Article by Erika Mitchell
When my first son was born I spent months planning for his arrival; I obsessed over choosing the right health care provider, I debated hospital birth vs. home birth, I made sure I had all the required baby gear, I took supplements, ate well and exercised. I fantasized about what I would have, what my child’s temperament would be, what they would aspire to when they grew up…in short I spent huge amounts of time focused on my child’s future and very, very little time thinking about my immediate future.
Specifically, I resisted thinking about my mental health – I’m a little bit superstitious and I didn’t want to bring on depression by worrying about getting depression. Also, I had experienced anxiety and depression before and I figured I knew what to expect and that I would be able to sort it out on my own.
In hindsight, I wish I had done some more research on postpartum depression and anxiety prior to my son’s birth and found some resources that I felt comfortable with in case I needed them. I was very lucky in having the support of my husband and mother but I had no one else to reach out to and those long nights were very, very dark and lonely.
What I wish most of all is that I had practiced reaching out for help before I found myself lost in the most vulnerable and lonely place I have ever been. I wish I had learned that being strong and independent sometimes means letting another person offer you a helping hand. I wish I had said ‘thank you, I really could use your help’ more often rather than ‘thank you, but I’m fine’. Maybe if I had practiced and learned those things I would have reached out for help sooner and started recovering faster. Maybe the first year of my son’s life would be filled with happy, joyful memories instead of memories of sadness and crying and barely coping and wishing I was anywhere else but at home with a crying baby. Or maybe the only thing that would’ve changed is how I viewed myself. Maybe I would have reached out for support and discovered I wasn’t alone; that being tired and dirty and frustrated as a new Mom was completely normal. That I didn’t need to feel guilty or horrible for the thoughts I was having because so many other women have them too.
So if I had a chance to travel back in time I would go to my younger self and tell her to practice asking for help. I would ask her to see the strength in reaching out for support and to acknowledge the bravery and courage required to do it. I would tell her that there is no prize for standing alone and that one day she was going to need a community to help her navigate her role as a mother.