I loved my job, but it was worth giving up to do what I felt was the right thing for my baby. I knew if I gave 100 percent to my job that I wouldn’t have 100 percent to give to her. I moved on without regret.
It entered our lives like a nighttime intruder —swift, quiet, unnoticed at first. When my daughter was 9 months old, I began the weaning process. She had been gradually transitioning to solid foods since 6 months, but around 9 months I made the conscious decision to begin weaning her. I wanted it to be a very slow process, so I gave us three months to transition.
It started as a few hard days, a bad mood I couldn’t shake off. But before I knew what was happening, I slipped away to a place where the isolation of being home with a baby was overwhelming. The constant needs of a baby were more than I could handle. I began to dwell on the life I sacrificed to become a mother. I fixated on going back to work, believing that would make everything better. I resented my childless friends for their freedom and was jealous of my husband’s life outside of our home. I hated myself for how I felt.
My husband tried to fix it. He rushed home from work and cancelled weekend plans so I could have time away from the baby. He made massage and pedicure appointments for me to force me to leave the house. He was patient and nurturing and compassionate toward our daughter when I couldn’t be. All the while, my guilt grew. I was ashamed that I needed time away from my daughter. I was ashamed that parenting felt really hard. I was ashamed that I wanted to escape from my life.
We didn’t put together what was happening. Had I felt this way soon after our daughter’s birth, we would have recognized it for what it was and gotten the support that I needed. It wasn’t until I had been suffering for several weeks that I began to realize what was going on.
I did some research and found that many women suffer from depression symptoms while weaning. There is science behind it. Breastfeeding releases endorphins in the brain to help us feel good and bond with our babies. Over many months of breastfeeding, our brains become used to these chemical surges. When breastfeeding is reduced or stopped completely, our brain chemistry is thrown off. It made sense to me.
What didn’t make sense was that I had never heard that this might happen. My obstetrician never mentioned it. My pediatrician, who discussed postpartum depression with me at all of my daughter’s newborn wellness exams, never mentioned it. No one brought it up in my new-mom group. I had thought that if I made it past the first few weeks after my daughter’s birth, I was home free. I was blindsided.
Peace at last
Looking back, I should have reached out sooner and gotten the support I needed. Because my symptoms began when my daughter was so much older, I didn’t recognize it for what it was. My unhappiness felt circumstantial, and I felt like a failure. I blamed myself for my symptoms rather than recognizing them for what they were. My family suffered through several months of me trying to overcome something so draining on my own because I didn’t understand it.
When I finally accepted what was happening, I got the treatment I needed. And just as quietly as it entered my life, it left. I found joy in brief and fleeting moments at first. I clung to them as I slowly emerged from the cloud I’d been living in. I started going to yoga classes again. I met friends for coffee. I discovered the restorative power of good friends and good wine. I became content with lazy Saturday mornings at the park with my little family. I realized how lucky I was to spend my days watching my blue-eyed girl grow and discover and turn into the amazing person she’d be.
I run now toward a healthier, stronger and more centered version of myself. I don’t run from anything. I still see that dark cloud out on my favorite running path. It sits off to the side of the trail, and I run right past, remembering what it felt like when it engulfed me. I run past, knowing that someday I will have another baby and it might catch up with me again. This time I’ll be ready for it, whenever it finds me.