As soon as my first baby was born, I felt a change. Something wasn’t right. I feared for my baby’s safety to an extreme degree. I would sit awake, staring at my baby through the night, terrified something would go wrong, and my daughter would die. After feeding, I wouldn’t allow myself to leave my baby’s side for even a moment, worrying something would happen when I’m gone. It wasn’t a feeling of love or attachment, it slowly turned into a triggering feeling that lead to more negative ones.
This resulted in sleep-deprivation, physical distress that became illness, mental distress that was more than I could handle!
As the days went by I felt intense anxiety that I was doing everything wrong: I hadn’t read to my daughter enough, I hadn’t cleaned up enough, I hadn’t completed enough puzzles with my child, I looked into the mirror and felt ugly and not enough. Like many mothers, I held it together at work and with family and friends—the people who saw me every day didn’t know anything was wrong. But on the inside, I was not ok.
One day, I found myself screaming into a pillow for release, and even then I didn’t realize I needed help. All I could think about was “I guess this is what motherhood is!” Luckily, my husband saw that I was breaking inside and he felt like he didn’t recognize me anymore and he knew then I needed help. But he didn’t know how he could help.
Is What I’m Feeling Normal?
Feelings of depression, compulsion or anxiety do not mean a woman is a bad mother; they also do not mean she doesn’t love her baby. Many expectant mothers imagine motherhood will be fulfilling and uplifting. But when the baby is born, they may not feel that way at all. Mothers may experience depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A mother may experience PTSD as a result of a real or perceived trauma during delivery or following delivery. This can happen due to a feeling of powerlessness or a lack of support during delivery, an unplanned C-section or a newborn going to intensive care. Postpartum Support International (PSI) estimates around 9% of women experience PTSD following childbirth.
If you are experiencing anxiety, flashbacks or nightmares, you are not alone and it is not your fault.
What Should I Do If I Have These Feelings?
I know from experience that these feelings can be easy to brush off, but it’s okay to say, ‘Something isn’t right. I’m not okay.’”
When a mother does say this, her support system might follow up with questions like: “Can you tell me more about that? What does it feel like?” Your Doctor, Midwife, Doula, Nurse or even your partner can help attach vocabulary and understanding to certain feelings. A mother experiencing these unsettling and frightening feelings should not push them away.
Everything can feel strange following a birth, so be gentle and honest with yourself about your feelings. If you are experiencing troubling or upsetting feelings, ask your nurse or doctor if they can help you find programs and resources. Many mental health agencies offer programs that can help, or there may be counselors in your area that can offer the right kind of support.
It can be helpful to find a solid support system that encourages open, honest communication—this can make all the difference for expectant and postpartum mothers. For Me, It was my Husband who saved my Life and our Family! When I was diagnosed with depression it was beyond postpartum depression and was along the lines of “suicide risk” and severe depression. Talking to my family and working with a specialist provided me with the support I needed to heal and be able to move on with my life for myself as well as my family.
I hope that by sharing my story I can help more mothers feel comfortable about expressing their feelings. Every mother is on her own journey, but she need not travel alone.