Children inevitably change your world. The change may feel enriching and positive. Or the change may feel overwhelming and confusing. For some women, postpartum depression may contribute to these difficult feelings, while others feel distant from it.I interviewed a mother* of two young children to learn more about her experience with having children and their impact on identity, spirituality, marriage, and mental health. She is an intelligent, steadfast, and insightful woman. As you read her words, please keep in mind that she is speaking from her experience. If you are looking for research-based information, please speak with a professional.
*This person is not a client but in order to protect their privacy, all identifying information will be kept confidential. They have read the entirety of this article and consent to its publication.
An Interview with a Woman Who Experienced Postpartum Depression
Tell me about your two kids.
I have a two-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter.
What are they like?
Well, the two-year-old definitely has my husband’s personality. He’s social and extroverted. He’s also strong-willed and feisty, but he’s also a two-year-old.
It’s a little early to be able to tell my daughter’s personality, but all around she’s a super easy baby.
What word would you choose for this season of life?
Endurance. Exhausting sometimes in a precious way. And sometimes in a really not precious way. <laughter>
Where does that put you mentally going through those extremes?
Mentally, I feel like I have less control maybe of my emotions or my words. One, I don’t have time alone to sit and process things or think. And that’s my personality, I like time alone to think about things. It makes me a better person and would make me a better Mom but there’s no time for me to do that. Mentally things are not fuzzy but more uncontrolled.
What about spiritually?
Spiritually is a big one. Again, that time just isn’t there. Ideally, I would like to spend a lot of time in prayer or reading my Bible every day. Sub-ideally would like to at least read my Bible every day. I’m learning that spiritually, life is just looking really different.
It’s not bad, I just have to be okay with that. Trust that God can teach me in other ways – not that reading the Word isn’t important, it’s just going to look different day to day really different. Maybe a bit more practical and less heady
What led you to this realization?
A lot of other moms telling me that it was okay. And that it goes away- it’s not forever. In that first year of parenthood, I felt really guilty. I’d get up every morning to try and read my Bible but of course, that’s when my kid would wake up too. And realizing that you can still grow and learn.
The first year a lot of guilt?
Yeah, a lot of guilt, mainly spiritually. It just changed. There wasn’t time to do what I was able to do for people before. And with my marriage too. And even more specifically, sexually. I just couldn’t give like I used to be able to. That desire comes and goes but it’s just not like it used to be.
That part was really hard. In terms of our sex life, I realized that not too much had changed for my husband, but everything had changed for me. With my first baby, I totally lost all libido. I think that part of that had to do with the difficult birth and recovery. It was the first time I didn’t feel physically the same as I did before. It’s hard to feel attractive.
How have you been able to move through that in your marriage?
We’ve talked about it a lot. And a lot of grace. If I have any urge at all, I jump on it because I know it might change.
When did you start to notice your sex drive coming back?
It was a while. I don’t think it ever came back until after my second baby was born. I had a way easier birth and recovery with my second baby, though. I also think that was really impacted by the physical state that I was in.
With my first baby, my body felt so messed up, my boobs were so big, I felt saggy everywhere. I didn’t know that I was going to feel good about myself again. It wasn’t until he was about a year old that I felt like I had my body back. Maybe with my second baby, since I knew that, I was able to push through that period a bit more.
What other things did you notice after your first child?
There’s more loneliness. Like not being able to do spur of the moment things. Part of it was fun. It was just a big change. I worked one day a week after he was born. And when I was home, it was nice that I had a companion but he didn’t talk.
I felt like I maintained relationships but at a lot more of a surface level than before. If I would go anywhere with my baby, just as you were starting to get into a conversation with someone, he would need something.
There was just not a lot of time to sit down and share your vulnerability with someone – which is how I feel you get into a deep relationship with someone. And we were moving a lot and I think that being able to have that vulnerability with someone is a necessary part of building relationships. And that wasn’t happening.
How did that season of loneliness feel similar or different to other times of loneliness?
It was definitely different. I remember feeling super lonely in college. But I also spent a lot of time actually alone in college, like in my room or having to eat a quick meal by myself. But after I got married and my first baby was born, it was a different loneliness.
There were always people around and I had tons of friends. But it was a loneliness more out of the depth of relationship rather than being around people. Like in college, I had deep relationships but being able to spend time with those people was limited. And even now, I feel like people have really welcomed us in the new place that we are in but there’s not a lot of depth.
When you were feeling that loneliness with the guilt that you mentioned earlier, where was your motivation at during that time?
A lot of it came from encouragement from my husband — probably because he is my consistent, deep friend. And there were so many moments of joy with my baby. So I think that helped carry me through that. And then just a lot of long distance conversations with friends and family.
I have also always found a mentor. I need a go-to person. When we lived in Florida, I could call my mentor just when I needed a hug. I could call her and just come over. It is important for me to have an older woman who has been through my life stage and has perspective on the other side.
