Toni on what she wants moms to know about postpartum depression

mom kissing her newborn son on the cheek while they both lay on the floor

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.

There I was pregnant with a guy I had been with for three months. We hadn’t even said those three little words yet. We decided to bring a little miracle into this world and I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

The big day was here and I had to have a C-section. I was there laying on this cold table not able to even feel my fingers, while doctors were down there tugging on my belly. They pulled him out and I heard the first little cry.

They took him into another room while I was stitched up and when it was finally time to hold him, they plopped him in my arms and…nothing. I felt no connection to this little human that spent nine months growing in my belly. I honestly just wanted the nurses to take him so I could sleep.

I was so overwhelmed with how much I loved this human, but felt nothing for him at the same time. I expected to have that balling moment where I looked at him and the whole world stopped, but I didn’t. I felt so guilty.

We took him home and I found myself getting mad at him for crying, for needing me to be a MOM. I found myself mad that he wouldn’t let me sleep or shower or watch a TV show. I couldn’t even eat a hot meal without him needing me in the middle of it.

I didn’t go out of the house because the idea of him crying in public gave me anxiety. The idea that I would be shopping and have the whole store look at me terrified me. I was mad at this little human that couldn’t do a thing for himself. How pathetic is that? I found myself crying over nothing, and getting mad over nothing. I felt alone. This little human that I made and love so much felt like a burden.

I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t tell anyone that I was feeling like an empty shell. I felt like I was going through the motions all day of what being a mom was, but I surely didn’t feel like one. I started to think about how he would be better of without me in this world.

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

How he would be better off never remembering me or what a failure I was as his mother. How driving off a cliff or disappearing in the desert was better than him having to be stuck with me as his mom. This whole time, the idea of postpartum depression being what I was dealing with was never even a thought.

What was postpartum depression? No one told me this could happen. No one told me I wasn’t a failure if I experienced it. No one told me they were there for me if I was struggling or there were steps I could take to heal.

Instead, some of the closest people to me began to tell me how horrible of a mother I was. They would talk about how they didn’t trust me to be alone with him. Let me make one thing clear—me being in this world was a question on my mind. Him on the other hand, was never a question. I knew he deserved to be here. I never wanted anything to happen to this gorgeous baby I made. I didn’t get help mentally. I didn’t get support from people that mattered most.

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

Eventually, I went to the doctor and told her how I felt. She didn’t tell me I was a failure. She didn’t tell me I couldn’t be trusted with my own child. Instead, the doctor told me that many women experience the same thing. It doesn’t make me horrible.

They put me on antidepressants and eventually I felt alive again. I felt like my being on this earth mattered. I felt important to this little tiny human who loved me so much. I started to realize that even though I struggled so much, this kid STILL loved me like I was the most perfect human to walk the earth.

He wanted my attention all the time. He wanted my kisses on his booboos. He wanted my cuddles in the middle of the night. He wanted my hand to hold whenever possible. He wanted my kisses and love. I realized what I was feeling wasn’t who I was. It was what I was experiencing. It was a hormone imbalance and it didn’t define me as a woman or a mother.

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

Postpartum is hard, but I realized I am so strong. I survived! I held my head high and came out the other end. I need mothers to know they are strong and that being a mom is hard and throwing an illness on top of it makes it so much harder.

You are not alone! You are not weak. You are needed. It is OK to ask for help. It’s okay to have postpartum depression. You can heal and you can come out the other side.

And the best part of all is your child will love you no matter what. You are perfect to them.