Postpartum Depression is real. It happens to so many women and isn’t talked about enough. PPD is part of my story and it deeply impacted my relationship with Bella, my first born. But we have come a long way and because of that, I think it is time I share our journey and how we got to the healthy place we are today. And I want to give you freedom, if you are struggling with this too. You don’t have to be the victim forever. PPD is only your story if you let the pen keep writing that way. If you don’t want that anymore, write a different story. Make the choice. I did and it saved my relationship with my daughter!
In This Episode Allie Discusses:
Her story with Postpartum Depression and what it looked like in her day to day life.
How PPD can impact the memories you make with your kid(s).
Things she did to redeem her relationship with her daughter, and how you can apply them to your own situation.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Allie’s Courses (Use the code PURPOSESHOW for 10% off!)
Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hey, sweet friend! Welcome to The Purpose Show! I am sharing today something that is really heavy and a part of my story. I’ve definitely talked a little about PPD and my experience with postpartum depression and depression in the past, but I’ve never really gone into this deep of a dive publicly about my struggle, the story of me and my daughter Bella, what PPD did to us, what the enemy tried to do to us, and everything that we’ve gone through.
This always happens when I’m thinking about sharing something hard or I know eventually I will, but when the time comes that topic kind of finds its way in front of me over and over and over again. To me it’s God’s way of, almost in a humorous way, showing me it’s time. It’s an unavoidable amount of signs that He gives me.
This has been happening lately with talk about depression and misunderstandings about depression, especially postpartum depression, which is what PPD is. If you’ve never heard that acronym, that’s what PPD stands for.
I want to open up and share this side of my story, especially because lately I’ve been so overwhelmingly grateful for where Bella and I are today. She’s 10 now. She just turned 10 and I’ve been noticing so many things that have been healed almost without me realizing it. It’s really, really a testament to how God works and what happens when you decide that your story is not going to be the way it’s been going and you’re going to change it. What I’m going to share is really raw and I know that it’s really easy to judge if you’ve never experienced postpartum depression, especially at the level that I had it.
And it’s not that one level is more of a badge of honor than another level of PPD. PPD sucks. It’s just that the way that mine went really robbed me of a lot of time, a lot of memory and a lot of relational connection with my daughter. At the level that it was at, it took a lot from me. And so, to see what I’ve gained back is amazing.
If you never understood PPD it’s so easy to judge, even if you’re not meaning to. Or if you follow me and you like me, it’s easy to still judge a little bit, even if it’s subconscious. So just keep in mind that I’m a person and I have feelings. This is my experience and it was a panic and I’ve only done the best that I can do every step of the way.
And this is my story. This is my experience.
I’m sharing because I know for a fact that there’s somebody out there who’s listening to my voice right now who’s had parent/child disconnect after depression, especially PPD. And they feel awful about it. They’ve probably Googled it a few different ways, trying to find some sense to make out of this situation. They are lost and confused. They’re worried and they feel terrible. They feel guilty. They feel like they’re a broken mom.
I’m doing this episode to tell you that you’re not broken. You went through something really difficult and you can change the way your story is being written and that doesn’t have to be it. The aftereffects of postpartum depression don’t have to be a period at the end of the sentence for your relationship with your child. And that’s the main message that I want you to get. That’s why I’m starting this out by saying that.
First of all, let’s just get a disclaimer out of the way. Postpartum depression is real. PPD, so is PPA, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. These are real things. Just because you’ve never experienced it doesn’t mean it’s made-up, fake, or any less awful than those of us who have walked that road say it is.
This is one of those things that gets debated all the time. I really don’t understand why there’s even any debate because the side of the debate that saying that this is “made-up” has never gone through it. It’s angers me. Like those of us who have struggled are asking for that or want a pity party or wished it upon ourselves to struggle so hard in an otherwise really sweet season of life.
Having said that, I just want to start by sharing how PPD started for me. Bella was my first born. We weren’t really sure if we could have kids. I have PCOS, it’s an ovary syndrome that typically comes with infertility issues. When Brian and I were newly married we thought like, “Oh well I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” But we really weren’t concerned with starting a family. I got pregnant very surprisingly about eight months into our marriage and I just was shocked.
So, I’m going through the pregnancy and we’re young. We’re poor, broke, just trying to figure life out and get to know each other as a married couple. Our first year of marriage was beyond rocky. And then towards the end of my pregnancy I started to just feel weird and different. For me, postpartum depression actually began at the tail end of my pregnancy.
