By Becky Schroeder, Co-Founder, Moms Mental Health Initiative
“She doesn’t like to be passed around.” These words sounded muffled to me as I lay in my hospital bed recovering from the very hard birth of my daughter. I was sleep deprived, drugged, and still in shock from the amount of pain I felt during my first childbirth experience. Out of all the words uttered over those first days in the hospital, these words stuck with me, maybe because I sensed something even more overwhelming than childbirth was about to rear it’s ugly head.
By our daughter’s second week of life, my husband and I were blindsided by the realization that our precious, beautiful daughter who we so anxiously wanted to welcome in the world, wanted nothing to do with the world we brought her into. We found out much later that our daughter had colic, but for many more weeks we struggled to understand why our baby wouldn’t stop crying. Each week her crying became louder, lasted longer, and sent us into a very confusing and heartbreaking oblivion. She needed constant movement and holding, our bodies becoming sore and tired from squeezing her tight and not letting go for hours at a time. The exercise ball I bounced on in hopes of inducing labor became a permanent fixture in her nursery as we found the higher we bounced on it, the more her little body relaxed.
From the first day I realized I didn’t have an “easy” baby, I began to have thoughts that I never, ever wanted to have. I wanted my old life back, I didn’t want this crying baby anymore, and I regretted what we had done by getting pregnant. It pains me to think my mind was capable of such thoughts, but that is what postpartum depression does. It hijacks the real you and turns you into someone you never want to be. Hopelessness comes quickly knocking at the door and won’t leave until you answer.
As her colic worsened and peaked around six or seven weeks, I started to fear I was losing my mind. I knew there was something wrong when after hours of soothing her and finally getting her to sleep, I lay in bed wired and wide awake. I feared what tomorrow would hold. Would it be worse, would she ever get easier? The insomnia lasted months and left me so weak mentally and physically that there were days when I felt I didn’t have the strength to hold my own child.
As my anxiety and depression worsened each day, I decided to make an appointment with our pediatrician to get to the bottom of my daughter’s crying. I convinced myself that when my daughter got better, then so could her mommy, and we could move on and live the life I had dreamed about during my pregnancy. When my daughter was nine weeks old, the doctor confirmed that she did indeed have colic and that there was nothing we could do but wait it out and soothe her as best we could.
I left the doctor that day feeling relief. We knew our baby was healthy, that the crying would eventually end, and that we were doing everything right. I tried to stay positive, but my insomnia had become severe, and my negative thoughts didn’t go away. In the weeks that followed, my daughter became more content and easier to manage as the doctor had promised, but my anxiety and depression were worsening. Our baby got better, but mommy did not.
It wasn’t my daughter making me feel this way, it was something else. Something much more powerful and relentless. I cried in my mother’s arms telling her over and over, “I didn’t want this to happen to me.” I knew I was at risk for postpartum depression, but I never believed for a minute it would happen to me. I wanted to be a mother and I knew I would be a good one, but everything I wanted in those first months of my daughter’s life were taken from me. The constant pit in my stomach, the loss of appetite, the near panic attacks, the negative thoughts, the completely sleepless nights, the crying … I wasn’t me and I knew that what I was dealing with was outside of my control and I needed professional help.
Recovery for me looked like small glimmers of hope – in my baby’s smile, her infectious giggle, in the way my husband looked at her like he’s never looked at anything else. My daughter kept me going, kept me fighting and is the reason I was able to finally bask in the sunshine of motherhood like I always knew I could.