Baby #1: I was excited. I was in awe. I read all the baby updates in all the manuals on the assigned week. I brought my legal pad of questions to each appointment. I was petrified of labor. I cried the hollowest cries while my husband slept beside me on the couch cradling our baby. Who would now console me?

Baby #2: I was excited. I was exhausted. I worried about my first baby with a new baby. I began to look forward to those late night/early morning feedings for the quality one-on-one time they provided. I was so fiercely devoted to protecting baby’s soft little skull and sacred nap time from boisterous big sister, I screamed a lot.

Baby #3: I was blindsided. I was in shock. I was overwhelmed, agitated, obsessive, irritable. I still hadn’t come to terms with the idea of a new baby even as I lay on the delivery bed. I loved her so fiercely I was afraid someone would take her from me. I flipped out at hair elastics stretched over finials of dining chairs. I swore, I flew off the handle, I hid in the bathroom. I cried, begged for it all to be over.

Baby #4: I was surprised. I thought I was done having babies. I have moments almost daily where I think, ‘we’re doing this again?’ and yet, I’m strangely at peace. I still get irritable. I hurt from the physical toll of four pregnancies. I put myself to bed before my children sometimes. I see a therapist. I take meds. I go to acupuncture. I do yoga. I pray the rosary.

But I’m okay.

When I look back at the timeline of my pregnancies, I can see the mounting mental anguish I couldn’t at the time. What could’ve been the ‘baby blues’ with #1, escalated into moderate mood dysfunction with #2, and plunged me into the deepest despair of postpartum depression and anxiety with #3. It still irritates me that something that was probably underlying all the time was manageable for me until I kept adding layer upon layer. However, I am not superwoman.

I am a woman, a mother armed to the teeth with resources and self-knowledge. Fighting, clawing out of that hole after #3, I will never let all that hard work be in vain. I will see the signs early on; I will know which preemptive strikes to take; I will make self-care measures so that I hopefully won’t even need the interventions.

I do not feel strong as a victor shining brightly; but stronger in my resilience, in my survival, my steely will to not succumb.

There is life after postpartum depression. It is different. It’s not easier – but somehow it’s clearer. The unrealistic mist of life as we thought we knew it dissipates. The real, the ugly, the harsh – and the beautiful – are etched crystalline. We see it all – and appreciate the beauty that much more.

To the life, growing inside all of us

An addendum

In my post Thursday, I discussed the pitfalls of postpartum in dads.  There is a major one I erroneously omitted.

One more thing for postpartum moms to worry about

In all my talk about supporting dads in their postpartum world, I failed to think what such advice/discussion would do to a mom currently suffering from postpartum.  Though I’ve still got plenty of issues to sort out, I am no longer in the deep, dark depths of my postpartum period.  I have traveled far enough beyond it to be able to reflect upon what the experience was like for my husband.  In the midst of it, however, I couldn’t help myself – let alone another human.  I apologized for lashing out; I thanked him for his support; I commiserated when he said he didn’t know what to do.  But beyond that, there was nothing I could do for him.  Nothing except put myself back together.  And that took all my energy.

So all you women and mothers suffering from postpartum mood disorders out there, my last post was not meant to make you feel bad.  It was not meant to give you one more thing to feel shitty about.  To make you think you’ve ruined one more life.

Let me reiterate the point that it takes an entire community to surround and uplift the postpartum tribe.  It should not fall to you to do everything.

Yes, dad needs support, but you don’t have to be the only one to give it to him.  You may not be able to at all.  And that’s okay.

People outside your tight-knit trio need to help put you all back together.


What Postpartum Depression Recovery DOES NOT Look Like

Read this article, peeps.  Truth.  Simple, yet sage advice.  Your rational side may know it all already, but that stubborn irrational side of you needs to hear it again.  Believe me, I’ve been there and felt all these – and so has Katherine Stone, the author.


What Postpartum Depression Recovery DOES NOT Look Like.

Get well card with fresh chamomile flowers on blue background

Postpartum’s Pithos

Is postpartum a misnomer?

When does the depression start? Is it the instant the partum becomes post? When the final product is pushed from its incubator?

My writers’ group got into a discussion of postpartum depression last night based on the arrival of a box of books on a doorstep. The doorstep belonged to a fellow writer; the box was full of copies of the book she’d just finished writing. She said she was saddened by its arrival. When asked why, she said she wasn’t sure; she’d have to think about that. She said it was almost like postpartum depression. But she couldn’t say why. And she said she didn’t really know all that much about postpartum; that she’d never had it, though she’d birthed several children.

Someone asked, was she sad because she’d have to say goodbye?

This question assumes that she enjoyed her time building and birthing this book. That it had grown inside her and expanded her heart and mind to the point of exploding with love and pride. That would make a good case for depression upon its release. This symbiotic element of herself was now separate. There most definitely would be a feeling of loss upon the shearing off.

But what if the division and multiplication of cells riots against the verisimilitude of a woman’s life? Against her will. Her expectations. Her idea of time lines and schedules. In that case, depression would come post haste.

The birth does not usher in a sadness at goodbye. It is the greeting – most often with a big wet smack in the face – of responsibility, duty, expectation. The idea that she’ll be instantly in love with this mewling little being in front of her.

When really it has nothing to do with that child at all.

When it comes right down to it, while it’s enacted by the burgeoning and birth of that little being, postpartum depression is all about the mother. Her reaction to it. The way her hormones wreak havoc on her systems and sanity. The total upending of her reality and orientation of existence.

I didn’t want to say goodbye to the little lovely who sits by me now four years older and bigger. I don’t associate her with the things to which I want(ed) to say goodbye. I would’ve loved to say goodbye to the shit that came with her preparation for and entry into this world. I still would. The sadness started way before the postpartum period. And unfortunately, it still doesn’t fit in any sort of tidy box.

Addie May Hirschten

Addie May Hirschten

*** A HUGE addendum to this post: It is NOT selfish to see postpartum as all about you. I think many women don’t receive the help they need because they think it’s wrong to think about something other than their baby.  However, I don’t want my post to be construed as a devaluing of the utter miracle of and attendant caring for a newborn.  We must get the help we need as women so we can go on to be healthy mothers and healthy individuals.

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