The Truth I’d Rather Not Admit: PPD and me

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It was raining harder than I anticipated it would, as I walked an hour to my psychiatrist appointment. I had an umbrella that barely did any good, but I didn’t care. It was a welcomed break. An hour to myself, without any cooing or crying, diapering or playing. Good or bad, I wanted nothing to do with my own kid, and I was tired, exhausted, by faking it. My daughter was 13 months old, and I was just diagnosed a week before, officially, with postpartum depression.

Looking back, I knew it was coming. It’s why I put an official diagnosis off for so long. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of thirteen, I was told I was three times more likely to end up in this situation. But I wanted a baby more than those women who get postpartum depression. Way more. So it wasn’t going to happen to me. No way, no how, no chance. Find another new mom, global statistics, ‘cause I am not the chosen one.

Well, I had my baby. Everything went as planned. A relatively uncomplicated pregnancy led to an incredibly textbook delivery. And I took one look at her, and I felt nothing. And I continued to feel nothing for a good long time.

My Type-A personality vanished as I handed my less than six-pound baby girl to whomever would take her. I felt no need to grab her back, protect her, snuggle her. I felt no void when I had to attend my own medical appointment at the same time as her first pediatrician’s appointment. No need to be there, to take a photo, to document the day. I needed the information, but I didn’t need her.

I have wanted nothing more than to be a mom for as far back as I can remember. When asked what I wanted for my seventh birthday, I responded with a stroller. A real stroller. When we had “flour babies” in sixth grade, I chose to have twins. So when it came time to buckle down and figure out what I was going to do with my life, it was no surprise that I ended up training to be a child life specialist, working with children and families from all walks of life. Later, I got my masters degree and worked as a child development specialist at a well-known parenting center. I prepared every step of my life meticulously to make way for the path of parenthood. From who I married, to when I got married, to where I worked and where we lived. Every duck in its row, set up for success.

And I failed. Miserably.

Until recently, I could count on one hand the number of times I could remember feeling love towards my child: Over thirteen months—less than five times. In fact, I believe the exact number was three. So far and few between that I could detail those exact three moments of feeling that way so many other mothers get to feel so often.

When told how beautiful she was, I could only say, “She’s a good one!” And when people asked me how it was going, the most I could bear to mutter was “It’s hard.” And even just last week, the furthest I could push myself to admitting the truth was announcing that “I wasn’t the happiest new mom,” which has become my signature line in describing the first year of my child’s life.

It took more than six months after starting treatment to see what a terrible and terrifying place I was in. I consider myself lucky; I wasn’t in the category of wanting to hurt my own child, though on those long walks to therapy looking over the Mass. Ave. bridge, I did wonder what would happen if I were to just jump in front of a moving car, or throw myself into the water. And now, it has taken almost a full two years to acknowledge, out loud, that this was my experience. That everything I had hoped for and dreamed of and put so much effort into came tumbling down. And that most people didn’t know. Because as I’ve said in the past, Facebook posts about milestones and Instagram photos of family outings do not a happy mother make.

To compare where I am today, and where I was for such a huge chunk of my daughter’s life so far, is unbelievable. To reflect on what she missed out on due to what I missed out on is so sad. Together, we were both gigantically ripped off. But, through therapy combined with medication, and some major attempts at late-stage bonding, somehow, we have both healed in a way I couldn’t have ever expected to be possible.

I miss her when we are apart. My heart sinks when she falls. I, to my surprise, finally feel that innate love that so many new mothers are lucky enough to feel. That quintessential baby-being-put-on-your-chest-for-the-first-time connection has happened over mommy-daughter dates for frozen yogurt, completing art projects, and celebrating holidays. It may not have been the standard path, but we finally are on the right track. And this time, it’s truly a good one.

Can you identify with Rebecca’s PPD experience? Or do you know someone who went through a similar situation? 

photo credit: Camilla ∆ Rocha via photopin cc

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35 Replies to “The Truth I’d Rather Not Admit: PPD and me”

  1. My wife wrote a similar blog post a few days ago.

    I hope you don’t mid if I link it here. If so, my apologies and please delete this comment if you see fit to.

    I was touched by your story as I too suffer from Bi Polar, PTSD, ADHD and some other stuff. Although I’m a guy, I know the pain and suffering associated with mental illness.

    The honesty you shared with your readers is very touching and real, not to mention brave.

    God bless you and your little girl and may your happiness only grow.

    Link to my wife’s post: Scroll down to “Mother Shaming”

  2. As a mother living with depression, my heart feels for you. I didn’t have PPD, but I did have that “nothing” feeling when my daughter was first born. About two years ago was when I really felt the pangs of depression. It has been a long road but I am getting better everyday. I am very blessed to have an amazingly supportive husband and two heartwarming daughters. I wish you all the best as you continue your journey.

  3. Good on you for being brave enough to admit your feelings. I was in love with my baby from the very beginning but I could not stand the physical pain of breast feeding, it was not text book easy. I could not stand the exhausting hours of no sleep and why is she Still crying! I had anti-natal depression and PPD as well. The desperate phone calls during the day to my husband saying “I can’t cope”! Took nine months of emotional and mental torture till I was diagnosed and put on medication. It got better after that but I wonder whether me not being able to bond with her fully has left permanent scars. At 14 years old, she is closer to her father, than to me.

  4. I’ve never had PPD but I do know the stress of parenting. It takes courage to make a confession such as this, but I’m happy you were able to get help and I’m sure things will just keep getting better from here on out.

  5. Sending you so much love, Rebecca. I struggled a lot with the birth of my second daughter. My intrusive thoughts centered around automobile accidents. I can so identify with the scary thoughts on bridges. I’m sending you so much love. It’s been nearly 2 and a half years since I got help from my own postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. You are a warrior mama. You are making it through. There is a whole community of us that know exactly what it is like. We are here to support you in any way we can.

