By: Anna Merezhko, April 7, 2017
I remember what a hormonal mess I was after giving birth. I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotions that I felt. What was supposed to be a joyous time, was also the most overwhelmingly depressing. I was depressed and everything about it felt wrong. It felt like my body betrayed me. I imagined that I would be spewing with love and happiness over the arrival of this long-awaited baby. I was a mother for the first time and I had it in my head that I should be glowing with love for this little baby that was in my arms.
Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled. I loved her to the core of my being and even more so now. It was just that the first moments I could have spent relishing in the joy of motherhood were spent in worry. There was panic and chaos in my mind.
Some of the thoughts that plagued me were : How on earth was I going to protect this child? What have I done? Why did I bring this baby into a world of suffering? I was freaking out partly because I still felt ripped in two from labor. It broke my heart that this little baby would one day have to experience that pain. It broke my heart that she would experience any sort of pain- her first fall, her first period, her first heartbreak; I could not shield her from any of that if I tried.
I cried a lot as a result of that. The first three months of my baby girl’s life are tainted with panic, worry, and sadness. I felt horribly guilty for it so I didn’t talk about it. Postnatal care required that I fill out forms about my baby AND me. The forms would ask a series of questions about whether or not I felt depressed, had suicidal thoughts, etc. I kept circling “no.” I instilled in my mind that I was fine. I wasn’t depressed depressed. I didn’t have suicidal thoughts. I had a beautiful, healthy baby. There were no complications in my labor and delivery. Everything was perfect, yet I couldn’t understand why I felt like I just took a ride on the longest emotional roller coaster of my life- a roller coaster that only went down.
I felt guilty that I brought her into a world of suffering. I felt selfish that I wanted a baby because that baby would eventually feel emotional and physical pain. I thought I was doing everything wrong. I was using the wrong diapers. I wasn’t feeding her enough. I didn’t swaddle her the right way. I felt guilty that I was depressed when I was supposed to be feeling unimaginable happiness. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. It would’ve been nice to know that I was in a state of illusion.
If I could go back in time to those first few months and give myself advice, I would tell myself that the guilt I felt was unreasonable- it was just hormones and the added responsibility of having a human being to take care of AND THAT IT WOULD GO AWAY. There was no reason to feel guilty for something that I couldn’t control. My hormones were a wreck. I did not love my child any less than other moms; my body simply needed time to adjust.
While it was trying to, I kept putting more and more pressure on myself to be the best mom I could be (motherhood does that to you.) I worried about what I could and couldn’t protect her from when all she needed was my presence. Her needs changed as she grew and continue to change. I just wish I knew that my sadness didn’t mean I didn’t love her enough or that something was wrong with me.
I still feel a little of that guilt- of bringing her into a world of suffering- but the depression is gone. I don’t know what I was depressed about. I know that I was worried and that for some reason, that made me really sad.
My worry now is that I won’t succeed in showing her that for all the suffering there is, there are just as many, if not more, moments of joy. I hope to raise her to be strong enough to walk through suffering unscathed because she knows it is temporary. I hope to teach her to discern when suffering is self-inflicted. Most of all, I hope I teach her not to worry so much.
I hope I will be there to coax her out of her mom-guilt when she feels bad for not being in a constant state of joy from the birth of her child. I hope I will be there to tell her that the depression she feels (if she feels it) will pass. It’s hormones. They’ll calm down and you’ll be able to enjoy your newborn baby.
Though I’ve used the word “depression” multiple times in this post, I’m still hesitant to say that I had postpartum depression. It feels taboo. It feels like if I admit I had it, I will seem like a bad mom. It’s confusing to feel depressed even though you experienced the greatest thing in your life so I understand why women have trouble talking about it. Nevertheless, for some reason, even when people say it’s normal to feel depressed, there is an abundance of guilt- guilt that shouldn’t be there.
I needed this post to free my guilt. Part of it will always be there, but I have acknowledged that there was very little I could’ve done when my hormones went haywire. There’s not a doubt in my mind that since her birth, I am the happiest I’ve ever been, even during those brief hormonal three months. So I’m sending out this guilt into the abyss. I have no need for it. I refuse to hold onto it anymore.