How Severe Postpartum Depression Led Me to My Calling

A mother explores how navigating identity changes after the birth of her child inspired her to find her true passion.

I took the test two days after my 33rd birthday.

Although, deep inside, I knew the answer, the double lines appeared faster than I could set down the wand. Still, I pretended to wait, thinking it would change the outcome.

It’s not like I was sad about it. Or upset. Honestly? I was terrified.

I never felt like I wanted to be a mom. I remember watching my own mother struggle—the anger she felt, the life she felt she was missing out on and the regret she tried so desperately to hide.

Picking up the test, I felt a rush of emotions flood my body. How do I tell my husband? We’ve only been married a few months, and he was starting school soon to get his master’s degree. How are we going to afford this?! 

The thought of it all, immediately made me nauseous. As I sat in the bathroom going into a mental spiral, I hoped that my husband wouldn’t wander in. 

After a few minutes, I gathered myself and started thinking of ways to break the news. I Googled the baby’s size and discovered it was no bigger than a peppercorn. Rushing to the kitchen, I pulled out a container, surprised to find a jar of the black dots in the pantry. I dug through our backup stash of gift supplies and found a brown bag and tissue paper. Stuffing the jar and test inside, I went into the room to give myself one final pep talk, before walking out and handing it to my husband.

As he opened it, he came across the peppercorns first. Confused, he looked at me, and I motioned him to keep going. As he lifted the test, his mood immediately changed.

“Are you serious?” he asked, with joy in his eyes.

“Yep” I mumbled quietly.

“Oh my god. THIS IS THE BEST WEEKEND OF MY LIFE!” he proclaimed.

This announcement was the proverbial cherry on top of his weekend. Because the night before, he was a part of a state championship-winning football team. Y’all, this man was elated. I, on the other hand, was scared out of my mind.

It’s Official, I’m Pregnant

My pregnancy was far from expected. Three months in, COVID shut down the world. Six months in, we were told we were getting evicted weeks after my due date. I also had four different doctors from beginning to end due to the constant shift in the healthcare industry during the pandemic. From doctor appointments masked up to an online birthing class that didn’t feel authentic, my path to becoming a mother left much more to be desired.

On top of this, I had just about every symptom you read about when you research pregnancy: nausea and blinding migraines, kidney stones and unexplained, severe back pain. Then, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Between the various ways my body was reacting and the frustrating prenatal care, I was devastated by my pregnancy experience—it wasn’t anything like I had imagined it would be.

When it came time for the baby’s birth, it was a winding road of twists and turns, lasting 30 hours. From the time we got settled into the room until our daughter was born, my body seemed to have no interest in going into labor, subconsciously knowing what was ahead. I ended up needing medication and a Foley balloon to induce labor, yet it refused to dilate for hours. My blood pressure was through the roof, and the lead doctor had zero interest in listening to what I wanted. The entire experience was traumatizing. 

Then the reality of new motherhood arrived, with its challenges: my daughter wouldn’t latch to breastfeed and I felt like a failure, one whole day into motherhood. As I lay in the hospital bed, running on small bursts of sleep that first night, my brain started to question my abilities to be a ‘good mom.’ Feeling myself starting to spiral, I knew I was getting a taste of exactly what was about to follow. Yet, I would have never guessed how deep I would get.

Falling Apart To Come Together

Two months into my daughter’s life, we received another blow from the pandemic. When the world shut down, we were subletting a home, and the owner had to move back sooner than expected for work. During this time, I was still working, but my husband lost his job, leaving us barely scraping by. 

Not sure what to do, the thought of becoming homeless with a newborn was not an option, so we started talking about moving closer to family to survive. Realizing that we’d have to leave Portland, we decided that, since my husband’s family was closer in proximity than mine, (they lived in Idaho; mine in Texas) and our plans included getting back as soon as we could, it made the most sense to be within driving, not flying distance. 

My in-laws were gracious enough to take us in at this sudden high—yet simultaneously low—point in our lives, adding another layer to my internal battle. As we headed east in their SUV, I watched the Portland skyline I’d come to adore, fade into the distance. I thought about how far I’d come since I first touched down as a young girl in her early 20s, excited for all the new adventures ahead.

I had left the comfort of home for this city. I’d fallen apart and rose up even stronger in this city. I’d even met the man I wanted to marry in this city. It was starting to feel like the last 11 years were slipping through my fingers, and the emotion of it all filled my eyes with tears.

As I silently cried to myself, making sure my sniffles weren’t noticed, I felt like I had to swallow that pain and march forward with my life, because there was no turning back now. I was a mom and I had a new responsibility to my child and my family.

With so many life shifts and feeling incredibly out of place, my mind began to spiral yet again, feeling as though I was falling apart on every level, with no one to hear my screams.

After a few months of living with the in-laws, we found a place of our own, which was much needed for everyone. As time continued on, I found my groove and admittedly, enjoyed the slower pace of life. The holidays came and went, and our routine fell into place. From family gatherings, to bone-chillingly cold nights, the things I dreaded the most, began to become my new normal.

But even with a new routine, I could sense the familiar emotions bubbling below the surface, exposing the cracks in my heavily guarded armor. I could feel myself shutting down with each passing day and eventually shrunk so tiny, it was like I had become a shell of myself around those who were supposed to be my new family.

By the end of the year, something inside me snapped.

This time, my depression decided to get ugly. I’m talking suicidal ideation ugly—thoughts of hurting myself, or that it didn’t matter if I were dead would fill my head and scream. “My husband would be better off anyway.” I’d think to myself. Or “He’s here with family and they can help him” Or, “I’m not a good Mom, what does it matter?” 

