It was almost one week after my 21st birthday when I woke my husband up and said, “It’s time to go to the hospital.” I knew I was in labor with our first child.
Twenty years ago, I didn’t know very much about having a baby, but that night, I knew I was going to be having my baby. My husband and I drove through the empty streets to the hospital with mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness.
At the hospital, I wasn’t sure what to do, what to ask, or how to act. I remember the nurses coming in. They said that they were going to do this or that now, and then they would do it without me having much to say about it. I began to feel a little bit out of control of the situation and more anxiety set in.
The birth of my daughter was a little bit difficult. Instead of giving her to me right after birth, the hospital staff took her to the nursery. I didn’t hold my daughter until the next morning.
When they brought my baby to me, I looked at her with some indifference. I felt some shock at myself because my first thought was, “OK, can I go back to sleep now?” I had expected that I would have experienced a huge gush of love and tenderness. I thought any new mother should feel this love when first holding their new baby. That indifference, and the guilt I felt because of it, lingered once we went home for the next few weeks.
My experience is not all that uncommon. We have this myth in our society that “good” mothers gush and cry to prove their love and worth as mothers when they see their babies. This “good” mothering goes on to perform self-care and newborn care. The “good mother” also cleans, does laundry and makes dinner without batting an eye. We somehow believe that if we do not accomplish all of this while physically recovering from birth — and on two to four hours of sleep — we have failed as mothers. I felt like a failure. This soon evolved into feelings of despair and depression.
One in seven women experience mental health or mood disturbances after birth. Yet we often don’t give women permission to talk about these feelings. It is time to acknowledge that postpartum blues, depression and even psychosis happen. Nobody is at fault for it. It is OK to ask for help and to admit this has happened to you. There is help available.
It is not a blemish on your character or your worth as a mother or a woman if you are one of the one in seven women who experiences postpartum mental health issues.
I did find the courage to speak to my health care provider about my depression and I was given tools to help. My daughter is a beautiful 20-year-old and we have a strong, secure relationship. I’m thankful that help came for me in a non-judgmental way. Gratefully, I was able to come through that dark time into a loving relationship with my daughter.
If you find yourself in need of speaking to someone about your own experience, please don’t be afraid to speak out. You can talk to your own health care provider, find a support group, or contact us at First Care Clinic. We’re ready to listen and offer support and resources.
Not ready to call? Check out these resources for a first step toward getting the help you need:
Postpartum Support International -Phone Number: 800-994-4PPD (4773)
PPD Moms -Phone Number: 800-PPD-MOMS (800-773-6667)