It sounds like a lot of that comes from knowing what you need.
Oh yeah. I know that some people do just fine, but I know that whenever I’m experiencing something new, finding deep relationships is my first priority.
After the birth of your first child, when did you first realize that you were experiencing postpartum depression versus a “low point”?
I think it was when I realized that I didn’t feel bonded to him. There are lots of ways that bonding can be difficult, but in my case, I had a difficult birth and couldn’t hold my son for a while and then he had a really difficult time breastfeeding for the first six weeks.
It was so frustrating, and I think both of those things hindered our ability to bond as mom and newborn. I knew that I loved him deeply, but I did not feel many of those gushy feelings that I expected. But I pressed through, and our bond grew over time.
Now I feel so bonded to my son, I can’t imagine what I was really worried about. But as a first-time mom, I thought I was ruining our relationship forever. It was just a lack of perspective and experience and overall a period of very intense emotions.
What helped you recognize that it was postpartum depression?
The same feelings of despair and uncontrollable emotions would come on at the same time every day without reason. There were no triggers usually; it was just at 3:30 pm every day I would feel so sad. When it didn’t go away after the first couple weeks I knew it was something different than the sadness I had experienced before.
Has anyone in your family faced postpartum depression?
No, and I think this made it harder for me. My mom, grandma, and sister are all baby people; they love the newborn stage, love babies and unintentionally gave me this idea that birth and the first little while was so magical and cuddly and precious.
I don’t fault them for that; I genuinely think that was their experience. But for me, I had a more traumatic birth, difficulty feeding my son, and the bonding just didn’t happen for a while. So, it felt scary when I was experiencing those baby blues because I just hadn’t had anyone talk to me about it before.
Is that something that you talked about with your family?
I didn’t talk with them about it beforehand, but we talked about it as I was going through it; especially with my parents. My mom and dad were there the first week and they saw me go through a lot of it.
I remember one time they were in the living room and I was trying to feed my son. He was having a hard time and I remember just handing him to my husband and lying down on the bed sobbing. I’m not sure that my parents knew what to do, I know they were worried about me, but they also ended up helping us through it. They helped me get on a routine of going for a walk every day around 3: 30 and that really helped me through that late afternoon slump I had every day.
Do you have a verse that was particularly encouraging for you during that time?
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This verse really grounded me; that there were still things to give thanks for. My husband and I made a wall of verses and praises in our dining room and we sat down together and listed all the ways that we saw God’s hand in the birth of our son as well as answered prayers as time went on. It was so great to have a definitive list that was undeniable in times when I felt like my emotions were sucking me in.
What did you learn about yourself by experiencing postpartum depression?
That its ok to be weak and there is so much grace – from God and others. I had wanted to be a mom forever so not living up to my own expectations for what that would look like was hard. But so many people carried me through that time and I’m so glad that I let them. It could have been a lot darker if I had pulled away and isolated myself.
What’s it like to reflect back on that time?
It is interesting because I can talk about it so objectively now. Like it was something that happened, but all those feelings are no longer attached. At the time it felt like I would never get out and it felt so heavy. But I am grateful to have gone through that to be able to share that experience with new moms and let them know that it is ok to experience.
I also feel so bonded to my son now so it’s interesting to remember how worried I was that I was ruining my bond with my son forever.
What would you like to be able to tell new moms?
Just because you are feeling this way doesn’t mean that you don’t love your baby. That was one of the hardest things for me because I felt like I was supposed to be so in love, but I didn’t have all the mushy feelings. I knew that I loved my baby and I would do anything for him, but I didn’t always feel it at first. Those feelings will grow, and you will not ruin your bond with your child.
Also, of course, reach out if you think you might have ppd. The worst thing to do is to isolate yourself and you may be surprised by how many others have experienced similar things and just not shared them with you.
What you would like to be able to tell new parents?
Give yourself grace. The first couple of months can be so sweet but also so hard. You don’t have to feel overwhelming joy every moment with your baby. You love them, and you are showing them that by caring well for them.
Final Thoughts About Postpartum Depression
Although this is a topic that we likely could continue discussing at great length, I was grateful to hear this person’s thoughtful reflection. Pregnancy, birth, and parenting are challenging, possibly wonderful, and life-changing. As you read her words, I hope you heard the grace and wisdom in the challenge.
NOTE: If you are experiencing several of the following symptoms while pregnant or after giving birth, seek support:
- Depressed mood;
- Loss of interest or pleasure, most of the day;
- Change in weight or appetite;
- Insomnia or hypersomnia;
- Psychomotor retardation or agitation;
- Loss of energy or fatigue;
- Worthlessness or guilt;
- Impaired concentration or indecisiveness; or
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation or attempt.
“Pregnant Beach Sunset”, Courtesy of Dan Evans, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Bubbles and Grass”, Courtesy of ThePixelman, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Hands, Feet, and Rings”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Tulips”, Courtesy of Pixel2013, Pixabay.com, CC0 License