The Best Job

Recently a friend wrote me and asked about postpartum depression. She’s expecting her first baby and as a reader of this blog, knew of my experience with depression. She politely asked me if I would share with her my experience specifically with postpartum.  She opened up about not knowing who to talk to about all of it, that her family didn’t quite understand how to help, and she didn’t feel like her friends would be able to much either.  I’d been feeling for some time that I needed to share a bit of what I went through with postpartum, but I wanted to wait till I felt like the right time to share, well I want to say thanks to my friend for giving me the go ahead on this post.

You want to know the truth?

I was about two months into motherhood and I felt like something was terribly wrong with me. Every time I heard or read something to the effect of …”Being a mom is the best job in the world”, “I love being a mom”, “I just love to hold my baby and be at home with him/her all day long”… this frustrated me.  I was confused because I didn’t feel that way at all.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion and judge me as a cold-hearted ingrate for not appreciating the privilege it is to be a mother… please let me explain.

I remember when we found out I was expecting Logan. We were both incredibly in awe and happy.  I felt real joy knowing that I was, for lack of a better word, fertile.  I was amazed and almost shocked that there was a real LIVE person inside of  me.  I almost couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  I felt so privileged to be carrying a baby, it amazed me that I was actually going to be a mom. It amazed me that I, ME was actually in the “mom” phase of life.  For the first time it hit me, wow we can actually GROW humans, crazy!  Ok, so maybe for some of you it isn’t that mind boggling, but it was for me.

It took ME being pregnant to realize what a miracle it is that we can actually create human life.

Pregnancy proved to be challenging for me. Morning sickness wreaked havoc on my body for about five months. I think that’s when post-partum depression started for me.  Ya weird, I didn’t know until then that you could get “post” partum depression before you actually have your baby, but I did.  I was miserable.  I wasn’t productive.  I couldn’t cook or eat much and felt like such a drag to my husband.  I tried to read but it made me sick.  I tried little hobbies and crafts but mostly just felt like sleeping.  It was really rough physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I felt worthless.  I had specific goals before getting pregnant to eat only the healthiest of foods and exercise hardcore daily, but ended up relying on top ramen and soltaire to get me through.  I felt like a failure because I couldn’t be the best pregnant woman that I had imagined myself being.  Truth was, I was one sick girl and I did the best I could.


Towards the third trimester things started looking up.   I could eat.  I could go do things with my husband.  I could walk into a grocery store and not throw up because of all the weird smells. I was feeling great emotionally and physically.  I felt better about myself and my confidence in myself and the future improved.
About three weeks before being full term, I remember there laying in bed with overwhelming anxiousness and fear about being a mom.  I was feeling depression and anxiety start to creep  their way back in.  I got up and decided to take a shower hoping to be reassured by the warmth and wash away the coldness and confusion. I sobbed and sobbed there for a while.  I knew I needed to talk to my doctor.

My doctor talked to me about starting therapy again and maybe trying an anti-depressant.  I agreed.  I frantically started trying to get things in order, but therapists have long waiting lists and anti-depressants take a few weeks to really get in your system and take effect.

When my son was born I wasn’t prepared emotionally for the positive or the negative.  I felt what people had described to me as, “An instant and overwhelming love” as I held him for the first time.  Yet again, Ryan and I were both amazed that all over the world every single day hundreds of babies are born, because to us this felt like the grandest and most personal miracle either of us had ever experienced.  I was so filled with love for my son and my husband. I felt the depression that had found it’s way back in a few weeks prior, literally wash away.  I was elated and felt safe again.
The first month was a whirlwind.  I think I was just running off of adrenalin.  I felt great actually.  Was I overwhlemed?  Yes.  Was I depressed?  Not yet.  In fact about a month into parenthood my husband looked at me and said, “Wow you’re doing great!  Maybe we’re going to be alright, I think postpartum would have hit by now?”  Ya maybe you’re right I thought, inside though I wasn’t really sure.  First of all  my son was a REALLY colicky baby.  He cried NON-STOP for the first 5 months of his life.  And because we had just moved down into our neighborhood less than 6 months prior to him being born I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help. People offered, they were very kind.  But I was paranoid, I felt like I HAD TO DO IT.  I was the mom and I had to be strong, my son needed me.

After two months of no sleep and constantly listening to crying all day, I started to lose it.  I became severely anxious to the point that I couldn’t even sleep even if my son was sleeping.  I had to watch him to make sure he didn’t stop breathing.  I had to check on him every few minutes in the night and readjust his blankets so he didn’t die of sids.

