I knew I was going to have Postpartum Depression.
The second I found out I was pregnant, I knew I was going to have a hard time adjusting. I knew my anxiety would be spun out of control. I knew I had a rough road ahead.
But most of all, I knew I couldn’t become her.
Despite what I’d seen and been through growing up, I came out the other side fairly unscathed. It’s not to say that I had a bad childhood; I didn’t, thanks to my dad, who is everything and anything a child would want in a parent. He was very diligent in sheltering my brother and I from her bipolar disorder. She had always been the source of the disarray.
Twenty one years of ups and downs passed before I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and started the road to recovery. Another eight passed before I felt I had a good enough handle on it to become a mom. A real mom.
And I felt like a real mom when we brought Blake home late Wednesday, February 4th, 2009. But that Saturday night, I had my first post-pregnancy anxiety attack.
In one second, I had become the very thing I swore I’d never become: a complete and utter disaster with no control over her actions or thoughts. A certifiable hot mess.
A monster. Just like her.
I was literally crazy and so anxiety stricken that I couldn’t sleep a wink or take care of myself. I wanted no one around. I didn’t want to leave the house. I could hardly get out of bed. I was riddled with guilt because this was supposed to be natural, like I’d been preparing my entire life to take care of a needy, stinky, screaming mini me.
Who is this person that has been thrown into my life, only to disrupt my sense of normalcy and push me into a downward spiral of craziness? What does he want? Why does he leak so much? Why can’t he be quiet?
And most importantly: Why was everyone so happy when I was so miserable?
I remember looking at him and wondering what I’d done. How could I take this back? I couldn’t. I stopped short of calling him a mistake, but there was no do-over. I had to make this work.
I tried. I tried to breastfeed and be normal. I tried to pretend that I liked being a mom. But inside, I hated it. I hated being cooped up in the house. I hated the sore boobs, the exhaustion and the unknown.
I hated that the Breastfeeding Mafia had my phone number and kept calling to ask how I was doing. I hated the pressure that came with having a newborn. I hated that I was supposed to be happy.
I hated that, when I looked in the mirror, I saw her.
When I sat down on the couch of the psychiatrist’s office, I couldn’t put a sentence together. I was beaten, broken, and couldn’t continue hiding my PPD. I knew I had to face it right then and there, otherwise the chance to break the cycle would slip through my fingers.
At Blake’s six week checkup, the doctor asked me if I was still breastfeeding.
“I’m not,” I said, while mentally bracing myself for what was sure to come.
“Why not? It’s the best thing you can do for your baby!” she replied.
Because you’re wrong; breaking the cycle is the best thing I can do for my baby.
Because as much as I wanted to not be tied down to medication, I had to be. I had to be so I would not become her.
There is one thing on my side: I do not have bipolar disorder. However, the feelings of abandonment, inferiority, worthlessness and instability are things that no child should have to feel. They are feelings not easily forgotten.
Motherhood has since become very fulfilling for me; the pieces fell together once I became accustomed to my “new normal”. I’ll never claim to be the perfect parent – I’m only human, after all – but one thing is for sure: I’ve broken the cycle.
I’ve learned that I’m not – and will never be – her.