Motherhood is a lot of things.
I know the first time I held my daughter, it felt like I was witnessing the universe expanding. Suddenly everything looked different – bigger, brighter, more beautiful and unbelievably clear. But on the flip side, it was also terrifying because now, that hypothetical child I’d been dreaming about was here, and I was officially responsible for her well-being.
In theory, we all know motherhood will have its challenges, but what I was personally unprepared for was how these individual challenges would come fast and hard, stacking, multiplying, and piling up on one another, like germs exploding across the surface of a doorknob at a dirty gas station bathroom.
Countless sleepless nights, isolation, lingering physical pain, relationship changes, hormone shifts, the repetition and monotony, never getting a break, tough career decisions, difficulties feeding, colic, illness, someone who isn’t lactating eating the LAST DAMN LACTATION COOKIE…(internally screams!). Motherhood is serious business from minute one.
While each one of these things on its own is difficult to process, under the umbrella of motherhood, we are faced with dealing with all of these things at the same time. If you’re lucky, this feels hard. If you’re unlucky, this feels impossible.
Studies show that as many as 1 out of 3 women experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
Complicating things further, many of the symptoms of depression are just par for the course when it comes to growing, birthing, and raising miniature humans (aka “mothering”).
Let’s take a gander at some of the more common symptoms, shall we?
- Trouble sleeping? Uh, yep.
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue? Well, duh.
- Slowed movements and speech? Isn’t that just because I’m tired?
- Feeling worthless or guilty. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so that’s a yes.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions? So like, mom brain…right?
Now obviously just because you answered yes to any of these (or all of these) DOES NOT mean you’re clinically depressed, but it does go to show how tricky it can be to suss out if you’re feeling low because motherhood is hard, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression and could benefit from some medical guidance.
So what do you do if you think maybe you’ve crossed the line from “normal” motherhood-induced lowness to one of those major depressive episodes 1 in 3 women apparently experience?
For starters, know that you, my lovely lady, are not alone and are in fact in good company with an absolute boatload of other women who may or may not choose to share with you their medical history. ::group hug::
Next, you talk to your doctor, midwife, therapist, partner, friend, dog… anyone who can help you get the courage up to say the words “I need help.”
For me, it was an astute lactation consultant who noticed I was, um, a wee bit edgy (read: hot-tempered, tear-stained, and ragey) 6 months after the birth of my second child. One year later, I can say that while motherhood still has me feeling more exasperated, exhausted, and overwhelmed than I would have ever imagined, getting control of my depression has also allowed me to see how amazing being a mom can be, too.