My daughter was born in Sicily, Italy. My husband and I lived in the town of Mascalucia in the shadow of Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the Mediterranean that frequently rained ash down on our cars. We lived there for a year before I happily found out I was pregnant. We were lucky. Since my husband is a U.S. Department of Defense employee, we were able to use the U.S. Naval hospital and its doctors throughout the pregnancy and for delivery, though if anything went awry during labor, we would be whisked off base to an Italian hospital and assigned our very own translator. Thankfully we didn’t have any problems. My daughter was born in October 2009 and our lives were changed forever. Suddenly I found myself as a new mom, something I know all of us moms can relate to, but I was alone in a foreign country, without family, and too stubborn to ask for help or own up to the fact that I was struggling – even to my doctor.
I lived on the side of this mountain in a town where no one spoke English and I was too scared to venture off for fear of not being able to find my way back home (literally and figuratively). I didn’t have much experience with babies, and A. was a colicky, underweight little girl who didn’t like to sleep or eat, let alone breastfeed, despite my many attempts. I was really, really hard on myself. Basically, my husband would leave for work in the morning, and I’d turn on a timer to count the seconds/minutes/hours until he’d return and I could go hide under the covers on our bed.
Postpartum depression is real and it takes hold of you in a way you’d have never thought possible. It was a very, very dark two years until I regained my footing and decided I couldn’t live my life that way any longer. It was a slow journey – and therapy – that helped me see the light again. The second time I got pregnant, we were living in Nevada. People speak English. Nevada is comfortable and reminds me a lot of the Midwest where I grew up. As my due date grew closer, I started to get nervous and worried that I’d have the same experience that I had the first time around. I’m happy to report that this time has been very different.
So, if you’re pregnant now and had a similar experience as I did with baby #1, take it from me that it can be different. I started to think about why it was different this time, and what helped. Definitely the fact that it was my second baby had a lot to do with it. I knew what I was doing (for the most part). Also, my kids have totally opposite personalities, and my son loves to eat and sleep. That helps, certainly, but I think what helped me the most this time around is that I admitted that I couldn’t do everything all on my own, and I gave myself a pass. I surrounded myself with a support group here in Nevada that I know would drop everything to help me if I called. I had a great group of friends in Italy who would have done the same, but my stubbornness got in the way and I couldn’t ever admit to needing help. I didn’t make that mistake this time and it’s made all the difference. Also, I started working out about three weeks after my son was born. I started with walking, and then jogging on our treadmill. I credit this exercise to a boost in my mood and was a tremendous help in not only helping me feel good about myself, but also reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. Definitely get your doctor’s okay before starting an exercise routine prior to the 12 week check-up. If you’re living in Nevada and don’t have family nearby and are pregnant with your first, or even second or third, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with a group of friends. Find them through church, work, or any of the many local gatherings around town and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out! Please don’t be stubborn like me.
One of the best ways to connect with other women in our community is by participating in our Reno Mom’s Blog forum. Ask questions on our Facebook page. Participate in discussions on the site. You never know, your newest bestie could be right here. And, if you ever feel completely and totally overwhelmed, you can always reach out to me. I’ve been there and know what it feels like to think you’re all alone. You’re not alone and I’m more than happy to be a listening ear and to provide encouraging words if you need them.