Let There Be Light
Tonight I ran across an article about postpartum depression. This happens from time to time and my reaction is always the same: relief. Relief that I survived, that there was a beautiful, blessed light at the end of that tunnel for me. And, as always, my heart broke a little from the remembering.
It’s been nearly eight years now since I experienced PPD, but I can recall those feelings of loneliness and hopelessness like it was last week. It was such a shock to me to recognize those feelings after having such a positive post-natal experience with our firstborn. I had a long and difficult but ultimately incredible natural childbirth with our son. While there was a scary post-delivery moment when my body struggled to deal with the reality of his birth, it was quickly replaced with the gift of parenting this beautiful baby boy we’d been blessed with.
He was a natural nurser, and while he would definitely rather have played than slept, he was a good-natured baby who seemed delighted at the world he’d been brought into. My physical healing was difficult, but emotionally I was the happiest I’d ever been. I truly felt like he was the reason I’d been placed on this earth, and mothering him was my calling.
Fast forward six years…we were anticipating the birth of our daughter and looked forward to another exciting and rewarding infancy. While my doctor had vetoed natural childbirth and vehemently recommended a C-section because of my first delivery, I still felt I would have a similar experience and that I was prepared for motherhood this go-round.
*And the fates laughed hysterically.*
Our daughter was delivered in a very routine fashion, with no complications. She was, however, quite tiny compared to her brother at birth. And nursing? She just didn’t get it.
Nor did she get the whole sleeping thing. Or why anyone would want to leave that comfortable, quiet womb. Because this world? SUCKED.
She refused to eat, she lost weight, she screamed bloody murder, she slept in five minute increments and only when swaddled and held. She cried around the clock, breaking only long enough to attempt nursing and get pissed off about it before resuming her regularly scheduled screaming.
“Colic,” they said. “It will pass,” they said.
We swaddled. We bounced. I changed my diet. I pumped. I cried with her. I fantasized about placing her in her crib and driving to California by myself. I had vivid thoughts of sitting in my car in the garage with the engine on. I fully believed my family would be better off without me.
I was a FAILURE. I couldn’t feed my child. I couldn’t calm my child. I couldn’t attend to my other child because my second child NEVER. STOPPED. SCREAMING.
Friends and family came to visit. They talked and smiled and held the baby while I wondered why they wouldn’t just LEAVE. If she stopped crying when someone else held her, it just confirmed what I already knew: I was a terrible mother, lacking even the most basic soothing skills.
“Give it three months,” they said. I gave it three and a half and I called my doctor. “I’m scared,” I said. “I think I have a problem.”
“You are normal,” she said. “There is help.”
So I took it.
At four months, our daughter was born. She finally decided the world was an okay place. She smiled, she cooed, she drank from a bottle (despite my efforts to work with a lactation specialist daily and pump, my supply had dried up), she grew. She LIVED.
And suddenly, so did I. I remembered this incredible thing called HOPE. The chemicals in my brain made friends with the medication my doctor prescribed. And I made friends with this beautiful little girl.
After four months of darkness, there was light.
Today, I can’t imagine a world without our daughter. She brings so much love, laughter and light to our lives that I sometimes feel overwhelmed with pure joy just looking at her.
But that part of me, that terrified, hopeless, dark part of me…it never really goes away. It remains there, a shadow of its former self. A reminder of how miraculous the light is. And a reason to share my story in the off chance it reaches someone whose light has been extinguished for a bit.
You there, wrapped in that smothering blanket of despair. You’re not alone. There is hope. You just have to reach out your hand.
Here’s a good place to start:
Your doctor can also be a good resource. Reach out. Get help. You deserve to heal. Your baby deserves to have a healthy mama. Peace and love to you. Be well.