henever a woman becomes pregnant, everyone sends their congratulations, and showers the baby with gifts. Once the baby arrives, everyone seems to disappear.
While the new mom is adjusting to her new reality, she is seemingly left in the dark about the truths of postpartum.
We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in my opinion, it also takes a village to help the new mom healthily adjust to motherhood. I am well aware that every woman’s postnatal experience varies. However, after experiencing postpartum depression, I feel it is my personal mission to help reduce the stigma and increase awareness around the postpartum experience.
My introduction to postpartum depression was brought up by my mother. One evening I took my daughter to visit my mother. Just like most new mothers my hair was not combed, and I looked like a tired mess. Concerned, my mother asked me “are you experiencing postpartum depression?” I was immediately offended, and lashedback at her. “Why would you say that?” I am assuming she sensed my frustration and, decided to let the matter go. For some reason I wasn’t able to shake herquestion. Later that day when I returned home, I googled signs of postpartum depression. Most of the information online mentioned having trouble bonding with your baby, extreme sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and guilt. I didn’t feel those things applied to me. I was a stay at home mom, who exclusivelybreastfed my baby. Our bond was undeniable. I didn’t feel worthless, I had agift that so many women pray for, motherhood. I didn’t feel guilty, motherhood was my choice, and my new responsibility. Boy was I wrong.
As time continued to pass, I began to realize that I didn’t even recognize who I was anymore. It seemed my life had become all about motherhood, and I hated it. I missed the woman I was before I had my daughter. I began to have thoughts of harming myself, and my baby. I felt crazy, I never told anyone about my self-harming or scary thoughts. I felt if I told someone they would try to take my baby from me. I love my daughter but motherhood can be a bit overbearing.
Now, I understand those feelings are normal and ok. A large percentage of new mothers experience scary or intrusive thoughts. When my daughter began to have tantrums, or whenever If elt overwhelmed with my new role as a mother, I would often have thoughts of ending my life or my daughter’s life. I knew I would never act on the thoughts, but the thoughts always seemed to come.
I never felt comfortable saying the thoughts out loud so I began to journal. One night my partner and I were talking about the significant shift in our relationship since the birth of ourdaughter. I couldn’t find the exact words to describe my feelings so I gave himmy journal to read. The passage he paused at was written to our daughter. I hadwritten a passage to our daughter with hopes that she would someday read itwhen she was older. The passage was describing who I was, and things I’ve accomplished.What stood out most to Nigel, my children’s father, was the part addressing our daughter saying “hopefully I am alive by the time you are able to read this.”He was totally taken back by the passage. He had no idea I had thoughts o fending my life or not being around to see our daughter grow up. He told me torip the page out because, I was going to be around to watch our daughter grow.I ripped the page out, but the thoughts still surfaced.
On top of having thoughts of wanting to harm my daughter, I began to resent my partner. I felt like my life had completely changed, and his life was the same.I felt like I carried most of the responsibilities of parenthood. I loved being a mother, but I didn’t always enjoy motherhood. I realize now that both men andwomen experience their own rites of passage into parenthood. Each partner experiences their own transitions. Looking back, Nigel was not able torecognize and support me emotionally during my postpartum period because he toohad a rough transition into his role as a father.
I suffered in silence for a long time because I didn’t want anyone to judge me. I thought motherhood was going to be the best thing that happened to me. All the while I was suffering from lost of identity, scary intrusive thoughts, resented my partner, and I was extremely insecure about my new body. I was obsessed with my “snapback.” I would take photos of my stomach everyday to keep tract of my stretch marks. I desperately wanted them to fade. I loved breastfeeding and providing my daughter with nature’s medicine. But I hated having to continue sharing my body with a baby. My body felt like it no longer belonged to me. Ifelt like a prisoner in my very own body. I was miserable, depressed and anxious. I began to feel guilty for having selfish thoughts. I felt if I wasn’tpresent with my daughter, then I wasn’t a great mother. However, I desperately needed a break from her. Being in a house all day with a baby would drive anyone insane. I allowed “mom guilt” to keep me trapped in a cycle of self betrayal.
One day one of my friends sent me a post from an Instagram page. This page was created by a black doula, who is a mom of two. In this particular post, the woman shared her frustrations with breastfeeding a toddler, and caring for a newborn simultaneously. The comment section was full of women thanking her for her transparency and sharing their similar frustrations. I began to follow thepage, and other blogs that supported moms experiencing postpartum blues. I began to feel normal. I realized that I was not alone, nor crazy. Plenty of moms shared my experience, and openly talked about their feelings online.
Not only did I begin sharing my experience online. I created a brand called "The Goddess Garden." It’s an online brand that helps women understand postpartum more. I also made it my mission to be the friend I wished I had when I firstgave birth. I intentionally visit new moms and help wash their dishes, prepare dinner, or keep an eye on the baby, so momma can shower. I always check in with the new mom, asking how she is feeling. I also let her know that it is ok if she is not ok.
Today, I have a 2-year-old, and a 4-month-old. Although my postpartum period is different, it still comes with challenges. This time around, I am gentler with myself. When I find myself having scary thoughts, I breathe through them and try my best to relax. I am gentle with my postpartum body, and I intentionally communicate my feelings with my partner.
I used to wonder why me? Why did I have to go through postpartum depression? Now I know, it’s because I’ve been called to educate, support, and shift the narrative surrounding the postpartum period.