So I’m going to tell you my story because if this is you, you deserve to know that you’re not alone. You deserve to know that out of the lowest of lows, you can rise again. You can claw your way back and you might not be better for it, but you will be stronger. You are stronger than you think you are. You are brave and courageous and amazing.
One year ago I found myself newly postpartum with my newborn baby girl, my not quite two year old boy, and a husband whom I loved dearly. I also found myself feeling the most miserable I have ever been in my life. I sank deeper and deeper, in complete and total denial of the depression that was consuming me. Those first few weeks of my daughter’s life were the hardest and the worst weeks of my life. I didn’t love her, not really. All I knew was that we had made a terrible mistake and that we needed to give her back, give her to anyone else, and yet we couldn’t. I would beg my husband, can we just give her up for adoption, I changed my mind, and he would gently tell me no.
I no longer recognized myself or my actions. My newborn would cry in the middle of the night and I would scream. I would scream at her and jump out of bed. I would slam the door, run to the playroom at the end of the hall, collapse on the couch and sob. What was wrong with me? My husband would be left to comfort her, to soothe her hungry self as best he could. Then he would retrieve me. He would gently scoop me up, wrap me in his arms, and tell me that he loved me. That he was so sorry, to come back to bed, that it’d be okay.
This cycle continued for weeks. My middle of the night moments turned into middle of the day moments. Except during the day, my husband wasn’t there to swoop in. I would call him at work telling him I couldn’t do this. He would come home at lunch, come home early, he did so much for us those weeks. Picking up all the slack and then some. Taking care of our toddler, our newborn, and me. Day after day. I kept hoping it’d get better, kept telling myself it was just weird hormones, a phase that would end as quickly as it had started, but it didn’t. And so, one day I broke. My daughter was crying like she always did (colic), and my sweet toddler dropped gummies on our rug. They were red and our rug was white and my first reaction was that they were going to ruin it. I lost it. I set my daughter down, grabbed the car keys, and I walked out the door. I collapsed onto the garage floor and called my husband sobbing. I choked out the words I’m not okay, I want to run away, I need help.
He came home from lunch that day but this time he didn’t just swoop in and let me move on. This time he told me I had to call my OB. I had to get help. I shakily called the nurse line and when the lady on the phone answered and asked the what can I help you with today question, I forced the words out of my mouth, I have postpartum depression, I need help.
The fast forward version is that I started Zoloft. That for the first time in two months I felt normal. But I also felt guilt. So much guilt. Guilt that I find myself carrying even now. I don’t think anyone tells you just how traumatic postpartum depression can be. How it consumes you and changes you and you’re left trying to make sense of it all. I look back at pictures of Eden at that time and my heart physically aches. I long to just go back to one of those days, to soak her up, to love her like I do now. I’ll never get those moments back and that is something that haunts me to this day. But I’m learning to forgive myself and to accept my story, this journey, and all of the pieces that come along with it.
So if this is you, I’ve been there. Those dark places that you don’t want anyone to know about? I’ve seen them. I’ve lived them. I’ve survived them. Those times when people ask you how you’re doing while they gush over your newborn baby and you don’t feel anything? I’ve experienced it. It sucks. Knowing you’re not alone doesn’t make it suck less necessarily, but I hope you know that you are loved. That you can overcome it. That it’s okay to need help. That meds won’t turn you into a zombie and that you’re not a failure for needing them. You have a strength that you don’t even know yet. You can do this.
(Salt Nayyirah Waheed)
Photographs taken by Mel Macmaniman of Sommessa Photography.