BY MADELYN HESLET
I was so ready to have my baby and not be pregnant anymore. My first and only pregnancy was awful; I had morning sickness all throughout the nine months I carried my daughter and experienced incredibly unpleasant back and hip pain. When my water broke, I was relieved and ready to have my baby.
Her birth was beautiful.
After seven hours of labor, my baby girl was born healthy and perfect into this world. She didn’t cry, she just looked at me and stared until the nurses took her away to clean her up. She came back to me sleepy and peaceful, swaddled in the pink polka dot blanket I brought from home. Our two days in the hospital were beautiful, and I just knew that it would continue when I took her home.
The first two weeks I spent with my daughter were perfect and blissful. We had a routine of feeding, changing, cuddling, and sleeping that worked well for me as a single mother. The moments I spent with her in the rocking chair were sweet and silent except for my low singing voice. When she would sleep, I would either watch her or put together her baby book, building her a keepsake of my unconditional love. I was told to sleep when she slept, but I was too excited to be a mother. I wanted to soak up the smell of baby powder and count her tiny fingers and toes as she slept. I wish I would have realized how badly I would need the sleep that I was missing out on.
For two weeks, the blissful routine continued, and I was happy. But after that time, everything began to change. My daughter became colicky and had infant acid reflux that started to make her miserable. The peaceful baby was gone, and she would just scream and cry whenever she was awake. She slept, but not for long before the crying would start again. I was exhausted from the two weeks of euphoria and lack of sleep, and wished I would have listened to my mother’s advice when she told me to sleep when the baby slept. I was so tired and so out of sorts that I couldn’t think straight anymore.
My daughter’s illness and my excruciating exhaustion lasted for six months. Every day my baby would cry and scream in pain, and I began to cry with her. More times than I can count, I had to place my baby safely in her cradle so I could walk far enough away to breathe. I found myself plugging my ears when she would cry, and screaming into pillows out of frustration. My frustration was toward our situation, but then turned into frustration and resentment toward myself and my daughter. I began to blame myself for her pain, until I started to blame her. In the back of my mind, I knew none of what we were experiencing was her fault, but I wasn’t thinking rationally. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have accepted her medical diagnosis and nurtured her through it. But I wasn’t, and I couldn’t. Something inside my brain was preventing me from mothering my child, and instead caused me to be angry at her.
At this point, any bond between my daughter and I had been broken. I no longer enjoyed holding her or listening to her breathe. I was relieved when she would sleep and terrified when she would wake. I was so tired, but was too upset all the time to sleep for even a short while. My daughter’s needs no longer mattered to me, and neither did my own. Mentally, I was done. I didn’t want to take care of myself or my baby, and wanted to give up. I decided that my daughter would be better off without me, and so I began thinking about taking my own life.
I knew something was very wrong with the thoughts and feelings I was having about myself and my baby, so I did something that was difficult; I asked for help. I knew I needed help when one day I screamed at my daughter, and I voluntarily admitted myself to the mental health unit of the hospital. I was scared at first because the reason for my state of mind was still unknown, but as my stay in the hospital grew from one night to eight, I started feeling better about things.
While in the hospital, I was diagnosed with post partum depression (PPD), and was finally given the answer to why the first year of my daughter’s life had been filled with such turmoil. My hormones and sleep deprivation were the perfect combination for a nasty case of PPD, and PPD was the nasty cause of all the rage and resentment I felt toward myself and my daughter. It was such a relief to know that I was not as awful a person or mother as I had thought, and it was liberating to finally have the tools I needed to cope. I left the hospital a new woman and a new mother, equipped with the coping skills I needed to survive my daughter’s cries, and endure the stressors of motherhood.
I came home wondering how I could have been so cold and heartless toward my daughter, but I also constantly reminded myself that I had PPD and had no control over my thoughts and emotions. I did feel guilty, and sometimes I still do. I feel the sting of lost time, and try to make up for it every day by enjoying even the smallest moments with my daughter. I started cherishing everything my baby did, even her cries. I became more thankful for my life than I had ever been before. I started seeing a therapist, taking medication, and actively used the coping skills I learned in the hospital.
I took all of my strength and fought against my PPD. Eventually, I won, and was able to become the loving mother I am now. PPD stole a lot from me during my daughter’s first year of life, but I fought, and I got it all back. The biggest thing PPD didn’t take from me was my life, which I dedicate to loving and cherishing my daughter. I won my battle against PPD, and will spend my days making up for the time that fight cost me.
Madelyn is a 24-year-old single mother, student, writer, and cat-lover. She writes to advocate for mental health and to share her experiences with mental illness in hopes that her words help others who are struggling. She is trying to break into the blogging world, and help break the stigma that surrounds mental illness.