It doesn’t really matter what caused it. You can have PPD without logical reasoning and reasons behind it, but our circumstances in life at that time definitely didn’t help. We couldn’t afford to stay in our little apartment. I had just gotten Bella’s nursery all decorated. My mom and dad helped me out and took me to the baby store to get some stuff. We thrifted a lot and I got her nursery all ready to go. Then we found out that Brian was getting laid off from his job at the time and we had to leave. And so, we moved in with my parents and that whole situation just kind of sealed the deal. It really sent me into a difficult time, which was really poorly timed for how I was struggling emotionally and mentally already.
Without knowing it, PPD was creeping in and then this happened and it just made it worse.
My birth with Bella was very, very, very traumatic. It ended in an emergency C-section. It was so awful. I had a panic attack while they had me strapped down on the operation table. I was strapped in and I couldn’t move. I was telling them that I could feel the pokes where they were going to do the C-section. They were asking me if I could feel it and I said, “Yes, I feel it.” They kept giving me more anesthesia and more and more. And I kept saying, “I still feel it.” And they said, “Well, you’re going to feel that we’re doing something but you shouldn’t feel pain.” And so I said, “Okay, I don’t think I feel pain.” And they needed to get her out. So, they did the surgery and I completely felt the first slice.
It’s a feeling that I have all the time in nightmares and it wakes me up in the middle of the night often, because it was so searing of a pain. It was so awful. I just felt out of control and that’s when I started to have a panic attack. They couldn’t calm me down. They had to put me out because I was freaking out. When I woke up, I didn’t know where my baby was. I didn’t know where my husband was. I was next to some lady making notes on a chart next to me, and she told me that my baby was born, that she was healthy and fine and that my husband was giving her a bath. I just remember immediately feeling robbed of something, actually, a lot of things.
I finally got to Bella and I held her and I just remember I felt something, but I didn’t feel what I imagined I would feel. I remember noticing my emotions don’t fit this circumstance. What’s wrong with my emotions? I remember having that thought.
We had a lot of trouble breastfeeding, lots of lactation consultants coming in and out of my room. It was just an excruciating healing time after my first C-section. It was so painful. I felt like I couldn’t hold my baby and my cut hurt so bad. I had a lot of issues with the staples. Chronic, constant problems all the way through the healing process.
And postpartum depression – it felt like it took advantage of me in that difficult time of healing. Like it saw an opportunity and it just took over. That’s how it felt.
We were living at my parent’s house. We had our own little room, but I felt like I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be a family in my own house and I couldn’t understand why this was happening, why Brian had gotten laid off. It didn’t make any sense. How was all of this happening?
The postpartum depression got so bad so quickly. Eventually when it really took over and it got to be the worst, it felt like I was out of control of my own self. It felt really scary, really dark, super lonely.
I had detachment from Bella and her cries. I definitely had a few normal days of talking to her, videotaping her when she was cooing and feeling like a little bit of a normal mom. But those days were way outnumbered by the hard days.
For me postpartum looked day-to-day, like watching TV, not being able to get out of my bed, physically not being able to get out of the bed, so much so that I would just hold in urine because I felt like I couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom. It just was debilitating.
It looked like just going through the motions, not being myself, ho-humming my way through events and things that I needed to be at, family birthday parties and things like that. It looked like just throwing myself into other things to avoid my motherhood issues.
I actually ended up studying for the California real estate exam and passing on the first try. I threw myself into that because I couldn’t bear what I was dealing with in my relationship with my new daughter.
I was so ashamed of my struggle. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t fix it. I would lie in bed and pray for help. I felt like nobody was listening. It took a really, really long time for anyone to say, “I think there may be something wrong.” That really hurt me that my family and my husband didn’t realize and help.
There was one incident, Bella was around six months old because I was feeding her baby food. Bella was is in her little feeding seat on top of the dining table and I was standing there feeding her baby food peaches. I was standing there and she was cooing and spitting. You know how they spit the food back out at you and all, that phase. Instead of being happy, silly, talking to her, wiping her mouth, trying to feed her and enjoying the moment, I was really angry with her that she was fidgeting and spitting out her food. That’s the thing right there, what I just said, that isn’t even my personality. That’s not like me at all. I was just not myself. I was like a Zombie or a robot or something.
