Today I’m very pleased to welcome Warrior Mom Elizabeth R., who is sharing her experience of postpartum depression even though her partner was the birth parent.
Did you know that research has shown that postpartum depression can happen to both parents, not just the one who had the baby? I know because I suffered with it.
After treatment for cancer, I was left unable to conceive. So, being in a same sex marriage, it was easy to decide who the birth mother would be. Luckily, on our first try at in-vitro, we were successful … I was going to be a mom! The months moved slowly, as we did everything needed to become new parents. But as the time passed, I felt unprepared; I dismissed this as fear of being a first-time parent. My wife was induced 17 days early on July 5th. Our son had different plans, though, and two days later on 7/7/07 we had a healthy and beautiful baby boy.
I still felt no more ready. Soon the nightmare began. I loved my son more than anything in the world — I know that now — but I didn’t want my son. The days at home, alone, caring for him grew immensely harder, the sleepless nights of guilt never-ending. I remember turning over in bed one night, and saying, “Seventeen years, eleven months, and two days, and we’ll be free again!“ Nothing seemed illogical with that statement to me. And then it got worse. Much worse. What could be so wrong with me to cause the thoughts and feelings so awful and unspeakable?
About six months later, I sought help from a doctor. Immediately, he matter-of-factly diagnosed me with postpartum depression. Really? But I didn’t give birth. How is that possible? No, I didn’t give birth, but my condition was without question. It was that “ah hah!” moment–full of hope–instantly. Postpartum depression is treatable! I’m not a monster!
And I don’t hate my son.
Thank goodness I had a doctor who recognized and believed that non-birth parents can, in fact, have postpartum depression. It took just over nine months for me to crave my son. Every ounce of me, every second of the day, every beat of my heart longed to be his mother. The one he deserved. I was on double-time: I wasn’t going to lose another moment.
It took lots of energy, emotion, therapy, and some medication to overcome and throw away the guilt I had over my feelings and lack of bonding with my son. I won’t lie to you, it took some time for him, also, to realize I was unequivocally and forever “Mama.” You’d never know that today, though.
It is so important to educate society that postpartum depression is very real and exists in non-birth parents. It is not just an illness suffered by a mother who’s delivered. Fathers can have it. Adoptive parents, and same-sex parents suffer PPD, too. Until the general public becomes knowledgeable, we will continue suffering in the dark. Afraid and ashamed. Scared and confused, without help.
I have, thankfully, forgiven myself for my thoughts and feelings that were never truly mine. When my baby was born, I was sure my life had ended. Little did I know it had, beautifully, just begun.