When Motherhood and Mental Illness Collide

by Parent Co. February 07, 2017

mother breast feeding cute baby in arms at cafe

I said I was in love with her, but I lied.

When I first met my daughter three years ago, all I felt was a powerful sense of panic. I remember craning my neck on the operating table to watch her as she got weighed. I was startled to see that she had my see-though skin. We also had the same legs.

Her howls of outrage echoed around the room and triggered a response long dormant in me. We were no longer physically tethered to each other, but our connection was just as primal.

My instinct to protect her came naturally, but my heart took longer to catch up.

After we took her home from the hospital, it felt as if a bomb had gone off in our apartment. It wasn’t long before I found myself floundering and drowning in the emotional debris. Nothing in my world looked the same.

Inviting my daughter into my heart took longer than I thought.

In a constant state of anxiety, it was a real struggle to let this tiny stranger in. The instability of my moods meant I was incapable of feeling anything small. All my emotions and reactions felt huge.

The truth that I’ve never told anyone is how much every single day was a test, a trial.

In between the never-ending breastfeeding and diaper changes, I tried to pick up the pieces of my life and assemble them into some semblance of normalcy.

I failed. My hormones and low moods always seemed to get in the way of any real progress.

One day I made the brave decision to get help.

It was only when I let go of my self-blame that I learned postpartum depression is a sly beast. It whispers intrusive thoughts in your ear and sniffs out your deepest insecurities. It makes you feel empty and angry at the same time.

It took tons of love, group therapy, and anti-depressants, but I’m happy to say that eventually I got better.

When I look back at those dark days now, I wish I had been more open with my friends and family.

Sure, they sensed I was struggling. But I felt too shamed to share my whole truth. I thought they would be disappointed in me, that they would scoff at my mental strain and pass it off as the “baby blues.”

I didn’t give them enough credit.

They would have welcomed my voice, even if what came out of my mouth didn’t include words like “I feel so blessed.” Now I make it a point to be open and honest about my life – both the good and the bad.

Motherhood is full of touching and inspiring moments. It’s also crammed with chaos and stress.

It’s important for established mothers and new mothers to hear this message and see themselves reflected in this complicated reality. At any given moment, the tapestry we weave as mothers, as women, has many patterns, pictures, designs.

When people look at mine, I want them to see the trying moments that make it feel heavy, and the beautiful truths that make it feel light.




Parent Co.

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