Postpartum Depression Stole My First Year of Motherhood

Motherhood is exhausting — we all can attest to that. One day, I was so tired that I couldn’t remember if shredded cheese needed to be refrigerated, and my husband discovered it in the microwave later that night. Another time, I forgot to remove my nursing bra and underwear before I went into the shower. And, for a brief moment, I even forgot my own son’s name.

We all have those moments, as new parents, when sleep deprivation starts to affect our minds. “Swiss cheese brain,” as my friend calls it. We don’t do it. ThisOr you can overlook That. All of these things happened to me. But I was also plagued by crippling postpartum Depression (PPD). As a result, most of the first year of my son’s life never registered in my mind. When I look at photos of that time, it’s about as personal as seeing a stranger. I have no idea who those people are.

Mentally, I was never there.

PPD has been a major influence in my motherhood journey. It darkly underscored the majority of the first year of my son’s life and parts of those that followed. It has been five years since then that I have come to terms with the many ways it impacted my life.

One of the more heartbreaking things I’ve been struggling with lately, something I know I’ll probably never make peace with, is the time I lost with my son that I’ll never get back. Yes, I was physically present in his life every day, but the early days as a mother were very different. I wasn’t able to be emotionally present and enjoy him. I was depressed and ready to end my own life. My only goal was to see my son grow and be healthy. I was unable to be happy or accept my new role of mother to an amazing little boy.

I am so f*cking pissed off about it.

Tragically, my experience is far from unique. Research shows that 1 in 7 new moms are stricken with PPD—and that is just the ones who are diagnosed. PPD is a serious condition that affects many women. I was no exception.

My son was born about a week ago and my PPD started showing its ugly head. It’s sneaky, though. It creeps into your brain slowly and it’s easy to mistake it as effects from general exhaustion. It would show up in my case as lies my brain was telling me (“You’re a terrible mother”) for a day or so, then I’d have a great day and pass it off as part of the whirlwind of chaos that comes with being a new mom. A day later, it was back with avengeance.“Your family would be better off without you”). After a few of these stops and starts, I was in deep depression before I realized what was happening.

I had thoughts of suicide and struggled with insomnia. I was afraid that if my child asked for help, he would be taken from us or hospitalized. I struggled to bond emotionally with my baby and was unable to enjoy motherhood.

I was all about survival.

Feed the child, change the diaper, get him to sleep, then feed him again. I decided that breastfeeding my son was my only true value and that I would end my own life once he was weaned. I knew exactly what I would do and had a date in my mind.

I was fortunate to have received help before that happened. I began therapy and medication and slowly began to regain control of my life. I was finally able enjoy my baby again and felt completely at home in motherhood.

It would be nice if my trip ended there, all neatly wrapped in a bow. It didn’t. As anyone who struggles with mental health can attest, it’s rarely that simple. I faced setbacks, medication successes, and the daily challenges of my life. PPD came into my life in a series if stops and starts. It also left me. I take daily medication and may continue to do so for the rest my life. I am constantly learning.

Lately though, I’ve found myself longing for the baby with chubby legs and kissable cheeks. I couldn’t enjoy it then; I willed the days to pass. I’m healthy now, and for that I am grateful. I’ve pieced back together the shards that were left after I broke. I’m whole now, but the baby has grown into a boy.

When I look at baby photos and videos, it feels like a punch to my soul. I see his tiny face, hear his sweet baby talk, and am astonished at how many words he mispronounces. That baby is the one I miss and sometimes feel like I have never known.

I try to be kind to myself. I remind myself that there’s the exhaustion, pain and suffering all moms endure. It wasn’t just me. On top of that, my brain wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. I don’t want to go back and live it all over again. I’m not wishing for an entire redo. I wish I was healthier and could appreciate it more. Or at all.

But I’d give anything to see him at that age one more time. To hold that tiny baby and marvel at his beauty. To be fully present in a way that was not possible back then.

Motherhood transformed every part of me, right down to the core of my soul. It broke me open in a beautiful way, but then it ripped me apart. It will continue to do it in a multitude of ways. In this moment, however, the thing that hurts most is that little boy that I never had a chance to have a relationship with. He’s so perfect now. He was perfect back then. I just wasn’t able to know that at the time.

Becky VieiraSince 2016, she has been wearing mom jeans. Since 2016, she has been wearing mom jeans. She is extremely proud of the moment she tried to pee in her son’s diapers while stuck inside her car. Becky’s first book about the subject. Real realities of the first year of motherhood will be published by Union Square & Co. in May 2023. She lives in San Francisco Bay Area, with her son, dog and three cats. You can find her on Instagram WittyOtter.

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