Dealing with the "baby blues" has been particularly difficult for first-time mom Nikki. She and her fiancé Artem Chigvintsev welcomed their son Matteo on July 31, but just two weeks later, the professional dancer had to relocate to Los Angeles for a role on Dancing With the Stars. Nikki and Matteo have since joined Artem in L.A., but as she explained on Wednesday, Sept. 30's podcast, she's still on her own a lot of the time.
As a result, she finally broke down.
"This past week, Brie and I, we were in Phoenix packing up our homes, filming Total Bellas," Nikki began. "I had Matteo on my own; still had a whole house to pack up—I did have help on that, but you still have to do so much—filming on top of it, and I had a massive breakdown."
She continued, noting that it wasn't just Artem's absence that was affecting her; she had also hired help for Matteo and was beginning to regret it.
"It's hard when you know your baby loves what you provide for him, like how feeding time is, how the song you sing when you swaddle him up or how you rock him and those things," Nikki explained. "So sometimes it's hard not to get mom guilt or feel like I'm just a failure as a mom when I'm not giving him those things and I'm letting someone else do it and he's fussy and he's crying and he's upset."
Brie said her sister's downward spiral was extremely difficult to witness, especially since, as Nikki put it, she "refused to ask for help."
"Every week I'll be in bed with [Daniel] Bryan (born Bryan Danielson) and I'm like, 'Bryan, I can't sleep. I'm so worried about Nicole,'" she recalled, noting that Bryan has been just as "freaked out" about Nikki's state of mind.
"And then, when you're stubborn like you, Nicole, and you want things your way so you kind of don't accept the help, it makes it even harder," Brie added.
Nikki theorized that her inability to ask others for help comes from her being so "prideful."
"I'm competitive. I love being the best. I want to be number one," she said. "I mean, my whole life, I've been an athlete. And I realized I've taken that mentality as being a mom."
So when Nikki's loved ones started to check in on her, she was confused.
"People have been worried about me. I'm like, why? I don't think Artem's gonna cheat, or hook up," Nikki explained. "I'm not jealous so why do I feel this way? And it is crazy, all of a sudden I started to realize I'm falling into a postpartum depression."
However, Nikki didn't relay her feelings to Artem.
"I am such a pleaser and I try to be a perfect girlfriend or a perfect fiancée so I act extra supportive even if something's bothering me deep down inside," she expressed. "I just wanted to be supportive of him because I want him to win the Mirrorball trophy—Artem definitely deserves it, Kailtyn [Bristowe] deserves it. I want them to do amazing, I want them to make it to the finals...so I was hiding all this."
Things got to the point where Bryan almost intervened to tell Artem about Nikki's struggles, but the couple ultimately sat down and talked things out.
"I felt bad for Artem because it made him feel terrible and then he's like, 'I wish you came to me sooner,'" Nikki explained. "He was just so sad at the fact that I was feeling all these things and I never told him."
Artem himself later made an appearance on the podcast, and the two discussed their differing love languages; he shows his through his actions, while Nikki needs to actually hear expressions of love.
"If I do something and I feel I'm doing it because I'm trying to be supportive and helpful, it's not necessarily being translated as that," Artem noted. "For me, it's always important, like if I cook something, that's my way of saying, 'Hey I appreciate you, I love you, and I'm doing this for you.'"
Nikki, on the other hand, needs "the affirmations."
"I need to hear it. Not that I need to be praised, but I need to be told every day, 'I love you. You look beautiful,'" she told Artem and Brie. "Especially when I don't feel it, I need to hear it from him. And especially when he's dancing with a beautiful women and they're having a ton of fun...just tell me I'm pretty!"
Before wrapping up the conversation, Nikki offered advice to her fellow moms: "Communication is key. Talking to people is key. If you are someone who's fighting postpartum [depression] and you're just trying to be strong like I was, you can't. We can't win this battle. We cannot fight postpartum depression; we just physically and mentally can't and we have to talk to people."
Listen to the complete episode of The Bellas Podcast here.