"It Was The Darkest Day Of My Life...And For Years I Kept It A Secret"
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone. It happened to me. Now, I give my phone number to every pregnant woman I meet.
The baby was just a few weeks old when I realized something was wrong...
The first indicator was that breastfeeding was a flop. We’d gotten off to a terribly rocky start in the hospital. While I recovered from the emergency C-section, the nurses fed the baby formula and we waited for the milk to do its thing.
The milk didn’t do its thing. My mom stayed with us for the first few days after we came home from the hospital, and at one point the baby was howling and mom innocently said, “Aww, she’s hungry.” Instead of being kind to my mother, I barked, “Then whip out your huge tit and feed her!”
A few weeks after I’d chased off all of the family and my husband Tim went back to work, the baby and I sat in the living room together on a dark and rainy afternoon. Once again, she wouldn’t take to the breast. Instead, she screamed.
As the rain belted our little stone house, the baby cried harder, and to amp up the drama, our electricity went out. We sat in the dark and a wave of panic set in. It would never quit raining. The baby would never stop crying.
I began planning my escape. I outlined a plan to sneak out in the middle of the night and drive to the desert, leaving my step children, newborn and husband behind. As I fantasized about leaving, the sounds of thunder and the screaming infant made me more and more agitated.
I picked up the phone to call Tim at work. I had to call him before something drastic happened. He answered on the first ring. “Come home right now,” I said. “Come home, or I am going to throw the baby.”
I didn’t throw the baby.
I know. I know. I don’t have the adequate words to describe how thankful I am that I didn’t throw the baby. That was 14 years ago, and I can’t think about that day without my insides aching—knowing I was that close to doing the unthinkable. It was the darkest day of my life, and for many years, I kept it a secret.
When I made the call to Tim, he must have driven 100 miles an hour in the rain to get home to us. He came in, took the baby, and called my mom. He took me to my Ob/Gyn, who diagnosed my postpartum depression and prescribed me Zoloft.
Though I protested at first, Zoloft was a wonder. Almost right away the panic attacks decreased and I became less agitated. We made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding, and within days, the baby began to thrive.
Soon, I began venturing out into the neighborhood. One afternoon, I ran into a neighbor who was also a new mom. She had just given birth to her second child, and was already back to her fighting weight of 93 pounds. She’s the kind of woman who runs marathons while eight months pregnant. I kind of hated her, but I was lonely. I told her I’d been having a rough time, so she invited me to join her at a parenting group.
“It’s a great way to bond with other moms,” she said, breastfeeding her infant while doing squats.
I met my friend at the meeting, which turned out to be an Attachment Parenting group. In the room, a handful of women sat on the carpet, peacefully cuddling their calm babies who were glued to their bodies in slings.
I waddled in, carrying a 52-pound car seat bucket with my shrieking baby inside, and reached into my bag to grab a fresh bottle of formula. A mom looked at me with a pained expression and said, “You’re not breastfeeding?”
“Nope. Not in the cards for us,” I said.
While I fed the baby her bottle, a woman with blonde dreadlocks encircled in a cloud of patchouli whipped out a large nipple and shoved it in her infant’s mouth. Seconds later, a boy who was old enough to tie his shoes ran into the room and pushed on her other breast while she said/sang something like, “It looks like you’re wanting milk, Nolan. When Ryder is finished, you can have your turn.”
The meeting was supposed to make me feel better, but it only served to amplify my feelings of failure. I had nothing in common with these moms. While my baby slobbered on a plastic Elmo, a mom turned to me and said, “We only use wooden toys. Plastic toys are really toxic.”
When the meeting was over, the baby and I cried in the parking lot for half an hour, before I gathered enough energy to drive us home. I couldn’t breastfeed, so I was a failure. I couldn’t figure out how to get my baby to fit inside one of those weird cocoon slings, so I was a failure.
Except somehow, I didn’t fail.
The screaming infant grew into a baby with a keen sense of humor who pretended to be asleep long before she could talk, laughing delightfully when I figured out what she was doing. She grew into a precocious toddler who picked out her own pink cowboy boots.
When she turned three, she faked the fortune on her fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant by pretending to read, “Tonight, you will see Shrek.” The formula didn’t stunt her growth. The baby grew into a stunning 14-year-old girl who’s currently measuring in at 5’11.
Now, when I talk to a pregnant woman, I do this thing. I lean in closely and say, “It’s going to be amazing. But if you don’t feel right when the baby is born, tell someone. If you don’t have anyone to tell, tell me.”
I give them my number, just in case.
Words: Amy Arndt