I could hear my 3 year old crying for me when she was supposed to be napping so I cracked her door open and peeked my head in.
“What’s wrong babe? You ok?”
She sat up tearfully and looked at me with her bright green eyes.
“No mommy, it’s sunny outside.”
That’s so silly. Toddlers say the oddest things.
“What! Don’t be sad! The sun is so good for us. It helps the earth, the plants, all of the people and animals. Don’t worry love.”
I tucked her back in and closed the door to go grab the baby who was also crying thinking about what she had just said. Why would she be sad that it was sunny out? I couldn’t brush it off. It was the moment I realized my postpartum depression was raging out of control again. I couldn’t stop connecting the two. The sun is supposed to make us feel good, just like welcoming a precious new life that you’ve been anxiously waiting for. Motherhood isn’t always sunny.
Drowning. I’m drowning. It feels like I’m swimming in the deep end of the pool, completely exhausted and slipping under the surface. I remember I need to breathe so I gasp for air. All day long I gasp for air. Staying in touch with reality and what’s going on around me is nearly impossible. I’m writing this with my baby staring at me cooing, giving me her amazing gummy smiles to boot. Tears are pouring down my face. They’re relentless. They come and go all day long. I’m in awe of this new human. It’s the purest love I know and she simultaneously strikes the loneliest cord in my soul. Almost three months ago I was given the best gift in world when I gave birth to our third daughter, and my postpartum depression and anxiety are stealing these moments from me. I know that I can’t get them back and it crushes me. I find myself lost wandering through the foggy haze of depression. A prisoner to my own thoughts, trapped under the surface again. Hold it together or you will drown.
No one has time for this.
Get it together.
Snap out of it.
Something bad might happen.
You’re failing your family.
Why can’t you be normal.
They’re going to know.
Other moms aren’t like this.
They’ll see right through you.
How could you be sad?
I’m madly in love with my kids but right now I can’t focus enough to see them clearly. I sit next to them and hold them. I study the way the hair falls on their face, how they smell, how warm they feel when we cuddle up. I watch the way the word mommy escapes from their lips. I want to feel and see them but I can’t. The fresh baby face that will only stop crying when she sees that it’s me. All to try and ground myself so I can be in the moment because it’s the only way I can feel. I force myself to feel. Everything is a massive chore. My body physically hurts. Getting out of the house, getting up, doing anything that resembles the normalcy of being an adult is simply exhausting. I’m fucking spent. I called my doctor to let her know what was going on, how I just wanted to be normal. She kind of laughed and said “What does normal even look like?” Good question because I have no idea. I’m not responding to people in ways I typically would. It feels like I’m all in or I’m all out with no in between. My husband doesn’t understand. No one understands. It’s all on me and it’s crippling.
A mother who can’t feel anything or feels everything all at once. Disconnected from the people that I love and care about the most. I finally snuck a shower in this week while the girls were watching a movie and my mind was instantly flooded with intrusive thoughts. What if someone breaks in? What if they steal the baby? Why would you leave them downstairs? What if someone gets hurt? What will people think of you? All of the what ifs. I wanted to curl up and hide but I have all of these people depending on me to be ok when I’m not. I waltz around the house and do the things I’m supposed to do, say what I’m supposed to say, but it’s all to hide from my family. One of my biggest fears in life is that my kids will remember me in the same way that I feel inside. The thought terrifies me. So I put on my show: the smiles, the million kisses, I love yous, all of the snuggles. Everything I know I would normally do, I do. But my head is somewhere else drifting into a dark place, wondering if it’s time for bed yet. I’m terrified that I’ll drown.
I’ve been through this before and somehow managed to find my way out of the nagging sadness and anxiety that completely engulfed me. The guilt is so intense and it keeps me from being me. I’m consumed with what I say: did I say the right thing, did that come off weird, why did I say that, what will they think of me. It’s never ending. I know there’s no immediate fix so I hold onto the hope that it will get better. It’s the reason I keep pushing forward. If you’re in the midst of this, please know that it does get better. I’ve talked about my PPD and PPA in retrospect but not when I was in the moment. Right now I’m all in. I hate that women suffer silently which is why I’m choosing not to. I want other women to know that they aren’t alone. None of us. I don’t know what my exact purpose is and I might not ever find it but being a voice for other women is something that ends up being my release. I’ve dealt with hiding my anxiety and depression for so many years that when I tell people a lot of the time they have no idea. The weight on my chest never leaves but my outlet is to to laugh and connect with other people. My kids are still looking up to me. I’m not weak or failing my family. I battle this everyday while still managing to make it to bedtime. Everyone is happy, taken care of and loved on. It’s the absolute best I can do and that’s what makes us strong. We do our best and our best is good enough. Know that you aren’t alone. Be gentle with yourself. I’m a fighter. Always keep fighting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to new moms not just after birth but in the months to follow. None of us need to do this alone, there’s an entire community of people waiting to help.