How Postpartum Depression Made Me A Better Mother

woman holding toddler on front seashore
Jonathan Gallegos / Unsplash

The phrase, “Children are a blessing from God” explains why most mothers have so much love for their little ones before they’re born. It wasn’t the case for me. As a matter of fact, had my daughter not been alive today — after everything I’ve been through —I wouldn’t be here either. My daughter saved m life, and I will always be grateful to her for that. Here is my story:

This was my first pregnancy, so I was obviously scared. I sat on the toilet seat, staring at the positive pregnancy test and almost immediately freaked out. I thought about whether or not I was ready, how I’d take care of the baby and how my parents would react to the news. I could almost hear my mother crying out and yelling at me in disappointment and rage. I imagined my father scolding me for dating behind their backs and being sexually active outside of marriage. Growing up in a Christian home made the guilt even heavier for me. I had a lot to consider (and worry about), including my child’s father’s reaction to the news.

He and I were “in love”. We (emotionally) hurt each other most of the time and made excuses for our shortcomings instead of owning up to them. It was easy for me to check out emotionally because I. No longer felt loved. It was easy for him to take me for granted because I stopped loving him the way he wanted me to. For a moment, I thought the news of the baby would help mend the issues in our relationship All those words would have been expressed too late because the truth was that the baby was on the way, and there was very little anyone could do to change that. Months passed, the quality of my relationship didn’t improve and stress drove me to have a C-section to deliver my daughter.

I first held her in my arms and thought to myself, “WTF am I going to do with you?” I burst into tears and was inconsolable for a good 10 minutes before a rush of rage overwhelmed me. I scolded the nurses to get her off of me and put her to sleep. Now, South African nurses aren’t as understanding as nurses generally should be, and one even went as far as saying, “You were old enough to have sex to conceive her, so you’ll have to be old enough to raise this baby without yelling at everyone.” They left her on my chest, and for a brief moment I considered throwing her on the floor, but as soon as that thought crossed my mind my mother walked into the room. She gushed over how beautiful she was and took her into her arms. All the anger that built up was expressed as an ocean of tears. Every day after that was exactly the same. My mother saved my daughter’s life.

See, postpartum depression isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes so much strong will to keep from hurting either the baby or yourself and — even after you stop acting crazy — you’re able to successfully justify your thoughts. In my case, it’s those moments when I’d stopped myself from hurting my daughter that I found the mother in me. I literally looked at my reflection and scolded myself for being selfish. I had to verbally convince myself that what I was going through may be normal, but it was wrong. I had to reprimand myself every time I had a suicidal thought because she needed me (still does). Her father wasn’t really present (still isn’t), I got little help with handling her on a daily basis and I was robbed of more sleep more sleep than the average mother because my daughter was up all the time. So with all that — on top of my relationship drama and the drama at home — I was always overwhelmed but I had to overcome that by remembering that by losing my shit, I’d be giving my daughter the worst of me. She doesn’t deserve that, and that’s why I did the work to get better and be the mother she adores so much today.

The thought of her not being here makes me emotional, and I have night-terrors about her being abducted or dying. These things tend to trigger my clinical depression, and it makes dealing with being without her (even for a few hours) difficult at times. I wish I could be even better for her, but seeing how much she loves me makes all the work I’ve done to get to where I am worth it. Being a perfect mother is a myth, but I do owe her the best of me. I’m well on my way there, thanks to a few moments spent in darkness. I guess it’s safe to say that the darkness has brought me closer to the light. TC mark

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