I had lost my personality. It was like my soul got sucked out and I was just my body, my anger, my sadness and that’s it.
I was feeding her peaches and getting really frustrated. My mom was folding laundry on the couch right across the room from me. And Brian was there too, looking for jobs on the computer. I remember I got so fed up, I said something to Bella like, “Oh my gosh, come on! Just eat!”
I was getting more and more frustrated and my mom came over, took the peaches and spoon from me, trying to be helpful, and said, “Here you go. Just take a break. I’ll feed her.” And I grabbed the peaches back from her, slammed it down on the table. They exploded, flew up and peaches got on the ceiling, on the table, on the walls and everywhere. And I yelled, “Don’t you think I know how to take care of my own baby? Do you think I’m a terrible mother? Obviously, you do.” I started freaking out, again, just not like myself at all.
And that was the moment where I for sure realized something was wrong. And that night Brian and my mom came into the room where I was lying in bed, and gently suggested that I might need to go to the doctor and get some help. I was already so angry at them for not seeing my issues and helping me, especially Brian. I was so hurt that he didn’t notice and think “I need to help her.”
And you know, obviously he did notice, but he was as freaked out as I was. We were new parents. We were 21. He had no idea what to do. It’s not his fault, but at that time I was so angry. I was angry, but at the same time I didn’t really know what was wrong with me myself, or how to articulate to anybody how I was feeling.
My brain wasn’t functioning healthfully. I wasn’t my direct self that I normally am. I just sort of sat there and withstood my own personal living nightmare.
It caused resentment and a wall to go up between Brian and I early on in our marriage and it was an issue that stuck that we had to spend a lot of time working on later after I was healthy.
My PPD was so bad for so long (it lasted a little more than a year) that I actually lost memory from Bella’s first year of life. So, what will happen is I’ll look back and I will see myself in photos with her, but I don’t recall being there at all. I can’t really picture her as a baby like I can the boys.
I have one memory of Christmas morning that year (Bella would have been about 10 months old). I had refused to go on medication because there’s substance abuse that runs in my family and I was really afraid. I was uneducated about how antidepressants can help. I was scared and again, my brain wasn’t functioning correctly. I didn’t have the brain capacity to make that decision wisely for myself. I still wasn’t on medicine and I was still just really sick and really struggling.
That Christmas during the depression, Brian gave me one of the seasons of “Friends” on DVD because I had really enjoyed watching that show. I had never seen it before. I was watching them on TBS during the day and it was making me laugh. It was one of the only things that made me laugh and he got me the next season of “Friends” on DVD. I remember opening it and expelling so much energy to try to have a normal reaction to this present, but it was so forced and I could tell and everyone in the room could tell. I could tell that they could tell that it was so forced.
All I wanted in that moment was to just be normal again and it was such a bad feeling. I’ll never forget that. That is my most prominent memory of my daughter’s entire first year of life.
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I saw my family giving each other concerned glances after I opened the present and kind of communicating to each other about me with just their eyes, you know? I just felt so helpless. I was trying so hard to be normal and I couldn’t. I was so tired of fighting and so tired of trying.
So basically, as soon as Bella was born, my relationship with her was under attack and it was strained. She was my first baby, but I was pretty sure you’re supposed to feel something when your baby cries and I just didn’t. And I know that this is the part where some of you are going to have a lot of judgment and that’s okay. But that’s not the mother that I am. That’s not natural motherhood. Something was off. Something was broken. I could feel it.
I had really hoped that things would be okay, despite my struggle, but I couldn’t control the fact that I felt so little connection to my daughter. We just kind of carried on like that. And I tried. I would go to her because I felt it’s my obligation to go to her…I’m the mom.
But Brian did a lot of stuff because he was there. He was laid off for a while, a really large chunk of the first year of her life. It was just really, really dark. It was really hard.
At Bella’s first birthday, I had finally gotten on medication about a month before that and I was feeling a little better. As the months went on, I got healed and weaned off my medicine and I stayed okay. And it was good. It served its purpose.
I still felt a disconnect to Bella, not even just a disconnect, but this “tension,” this push-back toward connecting with her. Something in me would fight back anytime I tried to form a deeper connection with my daughter. This was something that I thought about and tried to figure out basically 24/7 because it concerned me. I knew it was wrong. I knew that medicine couldn’t fix that and I didn’t know what to do about it.
