Disclosure: This is the story of Amal. Her experience is the accumulation of experiences that many women have had after giving birth but she is a fictional character herself.
I had my first child when I was only 23 years old only a year after being married.
I was really excited about being pregnant and I couldn’t wait to have a tiny human being that was all mine
More than anything I was excited to become a mother. I had heard these stories from my own mother while growing up. She used to tell me that I would only understand how she felt when I had kids of my own, “Jab apne bachay hon ge tab samajh aya ga.”
I would brush her off because I knew how I felt. My husband was very supportive throughout the pregnancy but often he didn’t understand what was happening or how he could help. He tried his best regardless and no one could anticipate what was to come.
My beautiful baby son was born in winter but I wasn’t excited to finally meet him
He was an angel and an absolutely gorgeous child and people tell me that women instantly bond with their newborns with a huge rush of endorphins in their brains… but that didn’t happen.
Instead I made an effort to try and hold him and did not feel a natural pull towards my baby. It was a feeling I couldn’t explain because I wanted to be with my son but I also couldn’t bring myself to be with him. I felt terribly guilty and frustrated. And my mind would wander to the most horrifying thoughts.
What kind of a mother am I? Don’t I love my own child? What if he never loves me either?
I kept trying really hard but I couldn’t spend much time with him before feeling exhausted and needing to take a break. New moms are not supposed to get tired of playing with their babies! I was being too hard on myself and I only realized that later.
I would not let my husband help me either because I felt solely responsible for taking care of my baby. He would offer but I would deny his help. I learned with time that asking for help does not make me a bad mother and that my husband was also a parent to our son, as much as I was. He probably wanted to spend time with our baby too.
I would spend so much time feeling guilty that I also stopped taking care of myself
I developed anxiety and would often stay up at night. I wouldn’t get enough sleep and ended up losing my appetite.
After some time I realized that crying helped but it was only a temporary fix, an outburst of emotion and I would go back to feeling bad soon after.
My husband could tell that I wasn’t being myself and he insisted that we go see my doctor and see if they can help us understand what was going on
I was too ashamed to even confess to my husband that I felt guilty for not wanting to be with my baby all the time. He heard my excuses for a while but eventually forced me to go see the gynecologist.
It was the best decision because if he had not forced me to seek professional help I would never have realized what was going on. My doctor referred me to see a psychiatrist and she diagnosed me with Postpartum Depression. I did even know such a thing existed!
My doctor suggested that I take care of myself more and learn to accept help from my husband
She said that if it persisted with the same intensity despite lifestyle changes then she would prescribe antidepressants but it was unnecessary.
My husband could not possibly stay at home with me to keep me company no matter how much he wanted to. I decided to seek advice from my neighbor who had three kids and seemed like a pretty great mother. After a while it became a ritual that she and I would have lunch together and I would ask her all kinds of questions about how I feel and she told me to not be too hard on myself. It turned into a support system and I started feeling better about myself as a mother but I still had trouble forming a bond with my baby.
I learned with time that forcing myself to do something was only going to make me feel worse
I started giving myself more rest and sleeping almost as much as my son. I ate as healthy as I possibly and eventually I wanted to breastfeed myself and spending time with my baby became easier. My husband would take over baby responsibilities as soon as he returned from work and I could take some time just for myself. My routine soon included doing a little exercise after waking up, which really had a positive impact on my mood.
Having a routine and watching my son grow up a little more everyday has given me such joy that I realize in retrospect what I was missing. It’s important to remember that if you feel like you cannot enjoy moments with your child its not your fault and you’re going through a rough time after birth. Postpartum Depression is more common than people realize and it is important that women are educated about it. I couldn’t have pulled myself out of my state without the help I received and even though it took a few months, it was worthwhile to not give up.
It has been three years and my son is going to school now and I love being a mother. It brings me more joy every day.
I hope my story helps any new moms struggling with postpartum depression.
Cover image via: Marria Khan