‘I was told I should be grateful for being able to have kids in the first place.’: Mom advocates for others with postpartum depression, ‘Don’t ever feel alone in this.’

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“From a young age, I always knew I wanted to become a mum one day. I saw myself having at least 4 kids, maybe more if things went well. I met the love of my life at 17, got married at 19 and bought our first house together in that same year. And then we really started trying for a baby. It took us over a year (which seems like a small amount of time, but in the TTC world, it feels like an eternity).

In mid-2017, we got pregnant with our first and I wish I knew or was warned about the challenges I would face. Our first, Lillian, was born 2 weeks early due to complications with both myself and her, in 2018. If getting preeclampsia wasn’t enough, after she was born, I was taken into surgery for severe hemorrhaging and retaining placenta. I remember them pushing on my stomach trying to get it out and seeing the fear in my doctors’ faces. ‘Kiera, we are going to have to take you right into surgery.’ I couldn’t believe it. Was it something I did? Why me?

Courtesy of Kiera Elton

In the space of that whole month of her being born, I spent the majority of the time in hospital because of even more hemorrhaging and the placenta being stuck in there. Being a first-time mum, trying to breastfeed and spending all that time away from my newborn, it wasn’t something I could have ever imagined. I was told by my OBGYN to stop trying to breastfeed (because of the uterus contracting, it was painful and I just kept bleeding)

Courtesy of Kiera Elton

I was so set on giving her breastmilk, I cried for days and felt a whole lot of guilt. But why?

Society has told us all that if we don’t breastfeed, we have failed. That we just ‘didn’t try hard enough.’ Or we won’t get that ‘bond.’ And that formula is bad for the babies. But that is all false. Formula is there for a reason. As a mother, I think we should just worry if our child is getting fed – whether it’s with breastmilk or formula. Fed is best.

Courtesy of Kiera Elton

Fast forward 5 months, we got pregnant with our second. We never thought it would happen this quickly, but remembered that we were capable of great things and this was God’s plan for us. The pregnancy was only hard because of trying to grow a baby and take care of the one earthside, other than that I was just thankful. But our sweet baby boy, Lochlann, was born full-term, healthy and happy. I even delivered my full placenta and got my doctors to show me it. I felt accomplished and optimistic. He latched right away and thought to myself ‘this will be the baby I will exclusively breastfeed.’ My milk supply was almost next to nothing though so we supplemented with formula right away. I didn’t feel any guilt this time which I loved. But unfortunately, I didn’t know I had some retaining placenta again this time and that was causing my milk supply to be so low.

This didn’t come apparent until 3 weeks later when I started bleeding again and I immediately knew what this could mean. But what happened next, would change our lives forever. My doctors tried two surgeries to stop it, which were both very hard for me to go through but in the end, I had to get a hysterectomy otherwise, I could’ve died. I almost did on the operating table during the first procedure because of losing so much blood so quickly. I constantly felt anxious and worried that it was my fault. That I could’ve done something to stop this. But nope. This was my body’s reaction to my placenta growing into my uterus and there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent this.

I feel like as a society, we talk about all the beauty of birth and postpartum, but where is everyone talking about the complications that can go wrong? Birth wasn’t beautiful for me like it, fortunately, it was for you. I watch all of these home births and breastfeeding journeys and definitely feel defeated. They have everything I wanted. But I try and remember that having two healthy, fed kids is all that matters.

Postpartum was the hardest thing I was ever put through. We NEED to advocate for these mothers who don’t feel like they can talk about their trauma from births.

The ones who feel alone and isolated.

The ones who develop postpartum depression and anxiety, like myself.

The ones who can barely take care of themselves, let alone a baby. We shouldn’t be afraid to come forward about these struggles.

I was this person. I never wanted to defer anyone from having a baby because I didn’t want to scare them. I didn’t want to discourage them. But I just wish someone told me all of the bad things so I could’ve been more aware of everything. Like preeclampsia. Placenta acreta. Postpartum depression and anxiety. Panic attacks. OCD. All of it.

I’ve been there. Many have been there. Don’t ever feel alone in this.

After my hysterectomy, I felt like I was honestly failed by God. I kept thinking, why me?

