This is a guest post from my friend and colleague Sam Kimura. Sam is a mom of two, a registered nurse and a Mama Coach.
Sam tells her story about her journey through pregnancy and postpartum and how she bravely dealt with her postpartum depression and anxiety.
The Journey I Never Expected
Becoming a mom was never an option for me. You know when you just know that you have a purpose in life? Mine was to become a mom. Or so I thought until I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.
My journey starts with the birth of my daughter, 5 years ago. My husband and I had been married for four years and are high school sweethearts. I was the girl who did things by the book. I went to nursing school. I married the love of my life. We both shared in the triumphs of our “big people” jobs and bought a house. I am a rule follower. So, when we decided to have a baby it was a very simple and logical decision. A baby makes three!
During my labour with my daughter, things didn’t go as planned. I was in active labour for over 24 hours before I asked for an epidural and could relax. I had some sleep and woke up to everything going wrong. I was bleeding significantly and there were a lot of alarm bells. I looked at the floor and it was covered in blood. I looked at my husband and he was the color of the wall. We were quickly in a c-section to save our lives and that was the end of any kind of control that I had during my first and very impressionable labour.
After a scary delivery, we were both “healthy” so we went home and I tried not to talk about my experience because I was so grateful that we were okay.
After all, what did I have to feel sad over? I had my baby girl. I didn’t remember my first day with her, but none of that mattered because we didn’t die.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
My feelings about her labour and delivery were silent until I was pregnant with my second baby, 2 years later. The day I found out I was pregnant I had an instant dread of delivery and I declared that having another c-section was not an option. I was not going to feel a loss of control this time.
Things got worse in pregnancy and I was experiencing prenatal anxiety. I wasn’t aware of what this was, even as an RN, and I simply believed that my anxiety was based on the threat of preterm labour. I was never screened for PPD or anxiety during pregnancy and no one ever told me that things were about to get so much worse after he was born.
My delivery with my son was perfect. If I could write a textbook for how a labour and delivery should go, this was it. He came out all cute and squishy, fed immediately and was the most content and happy baby you would ever meet. He was perfect. But the anxiety didn’t go away, it actually became worse.
I describe postpartum anxiety and depression as losing your best friend.
You knew her so well. But someone took her away and no matter how much you want her to come back, she won’t--- at least not without support. I frequently would glare in to the mirror in the morning and wonder where the confident, happy, healthy looking person was--- all I saw was a stranger.
I suffered for months before I asked for help.
My husband didn’t even know how much I struggled. He would leave in the morning and I would pretend we were going to have a great day and then I would cry for an hour after he left. How was I supposed to look after my two gorgeous children when I was silently panicking and doubting my ability to be a mom.
This was everything I ever wanted, but it didn’t feel like I was meant to be a mom.
I fell in to a deep depression after almost a year of constant panic attacks. I would wake up multiple times a night feeling like the room was closing in on me and I would be drenched in a cold sweat. I couldn’t get a break from anxiety, even in my sleep. The depression became worse when I was so tired that I lost touch with reality. I believed this would never end. I believed it was going to be a lifelong illness and my kids didn’t deserve me.
Things turned around on the day that I decided to accept help from my family doctor.
She had been asking me for months if I was willing to accept more help for anxiety, which I declined for every reason I could think of. As soon as I asked for help it was like one thousand pounds of weight was lifted off my shoulders. My doctor gave me enough hope to take the first steps in getting connected with a great team in a mental health program. I spent months talking to them. The hospital had an entire team of professionals who knew exactly what I was going through--- I wasn’t alone and the discomfort and agony of mental illness does not have to be a life sentence. They treated me with respect and understanding, like I had a broken leg and needed specialized care to heal my bones. I hadn’t slept longer than an hour at a time in over a year, my body and my mind was in crisis and they allowed me to respect my body in my healing process.
There is a good part to this story, I promise!
Once I recovered I started looking for ways that I could help my community. Helping others after you experience a traumatic life event is a known therapeutic strategy to healing. The opportunity to join The Mama Coach was presented in front of me and it was the light at the end of my tunnel. Everything that had happened was because I was meant to help moms. I decided that I never want another mother to feel as alone as I did, and this was my avenue to do this.
Becoming a Mama Coach and entrepreneur has been one of the most empowering experiences that I could ever ask for. The challenge of owning a business, while being a mom and loving myself at the same time has been a sharp learning curve but I have never been happier. Being able to help moms get rest; teach and support them about breastfeeding and prenatal care and provide evidence-based information for new moms is truly the best job I could have ever made for myself. Being a Registered Nurse, I am able to assess my clients and provide personalized care---- something I wish I had as a new mom.
I talk about my story because maternal mental health is my passion.
Asking for help does not need to be through a health care professional. It can be as simple as talking to your best friend about the scary feelings that you’re “not good enough to be a mom”. Asking for help can be going to a postpartum class and meeting other new moms, because isolation breeds doubt and insecurity. Getting out of the house is incredibly beneficial to stopping negative thoughts and feelings.
If I could go back and tell myself anything, it would be to allow myself to experience all of the feelings that I was afraid of.
I would have told my brand new, very young self to tell people about how scared I was when my birth became traumatizing.
I would tell my exhausted, sleep deprived self that asking for help does not make you a weak mom, it makes you an incredible mom because you want what is best for your baby.
I would tell my little 2-year-old daughter that her mom is stronger than she will ever know and that she will never have to experience this struggle because by the time she has a baby all of us will be talking about mental health like its gestational diabetes or swollen ankles.
And I will tell everyone I know that there is so much light after postpartum depression.
You just have to keep on going.
You got this, mama.