What my third birth taught me about taking antidepressants when support, experience, and exercise weren’t enough.
My family was operating in a comfortable routine before the birth of my third baby. Even with the pandemic, we had adapted to a slower paced life at home. I knew the addition of a baby would be a challenge. I knew it was going to throw off our flow. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep. While I knew it would be hard, I thought as a third time mom, I was somewhat prepared for the difficulty.
Parenthood has been a continual growth process for me.
Following the birth of my first son, I learned to let go of what I thought I should do. After my second baby, I learned how to take care of myself and honor my amazing body. My self-care routine included talking with a counselor, daily journaling, and reading lots of interesting and inspiring books. Prior to baby #3, I really felt like I knew myself better than ever before.
I was ready for the challenge of my third baby and had a sense that everything would naturally fall into place. Yes, it would be hard but how bad could it be?
Jump forward a few months and picture a crying baby, a preschooler whining for help, a toddler constantly asking to play, and a house overrun by toys and grime.
Feeling overwhelmed and anxious was constant and would progress into depression, numbness and eventually hopelessness. My mind raced with questions like “When will this chaos end? Is this just my life now? How do I keep doing this?”
It always felt like I had too much to do and not enough time. Not enough Mom.
I implemented my strategies from the first boys. I lowered my expectations. I let go of what I thought I should do, how my boys should act, how my house should look. Still, I felt overwhelmed.
I prioritized self-care, making sure I moved my body in ways I enjoyed. I made sure to get outside and talked to my counselor every few weeks. Still, I felt anxious.
I asked for help – lots of help! My wonderful husband understands how hard it is to be a stay-at-home parent. He is always willing to jump in after work to play with the boys and on the weekends encourages me to take long walks by myself. Additionally, my mom and extended family are super supportive.
Even with all the help, I felt low.
One weekend this summer, we went to a family party (outside and appropriately socially distanced, of course). I spent the party bouncing around checking on my boys, nursing my baby and attempting to have adult conversations. When it was time to go home, I was exhausted. My husband got in the car and said, “Well that was fun.” Fun? FUN?!
As we drove home, I attempted to explain to him my experience of being overwhelmed and exhausted. He was surprised. He felt like he cared for the older boys so I could focus on the baby and my family. And he was right! The stress I felt during the whole party was internal. My brain was acting as if there was an emergency. In reality, it was a nice, relaxed family party where I had ample support.
The time had come for me to make a change.
The following week, I talked with my counselor and then my midwife about antidepressants.
I had been managing my overwhelming, exhausting life but I had not been enjoying it.
A few weeks after being on medication, I was sitting on the floor with my boys. My preschooler was building Legos, I was helping my toddler do a puzzle and the baby was lying next to me smiling at his brothers. I thought, “Wow, I love my life.” And then it hit me. I was enjoying it! This crazy, overwhelming life was fun.
That is why I am taking antidepressants.
The medication gave me enough space to enjoy my life. Like a deep breath, they continue to give room so that everything doesn’t seem like an emergency. Things are still hard, but the meds allow space for joy.
Just this morning all three of my boys were screaming and crying at the same time. I felt like screaming and crying too. Obviously, medication doesn’t fix everything or provide endless patience, but I am so grateful for the assistance they provide.
Not all moms need medication. I didn’t after the birth of my first two boys. But for whatever reason – hormones, stress, the pandemic – this time my brain needed a little help.
I know not everyone feels relief as quickly as I did.
Some people have to try multiple medications and multiple doses before they find the right fit. The idea of taking medication can feel scary and maybe even like giving up, but seeking help is truly courageous. My whole family is benefiting from my decision.
Why did I decide to start taking antidepressants? I am taking medication so that I can engage in and enjoy my exhausting, overwhelming and amazing life.
Did you start taking antidepressants?
If you want to share your story, feel free to add it to the comments.