(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)
You can’t tell when a mother has postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD or PTSD just by simply looking at her. People assume it should be fairly obvious, except it isn’t. We get pretty good at hiding how we are feeling and what we are thinking especially when we have a little one to be taking care of.
Where to begin? There is no easy way to start this but to dive head first into it… My declining depression all started long before I had gotten pregnant and back when talking about mental health wasn’t even a thing, it was seen as a form of “attention”. All aspects of being depressed and anxious haunted me. It has affected and still does to this day, my relationships with friends and family, how I work, my well-being, any aspect – it has a grasp on.
Now coming to terms with my mental health years later, I seemed to have somewhat of a better grip on things… that was until I found out I was pregnant. I was pregnant and alone. A single mom from day one! No partner, no spouse, not even a “boyfriend”. Que the anxiety and panic. My entire pregnancy was me living in fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the what ifs, fear of just being a complete and utter failure in yet another aspect of my life. Obviously when a ‘new mom’ finds out she is pregnant a sea of emotions hit her… The excitement and happiness that a human being is growing inside of you. Then within a matter of seconds, panic, fear, shock, etc. all crept in.
The prepartum depression was all too real the entire pregnancy. Because of the fact I dealt with depression on the regular, my psychiatrist was very meticulous at watching my moods and behaviours. If you are on any sort of antidepressant you know it’s not great for the development of a fetus. Carefully and cautiously we weaned my dose down to something minimal that would have no residual effect on my unborn baby.
Come time to delivering and having my son – I was not prepared. Again the pain of knowing I was delivery a baby by myself (with the exception of my mom) was all too much. I had experienced a rough ending and a traumatic emergency c-section due to preeclampsia that left me in more pain than planned. Now this hadn’t really sunken in till I was getting wheeling into the operating room. I was panicking. What was I to do with a newborn? I had to heal… my stomach would be a mess and I’d be in excruciating pain… I was right. My c-section was horrendous – complication after complication. Baby was stuck, I was losing a lot of blood, it was all just a bit too much too soon.
I hate even thinking about this and saying it out loud – I was disgusted when they put my son on me for the first time. I was so scared and in shock of everything that was going on I just gave my mom a look of horror and she knew to take him off of me immediately. Plus I was shaking uncontrollably from the sedation during surgery, I could barely hold my son. To me, he was still a stranger… we’d never met before. Now I was suddenly a “mom”.
The minutes, hours, days, and weeks after were all a blur. I needed to heal but was raising this tiny human being. On top of my ‘normal’ everyday depression, I was now experiencing major postpartum. I couldn’t cope. I was literally in zombie mode and struggling to dig myself out. I had my psychiatrist whom I could talk too and take the right medication to help with some of the “blues”. It took me a while to connect with my son and feel like he was mine… But as a single parent, with not a very big support system it was really scary and daunting. Even to this day my ‘village’ as they call it, is next to nothing. I always worry if I did and am doing the right thing – but I assume that’s common of every mother?
Even to this day I can still say I have some postpartum depression on top of my everyday struggles with anxiety and depression. My son, who is now 2.5 years old still poses his own unique set of challenges and of course at this age is testing the limits and boundaries. I don’t have a giant house, or a nice fancy car – and always find that I compare myself to other parents. What if I was married, what if I had a bigger home, etc. All of these factor in – but I know I am doing everything I can to provide the best life for me and my son. Parenting, yet alone single parenting is no walk in the park.
Handling life as a new mother is terrifying, yet alone a new single mother. Going through the highs and lows of childbirth and dealing with them alone is so a tough pill to swallow. We do it, and we do it with a smile on our face – but deep down we really just need a break sometimes. Honestly, talking with someone about the fears, anxiety, and moments of what seems like insanity can really help and show that you aren’t as alone in this as you may feel. I still feel alone most days in this journey, but that is part of my depression. I know these feelings, and just because I feel them doesn’t make me less of a mom or someone who loves their child any less. We all process things differently — physically, mentally and emotionally, and we must acknowledge and respect everyone’s process. We all are doing the best we can!
Samantha is part of our new Mama Diary Series, #RAWmotherhood, that aims to provide purposeful portraits to break the “Instagram worthy” pictures of motherhood and be real for a moment. Thank you Samantha for supporting this campaign to unite and support mothers in their journey, postpartum. This initiative is to bring awareness and funds to BC Women’s Hospital Foundation as they continue the research and development of an app to treat PPD and PPA. Click here to find out how you can help.