Looking back, those thoughts still scare the hell out of me. I mean, I’d been depressed before, but it hadn’t been that bad in a long time. To be in a place so dark that you envision taking your own life when you have a child to raise? It’s likely one of the worst lows you can be in, especially when you feel if you told these thoughts to anyone, they’d make you out to be crazy, so you remain to yourself, further digging a hole in aloneness. 

Knowing I needed to get myself out of this headspace, on a cold, blustery day in late December, I pulled out a notebook and jotted out a workout plan in hopes that if I could keep myself busy, it would quiet down the loudness in my mind. “I’m sticking to it this time!” I murmured to myself. After 16 months of depression, and a constant mental battle within myself, I was quite frankly, over it. It was time for a change.

A new passion, unlocked

When the first of the year rolled around, I gave myself a few days and started my “new life” on January 10th, 2022. Choosing to start with yoga and lifting, I set my sights high. To my surprise, I finished a six-week lifting program and was so proud that I cried afterward. When it came to yoga, I went months before missing a day. 

“Who am I?!” I thought to myself.

I missed this girl. It felt like ever since I became a Mom, I lost myself and had no clue how to get her back.

Finally, this was a step in the right direction. But, as the months passed, I grew used to my workout routine and started feeling antsy again. Something was missing. Back to the drawing board.

After racking my brain, I decided to bring up the topic to my best friend. She asked me if I had done anything creative lately because she remembered that I always enjoyed creating before having my daughter. After thinking about it, I responded that I hadn’t done much of that in years, so she asked if I would have any interest in selling creative services online, as a way to not only scratch my itch but make a few bucks on the side. 

After a week or two of internal debate, I decided to jump in, offering services like design work and proofreading and editing for various reading materials. It didn’t take me long to realize that my experience would be like that of others, in that all I was able to achieve on this type of platform was working with pain clients, who paid literal pennies for their expectations. 

Months in, I started to question what else was out there, something I could have as a career, not just another job that ran me into the ground. There had always been a feeling deep inside I was meant for more but after years of searching various industries, I still had yet to find it. I took a free design course online, and it unlocked the passion I used to have for creating. 

I spent hours putting together a project that didn’t get an actual grade, simply because when I was focused on making something new, time didn’t exist. I was officially in my happy place. “I want more of this”, I thought.

As time went on, my inability to make a decision (ever), kept me stuck on the next steps.To combat all the thoughts swirling around, I started writing poetry, and the release of writing made me think…“If I can feel this much joy from writing for no one to read, how would I feel if I could help others through my words?”

Shortly after, I bought a course on writing. While it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, a word that was repeated over and over caught my attention: Copywriting.

Finding my path

Words have always held weight for me. Their emphasis can make or break their presentation, and how they’re perceived. As I dove into the world of copywriting, I couldn’t believe this magical realm I discovered. To think the way something that came so naturally, could change my life, was mind-boggling to me.

As I dipped my toes into writing for sales, I found an instructor that I loved. She made me feel like a piece of me opened up, and clicked into place as a part of my human design puzzle.

I was hooked.

In April 2023, I took a chance and dove into the copywriting realm, spending more money than ever before on a course. Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away at the knowledge that was shared and felt pumped to begin my career in this realm and watch how this developed. As I wrapped up the course, the fear of actually getting clients set in, and I decided to “make sure everything was ready” before I became a business.

For months, I built a website, created all the backend paperwork, and all the other obviously necessary, but also not right now necessary type documents. I became good at finding another thing to keep me in procrastination mode, further from reaching my dreams.

Until one day, I broke down.

Between the tears, the thought came to my head… “What am I waiting for? Someone to come and save me? You know that’s not happening, right?” 

Funny how I have to keep having this conversation with myself. But yet again, that thought pushed me to get serious, so I did. A new year, and back to the grind. Thoughts jotted down in a notebook, another plan of attack.

I chose one social media platform and started to connect. As my network grew, I met so many people, learning more about life and business from asking for 30 minutes of their time than I had in the various years in client-facing roles. I started to get more comfortable, and show my true colors. With each passing month, I learned more about myself, my business, and what I want to offer the world. And the best part?  This journey has shown me exactly who I am, and what works best for me.  

It all comes together

Looking back at my life over the last few years, and the ride I’ve been on since I took the test that day, I would have never envisioned this story, nor the lengths it would go to. From an interesting pregnancy to finding my passion in what feels like the most long-winded way, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

From the girl I was before I became a mom to the woman I am now, I do so much to offer my daughter the best version of myself because of my postpartum journey. And because of her, I’m pushing through boundaries and ceilings I never thought I would break, and for that, I am beyond grateful. I’m excited to be a better person and work towards the goals I’ve created, instead of shying away from who I was meant to be. 

Looking back on everything, the experiences that I endured, allowed me to see myself in a new light.

The lows shifted my perspective and helped me see my worth. I found that a yoga mat calmed me. I discovered through weights that good things take time and lots of it. And most importantly, I finally understand how finding your people can soothe the soul, and make you feel less alone while reminding you that life is worth living. 

I like to think that no matter what you’re up against, you’ll come out stronger each time because life gives us what we need when we need it, even though most of the time, we can’t see it. 

By the way, I got away from that town, and into a new place, where again, I’ve found my groove.

Is my mental health fixed? Never. Is my outlook better? It’s at an all-time high. Maybe the universe does know what she’s doing after all.

Author

  • Jennifer Hampton

    Jennifer Hampton is a Health and Wellness Copywriter who has a passion for the written word, and serving others. She is the owner of Creative Oasis Studio, and works with various brands, to help them solve their marketing challenges and increase their visibility. When she’s not busy with work, she enjoys yoga, lifting, and exploring the stunning Pacific Northwest with her family.

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