[Editor’s Note: So proud to have Warrior Mom Brittany with us today, sharing her story and why she’s not afraid to be open about her struggle with postpartum depression. -Katherine]
I have dreamed my entire life of becoming a mom. Some of my fondest memories as a child are of mothering my plastic baby dolls and loving on them as if their cotton insides actually held a beating heart. As a doe-eyed teenager, I used to picture what life would be like when my boyfriend and I could finally marry and start a family together.
And then suddenly, we were there. We had finished college, married, and were living the dream life together in our favorite city. We talked about waiting to have babies, but when it came down to it, we wanted to share the memories we were making together with our children.
We started trying for a baby, and before long I was pregnant and barefoot. Literally. I went barefoot to one of my baby showers. We spent nine blissful months “oohing” and “aahhing” over blurry ultrasound photos, meticulously decorating a nursery, and waiting anxiously for our baby girl to arrive.
And then she was born.
Blonde and blue-eyed and all 6lbs, 9oz of her was perfect. I remember holding her the day she was born. She was bundled like a burrito and sleeping so peacefully in my arms. My husband remarked that she was like a tiny angel. That night we took rotating hour-long shifts to stay awake with her while the other would sleep. We worried that if we left her alone for all but one minute, we would wake to find our baby not breathing, our dream dissolved into thin air. Maybe this first night was a foreshadowing of the anxiety-ridden days to come.
New motherhood was hard. It was much harder than I ever imagined it being. After leaving the hospital, I was thrust into a world of questions and unknowns. How do I get her to latch and eat? If we don’t get this “feeding thing” down, will she lose too much weight? Why is she wide awake at three in the morning? Is she too hot? Is she too cold? Should I still be swaddling her? Why won’t she stop crying? Why can’t I stop crying? What the hell have I done with my life?
After a week of all these unanswered questions, I began to believe I had made a mistake. All of the new and unfamiliar motherhood experiences that I couldn’t seem to get the hang of, or perfect, seemed to point to the only obvious conclusion: I was never meant to be a mother. I wasn’t good at it and it never should have happened. Never mind the fact that as a woman of Christian faith I believe that God is the ultimate provider and that He, in his perfect wisdom, chose the exact time and place in my life for me to become a mother. I was absolutely convinced there had been some huge mistake in granting me the role of motherhood.
Thus began the 18 long, hellish months of my struggle with postpartum depression. Those months were filled with lots of tears and grieving and coming to places of new reality. There were many sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days. After making a cross-country move, I finally hit rock bottom. It was after this move that I came to a place where I thought of ending my life. In my mind, an “out of sight” mom was better than the crazy mess of a mother my daughter had been stuck with since she was born. Hearing me speak these thoughts out loud was enough for my husband to put his foot down. I was diagnosed by a doctor as severely depressed, and for the first time throughout this whole journey, I was put on antidepressants (sorry, Tom Cruise). I also began to see an amazing therapist who has helped me to come to grips with a lot of issues I was facing, both mom and non-mom related. Today I can finally say that emotionally I am the healthiest I’ve ever been.
When I look back at my journey through postpartum depression, it makes me sad. Sad that I didn’t get to enjoy my daughter as an infant. Sad that I put so much pressure on myself, and her, to be perfect. I’m sad for the friends I drove away and for the friends who left because they didn’t and couldn’t understand what I was going through.
But I think the biggest emotion I feel now is relief. I’m relieved because I made it through postpartum depression. I’m relieved because I enjoy being a mom now. There was a long time when I didn’t believe it was possible to enjoy motherhood.
Am I scared of sharing my journey and of being transparent with others? I’m petrified. Am I going to let that fear define my life and my future? No way! I’m owning it. After 18 months of struggling with PPD, I believe my journey would be in vain if I kept it hidden. How would hiding myself help others?
I’m taking my story and sharing it. I want mommas and spouses to know how real and damaging PPD can be for a mother and her family. I want other mommas to know they aren’t alone and that they can and will make it through. I want them to realize that how they feel those first months as a new mother doesn’t have to define a lifetime of mothering. I know this because I have lived it.
I’m Brittany. I’m momma to Mackenzie Leigh. And I’m a Warrior Mom.