“I remember that every time my baby would cry, I would cry too. I didn’t know what to do. I thought it was normal to cry and be sensitive about everything. It would frighten me to be alone with my son. By just looking at him, I would get scared. The thought of him crying and the fear of not knowing what to do was more than I could bare. ” ~Andriele
11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only 15% of women with postpartum depression ever recieve any type of professional treatment or support.
Postpartum depression is a mother’s feelings of sadness, inadequacy, hopelessness in the days and weeks after giving birth. These feelings are partly physiological (especially hormonal) and partly cultural, particularly if the woman does not recieve adequate assistance and encouragement. (The Developing Person)
Mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression are often wrongfully labeled and greatly misunderstood. These mothers typically receive harsh judgements, which cause them to feel even more isolated and unsupported.
Today I am giving a voice to postpartum depression through my amazing friend Andriele. She courageously battled it after her first birth. She is not just a statistic, she is the definition of strength, perseverance and triumph.
This is her story.
Andriele is a young, beautiful wife and mommy of two children. She has the most vibrant personality. She is confident and a great conversationalist, who also has a fantastic sense of humor. She is bold, bluntly honest and the most loyal friend. Just by looking at her you would never think of the odds she overcame.
Andriele was 21 years old when she and her husband had their first child.
“I tried to do everything I could to be prepared for that moment. I did classes, read books, searched online, everything I thought could help me to deliver and bring home a human being. Going home was scary because that’s when it hit me.
Andriele had a unplanned c-section due to fetal distress. The cord had been wrapped around her son’s neck to the point that each contraction would make his heart rate drop. After hours of not progressing in dilation, there was no other option.
Andriele had mentally prepared herself for a natural birth. She said she never even looked at the c-section chapter in the pregnancy book. It was not an option in her world.
She says the unplanned c-section may have been the primary trigger for her postpartum depression.
“I wasn’t happy with myself, my body to be more exact. I could not see my body in the mirror and especially my stomach. It took me a long time to gather the strength to look at my c-section scar. I wouldn’t accept the fact that I had one. To me, it was a failure to have had this surgery.”
She goes on to describe in detail how her sense of failure and body image affected every aspect of her new life as a mom. It even brought on fear in her capabilities.
“I was disappointed with myself as a woman. I couldn’t do the one thing I thought a women was suppose to do, which was to have a normal birth (vaginal). That feeling of worthlessness and guilt were present every single day in my mind. The recovery time from the c-section, the thought of my stitches opening, all this would bring more fear. Not being able to breastfeed my son, not feeling beautiful or my normal self. It was the worst I ever experienced.”
She also explains how all these emotions made it difficult for her to instantly bond with her newborn son, which is a strong sign of postpartum depression.
“The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t feel that bonding that everybody talks about, that you see on television. I lost my appetite, and dropped all my pregnancy weight quickly. I didn’t even notice until my mom told me that if I didn’t eat and get better I would fall in a depression.”
Did you feel any type of support throughout your struggle?
“I had my husband, my mom, my sister in law and a good friend that would come to visit. I can say without a doubt that it wasn’t the support that was missing, it was the inner struggle in my mind. Fear to make a mistake, fear that the baby would cry, fear of not being good enough, fear of not being a good mom, fear of not enough love.”
Did you seek professional help from a doctor?
“I didn’t go to a doctor, first of all because I didn’t think I was sick or depressed. I thought this was what motherhood was suppose to feel like. To me, I was just having a hard time dealing with all the feelings and pressures. I was feeling sad most of the time, and I was crying more often than normal.
I remember one day when I called my mom and told her that my baby didn’t love me. She said, “How do you know that the baby doesn’t love you? What do you expect him to do? To look at you and say I love you? He is just a baby”. Those words gave me a wake up call to open my mind and learn together with him.”
Do you recall anything that gave you strength to get through this difficult season?
“I learned with time that the fears within me could also be used as a reason to not give up and build courage. I CAN DO THIS! It was what I would say when I felt afraid. No matter how many people help you with a newborn, or how many books you read, if the strength doesn’t come from within, you will not be able to help yourself.”
What do you wish others knew from your journey with postpartum depression?
“Little by little I learned to be confident enough to take care of my son. Overcome the judgment in people’s eyes when my son would cry, and overcome my own fears of being a new mom. Fear is natural and will continue to be part of a human being, but the only difference is that bravery must come first in order to diminish and completely overcome it. I thank God HE helped me to get through this hard time and gave patience to my husband to understand my struggles.”
What advice would you give to another mom who is battling postpartum depression?
“When you are in the middle of this battle with yourself, the hardest thing is that you want to feel better, but in that moment you are not strong enough physically and emotionally. To actually admit that there is something wrong with you is extremely hard. Especially when you don’t understand it. The necessity to be healthy should be your biggest motivation.
One thing I know for sure is that our mind is a powerful tool. You must learn to control it, accept your emotions and learn to positively deal with them in order to have peace of mind. Be strong, you will learn with time. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes and have hard days. Believe in yourself, so you can feel confident enough to overcome all the challenges of motherhood. Babies don’t come with manuals. Is just impossible to be prepared for the unknown. You can and you will get through this.”
Andriele said something early on in the series of questions that truly pulled on my mommy heart strings.
“I felt worthless with my baby.”
No mother should ever feel worthless. I told her that she was the bravest soul I had ever known. I can’t imagine having to care for another life and at the same time deal with uncontrollable emotions. What a source of inner strength there is in mothers who are facing these issues.
If you are going through postpartum depression, remember how incredibly brave and significant you are. You are not alone, you will get through this difficult season. Talk to someone and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you don’t see your mental health improving. Doctors are not there to judge, they are there to help you get on a path to recovery.
If someone you know is dealing with postpartum depression, take the time to listen. Be a source of support she can count on. You will be surprised at how often these women just need to release their feelings, fears, pressures to someone who will JUST SIT THERE AND TRULY LISTEN WITH AN OPEN HEART.
The battles we face as mothers should not be viewed as shameful, instead we should recognize the grand purpose in each particular one. We need more compassion for one another and less judgment.
Our struggles do not define who we are. They are facets of resiliency and how we endeavor.
They can one day serve as a source of inspiration, support, and encouragement to someone in a similar situation.
To my wonderful friend Andriele, THANK YOU for having the courage to open up your heart about this season in your journey of motherhood.
It was an honor and a privilege to tell your story.