Karina on postpartum depression and struggling to find joy in motherhood

women looking down at newborn baby - essay on struggling to find joy in motherhood

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.

It is not easy being a mom, and it doesn’t get easier during a pandemic.

I was never truly ready for being a mom. When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t believe it (I had dealt with PCOS and almost all my gynecologists had told me I would never have a child). And there I was, pregnant.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that a little being came out of me and I can actually hold him in my arms. 

I moved to Cyprus in May last year and I married in August. A month later, I was already pregnant. My husband was thrilled (he has always wanted to have children). I wasn’t so amused. I love children, but I never really thought I could be a mother. 

Related: True Life: I was not prepared for motherhood

I used to live in Ecuador, I was born there so all my family is there. Telling my family that I was pregnant was very exciting for all of them (and yes, for me too). My husband’s family was also very excited. They’ve always been very kind to me and treat me as their own daughter.

We went to Germany in December (my husband is German and his family lives there) and we had a wonderful time. We spent Christmas and New Year’s there—bun still in the oven.

We came back to Cyprus at the beginning of January and then a month later all hell broke loose. The pandemic started and my husband is kind of a germaphobe, so we’ve been locked up pretty much since it started.

Related: Pregnant women respond to Covid differently, depending on the sex of their baby

I was almost six months pregnant and losing my mind. Not only because of the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere (at one point, my husband thought it would be better that he would do the grocery shopping and everything related with going outside by himself), but also because my mother was going to come for the birth of her first grandson and now that seemed impossible. 

I’ve always suffered from depression, but this hit me hard. We stopped seeing friends, going out, even my in-laws couldn’t come anymore (they used to come almost every month). I was stuck at home, with only my cellphone as a connection to the outside world.

Related: To the mama who had a baby during the pandemic

On top of that, when I was back in Ecuador, I used to work so I was very much independent on a financial level. When I came to Cyprus, that changed. I couldn’t work because of my migration status and I became totally dependent on my husband. That frustrated me beyond imagination. My husband is wonderful, but I’m not used to having to ask someone else to buy me underwear, for example.

I could barely sleep the last trimester. Braxton Hicks kicked in as well in addition to depression and anxiety. I was (and still am) a mess. 

On Monday, May 4th, I started having contractions which weren’t unusual since I’d been experiencing Braxton Hicks, but I wasn’t due until the 20th. As a precaution we decided to go to my gyno. He checked me and said everything was ok apart from my blood pressure which was too high and got him quite worried.

Related: Are you ever ‘ready’ to have a baby?

He wanted to keep me under observation for 24 hours. We checked in to the clinic and we spent the night there without major issues. The next morning around 8 am, my water broke. My husband was sitting next to me and this “peeing” sensation came. I got scared. I “knew” what was coming.

Of course I didn’t know at all. I had already talked to my doctor about having the epidural but not even that prepared me for the contractions and the aftermath. The epidural wore off right before I went into labor so I could feel EVERYTHING. EVERY. D*MN. THING. 

Giving birth was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve been through. I was in so much pain and even when my water broke and I was fully dilated, the baby’s head hadn’t dropped so my doctor wanted to wait a bit more and I just wanted the baby out.

Related: How to overcome—and heal—from a traumatic birth

I repeated to my husband, “I can’t do this. I can’t.” I just wanted it to be over. I had a Vacuum Extraction and I just remember yelling, “TAKE HIM OUT.” I felt his head coming out and my perineum tearing. They put him on my chest and my husband took that picture.

I was so distressed and felt so weak. The pediatrician was there and she kept asking if I was OK. At one point I started feeling dizzy and I told her to take him away. I couldn’t hold him anymore. I started feeling drowsy and all I could see were lights. I couldn’t see my husband’s face, the nurses, or anything, and I kept telling him, “I can’t see you.”

After that, all I can remember are the nurses and the anesthesiologist trying to keep me awake and asking me my name. The next day, back in the room, my husband broke into tears and told me that I was out and they had to bring me back more than once. My blood pressure had dropped and I had lost a lot of blood. He was so scared that he was going to lose me, but I couldn’t remember a thing. 

Related: To the mama battling depression: It’s okay to not be okay

We came back home and we have tried to live a “normal” life. My husband has been very supportive with the baby, the household and everything else. But like many people, when I told him I was depressed (and since he’s very pragmatic), he just said to me: “But don’t be depressed.” Yeah, why didn’t I think that before?

Some people don’t understand that depression is not just being sad. It’s far more than that. It’s feeling like you’re in a void, feeling hopeless—a burden, lost, incapable of doing the most simple tasks and yet you have to go through the day trying to keep your shit together especially now that you have a baby. It drains your energy and some days you feel like you can’t breathe and all you do is cry. 

I love my baby…I think… I don’t have all this motherhood stuff figured out yet, especially since I didn’t have that, “I’ve loved you since I knew you were inside me” moment. Like I said, I love my baby but I still think motherhood isn’t my cup of tea.