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Danielle on falling in love with her son after postpartum depression

Mother and son selfie at playground - falling in love after postpartum depression

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.

I was 18 years old when I got hooked on painkillers. At 22, I decided I wanted to get my life together—that there had to be a better way to live.

I packed my bags and left my home in Brooklyn. I went to a treatment center in New Jersey and stayed for three months. When I got out, I moved to a sober living house and shortly after met my husband. Six months later we got an apartment together and were madly in love. I was nine months sober and was loving life. That’s when he proposed to me and we decided we wanted a baby.

We had a magical wedding when I was eight months pregnant. I was glowing. My pregnancy had gone smoothly and I was just ecstatic to be having a baby boy with the love of my life. My delivery also went smoothly. I was in labor for 12 hours and pushed for two.

When I held my baby for the first time I couldn’t believe it, he was so little. And he was so perfect.

Related: To my husband: Thank you for showing me a love our child will remember

But I just didn’t “feel” right. They sent us home two days later. I was nursing my son constantly. My husband was back to work 12 plus hours a day, six days a week and I was alone with my newborn in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I was tired. I was scared. And I was lonely. It didn’t take long for me to recruit my mom to come help me.

I figured I had the “baby blues,” but quickly realized it was much worse. I was looking at my son and felt so many emotions. I was resentful. I was angry, sad, confused and so scared. I started fights with my husband because I was angry he was getting to work and sleep and I was miserable. I was sad because my son deserved a better mommy. I was confused because I thought I’d love being a mother and I was just not loving it at all. I just wanted to run away and find a place that wasn’t so dark.

At three months postpartum, I decided to see a therapist because my life was falling apart. It seemed that he had no idea I had postpartum depression and neither did I. He said to just relax and push through, that soon my hormones would go back to normal and I’d be just fine. So I tried that. And it didn’t work.

I was constantly crying, yelling, even leaving my house alone to just go sit on the beach and cry and hate myself. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was hurting my husband, my mom and most importantly my innocent child. It wasn’t his fault I was a terrible mother. A few weeks later my husband gently asked me if I thought maybe I should talk to my OB-GYN. He read about postpartum depression and thought that might be what’s going on.

Related: Prioritizing my mental health wasn’t easy—but I’m a much better mom because I did

Usually I would’ve screamed at him and stormed out. But I knew he could be right. I hadn’t eaten in weeks, I couldn’t sleep and I was beginning to feel very suicidal. The intrusive thoughts were deepening. So I went to see my doctor. He told me this was totally normal and a true reality for a lot of women. I was so frustrated that no one had spoken to me about this sooner.

He put me on Paxil and I decided I wouldn’t kill myself for eight weeks, in hopes the medicine would work. But if not, I would end my sad existence.

About four weeks later, I started feeling more like the old me that had been so lost.

I started to pick up my son just to hold him. Then I started taking walks to the beach with him. Then, I felt like I was on cloud nine. I was so in love with my baby boy. I cried happy tears. I fell in love all over again, with him and with my husband. I told my mom she could go home! This was huge. I stayed on Paxil for several months, then weaned off when my son was about 18 months.

I love being his mommy and my marriage is stronger than ever. I just remember how dark that place was. I had all the people who loved me right there and I felt so alone and so defeated. I never imagined there would be a way out. If there’s one thing I’d like any struggling mother to hear, it’s that there IS a way out. You won’t be in the darkness forever, and you are NOT ALONE. You are not a lost soul! There is no shame in taking medication. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

I’m so grateful my husband convinced me to see my doctor. I truly believe in my heart that I wouldn’t be here had I not gone and asked for help. Here I am, almost six years sober and a wonderful mommy to a beautiful 4-year old boy.