When Bryce Dallas Howard discovered she was pregnant a week after tying the knot with Seth Gabel, the actress was elated.
“I loved being pregnant. Yes, I threw up every day for six months, and yes, the stretch marks were (and still are) obscene. But I treasured every moment I had with this new life growing inside me,” the Eclipse actress, 29, writes in the latest GOOP newsletter.
Although the state of bliss continued throughout the pregnancy, those feelings suddenly came to a screeching halt moments after Howard delivered her son Theodore Norman.
“Nothing. I felt nothing,” she reveals. “Memories of the following events are hazy. I remember that I suddenly stopped feeling pain despite having been stitched without anesthesia.”
Leaving the hospital only 45 minutes after Theo was born, Howard refused to take any pain medications for fear of affecting her ability to enjoy her newborn. And despite the challenge walking posed, the new mom admits it was nothing compared to her breastfeeding battle.
“For me, breastfeeding was even more painful than giving birth. And despite a lactation consultant, I felt incompetent,” she recalls. “I forged on, barely sleeping, always either breastfeeding or pumping and never getting the hang of it. Occasionally I drifted off for a few minutes, but that decision to ‘feed at all costs’ left me no room for recovery.”
The signs of postpartum depression were all there — including referring to Theo as ‘it’ and emotional breakdowns — but Howard managed to hide it all from her family and friends by keeping her feelings bottled up until she was alone.
“For the sake of those around me, including my son, I pretended, but when I began showering again in the second week, I let loose in the privacy of the bathroom, water flowing over me as I heaved uncontrollable sobs,” she reveals.
Believing to be a “rotten mother — not a bad one, a rotten one, because the truth was, every time I looked at my son, I wanted to disappear,” the severity of the situation reached its peak when Howard’s friend stepped in. “It wasn’t until my ‘shower breakdowns’ began to manifest out in the open that people began to worry,” Howard explains.
Eventually a visit to her midwife — and a trip to the doctor — allowed Howard the help she needed. And in addition to “a homeopathic treatment plan,” the actress admits it was her dive back into the entertainment industry that allowed her to begin the healing process.
“The experience was serendipitous, just the material I needed to work on to help me to reconnect to my true feelings. In those weeks, a critical shift occurred,” she writes.
“Then one day I was sitting in my home with my best friend and sister and out of nowhere I got this sudden feeling of summer. I searched for a better way to describe my feelings, ‘I dunno, I just got this feeling … like everything is going to be okay.’ My depression was lifting.”
Now a happy mother to a 3-year-old toddler, Howard is quick to point out her battle with postpartum depression is something she will never forget.
“Do I wish I had never endured postpartum depression? Absolutely. But to deny the experience is to deny who I am,” she states. “I still mourn the loss of what could have been, but I also feel deep gratitude for those who stood by me, for the lesson that we must never be afraid to ask for help, and for the feeling of summer that still remains.”
– Anya Leon