I was trying to ignore it, but I couldn’t. It sat there between us, my friend Kim and me, at the nail salon, and I found it an odd place to put it. There, on top of the nail drying table in a busy salon, was a small pad of sheets outlining “The Signs of Depression.” You could tear off a sheet and put it in your pocket for later, or hand it to a friend, I suppose.
I looked around, but nobody seemed depressed. Not the ladies having their toenails painted on the bank of pedicure chairs (with pulsating or rolling massage). Not the women having their fingernails filed as they watched Bobby Flay mix drinks on the Food Network on the wide-screen TV nailed to the far wall. Not the gaggle of Asian employees, one of them in neon pink high-heeled sandals, which she shuffled in across the faux wood floor. Not my friend Kim.
Yet, somebody felt that this place — this center of a buzzing bastion of femininity — was the perfect place for a public service announcement on depression. And I’ll bet they’re right.
Women are more likely to be depressed than men are, and our hormones are often no help there. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says that pregnancy and birth can trigger depression, which is more than just the “baby blues.” (If your postpartum weepiness lasts more than two weeks, you should tell your doctor about your symptoms.)
But most moms suck it up and tell no one how they feel. They’re exhausted and weepy and wondering when the scene from the baby lotion commercial is going to take place in their nursery, because, it turns out that for them, having a baby isn’t all that hap-hap-happiness it’s supposed to be. And they assume that means there’s something wrong with them. Not wrong in the “I should get some help” way. Wrong as in “I’d better not admit to anyone that I’m really not having a good time being a mother.”
If that’s you, I want to tell you something, just in case there’s no Depression Pad in your nail salon: You are not alone. There’s a reason that I started my book, “Stop Second-Guessing Yourself — Baby’s First Year” with this confession: “I don’t like babies all that much.” Because though I loved my babies, they both had colic and, “neither of them slept particularly well for what felt like a decade.”
I was exhausted. At times, I was downright miserable, and I was certain that I was a bad mother because of it. But I sucked it up and prayed for sleep. I even fantasized about the UPS guy offering to babysit so I could nap. I counted down until the colic was supposed to end, and I looked forward to when my kids didn’t need me quite so much. Or at least until when I could kick a soccer ball to them in the backyard — and they’d actually kick it back.
I wasn’t cut out to be a baby’s mom. I was made for teaching 10-year-olds how to take corner kicks and how to make fart noises with their arm-pits. And I’m not afraid to admit it, because my kids have turned out fine despite my “baby blues,” or whatever euphemism you want to use to describe the wiped-out, weepy feeling that, for me, lasted much longer than two weeks. Also, because I want other mothers to know that they are not alone.
If you’re experiencing the signs of depression, whether you’ve just had a baby or not, please don’t suck it up. Get some help. In case you can’t get to the nail salon, here are some of the signs of depression: