‘The first 8 years of being a parent were rough. ‘It’s the after-baby blues. They’ll go away.’ I felt like a failure.’: Mom shares journey with postpartum depression, ‘The NOW is where I’m content’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage and child loss that may be triggering to some.

“‘The days are long but the years are short.’ ‘Don’t blink.’ ‘You’re going to miss this.’

This? I am going to miss this? They are words that haunted me through my post-partum journey. I knew I wanted to have a family. I knew I wanted to have more than two children because I held large families to this high standard of fun! I had vivid dreams of our kids hanging around the house on Christmas Eve. I saw a fireplace and someone on the piano. I dreamed of so much food and hearing my husband lecturing me on how I am, ‘always overdoing it!’ So we began what we thought would be our picture-perfect parenthood journey.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

I entered the emergency room after working a 12-hour shift at work. I am a radiation therapist and on the weekends, I kept my job as an X-Ray tech. Radiation therapists cure cancer with high doses of radiation and X-Ray techs take medical images to diagnose any ailments with the bones in the body. This time, I was the patient.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

I heard a little blood was normal, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I heard the words, ‘There is no heartbeat, we can schedule you for surgery…’ I couldn’t hear anything else. I chose to leave and go home on my own. I chose no surgery, I chose no pain meds because I come from a long history of addicts. I went to my endocrinologist to have lab work done because I no longer had a thyroid. I had my thyroid removed when I was 17. I started to find out where I could have gone wrong and why my body couldn’t carry the baby.

We continued our parenthood efforts and to hear the first child we would welcome healthy into this world would be a boy was so exciting. I always saw myself as a boy mom. I was surrounded by cousins that were boys and a brother and most of the neighborhood kids were boys. I loved sports and I knew all about them. I was a tomboy, so this was exciting. At 38 weeks, we welcomed our oldest son, as I became pre-eclamptic. I tried breastfeeding because ‘BREAST IS BEST’ was plastered all over my mind as the next right thing and then I quit. I hated watching my husband sleep when I was exhausted. I didn’t like how I felt. It flat-out was not for me.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

He was the only child I tried with, and I only lasted 12 days. I felt like a failure. I questioned my choices. I felt so strongly about stopping and then I felt so selfish for stopping. I felt all over the place. That is right when the blues set in. I was told they were normal and they would go away. Eventually, they did, but I felt such emptiness. My postpartum depression was not how they described it. I always read you had no connection to your baby. This was not the case for me. I just felt overly tired and like I could cry and like I was never good enough, but it ended.

Then came our second boy, also 10 days early due to preeclampsia. He was destined from day one to be a middle child. He came out with the cord around his neck and he hasn’t stopped scaring us since. We were so excited the kids would have each other, yay for brothers! Again, I felt the after-baby blues. He was born in March and the weather wasn’t beautiful yet. I was so often told it would probably get better when I could get out of the house more. I always responded, ‘Yeah, you are probably right,’ but I knew it wasn’t the case.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

I was depressed again. This time it was so bad. I felt inadequate as a mother and wasn’t sure I wanted to be around anymore. I said this out loud to my husband and I was put on an anti-depressant. He called my OBGYN and asked if this was normal. I am lucky I said yes to medication, which I was so against, because my body needed it.

Just as the weather became warm and I was shaking off my feelings, I received a phone call my mom fell down a flight of steps after a Memorial Day weekend party. She had three brain bleeds. I had a 2-month-old and a 1-and-a-half-year-old. She was in a neuro ICU for months. Although we took her to the best hospital and a rehab that is renowned for its care, she had never been the same. This May will be 7 years since her accident. I think I was able to handle it because I took the help of being on medication but it was really hard for me.

Then came our last, but definitely not least, baby girl. I thought I was a BOY MOM! She was born at 35 weeks because I had lost vision AGAIN due to preeclampsia. She was my first C-section.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

I knowwwww, why did this chick keep having kids? Well, because I pictured a house full of love 30 years from now, remember? The fireplace, the piano the lots of food on Christmas Eve! In hindsight, I don’t regret it, but no one warns you about the middle! The middle of the journey, feeling lost!

The first 8 years of being a parent were rough. Yes, 8. I always laugh at the facial reaction that people give to me when I tell them it only lasts for about 8 years. I am serious but the reactions are priceless. Having kids all within 3 years was a challenge, and it still is. Packing up to go anywhere was exhausting, potty training and going anywhere was a challenge, adapting to baby schedules going to other people’s homes or vacations flat out SUCKED. Listening to people who were never around give you parenting advice was awful. I am going to be honest, working and trying to take care of yourself and keep the kids safe and making the right choices and dinner choices and keeping a spouse happy is d*mn near impossible. We survived though. You will survive too.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

My best advice is if you are feeling overwhelmed or you are ever feeling different than yourself, you should talk about it. To anyone. Let them know you are overwhelmed, or you feel lost. Let them know you are not okay and you need help. Ask for help. Take help when it is offered, if your gut tells you it is okay.

It is also okay to say no. I wish I said no more. I wish I said no to going on holidays at the home of others to please them when I was not okay. I wish I said no to going to weddings and leaving my babies behind when home is where I wanted to be. BE SELFISH as a new mom. You can and you should! Do not say yes for the sake of looking good. SAY NO for the sake of feeling good. Put yourself first. If you can not take care of yourself, then you can not take care of anyone around you.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

I heard someone compare it to a plane in crisis once: If the plane is going down, you mask up yourself first. If you can’t breathe, you can’t help the person next to you.

Once you get to a place where you feel like you have a sense of control over your new life and your new human, whom you are trying to learn (that is a whole human in your dang lap!), then start saying yes. Trust your gut. This is a hard time. It gets easier.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

When you do get around to feeling like yourself again, don’t change. You have been remodeled, but keep the base, keep the foundation, keep what made you, you. Go to the gym. Go to Target alone. Go sniff candles in HomeGoods. Shop at Forever21 if you still love those short shorts and that crop top. Motherhood is a stage, not an identity. Yes, the days are long and YES the years may be short, but guess what? So is life. Be happy inside of the life you were given by continuing to find joy in the little things you love. FIND YOUR TRIBE. Find people who are in the same stages as you. You do not have to compare yourself to your friends still going to the bar. You aren’t there right now. Reach out to the people who are in your boat. It’s okay to make new friends and keep the old. Just find friends you can relate to.

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

The NOW is where I am content, our children are 8, 6, and 5. This is my happy. This is where I will thrive as a mom. I mean, I always did the next right thing, but I was like the world’s okayest mom and my husband was like super-dad. This NOW, this is the moment I want to freeze. I am happy here. I love listening to them talk. I love hearing them correct me, like, ‘Actually, Mom, an owl is ock-turtle (nocturnal).’ I love jumping up and down in a hockey rink screaming, ‘Skate son, skateeee.’ I love that I have a signature whistle I can blow from the gap in my teeth for the kids to come home when it’s starting to get dark out. I love seeing them come flying down the block, screaming, ‘First one to touch Mom is on base,’ as I scream, ‘NOOO I AM NOT BASEEE.’

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

This, yes, I will miss this. This is the stage I am thriving in and motherhood looks different on everyone. It should. How boring would life be if every mom was just happy all of the time and everything was perfect? We wouldn’t have a greater appreciation for things that we connect with.

I could throw in the ‘the world needs you to be you’ quote but I won’t. Your family needs you to be you. Don’t let anyone tell you what, when, or how you are supposed to be feeling.”

Courtesy of Samantha Kilgallen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Kilgallen from Philadelphia. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear 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.

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