Updated: Apr 11, 2022
My journey to motherhood has been a whirlwind. Not very many people know this about me, but I got pregnant when I was sixteen years old. Although the pregnancy was unplanned, the miscarriage I experienced early on was devastating.
Fast forward ten years later— my wife and I started trying to have a baby via home insemination with donor sperm. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) so I expected it to take a few cycles. However, I took medication to induce ovulation and that sped up the process. We were elated when we got pregnant on the first try! Despite being anxious, I was so excited for a shot at motherhood. Sadly, this pregnancy ended in a missed miscarriage at eight weeks along. I knew something was off— maybe it was “mothers intuition,” or maybe it was anxiety confirming my worst fear. Regardless, I was right. The ultrasound showed no heartbeat.. no baby.. emptiness. The miscarriage was like a tiny version of birth. It hurt both physically and emotionally, and it destroyed my self-worth.
Four months later, we tried again. I was anxious and desperate for this time to work— to be pregnant and to stay pregnant. To our surprise and delight, we got pregnant again. I immediately called my doctor and asked for confirmation bloodwork to ensure the HCG levels were increasing. The numbers rose quickly, and as they rose… I felt sicker. I couldn’t hold my head up because of the nausea and vomiting. This should have been reassuring, but it was actually anxiety provoking. I was scared that being sick would hurt the baby somehow. The anxiety around this pregnancy was debilitating. Every ache and pain, every time the nausea alleviated, every time movement happened (or didn’t happen)… I was petrified. And then… the pandemic happened and made everything worse. The doppler seemed to be my vice and rewatching Friends episodes made everything feel a little lighter.
After just over 38 weeks of pregnancy, I was induced for some high blood pressure readings. I gave birth on October 26, 2020 to my beautiful baby boy, Mylo Christopher. The birthing experience healed parts of me that I thought could never be healed. Birthing him was an amazing experience. The nurses and midwives at Women & Infants treated us with care and respect. I will never forget it. Upon discharge, I felt ready to take this new little human home and teach him all about the world. I felt invincible. I was finally “Mommy.”
The baby loved being held constantly, and we indulged every chance we could. That quickly led to him not wanting to sleep in his bassinet or crib, which resulted in us co-sleeping. This was both the best and worst decision because it helped us get some sleep, but we lost our own space. He was otherwise a happy baby with a curious demeanor. He is still this way as a toddler— pure joy!
Despite feeling pure joy for this tiny human, I felt off.
I have always had my struggles with mental health— anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When I became a mom, I expected these things to be non-issues. After all, becoming a mom would heal everything- right? My therapist and I discussed the possibility of the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety being higher than the average. I kept saying that I was fine. “I’m fine,” became the epitome of my existence. Someone told me that once I have a kid, I would no longer exist… and I believed them. So I brushed off any negative feelings I had to fit my new (non)-existence.
I noticed that things felt bad when I started getting frustrated more easily. I was saying things and doing things that were out of character. I felt ashamed and disgusted with myself, but I did not change anything. I was angry. I was depressed. I was having intrusive thoughts. I was anxious. I was not present. This impacted all of my relationships, including my marriage. But still— I was going through the motions.
I took care of my baby. He didn’t latch for the first 11 weeks of his life, so I pumped around the clock. At 12 weeks old, he finally latched and became a boob monster (he still is at 17 months)! I cooked, I cleaned, I rested, I finished a Master’s degree. I did everything I was “supposed to.” Things were fine. I was “fine.”
I was not fine. I was exhausted. Overwhelmed. Confused. Sad.
While I was seeing my therapist regularly, I did not seek help for these feelings for eight whole months. When my son was eight months old, I reached my breaking point. I had started a job (prior to this new employment, I stayed home during the entire pandemic) and I realized I couldn’t handle life. I was entirely overwhelmed and I didn’t know what to do with myself or my baby. I begged and pleaded for help. I reached out to the Day Program at Women and Infants Behavioral Health. I didn’t get into the program for another three weeks after I called. When I finally started the program is when healing finally started happening. I learned (and re-learned) coping skills to manage my symptoms, I got on medication, made connections and learned new things about myself, and met several other mamas going through similar struggles.
Healing is still in progress. My son is now 17 months old, and I have bad days where the intrusive thoughts are unstoppable. I have outbursts. I struggle with depression and feelings of unworthiness. Days where unwarranted mama guilt is real and strong. But it’s better. I can find joy in the little things, I find things that light up my soul. With therapy, medication, and the right amount of support and understanding, there is hope. Therapy has saved my life more than once and I wouldn’t be who I am without that guidance and support.
Hope and healing is always possible. I want ALL mamas to know that. You are amazing and you can and will make it through this. You are worthy and I’m learning that I am too. And lastly, and most importantly, you still exist even in your new role of motherhood. Your whole life is different, YOU may be different, but your existence is still very much real.
Woman & Infants Day Hospital
2 Dudley Street, 1st Floor Providence, RI 02905 P: (401) 453-7955
The Day Hospital is the nation’s first perinatal partial hospital program treating pregnant women and new mothers with depression, anxiety, or other emotional distress, with their babies in a warm, nurturing setting. Although depression and anxiety are the most common reasons women seek help at the Day Hospital, staff can also treat women with obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mood disorders. The concept of keeping mothers and babies together during treatment was unique when the Day Hospital opened in 2000.
Spanish-speaking staff members are available in the department, and the hospital has interpreters in other languages available upon request.