Brittany on finding help at the Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health

mom looking down happily and newborn baby - Perinatal Mental Health

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

Finding out I was pregnant was such a surreal feeling. As a mom, we’re always the first to know and it’s up to us how we want to share with our partner and those closest to us. You pray and hope for a strong healthy baby with a thriving heartbeat. I was lucky enough to have a little girl growing inside of me for 38 weeks (and two days).

My pregnancy was a lot for me. I didn’t love it. I didn’t find joy in all of the moments and I felt bad about that. But I always told people I felt great when they asked. I never wanted to seem like I was taking for granted what miracle I was creating or that I couldn’t handle it.

Related: Sometimes pregnancy is the worst, so let’s stop romanticizing it

I continued to put on weight. Fifty pounds! From someone who has obsessed about everything I’ve ever eaten and felt guilty in every bite (though my body never reflected how I always wanted to look) 50 pounds for me was horrifying. I began to resent this new life I was creating early on. I felt like I was creating something that was already taking so much from me. I was embarrassed to go out. I felt ashamed about how I looked. It felt like a burden. Soon enough though, it felt like an eternity. My water broke early (God bless America) and a healthy baby was born at West Penn hospital after a fairly easy labor and delivery surrounded by an incredible team, support and my absolutely amazing husband. 

I didn’t know what to think as soon as she arrived. While I felt so empowered and amazing during the labor and delivery, as soon as she was on my chest, I felt so unimportant. I felt so overshadowed.

During my hospital stay, I felt replaced. My husband who had taken such incredible care of me during my pregnancy—responsibilities around the house and putting my shoes on for me every day (to say the least) was just as amazing to our newborn in the overwhelming hours in our hospital room.

Related: Why saying ‘Just Breastfeed!’ is harmful to mothers

Eleanor was always crying and hungry—she was unpredictable and restless. The pressure to breastfeed was on and it was d*mn hard. A newborn that wouldn’t latch and a less than ideal milk supply was an awful combination. I remember in our recovery room passing Eleanor off to J.R. and saying I hated her. That she was not what I expected and I didn’t even think she was cute. I was hysterical and hated myself even more for feeling that way.

Getting released and heading home the feelings continued. J.R. assumed the role of mom and dad in the late nights and early mornings. We gave into formula right away to fill her belly. I hooked myself up to a pump for less than 5 ounces a day and felt defeated and useless. How could I make a baby and not be able to provide for her? How could I possibly create a bond at this point? 

Related: Dear formula mom—I see you

We were tired and delusional. I continued to feel disgusting as the weeks passed. I kept asking myself why and telling myself, “This is your new life.” I hated it. I didn’t want to accept it. I continued to feel selfish for always sleeping and not finding a way to bond with her. I didn’t feel needed. It felt like J.R. could do everything I could do and even better. I thought about running away. I told myself she’d be in better hands with her dad than with me, a mom who hated her new life. 

Weeks and months passed and I didn’t forget to take a monthly photo for Instagram for likes and comments about how “perfect and beautiful” she was. I was hiding beneath a reel of highlights because I never wanted to seem imperfect or overwhelmed. Almost all of my mom’s friends gushed over their love of motherhood and here I was—not loving it—hating it—and I felt like so much was wrong with me.

Related: Sometimes I don’t ‘enjoy every moment’ of raising a little one

Thanks to my hardworking, selfless husband, I’ve had the opportunity to stay at home full time with Eleanor. It felt like a curse and a blessing all at the same time.

Soon after realizing how much it was emotionally for me, I reached out to the Alexis Joy center for Women’s Behavioral Health at West Penn hospital in Pittsburgh. I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. The center was made for us—for new moms and for moms with more than one.

The center was beautiful. I was able to change Eleanor’s diaper on a changing table stocked with diapers and wipes. I was able to go and be myself and be seen for what I needed help with. My Postpartum struggle looked so different from other moms but we were all there to support each other. Never once did I ever feel like I wasn’t a priority. I was listened to. I was recognized and taken seriously. So much support was provided in every appointment. 

I was listened to. I was recognized and taken seriously.

I’ve taken advantage of group sessions—most recently the “Circle of Security” with a group of other moms lead by professionals. It’s helping me understand Eleanor’s exploration of the world as she continues to develop and that it didn’t mean that she didn’t need me or love me. I continue to be able to reflect on my own struggle with women around me. 

So here I am, one year later, a stronger woman. I’ve been able to work on finding the “new me” without always feeling like I’ve sacrificed the old one. I feel loved and supported by some incredible women and by the man that I married who never gave up on me. I know he would agree that the center gave me my life back. It gave him his wife back and most importantly it saved my life and I’ve been able to be the mom that Eleanor deserves.

I’m learning to realize that perfection and complete control is so unrealistic and taking one day at a time is always the answer.