My name is Tori, and I am a mother two. My husband and I are from South Carolina, but only two weeks after the birth of our first child we moved to North Carolina so my husband could pursue better career opportunities. I found myself in a new state with no family, no friends, and a husband who worked 90-hour weeks. Our son had a tongue and lip tie along with reflux. Anxiety immediately set in. I would lie awake in our town house until about 2 a.m. just checking my surroundings for fear of anything happening to our son. I was told numerous times by doctors, friends, and family that anxiety was just something I would have to “work through” like every other mother. I was not given any sort of help, guidance, or even information on postpartum mood disorders. Eventually my anxiety did subside by making North Carolina our home for the moment. My comfort eventually grew for the area, and I made friends, got out more, attended moms groups, and found medical help for our son’s feeding issues.

Fast forward about 22 months later and our second child is born. We still lived in North Carolina, but we were in a much more rural area. Our daughter was born at a healthy weight in a beautiful setting. I had tons of support in the delivery room, my birth went exactly how I “planned” — so why was I so miserable? Why did I not immediately feel warmth and love? I felt a twinge of love for my daughter when she came out, but I was not “in love.” Something instantly felt wrong and off. I thought that surely nursing would ultimately bond us, but it did not. I felt more and more aggravation as she also had a tongue and lip tie. Every time she ate she would immediately vomit all of her food. It was not spit up; it was explosive throw up every single time she ate. I took May to multiple doctors, with each one listening to me less and less. Each doctor tried to tell me it was reflux, and they would send me home with bogus medicine and another chip on my shoulder. I felt like such a failure. My child was suffering from throwing up so much, we were not getting sleep, and our now 2-year-old son was suffering from the tension. I still did not feel that gush of love for our daughter. I knew I loved her, but I didn’t feel this connection like I did previously. Guilt would override any cheery moment that I had. Eventually, a specialist listened to me. We found out that her food would not make it past a certain point in her throat, and proper measurements were taken. Amid all of this stress, I was adamant about keeping my friends and family out of my dark times. I made sure that my social media posts looked cheery and normal, even though I was secretly drowning inside. I kept conversations with family members distant. I put on the ultimate show to hide what was really going on.

Our 2-year-old son and husband were bearing a lot of my wrath during the few months that I felt off. I would have fits of anger and screaming matches with anyone that was near me. My depression and anxiety tumbled into anger, and rage was its copilot. I would take both of the kids out and have panic attacks over strangers. My anxiety grew worse with each outing. I would constantly think that someone was going to kidnap my children or touch them and give them an awful disease. At about two months postpartum, my husband and I took our daughter to a routine visit at the pediatrician’s office. My husband spotted an ad for mothers with postpartum depression and suggested that I look into the group. I eventually looked into the postpartum support group and reluctantly attended a meeting. I finally felt like I had real answers to what was going on. Other mothers knew exactly how I felt, and there was no judgment. During the course of about three months, I attended the meetings weekly. I did still have difficult times at home with my depression and anxiety. I eventually hit such a low that I planned on taking my own life. Even with help from my support group, two gorgeous children, and a husband that bent over backwards for me, I still felt like I was not enough. On the night that I had intrusive thoughts, all of the fire alarms went off in our home. Every single fire alarm was screaming in our home for no reason. I was lying on the bathroom floor comforting both kids, and it hit me that I was worth it. I needed to get myself better so that I could be here to comfort my two children. After attending the peer-led meetings, I eventually worked through some of my guilt, anxiety, and depression. A support system was what I needed, and I needed it to be an outside source of women who could say, “I get it. I’ve been there. Your mental health is important.”

I now understand the threat of an empty smile. I kept smiling for doctors, smiling for family and friends, and my depression went unnoticed. If a volunteer had not taken an hour out of her week I would not be here today to tell my story. I eventually ended up volunteering and facilitating with this North Carolina group and then moved back to South Carolina. In South Carolina, I found Postpartum Support Charleston. I now facilitate monthly meetings in Summerville. Everything does come full circle. It is so crucial that we open our hearts to the importance of a mom’s wellbeing and mental health so that she can be there for the baby. If a mom is happy, she can provide for a happy baby.

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