Reprinted from the "Having a Baby" issue of Visions Journal, 2012, 7 (3), p. 4
I went on maternity leave—my first—last summer. In many ways I was prepared. I had great support from my husband, family, friends and workplace. I practiced healthy eating, sleeping and exercise habits. I went through all the right books and prenatal classes. Because of my history of depression, my doctors and loved ones were monitoring me closely for signs of relapse in pregnancy or after the birth. I’d been well for a long time, but I knew I was high risk. I was warned to let go of expectations around a lot of things. I expected sleep to be bad and showers to feel luxurious, so neither shocked me too much when they happened.
But there were a lot of things I didn’t expect the first six months. I didn’t expect to feel like I was back at high school when I went to mom and baby drop-in groups. I didn’t expect there to be such enormous pressure to breastfeed exclusively (even though I had twins, I still felt I had to justify why I nursed and used a bottle). I didn’t expect it to be so hard to live on parental leave benefits. I didn’t expect that four weeks of colic could be so hard. I didn’t expect to feel different in my marriage. I didn’t expect my girls to stop breastfeeding before I was ready to stop. No one talked about these things openly. No one said ‘me too.’
When no depression came after three months, we all thought I was in the clear. So it surprised me that I went into a moderate depression at six months. It was different than my past episodes: more guilt, more grief, more inadequacy. And bad days peppered with some normal days so you think you’re coming out of it (I’ve since learned that’s a common feature of postpartum depression). My episode only lasted a few weeks because I got help right away. I knew I needed to connect with other moms who could talk about the deep stuff and not just the cutest new baby gear. My recovery came in finally hearing ‘me too.’
This issue of Visions had a long gestation but I’m humbled by the courage, passion and resilience of our contributors. And I count myself in their mix. My husband and my baby girls are the joy of my life, probably more so because the path to joy was winding.
About the authorSarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association's BC Division. She also has personal experience with mental illness.