Until motherhood, I had never been depressed, but looking back at my life, that’s not really true. I had just never been formally diagnosed by a professional. I can remember plenty of days where I felt sad and didn’t want to do anything but curl up in bed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and had somehow misplaced my joy. I remember having panic attacks when I moved into my first apartment in New York City. Apparently, all that made me a higher risk case for postpartum depression when I decided to become a parent, but I don’t remember reading that in my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
I never thought depression, anxiety, medication, therapy, feelings of guilt, failure and the belief I made a mistake becoming a mom would shape the welcome party ushering me into motherhood. I didn’t go in thinking I’d be coming out as a medicated mommy who could barely hold her shit together in those first six months. I couldn’t fathom being the girl who walked circles around my neighborhood in the clothes I slept in, ugly crying on the phone to my own mom, telling her I was in hell, and refusing to believe that I would ever get out.
But that’s what happens when postpartum depression shows up to greet you when you bring your new baby home from the hospital. You feel more than overwhelmed and exhausted. You feel helpless and can’t see any light in the tunnel. Your own light goes out and you think you will be stuck in that darkness forever. And if you’re like me, you have no clue that you’re actually not alone in that darkness. That what is happening to you is extremely common and happens to hundreds of thousands of new moms each year.
The day after I arrived home with my new baby boy, I was hit with severe postpartum depression. I never thought it could happen to me and it came out of nowhere. I went from filling out all 1’s on the happy scale the hosptial gives you before sending you home to being at home thinking I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mother, and trying to figure out ways I could get sick or hurt so I could return to the hospital where everyone would have to take care of me and I never had to take care of a baby.
How do you tell your mom friends you feel this way when you have been led to believe the only normal feelings new moms experience after giving birth are magic, bliss, joy, love, and an intense attachment to your baby? How could I tell them the only thing I felt was paralyzing anxiety that made it difficult to do anything but cry ugly tears and lie in bed pleading for it to all go away so I could love my new baby boy and be a good mother too. How could I tell them I resented them for being so much better at motherhood than me? So much better at breastfeeding. So much better at simply wanting to spend time with their babies and leaving the house with them, something I was terrified to do.
I didn’t have any friends who had postpartum depression before me. I didn’t even know postpartum depression was what I had until I found the right therapist who diagnosed me. Now I didn’t only have postpartum depression. I had to go on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine to cope with motherhood. Again, what would my friends think? From what I knew of other moms (close friends and the ones on social media I didn’t know personally), motherhood was easy and came naturally. I thought of myself as a horrible mom and a failure. I failed at breastfeeding. I failed at Pinterest. I failed at wanting to be a mother. Would my friends judge me as harshly as I judged myself?
I AM A MEDICATED MOMMY! Yes, I take antidepressants. No, I am not ashamed. Not even a little bit. And if you do too, you shouldn’t be ashamed either.
Let’s start at the beginning. On day six of being a new mom, I was overcome with crippling anxiety and non-stop tears. I had no desire to ever leave my bed again. All I wanted to do was sleep and go back to the hospital where people would take care of me and I didn’t have to be responsible for the well-being of another human. Why did I become a mom? I believed I had made a terrible mistake. Obviously something was very wrong.
After a diagnosis of postpartum depression followed by three rounds of different anti-anxiety medicine and two rounds of antidepressants, my therapist and psychiatrist finally found the right drug cocktail to help me. Yes, I felt frustrated while trying to find the right medication and it took some time, but I also found relief once I did. It was the first step to getting better, something I never believed would be possible while in the dark hole of postpartum depression. It was worth hanging in there for. My baby, husband and I were worth hanging in there for.
My name is Jen Schwartz, and I’m a medicated mommy. Yes, I take antidepressants as a result of suffering from postpartum depression when my son was born. Two days after arriving home from the hospital as a new mom, I realized something was very wrong. I began to wish for a reason, any reason at all that would take me back to the hospital where others could take care of me and I wouldn’t have to take care of my new baby. I started crying all the time, became paralyzed by anxiety and wanted to stay in bed and sleep forever. I didn’t want to be a mom. I couldn’t take care of a baby. I thought I made a terrible mistake.
Three weeks into motherhood, I still didn’t believe I would ever get better, but with the support of my husband and family, I found a therapist specializing in postpartum depression and began taking the right combination of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines. To my neighbors, I was just the lady walking laps around the block while sobbing on the phone to my mom because moving around calmed the anxiety. I tried to go through the motions of bonding with my baby with help from my husband. At five months, I took my first solo outing with my son and by month six, I spent even more time with him and I started to see my old self again. I began to socialize and exercise again too. Most importantly, I smiled and laughed more. Finally, at a year, surrounded by friends and family, I looked around at my son’s first birthday party and said to myself: “I got this. I’m his mom. I love him, I can do this, and I’m happy.”
Rather than feel guilt or shame for having postpartum depression, I choose to celebrate my recovery. My son recently turned 3 and I love being his mommy. I may be a medicated one, but I’m also a fighter and a survivor. Here are nine reasons I’m grateful for my year-long battle with postpartum depression.
1. I realized my own strength.