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Rachael on how she tried to ignore her postpartum depression

women holding her baby and smiling for the camera

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 prepared for a natural birth. After my water breaking, laboring for 19 hours, trying to push for many of them, my baby barely breathing and heart rate dropping, I had to have an emergency C-section that I was completely unprepared for. I thought I was going to lose my baby.

They rushed her out of the room after, blue and not breathing, with the lowest Apgar score possible. Thankfully, she came back breathing and beautiful. They laid her on me and I stared in disbelief that this baby was mine. She looked completely like her father and nothing like me.

I struggled with postpartum depression for years—being cooped up in the house on maternity leave, being a full-time, hands-on mom, changing every diaper, giving every bath, and not feeling like I was in an equal partnership with my then husband. I felt so alone. I would hold her at night crying as she cried, wondering why I was doing this alone while my husband slept peacefully in the other room. I felt like a failure for feeling depressed—that if I just killed myself, my baby would be better off with a happy father and family.

Related: When I tell you I have postpartum depression, here’s what I want you know

I finally told my OB and asked for help. She put me on Lexapro. My husband was hands off for the first year. Due to sleep depreciation, my daughter started sleeping in bed between us. Eventually he couldn’t stand her in bed with us anymore and made me choose between him or her. His mother moved in and took my motherhood from me. She slept with our daughter each night so I could sleep with my husband, to put the effort in to try to make it work.

She started taking over completely—baths, diaper changes, everything. If I tried to take care of my daughter, she would tell me I was doing it wrong and would grab her from me. The depression grew back with a vengeance. Eventually I found the courage to leave with my daughter—to claim my motherhood back, my daughter back, myself back. We now share custody.

Eventually I found the courage to leave with my daughter-to claim my motherhood back, my daughter back, myself back.

The first week I didn’t have her, she was with my ex and her finger was slammed in a door, amputated and hanging by skin. I went to the hospital to hold her, comforted my ex while he cried and apologized, and I held in my tears to be strong for them.

Afterward, I went back to my home and thought it was my fault. If I was there, this would have never happened. I felt like I was a failure and a burden—that nobody would be going through this pain if it weren’t for me. I downed half a bottle of Lexapro, told my best friend I loved her, and that I may not wake up the next morning.

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

I awoke to paramedics and police in my room. They took me to the hospital. Then I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I finally went through the much needed therapy that I fought for so long—days and hours of constant therapy, reliving the pain and depression, the emotional abuse, the loneliness, the guilt. Now I’m medicated on different medications. I’ve learned to communicate, to speak up, to ask for help, to not be ashamed, and that postpartum depression can take longer for some.

I’m finally in a place where I’m truly happy and I’ve never felt that before. I have my baby back. I can finally be myself wholly and completely, and I am so d*mn proud I had the courage to leave.