Postpartum Depression affects nearly 70-80% of women after they a baby, and can linger for years after baby is born [source]. Since the 1980s PPD has become more known and treated, but until only recently have women stepped up to openly share about their struggle with postpartum depression after having a baby. Shannan Hardenberger, a Little Z’s Sleep Team Member struggled with Postpartum Depression after the birth of her daughter, Jessa. She shares with us today how her PPD struggle, even through the joy of a rainbow baby, rocked her world. Thank you Shannan for sharing your story. We know it will speak to so many women around the world.
I write this now from the other side of a very dark experience.
Sometimes, I think of it as losing myself down a black hole of despair.
Now, my days are warm and bright and filled with promise and hope (and a lot of activity with a one year old!), but it took a long time to get here. Postpartum depression is talked about as much as miscarriages — not a whole lot.
It feels as if it is this dark kept secret that no one is “allowed” to talk about because it means there is something wrong with you.
I was 28 years old, in great shape and had a very healthy pregnancy. My water broke three weeks early. My body was NOT ready to give birth yet. I was zero in everything in terms of measurements. Thirty hours of labor, a failed epidural, a baby in the sunny side up position, and two and a half hours of pushing later, there was a baby in my arms.
I wanted nothing to do with her when they laid her on my chest.
I was exhausted, drained, and in so much pain that it prevented me from being excited and happy.
For the next month, I could barely walk up the stairs, let alone take care of a newborn baby. Society and social media fail us women when it comes to postpartum recovery.
They portray a false image of the reality of giving birth, which we are expected to live up to, at least we as moms feel as though we have to. I cried a lot and felt increasingly anxious starting around the five-six week mark. I realized something was very wrong when my daughter slept for 8 hour stretches but I was wide awake all night. I had basically stopped sleeping. I had no desire to eat, no desire or energy to do anything, which is NOT like me (I am the typical CrossFit fanatic over here!) I thought my life was over and I would never feel “normal” again.
I felt ashamed that I felt so bad.
Nothing was particularly wrong. I have a great and supportive husband, amazing family and friends and a newborn baby that I had longed for, after experiencing a miscarriage the previous year.
This was my rainbow baby. I was supposed to be head over heels and on cloud nine.
I thought that I should be able to snap out of feeling bad. Feeling bad turned to feeling worse and got to the point where I wished I could disappear; just fade away and that my husband and baby would be better off without this shell of a person I had become.
The words “robbed,” “guilt,” and “isolated” linger in my mind as I reflect on my postpartum depression.
Robbed of that blissful, euphoric feeling you’re supposed to feel when you have a sweet, precious newborn baby.
Robbed of the enjoyment of those newborn tiny baby snuggles everyone tells you about.
Guilt that I felt like I had made a mistake, that I wanted to give her back, that I resented her instead of loving her.
Guilt that I took away those moments from my husband too.
I felt mad that my unbalanced hormones took that away from us. PPD is so isolating.
I looked at my friends and they didn’t feel this way.
They loved their babies. They were happy.
They were able to go out and about and made it look so easy.
The voices in my head were strong.
What was wrong with me?
Why do I have an aching pit in my stomach every morning and every night?
Why do I cry all day long?
Shouldn’t I love this human I created and longed for?
I felt like I had to pretend.
I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want them to judge “my hot mess.”
I was always told how amazing of a mother I’d be, why did I feel the complete opposite? None of it made sense.
I felt invisible. I started to question if there was still a “me” down inside somewhere. A me who is more than a mommy.
I felt so insecure about everything – about who I was as a mom and who I was as a person. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to tell. I needed help. I needed help remembering who I was, and who I am. I needed someone to find me here, but no one knew how stuck I was.
My daughter was a chronic short napper in her newborn days, which after talking to other moms, is very normal, but it was hard. I basically wore her in the baby carrier for every nap, in hopes that she would last longer than 30 minutes.
To be blunt and honest, it made my husband’s life hell.
I know he dreaded coming home, tip-toeing around so he wouldn’t make a loud noise and wake her up, because he knew that would cause a major Shannan meltdown (again, thanks hormones). It was mentally, emotionally and physically draining for all parties.
I binge watched all seasons of One Tree Hill. Where are my OTH fans?! I am able to joke about it now, but I say all the time that Lucas and Peyton got me through some of my darkest days.
It was so hard to not have time to myself. I felt like I had completely lost myself in becoming a mom and to be honest, I hated it. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way but I didn’t know how to change it.
Newborn sleep is such a roller coaster. They are learning how to live in this new world and their sleep patterns are so sporadic. It takes a toll on your body as a mama in all aspects when you don’t know what is coming next. It is a constant guessing game.
I have probably said this next statement a million times since last October but SERIOUSLY…”Becca and Little Z’s sleep training program saved me.” There will never be a price tag that will equate to me finding myself again, and truly being able to ENJOY motherhood.
Sleep training my daughter is 100% hands down, the best decision we have ever made.
Knowing that I am able to put my daughter to bed and she will sleep 12 hours every night and will take consistent naps on a daily basis, is LIFE CHANGING.
I finally had time to workout (which is my #1 favorite thing), spend time with my husband, my friends, basically anything that has to do with ME. It was what I was longing for this whole time. It completely transformed my life. Now, I look at my daughter and feel my heart beating out of my chest. I feel that feeling everyone talks about when becoming a mom. It’s indescribable. I am head over heels in love with her.
I am so thankful. I am thankful for the Lord and his redeeming grace. I am thankful for my amazing husband. I am thankful for my family and close friends. I am thankful for medicine. I am thankful for Becca and her calling. I am thankful that I am better, that I feel myself again and that I absolutely, with every part of my being, love my daughter. She is the best little girl, so sweet, so sassy, and so much fun!
I think this journey will continue to evolve and grow.
Finding ourselves again after becoming a mom is a work in progress, but when it starts to happen, it feels good. Us women need to share and voice our experiences and stories.
We should never feel alone. A measly 6 week postpartum appointment checking boxes isn’t enough. Our bodies have been through a roller coaster and our hormones are REAL.
Mammas, I want to ask, what are you doing to take care of yourself?
I spent way too long neglecting my self care once my daughter was born. We can’t be good mothers if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. We can’t be good wives, if we are not taking care of ourselves. Taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually is essential to becoming you again. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to leave your baby in the care of someone else and go outside your home. It is okay to sleep train your baby. It is 100% okay to be selfish for you, and still be a good mom.
We are all in this together and I am rooting for you!
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