My blissful pregnancy set the stage for happily-ever-after and then Postpartum Depression hit me like a bat into a million fragments (My Secret: Surviving Postpartum Depression). Some days I feel like a pile on the floor and broken. In my darkest hour I believe: I’m certainly going to feel like this forever; it’s just too hard. How I can continue living like this? My daughter will wonder why mommy’s lying in a dark room by herself. My husband can’t be happy, this isn’t what he signed up for. My family deserves better… And then, the clouds part and the moment of despair passes. I pull the covers off, I put my feet on the floor. The hopeless feelings lift and I’m okay. My Postpartum Depression comes in waves; I sometimes feel like I’m riding a rollercoaster blindfolded.
After my daughter was born, it annoyed me when people would recommend doing anything to care for myself. Did they actually think I was that selfish? And why isn’t anyone as concerned about my baby’s wellbeing as I am?! I didn’t sleep when my daughter slept. My breastmilk dried up after 4 months because I wasn’t consuming enough calories to keep me alive and her fed. Putting any basic needs of my own before my child felt so counterintuitive when my instincts told me to protect her with my life.
My daughter without fail smiles every time she sees her reflection, most of the time she flaps her arms like a little turkey with glee. I can’t remember the last time I looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh Yippee, it’s you again! I love you!”. She doesn’t judge herself. I will be my daughter’s very first role-model; she’s going to mimic me and learn from what I do. I want her to love herself and feel worthy of caring for. The only chance she has to learn these things is if I show her.
I reluctantly admit I’ve never felt worse after taking time for myself, having a night out with girlfriends, a date with my husband, or indulging in a massage; in fact it unexpectedly builds my confidence as a mother. When I practice taking care of me, the better I feel and the better mom and partner I am. While it feels selfish to think of myself at all, I’ve discovered an ironic twist: how much thinking about myself it requires to obsessively feel guilty and like a failure as a mother. When I do feel disheartened, I try to take a quick mental inventory of what I’ve done well. One thing I can say with certainty is my baby girl is happy. She smiles so hard sometimes I can’t even see her eyes because her little chubby cheeks are pushed up so high; I must be doing something right.
I admit I still sometimes lose track of days between showers or forget to eat. I stay up for hours after she’s gone to sleep and too drained some days to leave the house. I compare myself to what other moms are able to accomplish in a day (I’ll save my thoughts on the dangers of comparing for another time). Sometimes I just feel like an antisocial, exhausted, ravenous, stinky mom that desperately needs a pedicure. And then I remember, I’m teaching my daughter self-love and compassion.
During an especially hard morning, I lay crying in bed feeling discouraged and defeated questioning whether I had the strength to continue fighting. My husband looked at me and said, “You have to fight”. He’s right, but I certainly can’t lie in bed and think my way out of feeling hopeless. I have to get up even if I don't want to. Since sharing my struggle with PPD and receiving help, it has gotten better for me; not over night but with time and faith. The episodes have gotten further apart, my appetite has returned, and I actually end some days feeling like I was a really great mom!
If you feel like you want to stay in bed forever and can’t imagine ever feeling better, I’ve felt that way too. My suggestion: Get up, even if you don't want to. Take a shower and as you pass by the mirror consider saying to yourself, “Oh Yippee, it’s you again! I love you!” (even if you don't mean it). You just have to fight.