One common misconception about postpartum depression is that for many it can only show up in the few weeks following birth. One mom shares her story of postpartum depression that showed up – months -later than expected.
I had a healthy pregnancy. A healthy birth. And other than the usual low moments here and there, I had an overall healthy postpartum. I was fine. Truly fine. Not amazing. But not bad at all. Just fine. Until I was seven months postpartum.
Editor’s note: All PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) are treatable with the proper support and care. Please do not hesitate to ask for help navigating your experience, whether from friends, family, or a trusted professional.
One mom’s story with postpartum depression
Seven months into motherhood, depression hit me like a bulldozer out of nowhere. Here I thought that all these hormonal dips would attack me only in the first three or four months, and then past that, I’d be fine and dandy and back to my happy self again.
But that wasn’t the case.
Not that it’s anyone’s fault, but I wish the “postpartum period” wasn’t medically marked only for the first six weeks after birth but extended the duration to the entire first year.
It felt like an unreasonable expectation to meet.
Because I didn’t meet what is “normal” according to the internet, I felt like I was going crazy and that something was wrong with me, like hyper-obsessing over why I kept losing my wallet and phone. No lie, I thought maybe early onset dementia was showing its face to me.
I know “mom brain” is an actual thing, but I felt like I had mom brain to the extreme. I was losing my wallet and phone more than twice a day. I’d be talking to a friend, and my brain was about seven words behind.
Everything was moving slowly around me. But simultaneously, I felt like the world was moving forward, and I was just stuck in place.
This mind just wasn’t mine anymore. So whose was it? The fog was dense. It was taking up every nook and crevice of my brain. I had to figure out what was wrong with me, what got me here in the first place.
I sorted through everything, but nothing stuck.
How I discovered it wasn’t just “mom brain” but instead, postpartum depression
The first week I just thought I was sick. Then I got better. The second week I felt it was my husband’s stressors at work.
In the third week, I thought it was because I was weaning too quickly, which threw my hormones out of whack.
The fourth week, I thought it was because I finally came down from six months of adrenaline and found myself finally processing the fact that I got married, six months later got pregnant, and nine months later gave birth.
And though it’s not a traumatic event, it’s one that my brain couldn’t keep up with the fast pace my life was moving at.
By the fifth week, I had just accepted I had anxiety and depression because there was simply no rhyme or reason for feeling so horrible.
I had to live with not feeling myself at this point. I knew it was hormonal, but this hyper-critical voice was in the back of my head saying, “It’s been seven months, Kelly; you should be perfectly healthy and normal by now. Get it together.”
Asking for help and taking steps to heal
Fighting these thoughts and feelings was only making it worse. So I surrendered to them.
I told my husband at 3 am, “Only love is gonna get me through this, babe.” The next day I realized that instead of fighting my hormones, I had to go along with them for the ride. I had to let my hormones take me to where they wanted me to go.
As someone who witnessed her body give birth to a human, I firmly believe that the body is competent. Therefore, it knows what it’s doing and how to return to a healthy equilibrium.
So through these spurts of anxiety and long days of depression, I allowed these hormonal waves to take me down the river rapids with them and trusted that I’d be spitting out into calm waters soon enough. Perhaps this shift in perspective helped.
But what I’m about to tell you helped me even more.
It was Tuesday morning, and my husband and I had been craving an authentic community to come around us for the past four months. But being new parents made it easy for us to keep pushing it off.
I had woken up and did not think I could get out of bed that morning. But I had my precious little girl to care for. I had to get up; I didn’t have a choice.
And you bet I celebrated that win! It’s the little victories, you know? They must be celebrated! I even made my bed. Victory number two. And taking care of my sweet baby girl, who gave me nothing but smiles and laughs that day. Victory number three.
So because of such forward progress in a day where I thought I might die, my husband and I felt the evening was right to finally attend this community group hosted by our friend while my mom watched Gracie.
Let’s say that evening felt like a new breath had been restored to my lungs.
By the end of our time sharing and hearing each other’s stories, someone asked the group if anyone in the room needed prayer. I could feel the heat stirring around my heart, almost like something working through my body was encouraging me to speak. So I did.
My lip started to quiver; tears began to trickle down my cheeks, and my cry became a rapid-fire hyperventilating expression of, “I’ve been battling depression and anxiety, and I just feel alone.”
And the group of 12 people just gave me precious space to let it all out. I sobbed for five minutes straight. A friend came over, put her hand on me, and rubbed my back.
As vulnerable as it felt, my spirit needed it. My spirit needed to be seen and heard by those around me. My spirit needed to breathe again. I needed to breathe again. I just had to be honest about where I was at, not as an obligation to the group but more to myself.
And… three days later, I began to see the light again. My instinct was right when I said, “Love always wins.”
A letter to you, new mom
Hormones can pop up and hit you out of nowhere in the first year, not just the first couple of months. Give your body grace, and know it’s okay if things hit you later in the game.
When you’re feeling low, celebrate the little victories, like getting out of bed in the morning, putting makeup on, or giving your baby one quick smile.
Instead of combating these feelings and moods, ride with them. Even though they’re unpredictable and a bit scary, take heart and know that you’ll be spitting out into calm waters sooner than later. Hormones always find their way back to neutrality.
Community. Community. Community. There’s something freeing about admitting you’re in a low place, especially in a group setting. One-on-one’s work for some. But a group has always benefited me—especially this time around.
Whether it’s a mom’s, creative meet-up, or church group, there’s something so special about sharing your heart with a group of people who care. Ever since then, I began to feel better. And you can too!
You are not alone! What you’re going through is normal, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. You are normal. You are not weak. You are not broken. You are stronger for going through this. You got this.
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Kelly Jett is a freelance writer and a podcaster of the "Diving Deeper Podcast". She is currently writing a non-fiction memoir about her journey out of the childhood and college bubble and into a wide-open world of endless freedom and into a life she didn't particular plan. Kelly is a traveling speaker in the southeast US. But, her main and favorite job is... being a mother to her 8 month old baby girl.