This is a guest post written for us by Jessie Heninger. I’d like to thank Jessie for her patience in me getting this posted in the middle of this crazy writing class! I know you’ll enjoy:
I’ve always been a healthy, happy person. Except for some dramatic years in middle school you could say I was “emotionally stable”. Not to say that there was never sadness, or anger or hurt in my life. Of course there was but I was equipped to handle it. I grew up in a loving supportive home, I was married to a wonderful man, I had a degree in psychology and was currently involved in ministry…
Then we were asked to leave our job. My parents moved across the country taking my sisters with them, and I was pregnant with our first child, a girl. Through it all I felt a calm and peace I couldn’t explain. We moved and bought our first home, I nested hardcore and then my little baby girl was born. Only, it was a boy and he was early. He had trouble nursing but I wouldn’t give in. I had already compromised on my natural birth and I wasn’t willing to give up nursing not when I knew all the health benefits.
Weeks then months into motherhood I was in pain every time I fed him. I was lonely, we were new in town plus I was shy and because my husband was a minister I wasn’t sure how to be myself at church.
Every time I nursed I cried. My Doctor and husband encouraged me to stop nursing but I wouldn’t. Our son was small and very fussy we weren’t sleeping well at night. I wasn’t happy, overjoyed, or angelic. One day sort of bled into another day and I was a wreck. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t the mother I knew I should be, the mother I had dreamed I’d be.
In truth, I didn’t realize how badly I was doing. My husband saw it and called my grandmother, somewhat frantically. She came and stayed with me and that was a turning point. I was finally able to admit that something was wrong.
Around the same time I was beginning to build stronger friendships and spring was coming. One day standing at the sink doing dishes with the sun streaming in the window my depression lifted. I felt like myself again, and went and bought some regular jeans.
It took me a long time to really understand and accept what happened to me. To even use the term postpartum depression. The more I talked about it to other women the more I found they had been through something similar. It was a relief but also a shock that so many of us had experienced depression, but I hadn’t known. Certainly the literature was out there and the hospital was clear about the warning signs of postpartum but it wasn’t real until people I loved and knew told me their stories. Stories that were similar to mine.
I decided that the shame and quiet surrounding depression following the birth of a child had to stop. And it could start with me being honest, even though I was a pastor’s wife. It’s been really amazing to see other women join me in this. To just be real about it all. I tell pregnant women, “It’s more important for a baby to have a mentally healthy mom then breast milk.” not because nursing isn’t great (it is! I had wonderful success with my second child) but because, while It wasn’t the only reason, I know that was a big part of my own struggle. I want to share my story so maybe someone else can benefit from it.
Likewise, I know there are other women who struggled with other things and maybe if we can just be real about it then a new mom might be able to avoid some of the same pitfalls. And if not avoid them completely then know that there is help and healing and certainly joy coming. There is no shame in being depressed, or angry or scared. But there is also help, and together we can build each other up. We can create a safe place for women to share in this journey together.
Jessie Heninger is the wife of a handsome family minister, mother to two imaginative little boys, and writer. She’s been published in “Hey Doll Vintage Magazine,” and “From Scratch Magazine” she’s also received a really kind rejection letter from “Relevant Magazine.” She’s silly, loves dogs, vintage things, and even sews a little. You can follow her exploits at “Confessions of a Housewife,” http://www.jessieheninger.wordpress.com