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Carissa on postpartum anxiety and finding love for her son

woman smiling for the camera and helping her baby to walk

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.

After my son was born, all I wanted was sleep. But I was scared of closing my eyes for fear of something happening to him during that time. I couldn’t shut my mind off from all the irrational thoughts running through it. I didn’t know how.

All I knew was that I was this little boy’s mother. A horrible mother who didn’t fully love him, but yet had to be in complete control over his well-being. All I could think about was asking myself what was wrong with me.

This wasn’t normal. A mother should have so much love for her child. She should know what to do, and when to do it. She shouldn’t dread when he would wake up to eat. She shouldn’t dread living her life in two hour time frames. And she shouldn’t hate herself for it. But yet I did. 

Related: Postpartum anxiety stole my joy. Here’s how I got it back (and then some)

Postpartum depression and anxiety hit me like a freight train. I couldn’t pull myself out from under it. I felt horrible for feeling the way I did because society tells new moms that motherhood shouldn’t be this way.

I felt horrible because my feelings weren’t validated so I thought something was wrong with me. I knew something was wrong with me. Going back to work broke me as so many people were happy to see me back. But I hated being away from my son. I hated being at a place that didn’t understand my feelings that the depression and anxiety gave me. I felt so alone.

Eventually, my son began to sleep for longer stretches. His personality started to emerge and he began to play. I started to feel better, but I was still aware of the lack of love feeling I had for my son in the back of my mind. I loved him, but I still didn’t have that “over the moon” feeling of love towards him. 

Related: No one told me how lonely motherhood can be-and I was unprepared for the seclusion

At four months old, he was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, a birth defect where the skull is fused before birth. He would need surgery at eight months old to open his skull for normal growth. I was a mess beforehand, but the day of surgery I came to the realization that I would do anything for my child, that he is the light of my life, and that I don’t ever want to lose him. 

That overwhelming feeling of love came to me at that time. And now I cannot get enough of him. I hate seeing him get hurt, and I love listening to him babble and squeal with laughter.

My postpartum depression has lessened, but my anxiety is still strong. I worry over the littlest things, but I have to keep telling myself that he is strong and will get bumps and bruises as he goes. That everything I am feeling is normal and that my fears, albeit irrational, are not less than someone else’s.  

Related: How motherhood myths impacted my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety

Motherhood can be lonely, but I’m fully enjoying it now. I vlog about my son on YouTube for fun. I look back at all of my older videos and remember how unhappy I was. But I tried to play it up. I tried to make myself seem happy so that people wouldn’t think I was always miserable, even though I was.

It’s been a little over a year and I still struggle. But seeing my son smiling and laughing has not only made it worth it, but has also shown me that he is my world.

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