3 weeks postpartum
I told the woman giving me a pedicure that I just wanted someone else to take care of my baby. She looked at me really confused, said ‘oh’ and went back to painting my toes. I made her uncomfortable. I said something wrong. Well, let’s not say something like that ever again.
6 weeks postpartum
I brought my baby in to visit my coworkers. “OMG what a beautiful baby!!! Don’t you just LOVE being a mom?” Telling anyone the truth makes them uncomfortable and they don’t know how to act around me. I’ve gotten good at this lie after 6 weeks: big big smile, ‘yes!! It’s great’.
10 weeks postpartum
I’m alone at night changing the baby. She’s crying and squirming. I scream at her and hit the side of the changing table. The rage scares me. I’m not an angry person. A mom shouldn’t have this type of aggression. I never told anyone that until just now, over 7 years later.
6 months postpartum
I’m commiserating about the not-so-glamorous parts of motherhood with a coworker who has recently returned from maternity leave. I tell her how I sometimes have scary thoughts about hurting my baby. She looks worried and says how that’s not ok.
16 months postpartum and 2 months pregnant
I wish every day that I lose the baby. I hope I see blood every time I go to the bathroom. Then I hate myself even more for not being overjoyed at the fact that I’m pregnant. I am a smart, educated, professional woman and I am unexpectedly pregnant. It’s wonderful how close in age the kids will be. It will be hard for a little while, but then we will get all the bottles, diapers and daycare will be over with. Lies I tell other people. I can’t risk anyone finding out how irresponsible I am. I can’t risk them finding out the monster I really am.
18 months postpartum and 4 months pregnant
I’m giving my daughter a bath. My husband is upstairs. She’s sitting and splashing. I can’t stop thinking about holding her head under the water. I take her out of the tub and put her to bed. I stand in the hallway sobbing, mustering up the courage to tell my husband what almost happened. He will hate me. He will leave me. This time things were too scary. I find the courage and tell him. I cry some more. He hugs me. He doesn’t let me go.
22 months postpartum and 8 months pregnant
After a few months of therapy and a referral to a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I am diagnosed with postpartum depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I start taking Prozac. I tell myself that the medication is just a temporary thing. I’ll stay on it for the rest of my pregnancy and the first 6 months postpartum. Then I’ll be fine and won’t need this anymore.
23 months postpartum and 9 months pregnant
I have my baby 5 weeks early. I’m in love. Everything is wonderful.
3 months postpartum
I’m hiding my intrusive thoughts. I don’t tell my PNP about the thoughts this time because I don’t want her to increase my medications again. I find myself being envious of an athlete who killed himself. My therapist has me call my husband and he takes me to the emergency room. I’m admitted to the psychiatric ward and I stay there for 5 days.
6 months postpartum
I tell my supervisor I can’t handle managing my project anymore. It is high profile and high risk but I’ve overseen it for years so me handing it off to someone else will be complicated. The managers in my chain of command are notified of my postpartum depression so that the proper decision is made. I ultimately decide to keep the project and my managers let me.
85 months postpartum
I still take Prozac every day. My doctor and I have tried to wean me from it but it causes me to slip into a depression. So, I just keep it at a steady 40 milligrams. My kids are healthy. My husband and I are happy (right honey??) I continue to be successful in my career. I have spoken publicly about my struggles with mental illness. I know I’ve touched the lives of people I will never meet.
Remaining silent about my mental illness, I thought I was risking: my reputation, my career, how people perceived me, my ability to be a mom, my ability to be a wife…but I was risking my health and the health of my children. There is so much about the first few years of my children’s lives that I don’t really remember. I was either hiding, obsessing, sleeping or just numb.
Disclosing my mental illness wasn’t easy. I didn’t just suddenly start posting on my Facebook wall about my struggles. It took time. I wish I had spoken up sooner. There was no need for me to struggle like I did.
Happy Mother’s Day, Liz. xoxo, STIGMAMA