Editor's note: This article was previously published on Liv Taylor's blog, LIV(E). It has been reprinted here with permission.
I sat in the dark, in the middle of the night, on the nursing chair in Aspen's room, trying in vain to rock her to sleep again. The radio was on so I didn't feel completely alone, but it didn't help much.
I wondered why my prayers weren't being answered. Praying for just a few hours of sleep didn't seem like too much to ask. What could be a better gift to bestow upon a new mother than some time to rest and feel refreshed for another day full of feeding, wiping, soothing, swaddling and crying? I wondered what kind of God impresses upon women the belief that motherhood is the most important thing to do, and then allows it be this unbearable experience.
Sitting in that chair, I felt so alone. Like there was absolutely no one in the entire universe who ever felt the way I did. It seemed all the other moms loved motherhood so much they took every chance they had to proclaim it. I was often asked what about Aspen was so hard that I couldn't handle it. Other people commented that if they didn't know me personally, then they would judge me as ungrateful to have this baby.
I questioned why motherhood is labeled a divine calling within the LDS culture. There was absolutely nothing about this that felt like a calling. Or divine. It felt like the hardest, most unrewarding thing I had ever done. And I felt invalidated because no one seemed to understand. Many dear people commented to me that they had a hard time with the first few months, too, but then they had another baby. I could not even entertain the thought of having another baby without feeling like hyperventilating.
Even at social gatherings, I felt isolated. I was so embarrassed about breastfeeding (and feeling "bad" at it) that I would hide away and nurse in private. I could hear everyone enjoying themselves in the other room and I resented being with this little baby who wouldn't nurse for as long as everyone said she should. And no matter how irrational it sounds, I could not see things changing. There was this heavy weight on my chest that made me feel like motherhood would be this hard FOREVER. I literally believed I would never sleep again. I believed I would never learn how to nurse easily. I believed I would never have the energy or capacity to be "normal" again (meaning, leave my house without threat of a mommy meltdown).
And on top of it all, I felt guilty for feeling this way. Kev worked so many long hours and he did it so I could stay home with Aspen. She was a super-good baby, and did nothing out of the ordinary. Regardless, my family had to listen to me complain, my blog was full of posts about how hard parenting is, and my Facebook had constant updates about how I didn't feel like I could do this. I knew there were a lot of my friends struggling to conceive, but I couldn't keep all this bottled up. I had to get these thoughts out of my head. I desperately needed someone to validate my experience; to say motherhood was hard for her, too. Anything to make me feel less alone and incompetent.
I realize now that my psychiatrist at the time was useless. Had she bothered to listen to me at all during our appointments, she would have suggested different treatment instead of just letting me blunder along with a half-dose of my anti-depressants. I also know that some of my pain was self-inflicted. I didn't actively seek more help, more support, or different therapy and/or medication. I also perceived more judgment than probably existed in actuality, too.
But when you're consumed with experiences like these, especially ones like depression with all this negative stigma, it can be hard to reach out. I just really wanted someone to tell me they understood what I was going through. And that it didn't make me ungrateful, or a bad parent.
Now, three years later, I feel such gratitude when someone sends me a link to an article about someone else's experience with PPD. As I continue to make new friends in our new community, I feel so blessed to meet women who did actually have similar experiences. Not that I want every new mother to feel as miserable as I did ... but I'm just so grateful that someone can understand without judgment; without thinking I should have done something differently to snap out of it and be grateful 100 percent of the time.
It has taken a lot of work for me to feel somewhat healed. To feel like it was all worth it and that maybe I can do it again without losing myself in depression. But I still approach the subject with trepidation. It was so hard to feel like such a failure for so long.