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Laurel on checking into a psychiatric unit for postpartum depression

baby with moms hand in his mouth - essay on seeking help for 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.

Let me preface this by saying, that no matter what you do, no matter how many parenting books you read, no matter HOW you prepare yourself for motherhood, life–the way it was meant to be-good, bad, absolutely ugly, plays out just as it was meant to. 

Three weeks after I delivered Nixon, postpartum depression hit me like a hormone fueled freight train, bound straight for a place I had never been–a place I had only been warned about in pamphlets at my OBGYN’s office. I found myself anxiously pacing the floors of his carefully decorated and organized nursery, back and forth, while he slept. I did this so much I thought I would walk a hole straight through the floor. 

And even when “sleeping,” much to the urge of my family, I laid awake. Feeling a tightening in my chest as I played out scenarios of Nixon dying because of my inability to understand his needs. 

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

With tired eyes and shaky hands, I passed my brand new baby over to visitors who had, like me, awaited his arrival, feeling tremendous relief and guilt when he was out of my arms for just a moment so that I could finally use the bathroom alone. I would sit on the toilet and cry so hard, but no sound would even come out. I would cry because my c-section scar hurt so bad and cry because I shouldn’t feel the way I did after being given the greatest gift. 

Fast forward three days, and I found myself alone and absolutely exhausted. My internal tank was running on fumes, and I had laid my child down for a nap and mustered the last bits of energy I had left for a shower. 

I showered and cried until my back ached and I sat on the shower floor and held my aching mid section and cried some more. I got out and tenderly wrapped my new found mom body in a towel and went to check on my baby. He was asleep. I found myself back on the floor and in that one moment of silence I heard a voice tell me to “do it.”

Related: Suicide is the leading cause of death in new moms

To act upon the annoying voice that I heard in my head for weeks that I drowned out by telling myself I needed to get my sh*t together and suck it up. 

But sometimes, the ugly truth of motherhood leaves you in shambles. A shell of the woman you once were, frantically searching for your new “normal.”

Sometimes newfound motherhood finds you in a doctor’s office, checking your battle wounds from labor and painful delivery. And sometimes it finds you in the waiting room of an ER, clinging to the last bit of sanity you have left-begging for someone to hear you. 

The “postpartum devil” is so manipulative and deceiving, convincing you that you’re not worthy of this precious life that came from your body. So convincing that your newly born baby would be better off without you, your partner would benefit from your absence, and death is the only answer. 

Related: Postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than you may think-here are the resources you need

So there I sat, stripped of all personal belongings, self-worth, and most of all, my child. Babysat in an empty room by a careless CNA, only popping in every few moments to ask if I was alright. I wanted to scream at her for even asking such an absurd question, but all I could muster was, “Yeah, I’m OK” 

The security guard in the psychiatric ward opening my wallet and counting every cent I had carelessly thrown in days before. The click and clack of each coin being counted on a metal tray. Taking each card out of each pocket and reading back my credit card numbers, like I even cared. 

Fast forward to a few hours later after the slew of questions asked by the intake nurse, I was given a sleeping pill and sent to lay on a plastic bed with a thin plastic mattress, wondering how I even got here. I remember the panic I felt at 6:00 that morning, and demanding to speak to the doctor in charge because I was self-admitted and I wanted to leave. 

Related: Spotting postpartum depression can be difficult. Here’s why you should enlist your partner’s help

The doctor saw the panic in my voice and the defeat behind my eyes. He took me into his tiny office and explained the gravity of my situation. I will never forget that. He told me, “We see a lot of mental health issues walk through these doors. And postpartum is the one we take the most seriously. Regular depressive episodes take weeks, months, years, to take over. Postpartum depression takes weeks, days, HOURS to take control of your mind. I know you want to go home and be with your son, but believe me when I say, you are where you need to be.”

I did group and private therapy for hours at a time, did guided meditation, and talked and talked to the point I thought my lungs would give out if I said one more d*mn word. 

I left treatment with a slew of medications, exhausted and defeated, but I had a plan. A plan on how to overcome this PPD monster. And every day since, I have worked my ass off to conquer the beast. 

There are mornings where the only thing that gets me out of bed is Nixon, there are other days where I feel like I’ve won, and there’s the beautiful chaos of the days in between, where I’m just thankful to still be here to fight one more day and enjoy my time with my dream boy. 

I’m just thankful to still be here to fight one more day and enjoy my time with my dream boy.

As mothers, we are made by society as a whole to have it together. If we so much as leave one dirty dish in the sink or let our child sit in a dirty diaper for more than .2 seconds, we might as well be crucified at the stake. 

I thought for the longest time that I should keep my struggle with postpartum to myself–that it would make me less of a mother to admit that I struggled so hard in the first months of his life.

But then I went back to when I first realized something was wrong–when I wanted to be heard, to not feel so alone, and to not feel like PPD was swallowing me whole. The ebb and flow of surges of hormones, waves of sadness and despair so great I swear it would take me under at any moment.

Related: Therapy made me a better mom-and wife

I am so thankful to my partner, to my mother-in-law, to my countless friends, and family that listened to me–who saw my white flag being waved and urged me to seek help

So, there it is-my truth that took me months to write and my story is nowhere near over. I am so grateful I got the help I so needed, and to feel like I’m beginning to come out on the other side. The feeling of watching Nixon grow and change every day is unexplainable, and I’m so glad I loved him and myself enough to fight. 

Mamas: We are capable, we are wonderful, we are magnificent.

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