You think this is something that happens to others, that you are somehow immune.
I became pregnant with my first child when I was 28, after having been married for two years. We had planned it, the timing was right, and we were thrilled to start a family.
I had a great pregnancy. Except for some mild morning sickness during the first trimester and some back pains during my last month, I was healthy and so was my baby. I had gained little weight and felt pretty and glowing. At the beginning of my 38th week I went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
People say the love of a mother is miraculous, that the moment you hold your baby you just fall in love instantly.
Except it wasn’t and I didn’t.
The moment the doctor pulled my son out and put him on my chest I asked the nurse to take him and bathe him first. I thought that once I saw him clean it would happen, you know, the motherly love.
Except it didn’t.
The next few days were just a blur of nurses, lactation consultants, and a creature I was for some reason not able to connect with. I didn’t change one diaper while at the hospital. When it was time to go home, I questioned the sanity of the medical personnel; how could they allow me to take a tiny baby with me? I hadn’t taken an ability test or read a manual.
But no one seemed to care. They let me go home.
At home things seemed normal according to what everyone said I should expect. A constantly crying baby, no sleep, no time for a shower and when there was time, i’d have milk and blood on me the second i’d step out of the shower anyway, so what difference did it make? I’d argue with my husband in the middle of the night because I wanted him to feed the baby a bottle but the baby wouldn’t take it so he wanted me to nurse.
I cried a lot. During dinner, while nursing, any time really.
My mom wanted me to take some kind of tea to fight the baby blues. My friends who already had children seemed to relate. They told me their stories of baby blues and how they too would cry often. They said it lasted a couple of weeks.
Me? The baby blues didn’t go away.
My husband went back to work, my mom went back to her hometown and my friends went back to their routines. I tried to go back to my routine too, but with a new baby that is not so easy to do. My baby was beautiful, or so did everyone say. At the grocery store, at the mall, wherever I went people would compliment my baby.
How could I not be ecstatic about having a new baby? So I pretended I was. I smiled to the neighbors and to my friends. I smiled to my husband and to strangers who crossed my path.
But when i was alone, at home or in the car, i’d cry. Not a lonely tear running down my cheek. A desperate cry that made my chest hurt. I lived my days but I felt sad. Even while smiling i felt sad.
And then one day as I put my baby down on his crib I felt the air come out of my lungs and the darkest thought I had ever had, crossed my mind. I didn’t want to be alive. I looked down at my sleeping baby and with his every breath I felt sadder. Each time I saw his chest rise, I felt mine collapse. I sat in the corner of his bedroom and hugged my knees. I started to cry and I thought “this will be my last cry”. Not because I had decided I wasn’t going to be sad anymore, but because I had decided I didn’t want to live anymore and dead people don’t cry.
I decided I didn’t want to live, but I was a coward. I didn’t have the nerve to take my own life. So I called my best friend, a psychologist whose dear cousin had committed suicide two summers earlier after having suffered in silence from postpartum depression.
I started to see a therapist she recommended and was prescribed antidepressants.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I was a coward. I have a handsome and funny 9 year old and a gorgeous and smart 4 year old whom I love desperately and with passion. I cannot even think about how, if I had had the strength to kill myself, my daughter would not be here and I would not have the privilege to see my son grow up.
I took antidepressants for just shy of two years. When I became pregnant again I was terrified. We consulted with my doctor and opted not to take preemptive antidepressants, but to only go to therapy during my pregnancy and after my daughter was born. I didn’t suffer from depression with my second child. It just didn’t happen.
I don’t want to give you advice. Not because I don’t want to, but because I know you won’t listen, just like I didn’t listen. What I do want to tell you is that it passes and that only you have the strength to realize you need help. What I do want to tell you is that seeing a professional does help.