  6. I had ppd/ppa with my third child. Your comment about facebook posts rings so true. I was struggling greatly, but in my posts I would say how wonderful everything was–in hopes of it coming true. I am glad progress has been made. You are not alone on the journey.

  7. You have expressed so much of my experience EXACTLY. When my oldest was born, and I was feeling so miserable and lost, I forced myself to kiss her on the forehead every time I picked her up. I felt so little connection and I figured maybe those kisses would help… maybe it was one of those “fake it til you make it” kind of things. Looking back, it’s painfully clear that I had PPD but at the time I wasn’t really aware that I had been clinically depressed for years…so PPD was sort of a vague thought at the time.

    You are a wonderful mom for facing your situation with such courage. I’m sure that you and your daughter share a special bond as as a result of all you worked through. She is a lucky girl!

  8. Oh sweetie, you didn’t fail. Your illness took that from you. I so wish you had gotten help sooner. I hope sharing your story will help you heal at least just a little and I know so many readers will relate. You are helping others. Hugs

  9. Thank you for sharing this story. I know, all too well, how hard PPD can be and how incredibly difficult talking about it is. Reaching out and finding support is crucial. You’re helping others by writing this and connecting with those of us who have been there and can tell you that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

  10. It is brave of you to share and in such a beautifully written piece. We all have challenges in parenthood, though few seem to want to admit them. It took having my second child to really begin to enjoy being a mom. Still not easy staying home with 2 monkeys, but I feel lucky to do it.

  11. So brave of you to share your story! I still suffer from PPD, but I never felt distant from my child. I’m very thankful for that, but I still had days where I wondered what would happen if I were to jump in front of a car or jump off a bridge. But my child kept me here. I tried therapy and medication and both failed me. I felt hopeless and almost gave up. Eventually, I went the natural route and through fitness and good health, I’m getting better every day!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing. I know the feeling of disappointment you write about – of missing out because of postpartum depression. I'm so glad you got help…and now look at the future you have in front of you. So many more happy moments to come.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I struggled for years with fertility problems before conceiving my three year old. So when the post partum hit me(and it hit me hard) I was totally taken by surprise. It just made it THAT much worse. Not only was this sickness destroying me and my families stability but I had cried and suffered so dearly to have my son and I was not even allowed to enjoy such a important time in his life. Your story reminded me so much of my own. I have since been able to bond and enjoy my son with therapy and medication. I'm glad that you have been able to do so also.

  14. Hi Rebecca,

    I can empathize. My second son was born almost 16 months ago and I am still battling depression/anxiety. I’ve made a lot of progress but still have a lot more work to do in terms of accepting my new battered self.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story. So brave and so beautiful. I had similar struggles when my daughter was born. I had struggled with serious bouts of depression twice before my daughter was born, but never expected the feelings to come back when she was. Thank you for being brave enough to help all moms know this isn’t so far fetched. It’s a normal thing for a lot of us. I applaud you for getting help and for taking care of yourself so you can take care of your daughter.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. My PPD experience has been very similar but I was lucky enough to get help within the first few months. It's still painful to think of what I missed out on but I'm trying to focus on the future now instead x

  17. I sure can identify with her. When I had my son, I didn’t get the whole rainbow sprinkles feeling that seemingly every other mother on the planet had. Instead, I was overwhelmed with fear of SIDS. It’s unnerving when nurses & doctors tell you essentially that the baby can keel over at any moment. I remember feeling so trapped. I was nursing & I felt chained to the baby since he had to eat every 3 hours. It did get better after 3 months, but I don’t think I really felt like myself until I was getting a full night’s sleep regularly & that didn’t happen til my son was 8 months old. I’m glad that so many women are sharing their experiences. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. So the more women that share, the better.

  18. I’m speechless and full of tears. Reading this has been in the back of my mind since I noticed via Instagram that you’d posted it. Tonight I had a moment of quiet. I’ve been working in the mental health field for over a decade and I have rarely come across a more compelling and evocative description of PPD. This is nothing less than valiant and definitely inspirational. If only we could all bare our souls as you have. You are beautiful, Rebecca Koskinen.

  19. Please…someone….lead me to a place where I can be honest with moms of teens. I feel alone…hurt…it hurts. I don't want to feel this way any longer, and nobody 'gets' me. The infant years were fine, but now it's menopause….and people thinks it's humorous. It's not. My kids need me, but I just want to run away…..I love them…but I really don't think they love me.

  20. thanks to your post, I understand deep down that I, too, have such a bad situation (though I never admit or behave like that). Sometimes when the baby doesn’t act as I expect, when she may fall but yet refuse to step back or hold on to something like I warned, I thought of terrible things like imagining she falls or even my pushing her so that she have some real experiences. I Know that it’s bad, but I can’t help myself. Luckily I did not do stupid things. I snapped her sometimes, hard, but I have never cause injuries. I right after that I felt so much guilty. I did not hurt her physically, but I hurt her emotionally, and now she gets angry easily, she shouts (like I did) and hurt her little sister the way i did to her (she is 3). I look at her and feel terrified, she is like a mirror, and a bad reflection. I regret so much and try to fix things the way I can. Luckily I have a great husband – a great daddy at the same time. And though I do not feel like loving them so much, I understand that I have to take care of them, and showing them they do have a mother, they really don’t have to suffer from my mistake.
    And to you, I hope this post is not just the one in your one good mood. I hope that you are really getting better. And if this is not the case, please, please remember if you can’t love her, at least don’t hurt her,. physically and emotionally, since if you do, you’ll be regret soon

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