Monday, August 8, 2011

It Is Your Guide

I haven't wanted to talk, let alone write about this, but I think that it is important to admit that I'm struggling. It is so easy to cherry pick the good moments and prop them up as if they were the whole story. We all want to seem beautiful and happy, sometimes to the point denying our own truths. But alas life is more complicated than that. With so much stigma about postpartum depression and so much pressure on new mothers to put forth this image that everything is sunny it rarely gets talked about in honest terms. Here are mine.

I love my son. I love him more than I ever thought possible to love another person. When he smiles at me I feel as though I might just die from the wonder of it. I love to hold him close and whisper into his ear, give him my secrets. I love to rock with him and gaze into his steel colored eyes, imagining how much he will change in the next several weeks, months, years. I love to kiss him and give him baby massages, calming us both, bringing us back down from the tension a good long fuss can cause. I know how fortunate I am that he is healthy and strong. I love him with all of my heart and I'm struggling.

As much as I love that amazing little boy I have moments, moments where I feel like I'm drowning. I sometimes feel like I'm doing it all wrong or I worry that we're not bonding. There are moments where I feel like I am sinking deeper and deeper into some dark unknown place, a place that I know I don't want to go. Sometimes I focus on the pain of the past and become consumed by my grief. Sometimes I am short-sighted and worry this is how it will always be. I cry often. Sometimes there is a reason and sometimes I just need to purge all of the emotions that are swelling up inside me. I could easily let myself drown here, plummet into the darkness. I have started down that path and trust me, it is not a place you want to go. I have entertained ugly thoughts and let a hardness begin to form in me.

When I step away and think about the situation rationally I know that it was the perfect cocktail for PPD. With a traumatic birth experience, failed breastfeeding, a colicky baby combined with a history of depression it makes complete sense that I am feeling the way that I am. I can see the risk factors and exactly how I came to be at this place, but that doesn't change how isolating and overwhelming it can sometimes feel.

So today I am saying that I want to fight. I will not let this incapacitate me or kill all the joy in my life. I will grab on to every opportunity to heal that floats past with every bit of strength I have. I will seek them out. I will grieve the loss of a homebirth and successful breastfeeding and I will move on. I will do the best I can and know that just because I cannot comfort him now is no indication that I never will. I will acknowledge my feelings and share them honestly so that they don't fester and poison my mind. I will get out more and eat better and take control of my own experience. I am stronger than this and my son deserves a happy mother, my husband a healthy wife.

I will heal.

"Your pain matters, it is your guide to healing." 
-Lynn Madsen Rebounding From Childbirth


If yourself or a loved one is struggling with postpartum depression here are some great resources I found helpful.
Emotional Recovery from a C Section
Online PPD Support Group
Postpartum Support International
Depression After Delivery


Baby in Broad said...

Oh, Tara, there's so much I want to say about this!

First of all, it sounds to me like you're doing GREAT. Your awareness that you are in a dark place—and the fact that you can have those precious moments of light with your son—can only help you.

When Westley was a baby, I had awful postpartum depression—and I didn't even realize it for a long, long time!

There are extraordinarily good reasons why you feel the way you do. Even if you hadn't had a traumatic birth experience, even if your baby was completely "easy," your body went through SO MUCH to grow this precious child. Your physical self is still shifting and changing every day, and that's BOUND to affect your brain chemistry. You probably know better than most people how the body, mind, and spirit flow together! Your baby is outside your body, but you're still BECOMING a mother.

I often think about having the phrase "this too shall pass" tattooed on my arm, because I so often forget it. When you're in the thick of it—especially with a new baby—it feels like this will be your life for the rest of your life. And that's a one-way path to despair, as far as I'm concerned. EVERYthing is temporary, especially with a baby.

In that spirit, sometimes I find it helpful to tell myself, "OK, you can feel like crap until lunchtime/bedtime/whatever." Then I can bask in feeling like crap for a while, get it all out (never underestimate the power of a good cry!), and "start over." Until the next time.

Sorry for the novel of a comment. I'm sending you lots of love and positive thoughts.

~ Noelle

Holly said...

Tara! Some of what you wrote knocked me back. I remember those awful thoughts and the guilt associated with having them. The hardest part is admitting to yourself that you are unhappy, I was so afraid that I was a "bad mom" or that people would think I didn't want what I had. There are a million thoughts and emotions that come with morherhood and it took me a loooooooong time the figure out where each one fit into my life (and which ones needed to be thrown out altogether) but you clearly have yourself as a priority and that would be my biggest bit of advice - thinking about yourself does not make you a selfish or bad mother. It makes you a better mother. In order to give your baby the best you have to be at your best.
Sorry, talk talk talk...

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, honest post.

I found other mums with kids the same age have always lifted my heart. Even if they are raising their kids in a completely different way, and even if there are mild disagreements.

Sending healing thoughts your way.


Tara said...

Thank you guys so much for your loving and supportive words. It really means a great deal to me and gives me perspective.

@Noelle- Thank you! "This too shall pass" is a mantra I need to keep in mind for sure. With life changing so abruptly it can be super easy to forget the impermanence of the newborn phase, physical pain, etc... You are so spot on- everything is temporary. A good lesson in life, especially with a little one. In that vein I very much like the idea of a "start over". The next time I'm feeling rough I'm gonna give it a go and see how it works for me. Sometimes you need to just let yourself feel like crap, but with this you give yourself limits. I'm definitely down with this idea.

@Holly- I feel you on the fear of being viewed as a "bad mom" or unappreciative. I want to be honest and open, but sometimes I worry that I'm allowing myself to be too negative or that I'm giving off the impression that I am not completely in love with my son (which I totally am- in the head over heels, lose your mind from the amazingness of it kind of way). I agree that making yourself a priority is one of the best things a mom can do for herself. I can tell a really big difference when I take care of myself in my energy level and my ability to give Ezra my best. Thank you for your kindness (as always).

@Lucinda- Thank you for good thoughts and words. I'm learning that community is incredibly important for your sanity as a mother (must be why there are so many awesome "mommy blogs" out there)! I'm with you- I always feel so much better after I read about another woman's experience entering motherhood. It gives me perspective and insight and a sense of camaraderie. We're all in this together, you know?