So. Here it is. Honest, from deep inside. Without a mask. If you can’t handle that kind of stories, please continue your internet session elsewhere. If this does interest you because of your own experience, please know it’s okay to ask for help. If you’re too scared to be honest to people you know, feel free to send me a message through email or social media. In case you’re postpregnancy blues are severe, realize that seeking help will benefit your family and mostly your beautiful little baby. Things will get better, but only when you are open about your struggle. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You are not alone.
I have a postpartum depression. Instead of experiencing warm, happy feelings, I feel fuzzy. I was on a black cloud, instead of a pink one.
When did this start? To be honest, I think it already started when I was pregnant. The hormones, the changes, the huge amount of challenges we were facing. Moving from France, to Mexico, to the Netherlands until Belgium. All within the 9 months of pregnancy. That’s quite a lot. Add a little vulnerability to depression and you get the perfect PPD cocktail.
I started noticing from the beginning something was off. I should be feeling happy, but the happy moments started fading away. Every positive occasion was covered in doubts and stressful thoughts. I couldn’t let go of the questions ‘what if’. And unfortunately all of those questions kept piling up.
The rollercoaster of moving from country to country
In Mexico we were constructing a home and had to pay for delivering the baby in the hospital. I didn’t have any insurance I could benefit from. I got scared of the financial ballast that was hanging above our heads and didn’t see a way out. The only solution seemed going back to the Netherlands. In an impulse I booked a plane ticket. Then I found out migration isn’t that easy for someone from outside of Europe. My expectation of being able to live together as a family got crushed in a thousand little pieces. I couldn’t sleep anymore and wanted to bury myself into my bed 24/7.
Together we are stronger, right?
I tried to get back up my feet and we booked Luis’ plane ticket. I knew I would feel better right away, but the relief turned out to be only temporary.
Then we moved to Belgium. We were full of hope Luis was going to benefit of him speaking French as well, maybe in the harbour of Antwerp. Moving to Belgium was another rollercoaster of which I hoped installed in our apartment we would feel better. Well, we didn’t.
I was exhausted. Of course I was not allowed to carry boxes and heavy items, but I was so tired I couldn’t help out with anything while moving. There was no energy left in me, and I tried spending as much time as possible sitting or laying down.
With every move, and more in case of an international move, comes a lot of paperwork. Every letter or problem that had to be arranged started feeling like a huge weight on my shoulders. By that time my figurative backpack had grown out to this huge ass thing. Obviously most things didn’t go automatically. For example, it took us almost 4 months to get health insurance because our contact was slow and asking the impossible. When something had to be done I felt like I had to fix a huge problem.
Everything went numb
By that time I didn’t enjoy being with friends anymore. I didn’t want to go out and do things, and only managed to do so with a mask on. I prefered to close myself up behind locked doors. Safe and sound with Luis by my side.
We managed to get the baby room ready, but didn’t spend time on preparing for the baby. Fortunately my mother bought lots of the things we would need when Sophia would be there, so she didn’t lack anything she needed. To be honest, I have no idea how things would have been if it weren’t for her. I don’t know if we would have managed to buy all the necessary things.
The last weeks of pregnancy were quite hard. Every mommy is getting impatient and wants to have the baby in her arms. I was looking out to see Sophia, but mostly looking out to feel the immense love and pink cloud other women describe.
Well, take a guess. That pink cloud never arrived.
Finally, Sophia was born!
My delivery was long and exhausting, I’m working on another blog post about my experience.
By the time I was holding Sophia, I felt traumatized and in shock. Also I just wanted to close my eyes and sleep. I felt proud, but not happy.
When we were back home, I felt the urge to be tough and be a good mommy. I had to be strong. All I wanted was to avoid carrying on my desperate feelings onto this beautiful, vulnerable little creature. Our nurse apparently didn’t expect anything. She complimented me on how calm I always acted. When I tried confronting Luis about how I felt, he would always tell me it would get better.
I believed it. It would get better. Maybe when he would get a job. Or when Sophia would sleep through the night. Who knows, I might start to feel better when she would be more independent.
But it never got better.
Am I a bad mom?
