Growing up in the LDS church I heard a lot about families, about getting married and having kids. The family is central to our beliefs. All I heard about becoming a mom and having kids from my own mom, from neighbors and friends, was that it was the most wonderful, amazing, happy thing ever. Being young and naive, I believed it. So I was not expecting it when I spiraled into a world of darkness and depression after my own baby was born.
I was supposed to be feeling pure and utter joy at having a baby, at being a mother. I did love my new baby. Giving birth to her was the most amazing experience I’d ever had in my life. Love at first sight is real—it’s when you see your baby for the first time. At least that’s how I felt. And yet, I wasn’t happy. I was sad. I was depressed. I cried all the time and felt so incredibly lonely. My ex-husband couldn’t figure out what was going on—why the house was constantly a mess, baby toys always strewn across the floor, dishes piled up in the sink, meat-crusted pans littering the stove and countertops. I never wanted to go out, never wanted to do anything. It put a lot of stress and tension on our marriage which only made things worse.
Our living situation didn’t help, either. We were living a small, rural town at the time with no family or friends around. The locals treated us like outcasts because we weren’t from there. It was a constant living hell. Eventually, my ex-husband was offered a job in another city, which he immediately accepted and we moved without looking back.
Our situation did improve. We lived in a great ward where we made a few friends. I got involved with the ward playgroup that met once a week at a park or splash pad where I could have much-needed adult interaction and my then one-year-old could play with other kids. I also found a writing group which was a definite bright spot to look forward to each month. And yet, I was still depressed.
I read some books, did some research and most of what I found split postpartum depression into different categories that lasted different lengths of time. They all seemed to say that within a year, a woman with postpartum would be feeling normal again, back to her old self. It’s sort of funny, really, to think that an illness is going to abide by timelines. It had been over a year and I still felt horrible, like a broken shell of who I used to be.
Part of this was my own fault. I was stubborn and prideful and thought I could conquer it all by myself. I wanted to prove that I could take control of the situation. I did go to counseling for a couple of months, but I needed more—I just wasn’t willing to admit it.
After a year-and-a-half, we moved back to northern Utah, where we were both from. My ex-husband and I hoped that being near family would help, and I think it did. It wasn’t until three years after my daughter was born that I finally started feeling like a normal human-being again. My depression wasn’t completely gone, but I did feel more like my old self and felt as though I had a better handle on my life.
Postpartum is one of those things I believe we need to talk more about. According to the American Psychological Association one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression. So let’s get real—this is a serious illness, and we need to stop pretending that women are supposed to be nothing but elated after the birth of a child. Like all mental illness, it is real. We need to acknowledge it, talk about it, be there for those who are living it, be loving and compassionate instead of condemning and judgmental. Babies are beautiful and wonderful and should be enjoyed. If we could help end the stigma attached to postpartum depression, maybe more women would be able to do this.