Bio: Eszter was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. After living and working in Rome, Italy for 4 years – where she met her future husband (no, he’s not Italian :)) – she moved to beautiful, sunny San Diego, CA in 2011. After her own struggle with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, she decided to switch careers to become a Licensed therapist, and went back to school to get her master’s degree. Her mission has been to help others that are struggling in the perinatal period. She is also very active on Instagram, where you can find several educational posts, videos on (maternal/parental) mental health, @butterflyinglife
She has two fun children, an 8-year-old extremely athletic boy, and a pandemic baby girl. Eszter enjoys traveling around the world with her family, obsessed with shows like Shark Tank and everything from Gordon Ramsay. Exploring and being active in the parks, beaches of San Diego is a must for her, as well as her morning latte twice a day 🙂 Recently, she has started learning more about photography and gardening that she loves to share with her supportive group of friends.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety is the “sneakiest” and most stigmatized mental illness. Sneaky because it can sneak up on you anytime in the perinatal period, and guilt can still show up years later. It’s the most stigmatized because everyone expects you to be a glowing, happy mother, but if you don’t fit in that picture then society, friends, maybe even family will tell you that “it’s your fault, there’s something wrong with you.”
My name is Eszter and this is MY story with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
We all have unique experiences with the struggles of motherhood. Every single one of those experiences is valid and matters. Mine was about going through PPD and PPA when I was a “newbie” to the US and had no support system. The people who I would have expected the most support from were not there for me.
Like most moms, I diligently attended prenatal classes. The instructor had all the textbook knowledge but had no children of her own. Maybe this shouldn’t matter, but for me it did. Imagine someone teaches you about labor, how to manage the pain and the only thing your inner voice says: “she doesn’t know, how would she know, from books?!”
I also remember the prenatal class hardly touched on the topic of maternal mental health. The healthcare system fails moms at so many levels. Starting with prenatal care through hospitals to postpartum and pediatrician visits. How many times have you heard providers openly discussing perinatal mental health, risk factors, screening you, providing you with resources?! I didn’t, not ONCE! If during a prenatal class they don’t talk openly about this issue, then why would any mom feel comfortable speaking up about their own struggles?!
Even though it’s been 8 years, I can still remember, feel, taste the helplessness, shock, fear, shame and guilt I experienced after my son’s birth. I felt lost, lonely and angry. I didn’t have any support, literally. I didn’t know anyone here, my family and friends back in Hungary where I was born and raised until 2011. My amazing mother, my main emotional support had passed away in 2006, so I couldn’t even call her, or just cry on her shoulders how I used to, when I needed her unconditional love and support. I was in “this” brand new country, where everything was SO different. I was trying to adapt to the culture as I was still getting to know my husband in this new marriage. No wonder I ended up feeling depressed and anxious. I had all the “textbook” risk factors.
Trauma is in the eyes of the beholder. It took me years to recognize that what I experienced was trauma; my labor and the early postpartum period. When you go into labor and you have that unbearable pain that feels like 20 people are stabbing your lower back with long, sharp knives and you just must deal with it. When that happens for about 8 hours, you feel scared, lost, you cannot figure out the breathing techniques, how to cope with it, all you need is someone to support you, tell you that you can do it. My mother-in-law was in our living room talking on the phone, checking Facebook without checking on me ONCE while I was in labor, all alone, in our bed with no support for straight 8 hours.
After the birth of my son, all she gave me was unsolicited advice but no help, which made me feel guilty and more ashamed. I remember thinking “Why would she say this to me? Doesn’t she remember when she had her children?” I was too scared to speak up, so I kept it to myself and that made me feel even worse. I was so lost that I took care of the entire household 1 week postpartum, yet she’d never ask me if I needed anything. Fortunately, she left after 2 weeks, and everything seemed much easier.
After our son was born, my husband was at work all the time, and I was taking care of our baby ALONE. Night and day. I remember feeling so much anger and resentment towards him for comfortably sleeping next to me while I was up with the baby every 1-2 hours. We’d argue a lot. He’d tell me, “I need to work in the morning, what’s the point for both of us being tired.”
My son became part of my “to-do list”, I didn’t play or read to him, I didn’t leave the house for weeks. I knew I loved him, but I didn’t feel it. I was very numb. I didn’t want to be alone, yet I preferred it that way. Everything felt heavy, dull and scary.
I was sleep deprived, feeling clueless, I had more arguments with my husband. I felt inadequate, worthless, I felt like I was going crazy. I suffered in silence for over a year.
During my pregnancy, I enrolled in a program where a nurse would check on me every 2 weeks. That was my only support. I regularly filled out a postpartum depression scale, but I wasn’t honest, not even with myself. I felt embarrassed and ashamed about it. I didn’t even know that I was sick, I just thought there was something wrong with ME. After more than a year, I couldn’t take the pain anymore, it was stronger than the shame I felt, I called the nurse, she connected me to the local Postpartum Health Alliance. I felt relieved when I saw her message, there was no judgment, just pure love and help. I called the helpline and found a therapist. It transformed my life completely.
Going to therapy for the first time after becoming a mom was a liberating experience. I felt heard, seen and understood. It was a safe place where I could express myself. It was a sacred time, once a week. For an hour it was all about me, not the baby or my husband! When you become a mom, you feel like you lose a part of yourself. For me, the goal of therapy was to find my new self in motherhood. Throughout this process I decided to become a therapist to help others that are suffering in silence. I signed up for volunteering with the same organization, and I went back to school. Slowly I started to find my new voice and purpose.
Today, I’m a Licensed Therapist with a Perinatal Mental Health Certification. This full-circle moment has made me reflect on the past and how to find purpose in pain. I’m passionate about creating educational videos on maternal mental health (check it out on Instagram @butterflyinglife ), normalizing these challenges, talking about the importance of therapy.
I was lucky, there are many parents who go through hell in silence, they’re ashamed of what they’re feeling.
I’d like YOU to know that you don’t have to suffer, you’re NOT alone, it’s NOT your fault. You’re a good enough parent and with the right help, you will be well!
I’m beyond thankful to all who helped me in my darkest times, but I’m the most grateful to my son: the reason for my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, as well as the REASON who I’ve become today.