‘I got pregnant at 22 because I wanted someone to show me unconditional love. I remember seeing my baby for the first time and thinking, ‘Ugh.’

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“I got pregnant because I wanted someone to show me unconditional love. From the time I was born until the age of 4, I saw my alcoholic father continuously beat my 20-year-old mother (this I remember vividly). After my mother left my father when I was 4, life was still chaotic.

Courtesy Jennifer Galarze

Due to mother’s traumas, I was taught growing up that love is not unconditional. I always felt inadequate, disappointed, and abandoned by her. I remember being in high school and always wanting and looking for a serious relationship. I, of course, turned to boys, and men once I turned 18, to fill this emotional void. I was in physically and mentally abusive relationships which validated my inner feelings of unworthiness. I knew in my heart, that as soon as I found a man who treated me well, I would want to get pregnant and start a family.

Courtesy Jennifer Galarze

At the age of 22, I was in my 5th year of my undergraduate studies in psychology. I met a nice guy who treated me well and within one month of knowing him, I got pregnant. Even though this was everything I had always wanted, I wasn’t happy. What did I expect to happen? I was having a kid with someone I didn’t know… so of course my son’s father and I constantly fought and argued. But the constant fighting throughout my pregnancy wasn’t the only unforeseen obstacle in my life. After being in labor for 24 hours and having an unexpected C-section, I remember seeing my baby for the first time and thinking ‘ugh.’ I had zero feelings/emotion towards him. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t ‘in love’ as most mothers describe when they see their child for the first time. I was disgusted, and I was exhausted.

Courtesy Jennifer Galarze

At this time, I had no clue that this was a symptom of Postpartum Depression. I don’t remember too much from being in the hospital for 5 days. I was in and out of sleep… I wasn’t happy, mad, or sad… I felt nothing. I would sleep, get woken up by a nurse to feed my baby, and go back to sleep. I had no desire to hold my son or touch him, I just wanted to sleep. I remember leaving the hospital with my son and being so scared of buckling him in his car seat. He was so tiny. I remember begging my mother to stay with me. My mother said ‘no’ due to her feeling uncomfortable staying with me and my son’s father (At this time, I was also unaware I had a narcissistic mother.) I remember being so terrified. I didn’t know what to do with a baby.

I was scared to give him a bath or even change him. My son wasn’t latching right so I gave up on trying to breastfeed and exclusively pumped for the entire first year of his life, which was hell. I hated my life and I continued to feel no emotion towards my son for his first year of life. My son’s first year of life was a blur to me. I would feed him and sleep, and bathe him and sleep, and the routine just continued. I knew I loved my son, but I was confused. I had irrational fears of harming him. I would have thoughts such as, ‘He is so small, what if I just suffocated him.’

Courtesy Jennifer Galarze

These irrational fears of harming him were debilitating and kept me in constant fear. I was scared to tell anyone about these obsessive thoughts I had. I was worried I would be sent to a mental institution. I never ever until writing this now have discussed these horrifying thoughts with anyone. I had no idea that what I was struggling silently with was postpartum depression. I had heard stories on the news of women killing their children and I would think, ‘Oh my gosh, is that going to be me?’ Years later, I learned that the stories I heard on the news were symptoms of postpartum psychosis – not postpartum depression. I was so worried, and all I wanted was my mom. I felt like a small child just yearning for their mother… she wasn’t there. I didn’t know how to be a mom. I didn’t know what I was doing.

It wasn’t until I started my graduate school program in social work 2 years later that I learned I had suffered from postpartum depression. One of my professors had us watch a movie about women who shared their struggles with postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis titled, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. I remember watching the movie and holding back tears of anger and sadness. Angry that I suffered in silence. Angry that I never was able to have those ‘hallmark moments’ with my son for the first year of his life. Angry that my postpartum depression coupled with my own narcissistic tendencies played a part in why my son’s father and I split up shortly after my son turned 1. I was sad that my son would not grow up with his mother and father together.

What I learned from having my son was that he did not fill the void I had. My son needed physical care from me at the time (feeding, diaper changing, bathing). He could not offer me the reassurance I desperately yearned for from my mother. I needed to hear her say, ‘You’re doing great’ or ‘there is no right way to do this mother thing’ or ‘being a mom isn’t always easy.’ My son couldn’t smile at me and tell me, ‘Thank you mommy.’ I thought I would have all of those needs met by my child and that was the worst mistake ever… to believe that a child could fill that void for me… the void I had of not having the love and support from a mother. I used to feel guilty for bringing my son into ‘my mess.’ There was some part of me that thought if I had a baby, my mother would be different and somehow her narcissistic tendencies would disappear. This was and is still not the case. I have been working at making sure I do not look towards others including my son to fill this void I have.

I have learned through my own therapy that I didn’t have an example of what a mother or family is supposed to be like… so I am doing and did the best I can with what I have. My son is loved by me and his father tremendously. Although I have worked on myself for the past 5 years, I am still terrified to have another child and possibly experience postpartum depression again. Although my mother may still not be a healthy support for me, my support circle has grown tremendously due to learning how to let others in. I have learned that a ‘family’ is NOT what society defines as a family. A family can be anything you want it to be. I have learned that I am worthy of love, that love can be unconditional, and that I am enough. I am excited and honored to be able to teach my almost 7-year-old these values.”

Courtesy Jennifer Galarze

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Galarze, 30, of California. Follow her on Instagram here.  Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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