“Dan and I married in August 2011, and I had just landed my dream job as a labor and delivery nurse. We were excited to grow our family. Six kids, that’s what I told everyone we wanted as I envisioned myself as a mom and imagined all the fun things we would do together. I couldn’t wait to become a mom.
Months turned to years. We saw several fertility specialists and heard the same message over and over, ‘You have a 7% of conceiving without IVF’. Dan and I were young and healthy; we never expected to find ourselves struggling with infertility. We were doing everything the doctors recommended, yet nothing seemed to be helping. Hormone replacements, acupuncture, supplements, tracking ovulation and morning basal body temperatures, weekly lab draws, ultrasound after ultrasound, nothing was making sense and we were not getting any closer to figuring out why we could not conceive.
Twice we watched that little pink line shows up positive. Twice we got to tell our family and friends that we were finally going to be parents, twice we felt the grief of early miscarriages. In October 2013 we were once again pregnant. The lab tests and early ultrasound revealed a healthy growing baby. Each day we wondered…worried that something would go wrong. Would we ever hold the little baby growing inside me? It was very hard for us to let ourselves get too excited about this pregnancy. We were scared to get too attached only to be let down yet again.
But my pregnancy was textbook perfect. As my due date approached, we dared to plan the birth of our child. I would labor with little or no interventions and then Dan would help deliver this little person that was growing inside me. He would wear a Go-pro camera so we could look back year after year and remember the birth of our firstborn.
On July 1, 2014, after days of being induced, many interventions, plus a few complications, Molly Mae Brown entered this world. Needless to say, Dan did not videotape the delivery of Molly. He was able to announce her gender and cut her cord. I was not feeling well after her birth, I was very weak, and tired. That precious time of bonding as a new family never happened for us. The moment after her birth that I had so longed for–the intense emotion that I was supposed to have after she was born never happened. The immediate love I was supposed to have for this little person never happened. The feeling I was supposed to get when she first cried never happened. The love I was ‘supposed’ to have seeing Dan hold our daughter never happened. Everything I had longed for never happened. The day she was born, I became a different person.
Our hospital stay was routine. Dan and I worked on breastfeeding, sleeping, changing dirty diapers, and learning how to become a team taking care of this little human. I have a picture of Molly and me the day after she was born, she was laying on my chest and we look so quiet, peaceful, and so in love. That picture doesn’t show the fear and anxiety that was brewing inside me. It hides the guilt I was experiencing and the negative thoughts that raced through my mind. I didn’t tell anyone what I was thinking, or what emotions I was having. I didn’t want them to think I was crazy, or that I didn’t deserve Molly. I bottled them all up, hoping that they would just go away when we got home.
Our first night was a struggle for everyone. We had a lot of feeding obstacles that we were trying to overcome, and I was still unable to get up and move around independently. On top of the physical distress, I still battled with my emotions. Two short days after we returned home from the hospital, I began to isolate myself. I cried for hours and hours during the day. Finally, I admitted to Dan and my close family that I was having a hard time with this new transition. I couldn’t bond with Molly, and overall was just overwhelmed with my new role as a mommy. Anxiety overtook me. I was unable to sleep, eat and take care of myself. Depression started to sink in. Thoughts swirled around in my head. ‘Is this my new life? I can’t do this. I’m not made to be a mommy. God made a mistake.’ These words pushed every ounce of happiness out of my being. I googled things like, ‘What if I never love my child. I hate being a mom.’ There was a moment when Molly was about two weeks old and I had just finished feeding her that I looked down at her and thought, ‘I wish I could just tell you I loved you.’ I prayed every single day to feel better, to laugh again, and to love again. I begged God ‘please let me love this child’. Not only did I get anxiety when I held her but just the thought of other people holding her and caring for her intensified these feelings. All day I would sit in my room thinking about the ‘what ifs’ that could happen. I was drowning. My family was as supportive as they could be with the little, they actually knew. Everyone kept saying ‘It’s normal to feel this way, it’s just the baby blues’. So, I just pushed through the days feeling like a complete failure. I thought ‘why me?’ Every day I see women become mothers and they do it naturally and effortlessly. Why not me?
I was alone. My own thoughts disgusted me. Dan and my mom would take Molly so I could get some rest, and I felt like a failure. Molly was my child. Other people should not have to be watching her. I couldn’t sleep…ever. Whether it was a nap during the day or sleep at night, if I closed my eyes I tossed, turned and all I could see was my failures. The guilt suffocated me so much that I would end up in a panic attack. My breathing would pick up, my chest would pound, my palms would sweat, and my entire body would start to shake. No one understood why this was happening, not even myself.
