We weaved through a market curated for moms, filled with handmade items. Brittany calmly pushed her stroller as she perused the goods.
Upon receiving a phone call, Brittany passed her baby off to a friend, and yet, kept pushing the stroller back and forth in a rocking motion as to keep a baby content, despite the lack of child in the actual stroller, proving that there is a default mom mode for every parent.
I attended high school with Brittany. To be completely honest, standing there, neither of us looked like we had aged much beyond what we looked like in high school, and yet, we were in a completely different stage of life than the last time we had seen each other.
For Brittany, PPD/PPA started around eight weeks postpartum. The first six weeks brought on a euphoric high, and then all at once, her postpartum depression began and the inevitable PPD questions and thoughts began to scroll through her head.
“What did I get myself into? I want this to be over. This is overwhelming. I feel stuck. I am trapped. I may need to go to the hospital. Will they lock me up? Will they find me to be an unsuitable mother?”
Brittany has a loving husband, but because he was dealing with his own struggles, he wasn’t emotionally available to act as an emotional support for her. Subsequently, Brittany’s husband, Alex, didn’t bond with the baby immediately.
Brittany began having panic attacks with hyperventilation. With the onset of her anxiety, she found herself yelling at Alex stating how she felt her emotional needs were not being met and she did not feel loved. She felt he could not doing anything right because it wasn’t done in her own way—something that was deemed later as obsessive-compulsive disorder tendencies.
Brittany’s intrusive thoughts also seemed to be greatly hindering her ability to function. Fear seemed to govern many of her thoughts. Because her son, John, had jaundice without her realizing, Brittany felt that she was an inadequate mother. She felt unmotivated, lonely, and exhausted.
Brittany described her day as a loose schedule that seemed to fade, because of the lack of structure she felt she had.
She said, “I would wake up in bed with John with him still attached at the breast, watch TV all day, didn’t want to go out. I’d be stiff from the bed and being forced to stay in one position, since the baby was in the bed with me. The TV would offer me a level of escape. I would look at the house and the mess and have anxiety. Some days I’d have a full-blown anxiety attack in the bathroom and then would have to get my baby and try to act normal.”
Brittany’s struggles didn’t stop there. She expressed a perceived pressure to act perfectly as a housewife, but lacked the motivation necessary to put up such an act.
Brittany mentioned that her anxiety would worsen as the day progressed into night.
“Nighttime would come, and I’d put the baby to sleep and have anxiety about not sleeping myself because of feedings. I would feel annoyed with my husband because he would never get up or ‘hear his cries.’ I felt overwhelmed because I felt like I was the only one who would and could take care of him. I had to be ready for him 24/7. I knew I loved John, but I didn’t really feel it.”
Many moms express feeling a lack of bonding, and it often can exhibit itself as a very confusing aspect of PPD. Thus, many moms struggle with this and try to compensate for their feelings of guilt. (1)
Once migraines began for her, Brittany knew that she needed to reach out to her doctor, where she found out migraines can be a symptom of PPD/PPA. Brittany described her emotions at that time as an understanding that “having a history with depression, I knew I could feel better, yet part of me thought sleep deprivation was causing my sadness and anxiety, but I still got checked out, and I’m grateful that I did.”
At that appointment, Brittany was diagnosed with postpartum depression and was prescribed Zoloft, which took a total of eight weeks to fully take effect.
Four months later, Brittany sits in front of me and calmly speaks, as she swiftly changes her baby into his footed pajamas with dinosaur feet. Both she and her son, move together like a well-oiled machine. Motherhood may not always be easy, but Brittany is proof that mothers are strong and are capable of working through anything.
I would like to give a special thanks to Brittany for sharing her story. All names in the aforementioned story have been changed to protect the identity of the individual.