SHARED BY LYDIA QUINONES
Author's Note: When dealing with postpartum depression, many cannot recognize they are going through it, and many cannot work through it without professional help. At the end of this article, I will be providing links to some websites. One or two will have lists of symptoms. If you or someone you love is displaying these symptoms, please get yourself or that person to a doctor and do not leave until there is a diagnosis. My story is unique, and not all stories may end as well. Get help.
Trying to Do It All
No one tells you what it is like to have a second child. Everyone figures that, since you've had one child, you know how to raise another. And when you've had prior experience in professional daycare or some such, people assume you can handle anything that any child throws at you—and care for your toddler, too.
Within the first year of having my second child, my six-month-old nephew died. My husband ended up in the hospital for a few days due to cardiomyopathy and lack of sleep. I had a two-year-old toddler and an infant I couldn’t understand, who was completely different from his sister.
I thought I was alone. I felt I couldn’t lean too heavily on my husband because, if he didn’t get enough sleep, he could die. I felt I couldn’t rely on my parents because they both needed to work, lived an hour away, and needed to be available to my brother, who had just lost a child. I didn’t have very many friends I felt I could turn to. I was afraid that if I said anything, they would drive me to a clinic, take away my children, and declare me unfit.
But as I tried to do it all, I discovered I couldn’t. I sank into depression. It was difficult to get my toddler to her nursery school and to get my infant to his appointments. I did those things, but barely. I couldn’t care for myself, and the only care I could give my children was feeding them and dressing them—a very big feat in and of itself.
Asking for Help
I tried to call out for help, but no one heard me. “Of course you are tired, dear. You have two babies to care for.” And I felt I couldn't ask for help. I was raised to be a strong woman. I could handle anything life gave me. I could master my emotions. The more you fake it, the more you will make it. I am woman, hear me roar.
But it is not easy to say, "Help, I am drowning."
It is not easy to say, "I don’t know my child. I don’t know what to do with this infant."
It is not easy to say, "I don’t feel connected with my child. I really wish I could give him to my sister-in-law. She needs someone to care for."
It is not easy to say, "I can’t get out of bed or off the sofa to play with my children. All I want to do is sleep."
It is not easy to hear, "Of course your life is different. Your life will never be the same." It is not easy to respond, "This kind of different is not right."
Looking back, I can tell I was struggling through postpartum depression. But going through it, I didn’t know. I thought that was how life was going to be from then on, that I would just have to adapt over time. I would live through life, and it would no longer be my own.
But I was wrong. Life doesn’t have to be debilitating. And if it is, you need to talk with someone, see a doctor. Normal is different for each person. And healing is different for each person. But if you are just barely hanging on, get some help.
Letting Go of Perfection
So what got me through? To be honest, I don’t know. I knew things would have to change. And somehow, for some reason, I thought the new year was a good time for things to start moving in a positive direction. I knew I was struggling and that no one I turned to could help me. So I decided I would help myself.
I really don’t understand how I even managed to think these thoughts, let alone implement them. I was really out of it and couldn’t manage. But the love of my kids drove me. I couldn’t fathom doing anything to actually injure them. I couldn’t fathom being without them, even though most days I still wished I could have hours without them. I knew that, for them, I had to "get over" this thing that was invading my life.
I turned to a Christian radio station. I read inspiring messages from Lysa TerKeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I sought solace on Facebook and the Scary Mommy website, reading posts from mothers who were struggling but laughing in the face of judgment.
And slowly, slowly, it began to sink in: I didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to enjoy every minute. It was okay if I really wished at times that I could hand over my children for a couple hours. I wasn’t alone. There were others out there who were struggling just like me.
And it slowly sank in that I wasn’t alone in needing help. Strong women recognize that they need help, ask for help when they have reached their limit, and accept help when offered.
Because we all need it. At one point or another, we all reach our limits. Children can do that—bring us to the brink of our limits and ask for more. It does not make you weak or incapable or a bad mom to reach out and take help.
Whether you have a difficult situation like mine, whether you are simply a new mom (and yes, you are a new mom even if this is not your first child) trying to navigate your life through the fog of hormone changes, if you are experiencing something of what I experienced, if any of this sounds familiar, you may be going through postpartum depression. Talk with someone. Talk with me if you cannot talk with anyone else (I've shared my contact info below). I understand and will not judge.
"We raise awareness, fight stigma and provide peer support and programming to women with maternal mental illness."
"As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa and her team have led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey through daily online devotionals, radio programs, online Bible studies, speaker/writing training, and more."
Scary Mommy is "a massive vibrant community of millions of parents, brought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect."
K-LOVE is a Christian radio station on a mission to "create compelling media that inspires and encourages you to have a meaningful relationship with Christ."
"Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing." Learn more about postpartum depression and its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
"The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders." Read their brochure on postpartum depression or search the website for the latest research and studies.