Mental health is so important, but it also happens to be something we avoid talking about. There is a stigma surrounding people who bring up the fact they need help. It’s a taboo subject. People judge others who admit they have mental health issues. And I’m not okay with that.
At this exact moment, I am sitting on my couch. I have on headphones and am listening to my favorite tunes. My five-day-old baby boy—Simon Parker—is sleeping peacefully in his rock-n-play. And I feel good. Really good. I’m genuinely happy. I feel so much love in my life right now.
It’s different for me this time. At about five days postpartum with Henry, I was not okay. Most likely, I would have been in the bedroom crying. The blinds would have been closed. I would be ignoring phone calls, text messages, visitors, and even my husband and child.
Disclaimer: I absolutely loved Henry at that point. More than life itself. But depression does absolutely crazy things to your mind and body.
Postpartum depression hits you hard and unexpectedly.
It hasn’t been very long since I gave birth to Simon, and I know that things could change with the flip of a switch, but I feel very encouraged.
I know that finally I have stopped caring about what other people think of me, how I take care of myself, my body and my baby. I am so glad that finally I ignored all those voices telling me to do the so-called “right thing.”
So, here are some of the things I have done that may seem against the grain when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth:
- I took depression medicine throughout my pregnancy. This was obviously something that I spoke with my doctor about, and she agreed it was safest choice for me and the baby.
- I decided not to breastfeed with Simon. I can’t nurse on my depression medicine, and believe it is better for my baby to have a healthy, happy mommy than breast milk, and not a mommy who can’t stop crying and locks herself in a dark room for days at a time. I won’t lie, I was apprehensive about this one. Why? Because we hear “breast is best” so much. What if it really is true that formula fed babies have more allergies and don’t get into the best colleges and choose to eat dirt in the backyard instead of collecting and indexing bugs? I was also nervous that the lactation consultants and nurses at the hospital would push me to nurse. I was scared they would try to give me a guilt trip. But they didn’t. I told them I wanted to bottle feed, and no one said a word. No one tried to pressure me into anything.
- I am getting sleep. One of the perks of bottle feeding this kiddo is that my husband can help. Logan takes the night shifts, and I take the early morning shifts. We trade in the shifts in middle of the night so that we both get some rest. And a (semi) well rested mommy is the best kind of mommy.
- I continued with anxiety medicine after I gave birth. I know, I know. Depression and anxiety medicine? Some might call me a hot mess—or worse, a bad mom. But I don’t care. I have a history of depression and anxiety. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me a bad mom. I work out. I eat well, most of the time. I practice self-care. But sometimes medicine is necessary. And I have come to terms with that. I am the best version of me mentally when I take my medicine.
- I stopped putting incredible amounts of pressure on myself. No one is perfect. The perfect parent doesn’t exist. I am doing a better job of going with the flow and enjoying my time with my kids. I don’t want to look back one day and regret that I spent so much time charting dirty diapers and feedings and sleep cycles in an app that I paid $4.99 for, that I missed something that really mattered.
I know I'm not out of the woods yet. But I feel as though I have taken the right path this time around for me and my baby. So throw every “right thing” you have heard out the window, and do what feels right for you. I promise you won’t regret it.