It was like being hit by a huge wave in the ocean.  Has that ever happened to you?  I remember being amazed at the force of the wave as it pushed me down under and smacked me down to the sandy bottom. I  felt disoriented by the swirling of the water and the salt in my nose and mouth and before I knew it, WHAM another knocked me back down to the bottom and came up gasping for air.   WHAM!  Again and again.  This is what it was like.  Here I was as a new mom trying and wanting so much to enjoy this special time.  But I was drowning.  I’m not a stranger to depression, so I knew what it was when it hit.  But I had never EVER experienced it to the degree that I experienced after having a baby.  There was so much going on.  I had other health problems as well.  I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease which partially explained some of my emotional state.  I had a very difficult baby.  Some of it makes sense in a way.  But the specifics of why and how I don’t know, all I know was that it was really bad.  I was plagued with guilt by one thought.  I HATED being a mom.  I loved my son, but I hated my role as a mother.  I wanted so badly to like it.  I had always wanted to be a mother, I never wanted a career, all I wanted was to be at home with my children.  Yet I found myself with a dark dark cloud over my mind and heart that left me feeling desperate for something, anything but being at home. It ripped me apart to talk to other new moms that were loving it and were confused when I opened up a little bit about the horror I was experiencing.  What was wrong with me?  Was it just because I was some selfish weirdo that I couldn’t be happy?  Why couldn’t I just be happy?  It just didn’t make sense.

It started to take a tole on our marriage.  I would call my husband and sob and tell him that I hated my life and I hated that I hated it.  He would reassure me that I didn’t need to feel guilty, he knew it was hard.  More than once he came home from work to help me, telling his boss that I was sick. And I really was just that, sick.   It was so hard for him.  Here I was drowning in this dark sea of depression and sometimes he just got frustrated with it all.  That was one of the hardest parts, feeling so much pain and emptiness that I just couldn’t explain, that he couldn’t feel.  On the outside, we were a happy newlywed couple experiencing the joys of being parents for the first time.  We had a beautiful, healthy son.  We had really good days, but the bad days were really bad.  I don’t think anybody really knows how much we suffered, it was hell.

A few months passed and I was still on a waiting list for a therapist and a psychiatrist who could prescribe an anti-depressant.  My endocrinologist reassured me that once my thyroid was in order, my depression should clear up.  It didn’t.  I waited for four months for my thyroid meds to do the trick, instead I just kept getting worse and worse.  I don’t want to and can’t blame anyone for it.  Not doctors, not waiting lists, not God, not my son, not my husband, nobody.  What happened, happened.  I got lost through the cracks and spiraled out of control, and 6 months into motherhood I had a nervous breakdown.

For personal reasons I don’t want to get into all the details.  Maybe someday but not now.  It was really bad, you can trust me on that one.  I had really hit rock bottom like I never thought I could.  I was angry with God.  I had been a really good kid growing up.  I was nice.  I tried really hard to do what was right and to help others. I chose being a mother over pursuing a career.  I was accomplished and well-liked.  “Optimistic” is what most people described me as. How could this have happened?  I wanted to and was trying to be a great mom, It blew my mind.

But I guess the old adage is, “The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only place to go is up”.  And I did start going up.  I did get the help I needed.  I have people that have helped me get things back on track.  The puzzle isn’t completely solved, but I’ll take 50% over negative -100% any day.  I’m really grateful to be where I’m at.  I can see a light in the distance.  There’s a lighthouse in my sea of darkness, I’m not out of the sea yet, and I don’t know how long that will take to be free, but light is a powerful thing.  Even if it’s a little pinprick, it can reach through the darkness.  Sometimes I get all motivated and try to rush my progess.  I try to run to the light.  I’m reminded that it’s like I’m pulling a semi-truck behind me, and so while I’m moving towards the light and making progress daily, I have to be patient with myself and congratulate myself for even the smallest improvements.  If you’re pulling a semi-truck you’re only going to be able to go a centimeter at a time.  Other people run past you to accomplish their goals and sometimes you get frustrated with yourself, how come I can’t go faster?  Just remember you’re pulling a semi-truck that no one else can see, what matters is that you focus on the light, no matter how dim it may be and keep moving towards the light.  God will help you, he’s making all the difference for me.  It’s my belief that God helps those that have depression through therapists, psychiatrists and other professionals.
My advice?  Don’t feel embarrassed to utilize them. I’ve heard countless people say they wish they had gone to therapy sooner instead of waiting till they were really off.  If you’ve dealt depression in the past, then there’s a high chance that you’ll also deal with postpartum. However, there’s also those that never experience depression until they become mothers.  Whatever the case, try to get your cards in line the best you can BEFORE.  That meaning, talk to your OB about it.  Express your concerns.   Ask what medications that are safest to use and get recommendations of a good therapist.   Be proactive in finding a therapist that you LIKE before your baby is born (get on the phone, call them, talk to them a bit and see if they’re a good fit for you). Make appointments and get on waiting lists before your due date, because once the baby comes there won’t be any “you” time for the first couple months.  I’m not saying worry about it, just be prepared. You may be one of the lucky ones that escapes it, but don’t wait till it’s bad before you seek help.  If you’re not sleeping when your baby is sleeping through the night, if you’re crying A LOT weeks after your baby is born and you worry incessantly about your baby dying, it’s past time to get help.