I finally reached out to my midwife and she prescribed me an antidepressant, and I started once a week therapy. I had started to feel better. ‘I should have sought help sooner.’ I thought. I dared to go out in public, go shopping, and be around my family. I started to regain my strength. Even though I was still struggling with my ability to bond with Molly, things were starting to look up. Two weeks after the start of my new medication, I had a really rough night. The fragile framework of my life that I had barely started to rebuild crumbled. My anxiety and depression flooded over me. I stopped eating, sleeping and caring for myself. Caring for Molly was impossible. The intrusive thoughts I had before overtook my days. I said awful things to Dan about Molly. I wished terrible things and I did some pretty horrible things. I was not in my right state of mine, and at the time I thought I was going crazy. I wanted to run away. I wanted to start over. I wanted it to end. I was alone. No one feels like this after they have the baby that they so badly wanted. I was quickly spiraling out of control. At this point most everyone close to me knew I was in a bad place, and that something more serious than baby blues was happening.
On the morning of August 14, 2014, I couldn’t take it anymore. I believed that Molly and my family would be better off without me in their lives. I would free them all from the devastation that I was causing them. But that morning my mom saved me. I do not know where I would be today without her. Dan took me straight to the emergency room and I was directly admitted to the mental health unit at the hospital. I was there for 2 weeks. When I arrived, I didn’t want anything to do with Molly. When Dan would visit, I told him I did not want to know how she was doing. I did not want him to mention her to me because at that time I felt like she ruined my life. The doctors adjusted my medications and started me in group therapy. They also gave me medication to help me get some rest. It had been weeks since I’d slept or ate. After a few days of new medication and quality sleep my appetite slowly came back. I started coming out of my hospital room to the ‘common area’ and participated more during groups. I remember a mental health doctor saying, ‘I wish I knew how to help you, but I don’t. You are not alone though; many women face these challenges’. Everyone kept telling me I wasn’t alone that I wasn’t the only one who ever had these thoughts, and anxieties. Yet, there was no where I could turn for help specifically for moms. As the days passed, I began to feel for the first time in months that things made sense. A week passed and I asked about Molly. I even asked Dan to bring in photo album of her. By the end of my hospital stay I wanted to see my daughter. And Dan brought Molly to see me. It was a strange visit for me. I enjoyed seeing her, but I felt like she was a complete stranger to me. It was as if she wasn’t my baby, but regardless I was able to hug her and kiss her, something I hadn’t done since she was born.
After discharge I had to attend an intense outpatient therapy program, continued my medications, and I wasn’t to be left alone with Molly until we were sure I was well. Slowly my life was getting back on track. After 4 weeks of IOP I was cleared from the program, able to start work again, and able to start caring for Molly alone. I was incredibly afraid, but I did it. I spoke of my fears of being alone with her in my therapy sessions and I worked through it little by little. It took me a long time to recover, but I did it. Going to the hospital was scary for me and everyone in my family, but in the end, it helped save my life, and helped me put the pieces back together.
Fast forward five years later and Molly is the favorite part of my day, the light of my life, and my best friend. We have an unbreakable bond that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart. She has helped me in more ways than I can count. She taught me that I can get through anything, and that I am a strong survivor. My experience with Molly helped me, and now it is helping me help other moms.
Once I was well, the number one thing I wanted to do was to help other families who were struggling with similar situations. I never want another woman or family to feel alone. When I opened up about my story, so many other women opened up to me about their own personal journeys with perinatal mood disorders. Every woman should feel comfortable enough to talk about their struggles with their doctors, therapist, family and friends without fear of being judged, ridiculed, or shamed. It is not our fault that we have a mood disorder, and in order for any woman to get better, she needs treatment. The more stigma we place on mental health the less people will come forward with the challenges that can impact the rest of their lives. As a society we must not only decrease the stigma surrounding perinatal mood disorders but also educate providers, healthcare workers, lawyers, family and friends so we can recognize those who are suffering and better treat them.
If you’re a mom who is reading this and find yourself feeling guilty, depressed, or anxious please speak up. Please Talk with your family, friends and your provider. You DO NOT have to go through this alone. You can enjoy motherhood, and you will if you just recognize how you’re feeling and get treatment. Please don’t keep it bottled up like I did. The faster you seek help, the faster you will feel like yourself again.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Brown, 32, of Hope for Maine Moms and Families. Follow her on Facebook here. 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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