I continued trying to look strong. Taking care as much as I could, probably a bit too much. I became too protecting out of fear. I didn’t want anything to happen to Sophia. It was already horrible enough mommy didn’t feel happy. I felt guilty for not glowing of love. And I felt guilty for complaining about all the times things felt like it really became too much.
At some point I wanted to run away. Run away from feeling this responsible and sad at the same time. I wanted freedom and happiness. Which I obviously wouldn’t have found if I would have ran away. I could never leave my baby girl behind. So I had to come up with a real plan. Which is obviously to seek help, but I was too scared and tired to act.
Luis’ visa required me to get a job. I finally went for it, hoping coming out of the house would help me build myself up again. On my first day of work I came home happy, full of energy. It was amazing!
Unfortunately that was the only day that really felt good. The job was nothing for me and the pressure amongst the co workers was horrible. There was a lot of humiliation going on. This got me in an even deeper hole in the ground. I started talking with my mother and Luis, about how I wanted to quit the job. Unfortunately Luis never got hired, for anything. So I was forced to continue. In the meantime I got some counseling, but it didn’t really do anything for me.
Until that one day in December.
I couldn’t do it anymore. I got up at 4:30am, Luis made my coffee and bread and I went back to work. It was busy, but not as busy as usual. Nonetheless I felt horrible. My legs were shaky, I was dizzy, tired and didn’t feel the power to carry boxes and heavy items. Still, I made sure I did what I had to do. Then I convinced myself it was okay to go home. Almost crying, I told the supervisor how I didn’t feel well and wanted to go home.
I slept all afternoon.
Belgium has the rule you have to get a doctors note when you’re sick. This forced me to do something else: now I had to go to a doctor. Not knowing what to do, or what I wanted, I gathered courage, planned an appointment and went there the next morning.
Am I going to be honest?
I still remember how nervous I felt, sitting there. Having to convince the doctor I was sick and couldn’t work for a couple of days. Mostly I was scared she would say I was not sick at all, and that I would have to go back to work the next day.
What really happened is that I broke down into tears. I just sat there, crying for a few minutes. The doctor offered me a tissue. This was the first time I had to be honest about how I felt and still, I tried to build a wall as soon as my tears dried up. Luckily she picked right through it and told me I would get a sick note for a month. I had to recover and get a lot of rest.
My first reaction was that an entire month might have been a bit too much, but I was relieved as well. My mother in law was coming over for a month, and in this way it would be easier to handle having to carry my mask 24/7 at home.
What did my job think about all of this?
Little did I know the month would fly by and within no time I would feel dreaded to go back to work. Fortunately the doctor saw I didn’t feel any better, so she recommended me to take more time for myself. At work I got a less supportive reaction. I think after that moment they stopped caring about me and decided not to prolongate my contract.
At first they called me out for letting them down. The next phone calls they tried to make it as clear as possible they were not really interested in what I had to tell about the prolongation of my sick leave. They literally never called me and I received a letter from the headquarter telling me I was fired.
The manager didn’t even take the effort to tell me personally. All of this showed me I deserve way better than working at a shitty company like this.
All this mess made Luis and I realize we really needed to take action. Belgium was becoming a huge black hole and I don’t know if we ever would have come out of it. We made the decision to move back to the Netherlands, even though that meant to live with my parents.
We packed our bags, and moved. Started a new visa process, new problems and things to be arranged. But they felt a lot better. Luis found a job within one week. I could finally take time for myself. I joined Sophia during her naps, having a moment of relaxation.
How about the work you did online?
Oh yes, you might be asking yourself: a job? Why? I thought you were earning money online.
We were! But it takes consistency and hard work. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. At some point I stopped to check Facebook and Instagram. It felt like a huge task to be on social media. If I would respond messages fast, it was a miracle. Most of the times I let messages linger for days or even weeks.
Can you imagine, something fun as social media being a burden? Me neither. I always loved spending time on social media. It was a huge sign how bad I was actually feeling.
Not being able to interact on social media, just means that working online was over. For the moment. I’m getting back in form now, as you can tell from this blog post. I’m even starting up my own business in life coaching!
Is rest the cure?
So, did I manage to get better just because I could rest and lay down a few hours a day?
