By: Chelsea Witthuhn
When I was handed my beautiful baby girl for the first time, I didn’t feel an immediate connection. Weird, right?
I had only ever heard about the immediate rush of love and joy new mothers feel when holding their baby for the first time. But unfortunately, that’s not what I experienced.
My brain knew that I had a love for my new baby…but I didn’t feel “in love” with her. Not exactly something any new mother wants to openly admit.
After I had my daughter, I wasn’t myself, but I did not know what exactly I was experiencing. I assumed how I was feeling was how all new mothers felt, and eventually, I would adjust to my new normal.
But still, I felt no connection to my daughter.
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?
Having a new baby is supposed to be this joyful and amazing time in your life! Right?
Feeling alone and disconnected from my daughter was terrifying. I felt unneeded and thought that the best thing for her was to pack my bags and leave. My family didn’t need me…in fact, they would be better off without me. It wasn’t until my daughter’s two-month immunizations when I was given a screening questionnaire for postpartum depression, that these feelings were acknowledged as being a concern.
I remember feeling nervous to answer the questions honestly. I was afraid of what the questionnaire might say and what would happen if I did answer truthfully. I was taking care of my daughter, almost obsessively, thinking I could “force myself” to feel a connection with her. I would obsess about feeding and nap time schedules and be in a constant state of worry whenever we left the house. No one was allowed to change her or bathe her… I wanted to do everything on my own. I wanted to make sure she felt that I loved her.
The nurse marked my “test” and said, “So you’ve scored quite high… let’s start by referring you to the postpartum counselor.” Answering those questions honestly and being referred to the counselor was the best thing to ever happen to me.
What I learned, was that I had postpartum depression and anxiety – but was completely unaware of what that meant or how to fix it. Feeling like my family didn’t need me, being so anxious about feeding schedules and nap time routines… all of it terrified me, but I thought it was because I was a new mom, and being a new mom was hard!
My counselor saved me from myself. She was a neutral voice that offered guidance and support. She didn’t judge me when I told her I felt no connection with my daughter – something I felt so ashamed to express to anyone.
I was able to join group therapy as well. It was a weekly session, but I could have attended it daily. Real mothers sharing real thoughts, feelings, and difficult moments in a safe space. The emotions and conversations were beautiful to witness and to be a part of.
It was during group therapy that I realized… I AM NOT ALONE and THESE FEELINGS ARE NORMAL!
If a group full of strangers could share such emotion, then why can’t postpartum depression be discussed more openly among those we love?
Group therapy showed me I was not alone. The other mom’s reassured me every week – and as I continued to attend, I could see myself growing. Feeling less afraid to leave the house with my daughter, becoming more patient during hard moments, and learning to acknowledge the feelings I was having.
Leaving my session each week, I felt like a new weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I would cry my entire drive home. This group of mothers, going through postpartum depression and anxiety in their own way, empowered me. Each one of them not only surviving but thriving.
It took approximately one and a half years to work through my postpartum depression and anxiety by using individualized therapy, group therapy, exercise, and a lot of hard work.
And I AM SO DAMN PROUD OF MYSELF for it.
Today, I share my story openly to help others realize that you are not alone and no matter what, YOU ARE ENOUGH.