It’s taken me a while to write this post, mostly because I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to write it. But as a writer, this is how we heal. Writing, in a weird sense, gives permission to move forward. So here I am, writing this post, in a place where moving forward seems hopeful and happy.
Postpartum depression is a real thing, happening to around 3 million moms each year, some may even be reading this right now. When my son was born, I found myself in unknown territory that went beyond the baby blues. The feelings of being inadequate, hopeless, sad, resentful and even selfish overwhelmed my already stressed out mind.
I knew something wasn’t right early on. I had plenty of help, my baby was sleeping well, and although I was recovering from a c-section and my toddler was adjusting to a new situation, she handled not being the center of attention better than expected. Yet with all of that, I was sad all the time. I wasn’t connecting with my son while also feeling an aching need to spend more time with my daughter. When I had the opportunity to do either of those things, I wanted to crawl under the thickest blanket and hibernate instead. I constantly reached out to friends and family to see how their life was going in order to give me some kind of normalcy to the whirlwind I was inhabiting.
The many questions of the unknown would constantly travel to a negative, dark place and grow branches at warp speed. My daughter and I had found our groove as a twosome. Having a newborn on top of an active toddler seemed so daunting that I was afraid I would never leave the house again or have fun with my kids. For the first time since becoming a mom, the idea of going back to work in an office and leaving my kids with someone other than me seemed interesting, almost exciting, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the struggles of caring for two children on my own. I stopped doing things with my toddler even though my mom was there to watch my son, because I was just too tired, too sad and felt hopeless.
At first the depression centered around my daughter. Not being there for her, not being able to hang with her and do fun things at the drop of a hat because of my son. My husband and I always wanted more kids, and we were certain that adding to our kid quota was the best thing we could do for our family. In all of that certainty, I wasn’t able to shake off the sadness with enough vigor to look at anything in a positive light. As the depression continued, I started to feel selfish about those feelings. I remember one evening my husband took my daughter outside to play while I held my sleeping son on my chest, my favorite baby thing in the whole world. In a matter of seconds I was sobbing, feeling every emotion I possibly could in relation to my son. I felt selfish. Selfish for having negative feelings. Selfish for wanting to spend time with my daughter, selfish for not taking the time to rock him to sleep or spend every waking minute of my day with my new human. After all, this world is big and bright and loud and as his number one protector, I couldn’t give him my undivided attention. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
I ended up seeing a therapist that specialized in postpartum depression. I appreciated her stance on not wanting to put me on drugs right away (a lot of them wanted to do that at our first meeting) and listened to my plea for help on sorting through these feelings so that I could be the strong mom my kids needed me to be and the strong woman that I needed me to be. She urged me to be present in every moment with both of them, no matter what the context and no matter what feelings they would conjure up. After a couple of sessions and a crap load of money later, I was starting to feel like myself again.
Being a mom of two kids is already tough, and I still have feelings of not being enough for both kids and asking for help. Both demand my full attention in completely different capacities, and that’s hard. I struggle with splitting my time when I’m outnumbered on the daily, but we are finding a groove that works for all of us. After 3 months I finally ventured outside the neighborhood by myself with both kids. I needed to do that on my own, at my own pace, in order to move forward.
My family and friends have been super supportive and non-judgmental throughout this whole ordeal and I owe them so much gratitude for that. They loved me until I was me again. The topic of postpartum depression is being discussed more and more without the stigma of weakness or mental illness. It’s more common than we think, and the best thing that can be offered is a listening ear while walking through the fog.
My kids won’t remember this rough time in their lives, but I will. I still struggle with the daily demands of a newborn and active toddler and being enough, but I look forward to the memories we will build as a family and the friendship they will form as brother and sister. I make time to spend with my son and daughter individually so I feel like they are getting just me for a while, something that I think helps both of our souls.
One day at a time.
photo credit: Rosie Parket Photography