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Lauren on postpartum depression, anxiety and losing herself

Lauren On Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and Losing Herself

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.

All my life I wanted nothing more than to be a mother. I knew I would spend my days being the best mom I could be. AND the best wife I could be. I won’t mind waking up with my baby because I’ll love spending time with him. I’ll take the five minutes to put on makeup and look refreshed for my husband. I’ll live and breathe being a mom, because it is what I am meant to do.

And then I had my son. And my world was flipped upside down.

On his second day here, Wes lost his voice from screaming so much. I was exhausted from laboring for 20 hours, ending in a c-section. I thought to myself, “He has to sleep, right?” (Little did I know I’d ask myself that question countless times over the next three years). He was not an easy baby and that took its toll on me.

During the first few weeks, we got into the routine of eat, sleep, diaper change, repeat. I thought I was getting the hang of things. But around five weeks, the exhaustion set in and I knew something wasn’t right. At my six week checkup, I confessed tearfully that I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding as much as I thought I would. I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted. The midwife told me the feelings may pass, but to call the doctor if I didn’t start to feel better.

For weeks, it was hard to get off the couch. I would go days without showering, only realizing it when my hair was a giant, tangled knot. There were days when it was 6pm and I didn’t remember eating anything. I figured I was just busy with the baby and forgot to eat. Then I realized I COULDN’T eat.

I was nauseous all the time. One day I tried to eat two crackers, but could only finish one and a half. I would choke down supplement shakes to try to keep up my milk supply. I would dream about food, only to wake up unable to stomach a meal.

The anxiety was debilitating. I couldn’t go to the mailbox without feeling like my heart was going to explode and it was hard to breathe. I used to be such an outgoing, social person, and now leaving the house knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t leave the house alone with Wes until he was about 4 months old.

But all of this wasn’t the worst part. The worst were the feelings (or lack of feelings) I had. I felt like I lost myself. I used to be Lauren and now I was just Wes’s mom. I felt like I’d never do the things I used to love doing like taking a quiet bath, reading a book or relaxing on a beach.

I would rock my baby as I breastfed him and think to myself, “You need to love this baby.” I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be his mom. Surely, I wasn’t good enough for him. Maybe Brian could find a better wife and mom for Wes?

Life just got so hard. The hardest part is knowing you won’t always be able to protect your baby. There were going to be tough times ahead and I didn’t think I could handle the stresses of raising my son. I remember thinking to myself:, “They say you blink and your baby is grown…” I closed my eyes hard for a moment and then opened them, hoping Wes would be 18, moving out, and it could be just Brian and me again.

I was exhausted and hated waking up in the middle of the night. It felt impossible to find five minutes to put on makeup and try to feel “normal.” Most of all, I didn’t like being a mom. That’s when we knew I needed to get help. I made an appointment with my doctor and started taking antidepressants. It took a little while, but I started to eat again and see the light at the end of that terribly dark tunnel.

When I felt better, I had to deal with the guilt. How could I have thought those things? I started seeing a therapist, which helped tremendously. One of the things I hated was that I didn’t have a strong connection with Wes at birth.

I realized how much social media skews reality. So many times I had read, “We want to welcome (baby). We are so in love already.” Really, are you so in love? Why is she so in love and I’m wondering why my baby is still screaming and doesn’t sleep? When Wes was 18 months old I told my therapist I was there–I love Wes more than anything in this world. I would do anything for him. I finally feel that connection.

She replied, “Well, you’ve known him much longer now.” And it clicked. I realized that motherhood isn’t perfect. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and this is why I try to be transparent about my struggles. I’ve learned that there are a lot of moms that have gone through the same things I have. You don’t always have to LOVE being a mom. You don’t have to be perfect. I simply take everyday as it is.

My husband was an amazing support throughout all of this. I know it was hard for him to see me like that. His once independent, strong-willed, fun, energetic wife, losing weight, curled up on the couch, and afraid to leave the house. He did everything he could to help me and I’m forever grateful for that. Now, I feel like he can sense if something is off (sometimes even before I do) and will take the kids to let me relax or take a nap.

Finally, two kids and three years later, I can honestly say I love being a mom. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most amazing thing. It’s not always fun, but the fun times are incredible. Postpartum depression and anxiety can happen to anyone. They happened to me, and because of them I am a stronger person. I still have bad days sometimes, but I don’t let them conquer me.