Rising Up From Postpartum Depression – My Messy Beautiful

Sitting in the glider in the corner of the nursery, I held my baby and sobbed. “He’s 7 weeks old and I still don’t love him,” I cried to my husband. I stared down at his sweet face–this helpless baby who demanded so much of me and, despite all my efforts, I could not give him what he wanted.

I’d always felt like I was meant to be a mother. In high school I had my five future kids’ (ha!) names picked out. Whenever I babysat, I imagined what it would be like to have my own kids someday and took mental notes from each family about what I would and wouldn’t do with my kids (double ha!). So I was completely unprepared when becoming a mother was not the blissful experience I expected it to be.

When I look back at pictures of the old me, pre-kids, during the happiest year of my life, my heart breaks for me. That poor naive girl, glowing with the excitement of fulfilling two of her biggest dreams in life in one year–traveling to Greece and becoming pregnant–had no idea what was about to hit her.

Oh, I loved that baby the moment I pushed him out into this world. He was beautiful and it was unreal. Finally, me, a mom! I held him close and we worked hard at getting him to nurse those first few days, until finally he did.

Holding my newborn for the first time
Nothing but love for my baby boy the first time I laid eyes on him

Three sleepless nights (water breaking in the early am, another night of labor and then the first night with a newborn who just wanted to be held) finally took its toll, though, and the love I felt was quickly replaced by feelings of “What have we done?! What did we get ourselves into?!” The realization that this crying-all-the-time little bundle of sadness was our new normal hit me hard.

When I let my mind go back to that time in my life, I can still feel that constant, heavy sadness that never let go of me. The unrelenting feeling of “what have I done,” wondering how I could go back and take it all away. I was drowning, sinking, and couldn’t bring my head above water.

I had read that for some people loving their baby could take awhile, but what kind of mother didn’t love her baby at 7 weeks? Oh, I cared for him alright, but the strongest feeling I had while looking at him was remorse.

Frustrated husband holding our fussy baby
Doug’s expression sums up how we felt about our baby at this point

I remember one night when I just needed to get out because I’d been stuck in the house with a screaming baby all day. When Doug got home that evening, he took a turn with the angry baby so I could go for a drive and clear my head. I got in the car and drove and drove, sobbing so heavily that I could barely see. All I could think about was that I had to go back and I didn’t want to. Other times when I was able to get a few minutes for myself were the same. No pedicure, walk outside or trip to the gym could erase that heaviness.

There was no sudden moment when I came out of this, no distinct time I can remember realizing that I did love my baby. All I remember is that somehow it started to get better. I had hoped it would happen when he was three months old like I had heard others say, but it didn’t. Gradually it happened between four and five months. With more smiles and more sleep, everything looked a little brighter.

I feel robbed  of the experience I thought I should have. I’ll never stop wishing we could have been those parents who enjoy their tiny newborns even through the sleepless nights. But I am so so glad for those that have the experience I wanted for myself.

So I write this through tears for those who need to hear it. For the so many others of you out there who were blindsided by the hard truth of how parenthood can be. It’s through my keyboard that I’m sending you hugs. You’re not alone, you’re not a bad mother because of these feelings and it does get better. I promise you it gets better. It gets better and it gets beautiful.

It will never be easy. I wish I could promise you that, but parenting is never easy. But there is so much joy waiting for you beyond these hard times and the other hard times that will come. Even if you can’t see the light now, you’ll find it if you keep looking for it. It’s there above the water once you rise up and see it. And what you’ll find when you get there, is something beautiful.

My beautiful boy
Photo by rosanne parket photography

My sweet boy. My smiling, handsome, funny little man who brings me so much joy, oh how I love him so much.

*****

I wrote this essay as part of Glennon Doyle Melton’s Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE! Enter for your chance to win your own copy.

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Comments 24

  • So good of you to share this! It’s not easy at the beginning, and more people need to start talking honestly about that. I remember meeting you in those early weeks and seeing myself in you. It was so nice to not feel alone. Thanks for being there these last four years.

