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.