One month after the start of my sick leave, the doctor told me she didn’t see any improvement and started carefully about anti depressants.
All the time I still had the hope things would get better ‘if… this’ or ‘if… that’. It felt like I only needed a little push. Even though it was very clear I was in so deep. I probably couldn’t do it by myself.
Also for the very important reason: I’m a mother now. My daughter needs a lot of time and attention. I’m not an individual anymore who can take the time and act purely on her own needs and desires.
I don’t see that as something negative, I’m blessed with Sophia. But it does mean things might have to be handled differently.
So I accepted the fact that anti depressants might be what could give me that push. Together with therapy sessions, I started feeling improvement. Step by step. The first weeks I felt flashes of reality. Those flashes turned to moments. And I’m glad to say today that the depression almost seems to belong to the past.
Take care of yourself
I think when trying to treat a depression, it definitely helps to give yourself all the freedom in the world. If you might have to change something in your life, in order to make life more comfortable for yourself.
In this case we are talking about postpartum depression, meaning mommies don’t have all the freedom in the world. We can’t take the time we need and want, when we have to take care of our babies. But we can try to find our freedom within these limits. There are things you can do, like laying down while your baby naps. Take your baby for a walk, so both can soak in the fresh air and vitamin D. Maybe somebody could take care of your baby for a moment, so that you can take that freedom. Something as little as going for coffee all by yourself can feel deliberating.
Also important. If you have postpartum depression and you feel you REALLY need to be able to take the time you need and want, without having the burden you feel when you have to take care of your baby, maybe you could try to find a way in which you can take the moment you need?
Always try to find possibilities and follow what your inner urge is telling you. Every case is different, none of us are bad mommies. You are allowed to work on yourself, if the result you’re aiming at is to be able to take better care of your children. And of course, first make sure your baby is taken good care of.
When I thought over my possibilities, I realized antidepressants might be of good help. It would be exactly that little push that could help me over the first mountain in my struggle. The doctor picked one from the list that would also help with anxiety, since I was experiencing anxiety as well. And send me home with a package for one month.
At first I was scared to take them. All the talks about side effects scared the hell out of me. What would happen? How would I feel? Would I still be able to take good care of Sophia if it would cause me to feel sick? I decided to start slowly, instead of 20mg I started out with 5mg. When I still didn’t feel anything the next day, I took the other half of 10 mg and decided to go for the full pill the day after. I did not do this to make a change to the doctors recommendation, but I wanted to introduce my body to it.
After a few days I felt a slight change. The crazy amount of thoughts screaming through my head appeared to be a bit less. And sometimes, I felt a spark of what felt like the reality. It felt good and I tried to enjoy that spark as long as possible, even though it usually only lasted seconds. It’s important to know antidepressants don’t work right away.
You might even feel worse the first weeks. I did try to spend a lot of attention to the details of every little improvement and every second I felt better, gave me hope for when the entire effect of the medication would finally kick in.
Lots of therapy sessions and daily pills later, I’m here, writing this. A couple of weeks I finished therapy. We both decided there wasn’t much left to say. And if I would ever have doubts, questions, or need of new sessions, I could just call my therapist right away. Still haven’t felt an urge to contact her, a good sign.
I feel a lot better now, with hope for the future. I enjoy being with friends, being with Luis and even being home alone with Sophia. Taking care of her doesn’t feel like the burden it once was.
I feel full of energy and joy because of the startup of my business. I’m filled with gratitude for the professionals and everybody else who knowingly or without knowing handed me the tools to get back to myself.
I’m very happy I finally got help, even though my mask avoided other people to see what was going on. I think if the doctor wouldn’t have seen how much I needed help, I don’t know what would have been our turning point. I’m just sad I haven’t done something about it earlier.
I hoped professionals I’ve seen before that moment would see the problem and advise me to seek help, but all they saw was my mask and the strong person I tried to be.
We deserve to be happy
The only one who really knows how you feel like, are you. Don’t let anyone else tell you it’s not as bad as you think.
If you can’t feel the love you want to feel for your baby, if you feel like anything that should not be, is a burden, then seek help. Don’t be hesitant. You deserve it. Your family deserves it.