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"My solid, supportive husband was gone. He was physically there, but it felt like he was miles away."
During a rough pregnancy, my husband was my rock
I was thrilled to be pregnant, but it was rough. Morning sickness kicked my ass for seven months.
At 35 weeks, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. The week before I gave birth via a scheduled c-section, I was in and out of the hospital four times. During it all, my husband was by my side – my rock. Even though it was a scary time, I wasn't nervous because he was so supportive.
When my son was born, my blood pressure spiked. To prevent seizures, I was given magnesium sulfate, which made me feel like I was burning up and going to vomit. Then, to help me relax, I was put on morphine, which made the first 24 hours after delivery a total blur. I barely remember holding my son.
My husband hadn't asked for time off from work, and then he got a bad stomach bug. I spent five nights in the hospital, and he was there for only one. I was hurt and frustrated and felt completely alone from the get-go.
Once home, our new baby wouldn't sleep, wouldn't latch, and cried constantly.
When I asked my husband to take the baby for a night feeding so I could sleep, he got mad, saying he had to work in the morning and couldn't sleep all day like I could. My husband had never held a baby in his life. There were times when I'd hand him our son and he'd start sweating if he couldn't get the baby to stop crying after 30 seconds.
My solid, supportive husband was gone. He was physically there, but it felt like he was miles away.
I was ashamed
I knew I was depressed. I was extremely fatigued and felt hopeless, like "This is my life now." It didn't feel like a phase, it felt permanent. I'd been diagnosed with depression when I was only 11. I'd been suicidal at 13 and spent the majority of my early teen years in therapy. If anyone can recognize depression, it's me.
But even though I could see what was happening to me, I couldn't get myself out of it and was too paralyzed to reach out for help.
Mostly, my depression took the form of feeling ashamed: ashamed that my husband was absent, that we weren't the perfect couple I had thought we were, that I wasn't bonding with – and even resented – my newborn.
One awful day, as I was laying my son down, he rolled out of my arms and smacked his head on a metal bar on the edge of the play yard. He was silent, and for a split second I thought, "This is it. This is my out." I thought I had just killed my child. He cried then, and I panicked, thinking how horrible I was for feeling relief that I could be off the hook from being a mother.
I knew that this feeling wasn't normal. I was scared, but I couldn’t bear to admit to anyone how I was feeling. When I finally told my mother and my husband that I felt depressed, I still didn't tell them about those feelings. I was too ashamed.
I never asked my doctor for help, either. At follow-up appointments, we talked about things like new-mom stress and colic, but not deeper emotions.
What helped me when I was depressed
Gradually, things got better. My son's colic cleared up, and he started sleeping through the night. When he was 6 months old, I put him in daycare and got a job.
I tried to understand my husband better. He wasn't a monster – he was a scared 27-year-old who didn't know how to manage his stress and fears, and had no one he felt he could turn to. By the time our son was 1 and was becoming more responsive to playing and toys, my husband started to bond with him.
Meanwhile, working let me be me again, separate from being a mom.
In retrospect, I wish I had gotten professional help. It's been a long road, but we are so much better as a family now.
What I wish other moms knew
If your spouse isn't supportive, getting mad won't help. Try to understand why. It could be fear, resentment, or simply no clue what to do. If you're not bonding with your baby, maybe your partner isn’t either.
Things went so much better with our second child, because my husband had had experience with a new baby; the two of them bonded right away. It was like he had a "do-over."
I wish we had gotten help when things were so bad.
When you're in the thick of it, you have to take breaks and not put the entire burden on yourself. If your baby has colic, you can put him down in a safe place and go outside, or somewhere where you can't hear him crying. Take deep breaths. Let your mind clear for a few minutes, then return.
Read more moms' stories about depression.
As many as 1 out of 10 new moms suffer from depression. Many don't get help because they're ashamed of how they feel or brush off signs such as fatigue or irritability as normal.
If you experience symptoms of depression, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Or contact Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773 for free, confidential advice and help finding a therapist or support group in your area.
If you’re thinking about harming yourself or your baby and need to talk to someone right away, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 for free, confidential support.