True Story: How I Conquered Postpartum Depression
In many ways I’m still coming to terms with the feelings I experienced in the months after giving birth to my youngest son. It still aches my soul that the one thing the universe meant for me to do, procreate, I hated. But I think my postpartum depression started way before I began having children. It began when I was a little girl.
See, in my family, and I’m sure other brown mommies share this experience, I was told to put motherhood off as long as I could. It was all too common for my mother to give me the “you betta not get pregnant” speech. So when I go knocked-up with my oldest son at 19, I felt ashamed and most of all, I could see the disappointment on my mother’s face. Once my son was born I went on a one-woman mission to prove to the world I was more than a statistic.
Fast-forward to six years later. I got married and moved to New York City. My husband made a six-figure salary and so requested that I stay home and take care of our children. It was what I thought my mother wanted for me. I was living her dream and all it took was a broken bowl to shatter that dream into a million pieces.
My baby throwing his bowl against the wall of our kitchen so hard that it cracked into pieces is what broke me. My youngest son stopped eating when he was four-months old. The doctors had no idea what was going on and I was going crazy. My middle son had just been born the year before and I was trying to create normalcy for him while dealing with my starving child. He was losing weight and I was losing hair. Not to mention, my oldest son was having trouble transitioning to his new life in the Big Apple.
Minutes after that bowl crashed into the wall and fell to the floor, I found myself in the living room crying and screaming with all three of my children at my feet. I had no desire to be a mother. It meant nothing that they were crying or that they were confused as to why I was crying. I just knew that I was alone in a world I didn’t understand, a world where I was expected to wholeheartedly commit to a job I’d been told ‘would be the end of my life,’ and ‘ is the hardest thing I’d ever do.’ I was in New York City by myself doing a job I hated.
The support my mother, sisters and friends gave me while I raised my child as a teen was gone. And those six figures my husband made came at a price. He worked 12-hour days to make that money. Most of all, I thought motherhood was a job for women who were incapable of doing anything else. I thought dirty diapers, PTA meetings and baking was for the birds who couldn’t fly. Being mommy was cool as long as I could fulfill my career goals, have a great group of mommy friends and the perfect relationship to match. Long story short, I wanted motherhood to be my side chick.
There were many more breakdowns after this one. I needed a paradigm shift. In an attempt to further distance myself from my children, when my youngest son had his first birthday I tried signing them up for daycare. I just didn’t want to deal. I wanted to go to work where I’d be appreciated and applauded for my hard work instead of being peed on.
It was at the daycare that I had my Oprah aha! moment. The owner of the daycare could sense my disconnect with my children, and pulled me aside to talk. She said something I will never forget, “You know, you will never have another opportunity to influence and affect someone’s life the way you will with your children.” That statement still gives me chills. My mother forgot to tell me that, but I feel her influence everyday. My mother loved me so much that she gave her life for me. I see her when I hug my children. I see her when I’m at school plays and meetings. I see her laying on the couch with my dad when my family has movie night. She has been the single greatest influence in my life and now I see that I am the same for my children.
I believe the reason I had postpartum depression lay in my definition of motherhood. For me motherhood, was defined by a series of events, you know, the shiny things. Play dates, jogging with your baby in the latest stroller and fabulous birthday parties all with a baby who never poops on himself, never falls flat on his back in a full-blown tantrum and of course, he loves everything you cook and goes to bed happily, by himself every night. It doesn’t exist.
I survived my depression by allowing my children to go through the motions with me. When I was having a bad day, we just had a bad day. And when I had a great day, we had a great day. I stopped feeling guilty about being a depressed mom and realized that those were the things I remembered about my mother. I saw her try her best to be perfect, fall short and still get back up. That shaped me to be the woman I am today, and I love me some me.
C.C. Mendoza is a contributor for American Urban Radio Networks and blogs at brownmamas.com.