The words “at least your baby is healthy” can profoundly negatively impact a mother who is struggling with her new role. Here’s a closer look at one mom’s journey with PPD + PPA.
I was never one of those who felt like I was born to be a mom. I knew I wanted children one day, but I never felt this strong pull to identify with the role. Fast forward to today, and “mother” is a part of who I am to my core, personally and professionally.
Becoming a mother was the most transformative event in my life. My personal values were changed, and my professional focus shifted.
When my husband and I decided it was time to start a family, I knew the journey may not be easy. I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and my mother underwent fertility treatments.
After learning more about the uncertainty around what our journey to parenthood may look like, it was suddenly all-consuming and all I could think about.
Fortunately, our first round of IVF was successful, so my focus quickly shifted from “I have to get pregnant” to “I hope the baby is healthy.” I researched miscarriage risk, prenatal vitamins, safe sleep guidelines, bottles, swaddles, and more. You name it, and I read about it.
All except for what the postpartum period is actually like for a new mom.
As my scheduled C-section date neared (due to breech presentation), I had every single onesie washed and put away. Every baby gadget was ready to go, and the car seat was installed. I considered every possibility for things the baby might need those first couple of weeks after delivery. Looking back, I did not think about what that time might be like for me, physically or emotionally.
Like many women, I had this idea that we are suddenly outfitted with a superwoman cape as soon as we give birth. As if we are instantly equipped with the innate ability to “just know” what to do, an immediate intuition, and an intense surge of love and connection.
It turns out, that none of those things happened to me.
I experienced many things in the postpartum period that are “taboo” topics.
- I didn’t connect with my baby right away.
- I didn’t feel like a nurturer.
- I experienced intrusive thoughts.
- I didn’t like the newborn stage.
- I regretted my decision to have a child.
- I mourned my loss of freedom.
What I know now that I didn’t realize then is how common these feelings and experiences are. My idealized view of motherhood, unrealistic expectations, and other risk factors contributed to my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. I work in mental health, so I was familiar with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but not consider that it was something that I could experience.
My daughter was diagnosed with severe reflux and choked in the hospital. We spent the first three weeks bouncing from one doctor’s appointment to another. We were treating a lip and tongue tie, assessing pyloric stenosis, checking weight gain, cutting dairy, and trying every formula under the sun, all while healing from a cesarean. I convinced myself that “I wasn’t cut out for this,” which really contributed to the anxiety and uncertainty that I was feeling those first few weeks postpartum.
With time, I finally saw the light
After walking through several months of learning, healing, and navigating this new world and new role, I began to see the light. All of the hours I spent researching baby products and sleep schedules when I was pregnant shifted to learning everything I could about “taboo topics” in motherhood. More importantly, understanding the power behind normalizing what new motherhood is really like.
I have made it my mission to help women be proactive, advocate for themselves. I feel less alone in the transition to motherhood. My hope is that all women will acknowledge their worth and find joy in this unique season.
Caroline helps women feel less alone and more confident in their unique journey to and through motherhood. She is a mental health counselor based out of Charleston, SC, specializing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Caroline is passionate about helping women navigate family planning, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and beyond.