The most emotional aspect of my first pregnancy was the raw panic I felt when I thought about returning to work. I never thought I would panic. I thought I would love returning to my routine, my field of expertise, my adult world.
Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started feeling a nibbling anxiousness. It continued throughout my pregnancy and heightened as my delivery approached. All through my maternity leave, I was distraught. It was always in the back of my mind, even when I was enjoying the most tender and sweetest of moments. I knew it was inevitable, so I put on my best game face as I got ready to leave my little one.
I did great the first two weeks back. I was tough. I was brave. Then I lost it. I sat in my office and bawled. I couldn’t talk to anyone about my son without tearing up. If I got stuck in traffic on my way to pick him up from daycare, I started to have a panic attack. If I saw his picture, I broke down. My husband took him to daycare and let me pick him up because he knew I was incapable of leaving him. I made an appointment with a counselor and my OB and could not even speak a word without starting to sob.
My OB suggested that I had a form of late postpartum depression (PPD). I never had thoughts of harming my child. But when I started sobbing and choking because I got off late from work and was missing time with my baby, I knew something had to change.
My OB prescribed me a very low dose antidepressant, but I just could not bring myself to take it. It was not the stigma. Goodness knows I probably should have gotten it filled. I am a pharmacist. I dispense those needed antidepressants. I still just thought I should be tougher, better, stronger than that.
I decided to work through it on my own. It took me a year to make my peace. PPD is scary. It is horrid. It is dark. It does not discriminate. It terrifies many stay-at-home moms, too. Nonetheless, it was leaving my little baby daily that sent me spiraling. Oddly, I was depressed and even anxious on the days that I did spend with him. It was unnerving to know that it was fleeting.
Staying at home or even changing my work schedule was not an option. Period. What changed? My acceptance. My attitude. I had to look for the positives, as badly as I did not want to. I learned that in that moment in time I would not have made a very good stay-at-home mom. I would not have appreciated or valued that time. I was such a nervous first-time mom.
I also had to appreciate the differences between myself and moms that worked part time. I had to realize that many of them were even more torn than I was. They felt like they were supposed to stay at home and work, too.
Eventually, I accepted that I was providing so much in so many ways to my child and my husband. During that very dark year of making and finding my peace, I came away with a few observations.
- Counseling may not be able to change your situation, but it can help you reach acceptance.
- Medication is okay and sometimes necessary. It’s also a faster and less painful road to recovery.
- Balance can be achieved without medication but may take a long time.
- Working mom forums are a great way to find companionship and share frustrations.
- PPD can easily be serious. Seek help.
- Know the power of your attitude. Look for the advantages of being a working mother.
- Find ways to be happy for your children. They should not have to deal with displaced emotions.
If you ever find yourself struggling with depression, please know that others have been there. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need.
Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.