Take this with a grain of salt if this isn’t your thing, but I firmly believe that this was a spiritual attack. Mother/daughter relationship issues go way back on my side of the family. There’s been legitimate abandonment. My mom was literally dropped off and abandoned by her birth mom. There’s verbal abuse, emotional neglect, and other problems in my maternal lineage as far back as my mom and I know of. I believe in generational curses and spiritual warfare. I’ve seen so much, way too much, to not see that as the truth, especially when it comes to family relationships.
I believe that is a really big part of what happened with me and Bella and that there was a war raging for our relationship.
I want to say that moving forward from that things got better. Bella and I today are incredibly close. I’ll get into that more in a few minutes, but I want to give freedom to anybody struggling with this too. And I also want to discuss what I did to make this relationship that we have now happen.
I have never heard anybody talk about this. Why is nobody talking about this? So, I want to do that today.
If you are listening to this and you’re feeling that “freedom relief” feeling that somebody’s talking to your situation…a situation that is dark, terrifying, heavy, embarrassing, horrifying, and awful…I’m so happy that you’re here and I know it’s not an accident.
Please know that if you’re listening to this and that’s you, my gosh, God loves you and He brought you here. Okay?
Secondly, this is not your fault. You are not a bad mother. You are not a broken person who is inept. You’re not unable to raise your child. You are not the wrong choice. You are not a mistake. Your child is not a mistake and you can get through this. You can.
There is another side; however far away it feels, however dark it feels, there is another side and you can get there. I want you to have that hope.
I know, even as I’m saying this to you, 10 years out, it’s so emotional because it so dark and I’ve been there. I’ve stood where you’re standing and my gosh, it’s so awful. It’s just like a black hole and there’s nothing. You can’t see anything.
When a mother doesn’t feel anything when her baby cries, something is damaged. I just want you to know it’s not weakness to need to get medicine. It’s not weakness to need to get healing. You’re not making the wrong choice. You need help.
This example is given a lot, but I’m going to give it again anyway in case you haven’t heard it. If you get diagnosed with diabetes you’re a diabetic and you need insulin, are you going to feel weak for that and not take it? No, of course not. You’re sick and your body needs something. You’re going to take the insulin. Depression, especially postpartum depression when it gets this heavy…I do believe that there’s a “blues period” for a lot of women, and you’ll have to kinda just weigh it out. But for me, and if you’re at that level, when it gets bad and you’re not okay, it’s not going away. It’s not lifting. Something is off in your brain. Go and get that insulin. Go get the medicine. You need help. That’s what it’s there for.
Outside of that, I want to discuss what I did to make mine and Bella’s relationship stronger. After I came out of the PPD, I was maybe about a year out of the postpartum depression tunnel, when I realized our relationship is still strained. She’s so little but I know she feels that, I know she feels the pushback and I don’t want to feel it. I don’t want to sit and have time with my daughter and feel a resistance to closeness to her.
Over the course of years, what I did to fix things and repair things, I basically just decided that the dark wasn’t going to continue to rob me anymore. This was not going to be the story of Bella and I. It just wasn’t. It had been so far, but it wasn’t going to be anymore
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t find books about this parent/child connection issue. I didn’t know what was going to work. I didn’t know where to start. But I just started. I started by deciding the dark isn’t going to win anymore. I’m not going to be robbed any more, and I’m going to figure this out.
I also got real about what was going on. How exactly did I feel when Bella tried to get close to me? Or came and sat on my lap? Or I tried to get close to her? Where was the pushback and resistance really coming from? What’s the source? I would feel it…I didn’t know this at the time, but I was going into a little bit of a meditative state, honing into my internal self and feeling that feeling all the way.
Have you guys heard about that technique? Don’t push your feelings away. Feel it more. Lean in to that feeling and ask yourself, “Where is this coming from? Why am I feeling this?” Sometimes I would hear nothing. Other times I would “feel” an answer and I would feel like, “Okay, when she touches me I just feel irritated.” That sounds awful, but things like that. Just being honest. Not pushing because it’s so awful to be a mother and to feel those feelings and it’s even more awful to admit that you feel those feelings, that you’re having those thoughts. But get real about it. Don’t suppress it, ignore it and pretend it’s not there. Lean into it. Feel it all the way because answers come out of that.
