Originally published for Living and Loving 21 December 2016
In May 2005, actress Brooke Shields sat on Oprah Winfrey’s infamous couch and opened up about her postpartum depression after having her first baby, Rowan.
Brooke explained how she had visions of throwing her baby against the wall. I had empathy for her and I did not judge her. I understood that she needed help. Of all the episodes of Oprah I’d seen, this one is etched on my mind forever.
In late June 2016, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby. My head was full of high emotional expectations. I envisioned how I’d feel when I laid my eyes on my baby for the first time and my connection to her.
When the doctors pulled my baby out and my husband gasped, “She’s perfect!” I felt nothing. When the nurses had cleaned her up and brought her to me I thought I’d cry tears of joy looking at her swollen face but no emotion stirred.
The whirlwind of sleepless nights and shifting my life for this new creature pushed me over the edge in the first month. The expected love and supposed adoration for my baby simply did not happen.
In front of family and friends, I looked like the perfect mom tending to her baby, but I was a robot going through the motions. Behind closed doors, the tears flowed non-stop. My skin would crawl every time my daughter needed me for something. When my husband was home after work, he’d do almost everything (besides breastfeeding) for our baby. I couldn’t stand to touch her. I just didn’t want to live this new life with my husband and our daughter.
I realised I had reached my mental threshold just like Brooke Shields when I envisioned throwing my baby against the wall. I admitted my thoughts to my husband. I knew I needed professional help.
Despite the way I felt towards my baby, it felt like I was admitting defeat because I was not strong enough to handle my child. I thought that I would beat the statistics of depression.
I sought help with a psychologist for my postpartum depression. I admitted the truth that I had endured a 12-year battle with depression and anxiety and was depressed during my pregnancy. I failed to tell my gynaecologist about my mental illness out of fear of judgement.
How can you be depressed while you’re pregnant? Well, I was. Due to this and my history of depression and anxiety, I had a better chance of winning the lottery than beating the stats of postpartum depression.
I went back on to antidepressants and stopped breastfeeding. I realised that in order to be a good mom to my baby, I had to take care of my own well-being.
Just after three months, the puzzle piece finally fell into place and I fell in love with my baby. My depression is still a struggle but I’m handling it one day at a time.
Seek help from a professional or contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group http://www.sadag.org if you’re struggling with depression.