    • I wouldn’t have survived without you guys. I’m pretty sure that without the new mom group, it would’ve taken me much longer to rise above the water. XOXO

  • You recounted your journey beautifully, and perfectly illustrated the messy turned beautiful. Thanks for being brave and sharing a piece of you.

  • My sister stayed with me for the first week after my first, and when she left, I remember trying so hard not to cry, but I just kept thinking, “I can’t do this on my own. I can’t.” She knew exactly what I was thinking, and she called me every single day to make sure I was still keeping on.

    So many moms feel the way you did. I think we go through a period of grieving the losing of life the way it was before a baby. I remember my husband coming home one night, and the house was all dark and my son was in his swing, and as soon as he walked through the door, I said, “I just want to give him back,” and I meant it. He held me while I sobbed and didn’t say a word.

    We can hold such high expectations for ourselves, that we must love those babies immediately and all the time, that motherhood should come easily, that we should be quick to transition into a family instead of a couple, but the reality is that ALL of it HARD.

    Thank you for sharing your messy beautiful, for being courageous enough to speak life into the lives of other women.

    • I felt similarly when my husband went back to work after I had Reece. I was afraid for my sanity!

      Parenting is so hard and it’s so good to talk about so others know they’re not alone.

  • Great post. I had PPD w/ Logan, and it sucked. I wasn’t bonding with him at all – I knew he was my baby and I cared for all his needs, but it was a while until I started connecting with him on a deeper level. Thanks for your honesty!

    • It’s nice to hear from others who have had a similar experience. I had little blips of it daily with Emme too, but I was always able to pull myself out and rise above the the water. But just those little blips of it made me shudder remembering how I had felt like that all the time with Reece and there was no way to to rise above.

  • […] I want to thank you for your kind words yesterday on my messy, beautiful experience with postpartum depression. Whether you commented on the blog, Facebook or through text message, your words meant a lot to […]

  • You’re very brave to share your story. Thank you.

  • Thank you for the beautiful post! I am not a mother myself yet, but I look forward to becoming one some day. Sometimes I get scared thinking that I might not have a picture-perfect transition into motherhood like we are somehow made to believe it should be (damn social stereotypes!), so reading about your experience makes me hopeful that things will get better no matter how messy they start out.

    • Part of why I wanted to share my story is so people like you, who are not parents yet, will be prepared for what could happen. Everyone’s heard of PPD, but it’s not really talked about that much. Even those without it can still get the very normal “baby blues” for a time. The thing that helped most was joining a new moms group through the hospital I gave birth at. I’m positive the only reason I survived this time was because of that.

  • Laura this piece is incredible. You really speak to the strength of women. Whether we know we have it or not, there’s a lot to learn from your bravery. Thanks :-)!

  • Thanks for sharing your story–a story that is common but is often buried.
    Beautiful.

  • Thanks for sharing!! That absolutely sums up how I felt with my first–she is nearly 11, and I still get sad when I think about the first 6 months of her life. I do think it helps to be open with it–even though I wasn’t at the time. It makes me feel better knowing so many other have had similar (virtually identical) experiences. 🙂

    • It’s crazy how we can go right back to that sadness, just thinking about it, isn’t it? I was fairly open with people at the time–especially others who were pregnant–because I wanted them to be prepared in case it happened to them. It’s definitely nice to know that others are in the same boat. Interestingly, pretty much no one I told about my “extended baby blues” (that’s all I thought it was at the time) had any problem with it.

  • Wonderfully written!!!! Thank you for taking the courage to write this!!!

  • Thank you so much for writing and sharing your experience. I went through a similar time, and I remember the guilt most of all. The heavy, intense, ugly guilt that robs you of joy. So many people would say, “Isn’t this the best??” And I would just look at them bleary eyed wondering what it was that was so great. And I just felt terrible to feel that way. I, too, lament that I did not enjoy his first year as much as I had hoped, and I wish to have that experience with another child some day. Thanks again for a great entry.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I did have another one and it was a completely different experience. Much closer to how I imagined it would be the first time. I did sometimes feels myself sinking down, but could pull myself out if it. I hope you have that same experience with your next one!

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