Editor's note: After we shared the story of a mom who might have suffered from postpartum depression (PPD) and committed suicide, Pinay moms have begun sharing their stories on our social media. They talk emotional turmoil, from anxiety to unexplained sadness, either wondering or suspecting PPD. One mom had sent the following essay to us via email. We thank her for giving voice to the emotions many mothers out there find hard to express.
If you have a story you'd like to share, send a message via our Facebook or email it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eighteen years ago, I found out I was pregnant. I already noticed the changes in my body, from my breasts getting unusually larger to my hips suddenly becoming wider. And the telltale sign most common of all, I missed my period. After confirming from my doctor what I already knew deep in my heart and body, my husband and I had a heart to heart talk. We were going to have a baby! Yay! I was going to be a mom!
I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I had turned 30 years old a month earlier and was at the peak of my career. My maternity leave allowed me to spend precious time with my baby.
The first few weeks were hectic as expected. But the sleepless nights and trying to get acquainted with the child who spent almost a year in my body was wreaking havoc on my emotions. I spent most of the day in the house breastfeeding, taking less than five-minute showers, and not eating on time. The pediatrician also diagnosed my baby as colicky. Babies with colic often cried more than three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks or longer. On top of that, my baby was clingy. If I tried to leave the room for a short break, my baby would sense it and start crying. It was frustrating because I felt helpless.
“Smile, Angie!" My friend Sandy coaxed me one day and pointed to my dad who had the camera. My father would lovingly take pictures of me, the baby, and the people who visited me at home. He would do it even if I weren't completely in the mood to have my photo taken. “O, sige na, hold the baby close to you,” my dad would tell me while clicking on the Polaroid camera. I felt like a robot, smiling on cue and posing for pictures.
When my visitors told me how “lucky” I was for having a cute baby boy, I didn’t feel anything. In fact, at times I felt numb, devoid of emotion. My parents and other family members all thought I was the happy, new mom.
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I was supposed to be ecstatic over having a baby. I felt the opposite.
I didn’t know what I was experiencing. In my mind, I was a mess. I tried talking to my husband about it, expecting him to understand and maybe offer words of encouragement. Instead, all I got was:
“Kaya mo yan, honey.” (You can handle it.)
“Mawawala rin yang nararamdaman mo.” (Whatever you’re feeling now, it will pass”.)
Well, the emotions I felt did not go away. I didn’t even bother talking about it with my best friends because I felt ashamed. I was fearful they would tell me I imagined things. Besides, they were busy with their jobs and their respective families, so I just kept everything to myself.
Crying myself to sleep at night was taking a toll on my body, not to mention my appearance. Even if I prayed and did some meditation, I still did not feel right. I wasn’t motivated to get dressed when I went back to work. I was always “not in the mood.” After three months, I knew I needed to seek professional help.
So I finally decided to visit my ob-gyn, a female, who thankfully was not your typical “strict” kind of doctor. She was someone I could confide in and not be embarrassed about my questions. I spoke to her lengthily and told her everything that was bothering me. I shared all my anxieties, my depression, and the feeling of worthlessness with her. She then explained to me that I was experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). Thank God I finally knew a name for it!
I didn’t know what I was experiencing. In my mind, I was a mess.
Feeling slightly better after my visit, I became more conscious of what was happening to me. Thanks to the Internet, I did my research about PPD. I opted not to take any antidepressive and anti-anxiety medication. My doctor prescribed a multi-vitamin supplement and a hormonal drug. She told me to cut down on my carbohydrate intake and to eat more vegetables. I changed my eating habits.
My doctor also gave me a list of things to do to ease my depression. One was to squeeze time to do exercise, even for only 5-10 minutes daily. She also suggested to write down all my activities in a journal. I initially started a baby scrapbook/journal for my son, but I set that aside and started writing in my diary. I began to feel better. I made the conscious effort to make the necessary changes. I did not want to be stuck feeling depressed all the time. I resolved to “fight” it. I had to regain my sanity so that I can become a better person. Not just for my son, but for myself.
In time, I managed to overcome my PPD. I enrolled in a gym together with my best friend, and it also renewed my creative process because I started writing poetry and short stories again. I also celebrated my wedding anniversary with my husband, and we even took a short holiday.
The old Angie bounced back, and I felt better, happier and most important of all, I looked at my son with a profound sense of understanding of what it was to be a “mom.” It wasn’t that I didn’t love him less when I had my bout with PPD. I kept telling Miguel his Mama will always be here no matter what happens.
My son will celebrate his 18th birthday soon. I look at him with awe and can’t help but feel proud of all he has accomplished. I love him dearly and not a day goes by that I don't tell him.
PPD is real -- I lived it, and it was an ordeal. It is wise to seek a professional opinion and the steps I took to overcome it made me “tougher.” I vow not to go back to that dark period in my life again. I am sure other women who’ve experienced it have their own success stories as well. Having a positive mindset and making an effort to beat it is all worth it. And that’s what makes me strive to be a better mom every day.
Currently working on a script which she hopes will be turned into a movie someday, Maria Angeles Azcona-Victoriano is a full-time mom of two teenagers. She enjoys writing short stories, particularly love stories and erotica, and creates trinkets like bracelets and necklaces. A pet lover, she has a dog named Casper who considers himself the youngest child. She is a certified chocolate addict and needs caffeine to sustain her so she can have energy.