To the mama battling postpartum depression: You are stronger than you realize

I discovered the strength, resilience and inner warrior I had hiding within myself—ready to battle.

To the mama battling postpartum depression: You are stronger than you realize

I think, in looking back, I’m thankful I went through postpartum depression.

It’s a strange thing to say, I know. And if you are currently going through it, please don’t hate me. But as someone who survived postpartum depression (PPD) and came out on the other side, I can honestly say that—on some level—I’m glad that chapter of my life occurred.

Today, I cherish my children in a way that I would have never thought possible in my darkest hours of PPD, when I literally wished that my now 5-year old daughter did not exist. When I would gaze longingly at my front door and fantasize that someone, anyone, would come and take her away and make this nightmare of motherhood end. When my husband would have to gently take my arm and pull me out of bed every morning before leaving for work, because I was paralyzed with dread and sadness about the day ahead.

These are the kinds of toxic and intrusive thoughts that plague your mind when you experience a perinatal mood disorder (PMD), which can include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive tendencies, rage, and posttraumatic stress, among other symptoms. And while I often tell people that I would not wish this illness on my worst enemy, at the same time—I have come to a point in my journey where I can say I am in good company of other warrior mamas who have made it through the storm like me.

To be clear: every single mom I know is amazing in their own way and loves their child unconditionally. I do not mean to imply that mothers who have experienced a PMD are somehow better or more loving than those who don’t. But we have had to fight for our love, in a way, and I think that means something.

When my daughter, Hannah, passed away from a congenital heart defect five years ago, I thought my own life was over. Not because I had any intention of hurting myself, but because I was broken inside and didn’t know how I would be able to move forward and function on a daily basis.

I all but stopped eating, because I had no appetite. I would vomit out of sheer panic and anxiety. I had to muster every ounce of energy I possessed to brush my teeth each day. Sometimes, I didn’t even get that far.

You would think I would have latched on to Hannah’s surviving twin sister, Elizabeth, but the opposite happened. I felt a complete disconnect from my daughter, and while I managed to meet her basic everyday needs—providing food via nursing, changing diapers, etc.—I loathed every second of being a mother and deeply resented my new life.

Through private therapy, medication, the support of family and friends, and my faith, I eventually got better. After enduring many months of overwhelming sadness, lethargy, and self-doubt in my role as a new mom, things started to click, and I finally fell in love with my daughter. Not quite two years later, I was blessed enough to have another child, my daughter Maggie.

Today, I am a co-founder and coordinator of a support group for women experiencing perinatal mood disorders in the Cleveland, Ohio area. We are part of a larger statewide organization called POEM, which stands for Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms. We have had tremendously positive feedback from the community.

On more than one occasion, women have told us that this group saved their life. I have witnessed incredible bonds and friendships form. A woman once shared that she cried tears of joy the entire drive home after her first meeting, because of the immense relief she felt from realizing that she wasn’t alone and that there was hope for her to come out the other side of this illness.

And so, in a way, I am glad I experienced postpartum depression. Because otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity to help lead this group of brave women. I would not have had the honor and privilege of meeting the strong, amazing women who continually come to us week after week and allow us to accompany them on their journey in becoming the mom they want to be.

Without postpartum depression, I would not know to ask new moms how they are really doing after childbirth. To not just assume that motherhood is all rainbows and unicorns.

I would not be cognizant of the fact that, so often, especially in those early days and months of sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations (and the general upheaval of your life) that mark the arrival of a newborn—a mom is at her lowest and frailest, both mentally and physically speaking.

Without postpartum depression, I would not have the passion and empathy I have now to serve other mothers who also experience this debilitating nightmare that is perinatal mood disorders. To raise awareness by raising my voice in order to destigmatize these illnesses. To better understand mental health in general and recognize the painful struggles and challenges faced by those courageous individuals who deal with mental illness every day.

Lastly, without postpartum depression, I would not be the mom I am today.

I would not have discovered the strength, resilience and inner warrior I had hiding within myself—ready to battle.

I would love my daughters no matter what; they are my entire world and represent a source of pure and never ending joy in my life. But without postpartum depression, I would not know what it means to have to work for that love. To claw your way out of the blackest of holes and emerge victorious, ready to give everything you have to your child.

I am a proud survivor of postpartum depression, and I have a message for any woman who is going through this illness: You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not a bad mom. You are stronger than you think, and I promise things will get better. You will not feel this way forever. I promise.

I know it can be hard to admit you need help, but please consider reaching out to a trusted healthcare provider to start a treatment plan, whether that be counseling, medication, a support group, or a combination of all these tools.

You deserve it, and so does your family.

You might also like:

Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less