“If this can help one woman then it is worth it.” That was my refrain. That was what I said. That was what I typed, even when my hands trembled.
In February of 2014 I made a decision that would change the trajectory of my life forever:
I decided to open up about and document in-real-time my struggle with severe postpartum depression. I had been writing a Mommy Blog, Mommy, Ever After, since the birth of my daughter in 2010. But, after the birth of my son in October of 2013, I was walloped; transformed into a person whom I no longer recognized. As I explained to my then 3.5 year old son back in October, I was sad. Supremely, devastatingly sad.
My story is not unlike so many other women’s stories.
My world turned gray. I was plagued by guilt. At my worst, I lost the will to live. And, because it is so well-documented and, fortunately, discussed, everyone knew what was going on with me. I had postpartum depression. Even though people did not always understand it entirely, every person I knew had some idea of what I was experiencing. They knew because celebrities had spoken out about it. Because it had become a buzzword.
But, in order to truly tell my story, I must back up. I did not just suffer from severe postpartum depression; I suffered from severe prenatal anxiety and depression; I just did not know it.
The refrain continued. As I explored my experience in therapy, finally identifying, through my postpartum treatment, that I had been suffering for months prior to my son’s birth, I realized just how paralyzed I had been by my prenatal distress.
Yes, I spent a lot of time crying (to friends, family members, physicians). Yes, I once stormed out of Bloomingdales after my mom and I tried to pick out a layette for my son, only to find that everything for a boy had either a teddy bear or was light blue (and, in that moment, I decided that I hated both teddy bears and light blue). Yes, I told my neurologist, whom I saw for a complex migraine, that I did not want my baby when I was 33 weeks pregnant. And out of all of these episodes, he was the only one to take notice. Dr. Schulman said to me, “I am not worried about anything neurological with you. But, I am worried that you are going to have this baby and develop a walloping case of postpartum depression.”
I knew what to look for after the baby was born, but I did not know how to identify the suffocating, devastating effects of prenatal distress as I was living through it.
On October 24, 2013 my son was born and I fell in love with him. I just fell out of love with life. And that is why, on that cold day in February, when he was just 4-months-old, I decided to open up to my readers. I would tell them, in “the hardest post I’ve ever written,” that happy, enchanted “Mommy, Ever After” was in a black hole of despair.
And the response was incredible. The blog’s popularity soared, my readership grew and I began to connect with so many women, all of whom shared some part of my story; my struggles.
Then, the refrain began to change. It no longer came from me. I had helped even one woman (which I say so humbly and with tremendous gratitude). And these people (women, their partners, caregivers, professionals) wanted more. They asked me to write a book.
And that is how “Beyond the Baby Blues: Anxiety and Depression During and After Pregnancy” was born. It was not easy (and the former pun was completely intended as this was a labor of love) but it was so worth it. “Beyond the Baby Blues” has been another game changer for me, as it symbolizes something far greater than when I first hit publish on that hard post nearly four years ago. This book is big for me for so many reasons, but, more than anything else, it is because I can reach a broader audience and help more people. Just with the act of having written this book, and getting published, I am able to show so many people that there is color on the other side of the gray. It takes hard work, but it can be done. In fact, my book is structured to emphasize that quite deliberately. It is “A Happy Story” “A Hard Story” and then “A Hopeful Story” and it shows everyone (sufferers, caretakers, students, teachers, doctors, humans) that no matter how far into the abyss you or a loved one might sink, there is still a tiny bit of light that shines from above. And if you keep your eye on that prize—that light—there can be magic on the other side. And, in doing the climb back from the bottom, there is so much strength to be gained.
“Beyond the Baby Blues” is special to me in a way that is hard to articulate, but I am particularly proud of this book because it is a real resource about prenatal anxiety and depression.
It is the book that I needed when I was pregnant in 2013. It includes actionable advice, psychological research and the story of a girl who was confused, sad, hurting, lonely, afraid, depressed and lost. But, it also includes the story of how that girl is now clear-headed, OK, strong, surrounded by the right team, competent, a work-in-progress and, of course, found. I still seek treatment for my post-postpartum. I still suffer from anxiety and I have a diagnosis of PTSD. I still have dirt under my fingernails, embedded there, from my arduous climb. I am grateful for that dirt. It reminds me of where I was and how far I have come.
Today, I am happy. I am not happy all day every day, but I find joy in life, again. I laugh with my kids as I learn from them. My daughter is now 7.5 and my son is 4 and they are best friends; they even share a bed every night. My husband and I, having struggled through the hard story, have found strength in our relationship that we never thought possible. He gives me butterflies, again. I spend my days writing, being a mom, having an occasional band-practice (because one of my favorite hobbies is singing in an acoustic duo), driving carpool, sharing my story and going to many different therapy sessions (including with a psychologist, psychiatrist, dietician and family/couples therapist). I have fortified my village and the people who are in my life today are here for a reason. I am happy to say that I no longer hate teddy bears.
“If this can help one woman then it is worth it.”
Just now, truly, just as I sit here and type this today I am having a realization. I kept saying that line, over and over, every time I decided to open up about something difficult. And now I realize the most important truth of all. I have helped one woman.
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