We’re In This Together: Joanna’s Story

I’d always wanted to be a mother. My earliest memories are of playing with my dolls- rocking them, feeding them, putting them to bed. I was constantly playing “family”, pretending to be pregnant and give birth, and imagining my future kids- I even made up pretend chore lists for them.

When I got married, I knew I wanted to have a family right away. I’d so been looking forward to being pregnant, and I was lucky enough to get pregnant with my daughter right away.

But I hated being pregnant. I was moody and grouchy and not at all myself. Looking back, I think I suffered from perinatal depression and anxiety, though I did not know it at the time.

After my daughter was born, I was surprised at how hard it was to have a newborn. I was not mentally, emotionally or physically prepared for the toll it had on me, and I felt as if everyone else who had a baby had a much easier time than I did. Luckily, my daughter was an “easy” baby, so I adjusted relatively quickly after the initial surprise, and my mental health went back to normal.

With my son, though, things were different from the get-go. What I thought was hard with my daughter was nothing like what I experienced with my son. Though undiagnosed, I definitely experienced perinatal depression and anxiety with him. I was unbelievably moody and miserable, worried all the time about everything, and constantly felt like I couldn’t breathe.

After he was born- a relatively smooth birth- things went downhill quickly. I experienced intense dizziness, due to my anxiety, all day long which basically confined me to the couch and bed. All I could do was breastfeed him, which drained me. I had to have an emergency procedure, which made my anxiety worse.

My son was colicky and miserable and hated the car, the stroller, the swing- anywhere that wasn’t attached to me. I was trapped in my house and in my mind. After a few weeks, the dizziness subsided so that I could at least get around, but the depression increased. I found myself unable to cope with much- I couldn’t fathom getting dinner ready, so instead sat on my couch, numb, watching my kids, waiting for my husband to come to solve the problem. Grocery shopping, or shopping of any kind, was out of the question, as was visiting with friends.

Everything was hard- too hard. I was isolated, sad, and needed help. Luckily, my mother recognized that I wasn’t myself, and so she urged me to seek help. My doctor referred me to a couple of different programs, one of which was Pacific Postpartum Support Society- and it completely changed my life. Hearing the comforting voices of the support workers on the phone, reassuring me that none of it was my fault and that I wasn’t alone, was the first step on my road to recovery.

My weekly meetings with other moms suffering from PPD were my life-saver. It was there that I felt accepted, validated, and supported, and began to heal. Motherhood is still hard. My kids are not perfect, and neither am I.

I have days where my anxiety gets away from me, days where I make parenting choices that I am not proud of, and days where I want to curl up and stay in bed. But the skills and strategies I’ve learned help me manage and cope when I feel like that. My anxiety is no longer in control of my life. So to anyone currently suffering- it’s hard. It really is. But it does get better. I promise you.

Joanna Noakes

 

We’re In This Together is a photography series, coordinated in partnership with the Pacific Post Partum Support Society and the Good Mother Project, that offers messages of encouragement, hope, support and love to new parents.
For more information on how you can share your message, please visit: http://goodmotherproject.com/were-in-this-together

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