In 2018, postpartum depression is being talked about more and more in public as more mothers are opening up to share their experience. But, the process to bring postpartum depression and anxiety out of the darkness is slow. There are still so many mamas living with sadness and fear because they are too ashamed to speak their truth.
As I work to bring normalcy to postpartum depression and anxiety, and to support all women through their journey of motherhood, I want to share my story, my truth.
A little bit about me. I’m Sarah. I created Blooma in 2008, a yoga studio focused on mothers of all kinds. I live for my prenatal yoga students. I am a doula, and I work to remove the fear and unknown that surround new parents. BIRTH IS MY PASSION. Pregnancy, babies, and mothers fill my life with joy. And then, I gave birth to my lovely daughter.
This is my story of postpartum depression, but it could be anyone’s. Maybe it reflects what you experienced or are experiencing, maybe not. The point is, we all experience postpartum differently. But, when you’re really in the thick of it, and dark thoughts are clouding your life, you need to ask for help. Help IS HERE, you just need to ask for it.
In the beginning it was bliss. Total bliss. I rocked the hell out of my birth. My long, second stage of birth (pushing) was over 15 hours long (no joke). It made my high of birthing Metta into my arms in the bright sunlit garden room of my father’s country home even brighter. I was so damn proud of myself. I rode this high of me and my power for several days. I loved my body. I loved what I accomplished. I loved my family and my birth team. I loved the phone ringing off the hook with words of celebration. My husband, family and friends took care of me. I wanted to ride this high forever. I never wanted my “birthing time” to end. But it did. And just like I have told hundreds of mothers and fathers, “Mama will most likely crash on the 3rd or 4th day and have significant hormonal swing.” And of course, it happened to me, and I didn’t swing back back until Metta was four or five months old.
It was pretty clear to me that within the first 7-10 days I wasn’t totally sure that I loved being a mom, and I wasn’t sure I knew how to love Metta. She was so yummy. I did want to eat her up, but I couldn’t understand why she was here and why I wanted to run. I felt huge waves of anxiety and pressure to love her more then I was. I was deeply sad and found little room to come up for air. As a dear friend of mine said, “It’s like you’re homesick.” And I was. I was homesick for my old life. After 38 years of independence and entrepreneurship, I felt so trapped and so sad.
The tears starting flowing pretty heavily around days 7-10. I remember a home visit from my dear midwife when I just cried. You know, those tears that just keep coming and don’t stop as if a water hydrant won’t shut off. Now here is the interesting thing: I starting shifting from a place of “Poor me, I hate my new life. I want to run and hide” to “What the heck? This world is so crazy and I brought a sweet young soul into it. Why would I do such a thing? The world has too many people already and we are all so messed up and none of this makes sense. Everywhere I look there is war and hatred.”
Then the scary thoughts started coming on pretty strong. The ones that at the time I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone. The ones that still make me feel sick to my stomach. I will tell you, these thoughts were rarely about me and Metta. I never had thoughts about hurting myself, and I wouldn’t say that I had thoughts of hurting Metta. But, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that at times I pictured the room spinning out of control with my baby in harm’s way — with no handle on how to protect her. The worst were those dark thoughts, that came mostly at night, alone while feeding my babe. The thoughts started with simple things like:
I am rocking in a rocking chair. I am rocking my daughter. I am so blessed to have this chair. So many mothers do not have chairs. There are women right now that don’t have a chair. They don’t have a house. They are breastfeeding their babies in a shack on a plank. They are cold. They are sad. They are all alone. They have trauma. They have no food. I have a house. I am warm. Mothers are cold. Mothers are alone. I am scared. I am scared to be alone. I hate this. I hate life. I don’t want to live. Oh this chair. That mama, she is alone on a dark, cold floor. She is there crying. She is sad. She is sad like me. I can’t do anything to help her. I want to run away and leave this stress and this darkness. It is so scary in here … and I don’t want to tell anyone how bad it really is.
Yes, this was my brain. These were my thoughts. All alone in my room. Rocking my sweet baby girl. I would always wonder if she was getting these thoughts and my fear through my milk. I tried my best to stop them, but it was so hard and so painful.
Even something that was so natural to me became difficult. I lived and breathed yoga and had a passion for all the moms that came into my studio. But, I found myself struggling to teach. I would step out of class because I could not fight the tears anymore. It was all just too much … talking about birth, being a mother, teaching to be authentic and speak your truth, but I was totally a wreck inside. My brain, heart, and body were disconnected. I was in a deeply sad place.
Another incident I will never forget was when I was at car repair shop getting new tires. I mentioned to the nice auto shop owner something about my four-month old baby girl. He said what many might say, “Oh congratulations.” That’s when I leaned forward and looked him in the eye and asked, “Why do people say that? There is nothing good about this.” Obviously I shocked him and the statement is not true in my current reality. BUT that’s when it hit me, I was in a dark place. For God’s sake, I was telling the auto repair man that I need help.
I want to be clear … I knew how to function. I knew how to run board meetings, I knew how to run errands (I loved doing those), I could easily love up my two step kids (they brought me so much joy), and I could easily put on my face. I was “getting by” and I really knew how to hide my darkness IF I wanted to. But I knew in my heart that I was not OK.
Luckily one dear friend could see the anxiety I was going through. She could tell that I was spinning in a way that was not “normal.” She suggested I seek help from a professional postpartum depression counselor.
Months passed as I had no motivation to try and make a call to find someone. At this point in the journey, I was beyond anxious and could barely make any phone calls. Everything seemed so overwhelming. Everyday I felt like I was drowning in my own stuff. Nothing was enjoyable, and sadly, I was still not connecting to Metta. I couldn’t find my groove with her. It was like I kept asking myself, “When is this ever going to end? Why am I in so much pain?”
Then help came from the amazing women in my life. They asked the hard question, “Are you okay?” They asked me what I needed. They did the research and made the phone calls to find a therapist – all the work I had been avoiding. With the help from these friends, I was in the therapist’s office within the week. Speaking to the therapist and my OB, it was very apparent – I had postpartum depression and I needed help. I don’t know what I would have done without these women that saw a problem and spoke up. Then, they carried the weight that I could not, and held my hand (physically and metaphorically) as I made some progress forward.
Trust me when I say mama – there is help. There is a way to feel better. There are more resources than ever before for mothers and families. Postpartum depression and anxiety are REAL experiences that no one should have to go through alone. There is help, but it takes courage to ask. It also takes your partner, friends, or family to know the signs and check in on you.
If you feel you might be struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, please do not wait to ask for help. Between care providers, therapists, medication, support from postpartum doulas, eastern medicine, yoga and so much more, there is the support mothers need.
Looking for support? Please check out this amazing list of resources:
- Pregnancy and Postpartum Support MN
- Postpartum Support MN
- Postpartum Support International
- HCMC Mother Baby Programs
- Talk therapy at Blooma with Jess Helle-Morrissey
- Blooma’s Free New Mama Group – a chance to talk, connect, and share with other new moms
Sarah Longacre is the founder and owner of Blooma, a yoga studio focused on nurturing the minds, bodies, and hearts of new moms and moms to be. She is also a doula, yoga teacher, mama, and friend.