She was inspired to share her story with us here, and she asked me to let you know that she’s happy to connect with anyone going through this. (Just e-mail me at email@example.com, and I’ll introduce you by e-mail.)
It was all a blur. Three months of insomnia, a constantly crying baby who never slept anywhere except in mummy or daddy’s arms, and a husband who, with the greatest of intentions, couldn’t help his clinically-depressed wife. How could I even contemplate returning to work? I could barely function!
My gorgeous baby girl is now 10 months old, and I have been back at full-time work as an attorney at a large US law firm for almost a month. I am almost anti-depressant free and almost completely back to my happy-go-lucky positive old self. It feels exhilarating. Yes, I am even considering having another baby (just not yet!).
It wasn’t easy. After two months of insomnia (and I don’t mean a lack of sleep because the baby was keeping me up, I mean an inability to fall asleep even when the baby was asleep) and the realization that I needed external help, I went to a psychiatrist who specialized in postpartum depression. (It’s important to find someone who specializes in PPD – I had already gone to two other psychiatrists who said they ‘treated PPD,’ but they were no good.)
It was one of the best decisions I have made. I cried throughout my one-hour session with my wonderful father by my side. I had to get over the idea that I was not the person who could do anything or who succeeded at virtually everything she put her mind to. Even the most professionally successful and positive people can get PPD.
I am writing this anecdote to let all those mums know that, even if right now you cannot even fathom returning to work (whether it be because you have PPD, a fear of separation anxiety, or guilt, or simply because you can’t even think of anything beyond the engorged breasts, sore nipples, the excess fat that hasn’t melted away or the large piles of puke- and poop-covered washing you have to do) when the time is near, you WILL BE OKAY.
I was very lucky to get an extended leave of absence from my work – and I needed it. If that is not possible for you, you will still be OKAY. It can be done, and it will be done. You can conquer this, and your baby will be fabulous. I know full well that when your mind is where mine was 7 months ago, it is very difficult to believe it is possible. But it is.
How did I do it?
First, I sought help when I needed it. Not only was the psychiatrist vital to my mental health but so were my close family and friends.
Second, I took the time I knew I needed. Even if you can request (and financially cope with) a week or two more – take it while you can. In Australia and many other parts of the world, it is normal to take a year off!
Third, I made sure I was mentally prepared for returning to work (“It will all be fine. Millions have done this before you. You are so much stronger now!” I kept telling myself).
Last, you do it (you have a cry) and before you know it, almost a month has passed. This last step was definitely more manageable with the Mindful Return program.
There is nothing better than returning home from work and seeing your beautiful daughter clap and smile so big when she first catches a glimpse of you. NOTHING. She no doubt had an enriching and wonderful day, and you accomplished another day at work as a new and inspiring mum. Go you!
Have you grappled with postpartum depression and the return to work? What helped you through? Please leave comments below.
Want a supportive community of moms to help you through the return to work after maternity leave? Join the next session of Mindful Return.
Need more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.
I had significant postpartum anxiety, and being separated from my super-attached-to-mama baby made it worse. But as a solo mama, I didn’t have much choice about when to go back. I didn’t end up pursuing medication but got a lot of help from meeting with a social worker who specialized in maternal health. So please look for a counselor even if you think meds may not be right for you!
Two other things I wish someone had told me:
1) It’s okay not to be okay. You are not a bad mama for feeling sad or anxious, or for thinking “I cannot possibly do this” twenty times a day, or for railing against the unfairness of 12 weeks being “good” maternity leave. It doesn’t have to feel okay to leave your baby, and it’s also okay to want a break from your baby. You are allowed to cry. It is allowed to be awful, even though of course you wish it weren’t. You are allowed to feel however you feel, no exceptions.
2) I couldn’t imagine, at the worst points, how anything could change. But small changes DID make a big difference. For me, it was one extra day a week when the baby and I were both home (with a sitter for her so I could work). Also, at 6 months, she was very different – bigger, calmer, easier to distract – and that helped me worry less.
Thank you SO much for sharing here, Sarah! You are one brave mama, and you’ve offered some fantastic advice here. Your little one is so lucky to have you in her life. So glad things have improved for you as she’s gotten older.
I am 28 years old and I just gave birth to a baby boy on 2/22/18. We were in NICU for 18 days and the nurses helped out tremendously. But when I got released and finally home postpartum depression reared its ugly face. Sometimes I think my boy hates me. When he’s in my arms he screams.. But my mom can pick him up and he’s laughing and cooing.. Why? What did I do wrong?.. Self destructive thoughts.. But today I reached out and am sitting at the doctors office right now. Wish me luck.
Proud of you for reaching out and getting help, Lisa. Hope things are going better for you now.
I have been dealing with PPD. I returned back to work as a nurse at 5 week postpartum. I should have taken a little more time. I also have anxiety that I deal. I took action as soon as i realized i needed it at 13 day postpartum.I am a nurse and i love my job. Sometimes my job is trying. I am a crier anyway. But there a days a bawl by I am not perfect. I use a journal and talk with friends to help with my PPD and anxiety. Getting through PPD is hard and people do not understand the feeling. I know I am not a perfect mom and I will fail at times, but I feel I should be perfect. I am 3 months post and doing much better with medications,journaling, and talking with close friends.
You are a strong and brave mama, Tes. Good for you for doing all those things that are helping you feel better. Excellent self-care tips here.