I also prayerfully walked forward trying to figure things out. I talked to God about all of this as I walked through it and I realized that He can handle our realness. Don’t be afraid to let Him in on it. He already knows what you’re struggling with. I used to feel like I didn’t want to tell Him how I was feeling, I felt so bad about it. Here He gave me this gift. I was supposed to struggle with infertility and here’s a baby, a toddler girl in front of me, and I didn’t want to spend time with her, or I had a resistance to closeness with her.
But I let Him in on it. I was honest and I talked to him about it as I walked this road. I asked that He would show me what I needed to see to heal. And He did. He would show me little things like, “just go over and hold your daughter’s hand. Why don’t you sit and watch that movie with her instead of cleaning right now?” Things like that. He showed up in the mess and helped me walk the path one moment at a time.
As Bella got older, 6 or 7-years-old and up, I started to find things in common with her and I would take part in those things with her intentionally, even when I didn’t feel like it.
For example, today we go and we get manicures together every two weeks religiously. It’s our thing. It’s our time away from all the boys at our house. We talk on the drive. We listen to whatever music she wants. I go into the coffee shop and I get a coffee and she gets a hot chocolate. We go get our nails done. We just kind of relax and enjoy the time. We pick our colors together and then we spend a little bit of time out together after that. And it’s our regular thing every two weeks.
Ever since I was trying to intentionally heal from this parent/child disconnect, we’ve had things like that and it’s changed as she’s gotten older. When she was really little, she didn’t want to go get manicures so it was different. Maybe it was playing horses with her. Maybe it was reading her stories, whatever. But I found things in common and intentionally took part in those things with her.
Another big thing that I did was I let her talk and I made sure that I actively listened to her. We have developed this thing where we take drives together. Anytime that I’ve needed to have an important conversation with Bella, I’ll take her for a drive. It’s come from when she was little and her brothers were toddlers and babies. We would get everyone in their car seats, get in the car and we would talk and the boys would fall asleep in their car seats and it formed this tradition.
When a kid is talking to you, they’re usually talking about something that you don’t really care about. But the thing is if you don’t listen to your kids when they talk about the things that don’t really matter when they’re little, they’re going to see that you don’t listen to them and they’re not going to talk to you about the things that really do matter when they get older.
So, I listened to her talk about her toys and the show that she’s watching on Netflix. Now I listen to her talk about dragons (she’s really into dragons) and unicorns, the story that she’s writing, whatever movie that she just watched on Netflix. I listened to her talk about those things and now she’ll talk to me about the hard things, the awkward things. And we have this super close relationship that I think a lot of parents who didn’t struggle with parent/child disconnect don’t have with their kids.
We struggled with it so much that it almost was the demise of our relationship before Bella was even old enough to realize. We have that closeness. As she’s gotten older, things have gotten easier and better because I’ve worked so hard at this for so many years.
I want to give you that hope.
Do something. Do something. If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, check in with yourself. Is this something that you need to just kind of let run for a little bit? Has it been a while and you’re not getting better and you know what you need to do? Go get medicine.
Are you out of the PPD or PPA or postpartum psychosis period and you’re just dealing with a parent/child disconnect? That doesn’t have to be your story. You can write a new story.
Today Bella and I are so close. We have such a good relationship. I can tell her, “Sweetie, mommy really just needs a little bit of alone time right now, let’s spend time together tomorrow.” And her feelings won’t get hurt. I can share with her anything that I need to share with her. I can talk to her. She can talk to me about anything.
She’s 10, so we recently had “the talk” and it went wonderfully. She felt so secure and at ease to ask me questions and it was beautiful. It was a beautiful time for us. We have talks all the time. We have our regular manicures that we get together. She wants to spend time with me and I want to spend time with her. Our relationship is so close. I can’t believe that this is the relationship that we have after what we’ve been through.
The lesson that I have learned here is that you don’t have to be the victim forever. That is only your story if you let the pen keep writing that way. If you don’t want that anymore, write a different story. Make the choice.
I hope that this has given somebody out there so much hope. I hope it helps.
I don’t care about the judgment that’s definitely going to come from sharing this.
I just know that there’s somebody out here listening that has this right now and has been super scared and worried about what it means and I just hope that this episode brought you a lot of hope and a big light to just bring you some peace.
This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Did you know there is an exclusive community created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions surrounding The Purpose Show episodes? And to get you to actually take action and make positive changes on the things that you learn here? Go be a part of it. To join go to facebook.com/groups/purposefulmamas.
Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.
I am always rooting for you, friend!
See ya next time!