Postpartum Depression And Anxiety Made Me Feel Like a Failure As a Mom
By Jen Schwartz
Six years ago, when my son was born, I didn’t get out of bed for almost six months. My mom and my husband took over my mommy duties while I cried in bed.
I hated breastfeeding and quit after five days. Formula became my second favorite F-word. I only left the house when forced to, believing I’d rather be vomited on than drag my unshowered ass to mommy and me class, where all those perfectly manicured mamas raved about how fabulous their new lives had become. I just didn’t get it. And I was miserable.
I did not enjoy being a mom one bit and needed heavy meds just to cope with my scary thoughts. What would people think of me if they knew I was drugged and looking for a way out? I had never felt anxiety like this before. How was I the only mom I knew who felt so dark, even in the middle of the afternoon?
Why didn’t I get the memo on how to do this right? What was wrong with me that I had no interest in watching my kid play with his toes or taking him for a walk to the park?
Six years ago, when I suffered in a dark closet all by myself, ashamed, believing I was the only woman on the planet with postpartum depression and anxiety, I desperately craved and searched for stories. Stories shared by other moms feeling what I was feeling. Stories shared by moms who felt no connection to their babies, who couldn’t stop the tears or get out of bed, who were paralyzed by anxiety, panic, and fear.
Stories shared by moms who found themselves in weekly therapy appointments and taking antidepressants for the first time ever, rather than pushing strollers to the park and gushing about the most amazing time in their lives at mommy and me classes. Stories shared by moms who had been in the darkness and eventually found the light.
I could barely find any that went below the surface. I wanted raw. I wanted intimate. And so, I continued to suffer, alone and confused as to why every other woman I knew and followed on social media loved motherhood and was really good at it.
What would people think if they knew I had to be heavily medicated just to cope with being a new mom? What was wrong with me that I couldn’t hack it at the role I was taught to believe came naturally to all women? A role I associated with joy, bliss, and magic.
When I eventually found my light and started feeling better thanks to those weekly therapy appointments and antidepressants, I started talking. I started telling people about my battle with postpartum depression and anxiety. I stopped hiding. And that’s when I experienced what I believe to be the true magic of motherhood. I learned that I wasn’t alone. I realized I was not the only woman on the planet with postpartum depression and anxiety who thought she failed her son and failed at motherhood.
When I started to open up and share my story, other moms didn’t reply with judgment. They responded with empathy and their own stories of struggle. The courage I found that led me to share led to other moms feeling safe enough to do the same. Courage is contagious. In listening to my story, they felt seen and heard and understood. Courage creates community and shame can’t survive in a community of women.
Then, I started writing about my story…for a little blog I launched called The Medicated Mommy. No detail was too intimate. I covered it all, from the scary thoughts to the overwhelming guilt to how I found the right treatment and what that treatment was.
The messages of “me too” poured in from moms I knew and moms who were strangers. Moms thanking me for being honest. Moms thanking me for giving them the strength to speak up and ask for help. Moms wishing they had found my blog a long time ago.
Stories lead to empathy. Stories create connection and community. Stories help others heal. Stories save lives. And most importantly, stories destroy shame and stigma. If we don’t share our stories, there is no way for those who need to hear them most to recognize they are not alone. When it comes to maternal mental health, stories are a lifeline from one mom to another.
I chose to share my story because I never wanted another mom to feel the shame, confusion, and loneliness I did when I was sick. I didn’t want any woman to be as unprepared for the emotional complications that sometimes accompany childbirth.
My little blog has transformed into an online platform and community of over 50,000 moms strong because of story-sharing. And again, I truly believe sharing our stories is the most effective cure for the shame and stigma surrounding maternal mental health.
Motherhood Understood shines the light in the darkest of places where maternal mental health taboos have been hiding out, convincing moms they are not enough and all alone. We do this by being the most real and honest versions of ourselves and empowering women to share their stories because they get supported and loved on in return. Here, women don’t just share their stories, but they respond to others’ with empathy and compassion.
Without these stories, women wouldn’t realize they ARE NOT alone. They wouldn’t be able to see they ARE enough. The only place shame and stigma can survive is in secrecy and silence. As Brené Brown says, “Shame cannot survive being spoken.” And she speaks the truth!
Jen Schwartz is the medicated mommy who picked up the debris left by postpartum depression and anxiety and created Motherhood Understood, a platform for the 1 in 5 moms affected by maternal mental health issues and the community she couldn’t find while struggling in a dark closet all by herself after the birth of her son. Jen is committed to shining the light on the darkest of places, where maternal mental health taboos have been hiding out, trying to make us believe that we are not enough and all alone. She is a writer, speaker, and influencer whose work and commentary has been featured on popular websites like Forbes, Romper, The Mighty, Healthline, The Bump, Pop Sugar Moms, Scary Mommy, CafeMom and more. This year, 2020 Mom named Jen their 2019 Blue Dot Project’s National Spokeswoman and Inspire partnered with her to launch and moderate their first maternal mental health online support community. She has recently completed her Maternal Mental Health Certificate Training with Postpartum Support International. For more, connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and join her online support community here.