It wasn’t just until about a month ago that it happened.  I was chasing my son up the stairs, he was laughing and trying to go as fast as he could, struggling because his pants were too long, it was really funny.  The thought, “I love being a mom” came effortlessly.  Oh my gosh I thought. I wanted to cry.  wow.  People weren’t lying about the joy they felt being a mother.  I’m thankful that I can honestly say that I’m beginning to truly feel that way about it.  I’m not saying that the depression ended and  that I don’t still struggle, I do, yes that’s for sure.  Daily actually. BUT, there’s hope and love in my heart that wasn’t there before.  Our marriage was put through the fire and we felt so punished, we felt so weak as a couple.  However, our experience forged us together.  We literally are one.  The depth of our relationship is deeper and truer.  When we say, “I love you,” we really mean I love you unconditionally.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I’m beginning to see the beauty and grandeur of God’s plan, families.  Families bring joy.  Our son brings us joy.  We’re better because of what we went through.  We’re still going through it I guess, but the load has been lightened significantly.

A blogger that went through something like I did, sums up perfectly why there’s hope for postpartum sufferers.
“I will always remember how hard it was the first time, and I will always sympathize with women who struggle they way that I did. But now I feel like I can understand the others who beamed when talking about life with an infant. I get it now. Yes, I know this makes me some droning mommyblogger, but I also hope that this, from the perspective of someone who has lived through the blinding demons of sadness and hopelessness, might give someone out there a glimpse of what it can be, and maybe they’ll go for it.”

And you most definitely should.



9 thoughts on “

  1. >Dear Sarah,What a powerful and amazing post. I admire your desire to help others and be candid about your own experiences and opinions. I wish that I could give you a giant hug…not out of pity or anything like that but out of love for the courage and compassion you have!

  2. >Sarah,Thank you for sharing this. It was very insightful, and I can relate on some levels. Although I did not experience post partum per se, I do suffer from some form of social anxiety, which can also be overwhelming at times. Just wanted you to know I think you are wonderful and I admire you, and your writing skills as well!

  3. >Dear Sarah..What a wonderful courageous thing you are share your experiences with so many! I wish I had known sooner. You are an amazing very special woman and I know the Lord will bless you for the way you keep going forward. I feel so fortunate to know you. Let me tend your cute little one when you need a break!

  4. >A friend was telling me about her trials with it once and I told her I understood and went through it too (i get extremely paranoid and lie awake at night making plans of action for every possible accident/attack/catastrophy one could ever experience, as did my friend). Anyway, she said to me "why don't women talk about this more so we can prepare for it"? I agreed with her and so I want to thank you for contributing to the conversation. You're a beautiful person, Sarah!

  5. >sarah, I've already told you how much I love this post. I just want to add my momentum here to encourage people to get help. I thought Therapy was so scary and made me admit how weak I was. Not so! Therapy rocks! Medication has it's uses! Choose to get help and choose to be happier. Clear and simple. I really admire your courage to tell your story, I'm way to chicken to write about the hard stuff. Kudos!

  6. >Sarah!! I love this post! It's is so open and candid, and you put words to experiences so well. I think this will help a lot of people, and I know elarning about your experiences have helped me. I think women should be more open about this stuff! There's that tendency to want to appear perfect, ya know? I am so lucky to have you as a friend! Also, I got your message, and YES, let's hang out soon. What days work for you? Are you thinking me and Matt or just me?-Kris

  7. >Hi Sarah, Mandy just introduced me to your blogs. We love the pictures of Logan! I did some research / free-lance writing recently for a non-profit organization in Chicago that does mental health awareness. My sister had post-partum, so I've been thinking about these issues lately. I think it's so important that you're opening up a dialogue on mental illness and addressing the problem of stigma. I think there are a lot of misperceptions, particularly in LDS culture, that need to be corrected. You may have come across Alexander B. Morrison's book: Valley of Sorrow: A Layman's Guide to Understanding Mental Illness for Latter-day Saints. He was a 70 and doctor of pharmocology whose daughter suffers from anxiety disorder and depression—it gave me a much better perspective. Also, Jane Kenyon has a volume of poetry "Otherwise" that explores her struggle with depression and her Christian faith that I really liked. I'm so glad to hear that you're making such great progress. Tell Ryan hello. –Trent

  8. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for the courage to share. I know I have experienced similar feelings (probably more during my pregnancies) and I just never had a label for anything I was feeling. I just thought I was a downer to everyone around. 🙂 I would love to see you or talk to you soon! FB me your # pretty please. Miss you.

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