I am fortunate to have known very early on I was exhibiting many symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD). Initially, when what I thought were just a couple of rough days turned into inability to fall and stay asleep, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and uncontrollable crying all day long, I knew it was time to seek professional help.
Here is a progression of some thoughts I began to have at this time:
I am losing my mind. I do not know how I can do this another day. I am never going to sleep again. How am I supposed to take care of my baby if I never sleep again? My husband is going to leave me because I am losing my mind and I am not the sane woman he married. Then I will have to be a single mom. I am not cut out to be a mother. I am a failure. I am incompetent. I am a terrible mother. I do not know what I am doing. I feel hopeless. I will feel hopeless forever. Perhaps I will be institutionalized.
Any rational person could tell you these are all untrue; but these thoughts and others became scarily true to me, and I felt panicked. I could no longer keep it all together because I no longer knew how. And my inability to “enjoy every moment” made me feel guiltier by the minute. (By the way, I am convinced that any mother who tells you to “enjoy every minute” is far removed from and has long forgotten the horror of sleep deprivation.)
I felt embarrassed and terrified about PPD. Before having a baby, I was confident. I had always excelled in school, from K-12 all the way through graduate school; I had been successful in my career, quickly advancing from one position to the next. I prided myself in being an excellent worker and a fast learner. After having a baby, I felt defeated. Becoming a mom was clearly the hardest thing I have ever had to do; my life as I knew it was forever changed, and being a mother was something I needed to learn by doing.
My mantra during the early postpartum days was “day by day.” Seeing what a struggle it was for me to get through each day, my mom added, “moment to moment.” Don’t worry about the day, you just need to get through right now. Trying to discipline my mind to focus on the now instead of having anxiety about the unforeseeable future was so helpful. I did not know what the night would bring or what tomorrow would bring, but I knew what was happening right now, right in front of me.
You will have some good days, and you will have some bad days. At the onset of my PPD, they were all bad days. I had not smiled or laughed in weeks, and one day around the 5 or 6 week mark, I had a good day. And I cried. I cried because I feared this would be my only good day for the rest of my life and all the rest would continue to be bad days. But rest assured, as your little one grows, you will have better days and eventually, your good days will outnumber the bad ones. And the bad days do not mean you are taking a step back; remember to celebrate your good days.
You will get better.