I kept getting told that ‘I should be grateful for being able to have kids in the first place,’ which yes this is totally valid. I had one person say after I said I might consider surrogacy in the future, ‘Why on earth would you do that? Be lucky for what you have.’ But I kept reminding people that I have never been ungrateful. Ever. But I was still able to grieve what I pictured myself having. I was able to grieve the breastfeeding journey I envisioned for both my kids. I was able to feel upset about all the complications and trauma I was put through. I kept reminding myself that everything I was feeling was valid. I hated it when people thought I was just focusing on not being able to have more kids and that’s all I’m sad about. Yes, pregnancy announcements sting a little to see now, but that will never make me ungrateful. I’m just grieving. I didn’t get to make that choice to stop having kids, it was taken from me and that’s what I keep beating myself up over. Postpartum depression and anxiety have taken over my life.

Courtesy of Kiera Elton
Courtesy of Kiera Elton

Shortly after this all, I started having panic attacks almost daily. The thought of doing anything scared the crap out of me. Sex made me anxious. I would constantly think my kids were going to die if I put them to bed. I felt the awful thoughts just rush through my head and I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia kicked in. Crying almost daily.

My husband took 2 months of paternity leave to stay home and care for us all. (Thank you Canada.) I will never be able to thank my husband enough for what he did and continues to do for our family. My OBGYN referred me to a postpartum counselor almost immediately. But guess what? After everything, I didn’t meet the ‘requirements’ to see them. Isn’t that ridiculous? I was absolutely furious.

A mother who wanted and seek help, couldn’t get it.

And this is why we wonder why suicide in the first year of postpartum is so common for mothers. I felt failed by the system. Failed by the doctors.

Fortunately enough, my family doctor referred me again after I begged him to try this time. And finally, I got to talk to someone that just listens. Doesn’t doubt me. Doesn’t question me. She just listens and has started to help me feel human again, help me breathe again. Physically and mentally. She comes to my house monthly as she knows how hard it is to get out of the house with two kids. I feel definitely blessed for having a counselor as amazing as her.

Postpartum depression and anxiety, birth trauma awareness: we need to talk about it. We need to not be ashamed about it. We need to talk about medication and how it can help us too. Now that I’m opening starting to talk about being on anti-depressants, I got many hurtful messages and comments like, ‘You do know that’s going to do your body more harm than good?’ Or ‘Stop promoting toxic ingredients.’

There is modern medicine for a reason people and I’m taking advantage of this to help me heal. Help me to be the best mother possible to my children. And the best, present wife to my husband.

We also get shown and taught how to take care of a baby when they’re born but who is teaching us how to take care of the mothers when they’re born too?

Taking care of ourselves is vital for our survival and mental health, especially in that first year. I was told that I had no reason to be sad because I had access to help from family members every now and then. It really hurt me. It broke me. Just because someone you know is able to have a babysitter now and then to do something for themselves, this does not mean that they shouldn’t feel depressed or sad.

If someone you know is showing signs of depression or anxiety, or just seems like they’re struggling, reach out. Bring food. Offer to clean instead of holding the baby while she does it. Give her that time to enjoy the newborn snuggles. A mother can never hold her newborn for ‘too long.’ If the baby is sleeping, make her go take a shower. Just be there and help. Don’t question. Don’t judge. Don’t doubt.

Don’t forget about the mothers. Don’t forget about the fathers. We are all trying our best.

We need to stop the judgment and just realize that not every journey and parenting will ever be the same as yours. Just be kind.”

Photo credit: Ashley M Photography
Photo credit: Ashley M Photography
Courtesy of Kiera Elton

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kiera Elton of Alberta, Canda. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories about postpartum depression:

‘What if I never love my child? I hate being a mom.’ The day she was born, I became a different person.’: New mother suffers severe postpartum depression, ‘I was on the brink of suicide’

‘We lost a beautiful woman. She was a wife and mother. She was kind, upbeat, smiling, and generous.’ Mom reminds women to ‘check on the mom wearing lipstick’ after losing friend to postpartum depression’

‘Here I was, a 3-month-old in hand, her father leaving because he couldn’t handle my postpartum depression.’: Young mom overcomes suicide, ‘bliss lies on the other side of pain’

Have you experienced postpartum depression or know someone who could benefit from this story? Please SHARE on Facebook to let them know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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