Postpartum depression (PPD) is a rough subject to discuss. With so much stigma and misinformation out there I think people are often afraid to share their own experiences. Fear and self doubt keep those feelings bottled up and aid in the perpetuation the problem, both internally and culturally. Information and community are empowering (and honestly, I have never needed some good ol' empowerment more than the month after Ezra's birth).
My own struggle with PPD was by far one of the most difficult experiences I have faced yet, but in sharing my story I hope to be a resource out there for those struggling as well. You are not alone. You are not a bad mother. You can get past this.
I was a ball of tears, pain, and anger the first several weeks of Ezra's life. My body and my heart hurt in ways that were unfamiliar and deep. I felt as though I was already flubbing up the most important thing I would ever do and I was convinced that I was a bad mom, wife, human being. Sometimes I wanted to run away from it all. Sometimes I said it out loud. There were days when I would hold up crying in the bathroom, not quite sure why and not quite sure how to stop. It was the worst time of my life.
So what changed? Well obviously, time. Time helped a lot. Your hormones immediately after birth and the weeks following are insane. I needed time to heal physically and emotionally. But beyond time, I think one of the best things I did for myself and my family was to acknowledge my feelings. I talked about it. I was honest even when what I said scared me. Verbalizing how I was feeling forced me to take ownership of it and eventually to move past it. I am incredibly fortunate to have a loving and supportive partner that I knew had my back and allowed me the security to be honest. And once I started talking about it openly with friends and family I felt as though I couldn't stop. It felt so good to just purge all of that negativity. I needed to be vocal and to be heard. I needed to cry. I needed to get it all out and face those thoughts head on, to begin to put it in the past and focus my attention on the kick ass kid I am insanely grateful to have.
[Some people might not understand or be supportive, but you owe it to yourself to talk. If you are struggling with PPD and don't feel comfortable sharing with someone in your life please, please seek counseling. Talking about it was my road to salvation and I am honestly afraid to think of where my family and I would be if I hadn't.]
I also began actively trying many attachment promoting activities. I love Ezra more than the world and it was important to me that he feel that. My biggest fear was that I would transfer all of my anxiety to him and disrupt the closeness I so wanted. I began wearing him often and continued to co-sleep (back and forth between a bedside co-sleeper and swing). I massaged Ezra regularly and tried to give him consistent physical affection. I tried to be a source of calm and love and general goodness. The lovely thing is attachment works both ways and the more I did to build security and closeness for him the closer and better I felt as well.
Honesty and attachment helped slow the rapid emotional decline in the month after Ezra's birth. Sharing my fears and keeping Ezra close "stopped the bleeding" so to speak, but making time for myself initiated the healing that I needed to move beyond it. Kellen and I made date nights and stuck with them. I went back to work, keeping my hours very limited but enough to give me some time out of the house. It felt good to dress up again, to put on makeup, to have a conversation that wasn't about feedings or spit up, to feel like a real person. I also made time to exercise on a semi-regular basis and adjusted my diet back to more whole foods. I had to realize that taking care of myself was not a selfish act. I needed these things to be a better mother, wife, and generally sane person.
It's necessary to acknowledge the important role my husband played in all of this. His love and support (and willingness to help me in any way he could) made my recovery possible. He is a super hero and no experience could ever make me fall more in love with him.
[Again, if you are struggling with PPD and do not have a support system please seek one out. Whether it's a "mom's day out" service, a professional counselor, etc.. you need to surround yourself with people that are on your team and willing to help in the most basic and unsexy ways. What helped create healing in me might not work for you. I was able to move beyond it without medication, but for many women that's not possible. What's important is that you need and deserve support and that you find it.]
So am I completely over it? I feel very confident that it is behind me. I know this last month has been amazing. I have been able to enjoy Ezra, enjoy motherhood in ways that I never knew were possible (ways I could not have conceived of those first few weeks). I feel so incredibly close to him, closer to Kellen, more connected to my life than I have in a long time.
I am feeling more in my own skin. I am feeling overflowing mama love for my beautiful son. I am learning who I am as a mother and am darn proud of what I am finding. I am learning how to meet Ezra's needs. I am learning how to more effectively communicate my own. I am laughing and hugging and playing. I don't remember the last time I cried.
Like any experience, it's not always perfect. There are days when I am tired and cranky. There are days when I feel frustrated, but the difference is I am still myself. I am able to deal and think reasonably. I am not a mess of person anymore. Of course I am still only a human being, craving the sleep and calm that a baby rarely allows, but darn it if I am not silly happy to be here. I am a lucky lady and now I am finally able to really appreciate my good fortune.
I will continue taking care of myself in order to best take care of my family.
[There are several resources out there for women dealing with PPD. If you are struggling please seek help. There is absolutely no shame in taking care of yourself. If you are reading this, please know I am sending you all of my love and support. I wish that I could hug you, cook you some yummy soup, and give you some time to take a bath with a good book. I wish that I could help you create your own path to healing. But unfortunately all I can do is share my experience and hope that in some way it helps you feel less alone, less afraid. My thoughts are with you. ]
Sending you all lots of love!