• Guest Writer: Allison Villa

Here’s What I Wish Other Moms Knew About Postpartum Depression

My first year as a mother of two, was the hardest year of my life. It was the year that I didn’t recognize myself. The year that I felt like a shell of the person I “used to be”. The year that I suffered from postpartum depression.

Like many mothers, I didn’t recognize my mental illness until a full year of suffering. I was too busy keeping my infant and toddler fed, happy, and healthy. I had accepted that feeling frustrated, angry, and sad, was my new normal.

“This must be what life with two kids feels like for every mother.” I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

The High of a Beautiful Birth

When I was 36 weeks pregnant with our second baby, I remember sitting in my midwife’s office as she listed the symptoms of postpartum depression: anger, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, insomnia, crying, irritability...the list went on...

“I know you’re a psychotherapist, so you already know all about this, but it’s my job to mention it.” she said with a wink.

We had laughed about it. I hadn’t had any mental health issues with our first baby, so I was certain that I had nothing to worry about. Boy, was I wrong.

Our second daughter was born on a beautiful snowy winter morning, in the presence of three midwives, our doula, my husband, and her sleeping sister down the hall. I had the homebirth that I had wanted and felt empowered in those early weeks. Our first daughter was born in hospital with medical interventions, and having a home birth felt like a right of passage for me as a mother.

The feel-good hormones were pumping.

I felt like a lioness with her cubs.

I was high on love and mothering.

The Slow Emotional Decline

To be honest, I can’t tell you when it started.

It was a series of small moments that layered one on top of the other.

For example, I quickly learned that walking through the snow, with my infant bundled and strapped to me in a carrier, while encouraging my 2-year old to “keep going”, so that we could get to daycare twice a week, was a recipe for disaster. As much as I wanted our family to get outside in the fresh air and move our bodies, the expectation for a 2-year old to walk 15 minutes in the snow, was ludicrous.

And so, begrudgingly, I drove. I’m someone who needs to move my body to feel in-tune with myself, so this decision meant giving-up my precious built-in self-care time. It was the first of many choices that I would make for the welfare of my kids, at the expense of my own wellbeing.

Twice a week, I would wake the baby from her nap (the worst), strap her into the bucket seat and drive five minutes to daycare. Then, I would lug that heavy, awkward car seat into the tiniest waiting room imaginable, where ten other parents were also picking up their high-energy toddlers.

The parents looked at each other with panic in their eyes, “How the heck are we going to get these kids calmed down and dressed into ten layers of winter gear and get outta here?”

I set the baby down, prayed that she wouldn’t cry, and negotiated with my toddler to stop stealing her friend’s mitts, climbing on the benches, and just get dressed already.

Did I mention that I was sweating from still being fully dressed in my own winter gear? Sheesh.