You want to know how I'm doing. You want to ask. But you don't know how to say what you mean ... how are you really doing? Are you sad? Depressed? Did it get you, the postpartum?
Oh the postpartum depression. I've talked about it before, you know I'm involved in the cause, and my little circle of family and friends (and me) have been waiting and watching to see if I'm OK this time. I want so badly to be OK this time. I really do. I am FIGHTING the good fight to be OK this time. And I think so far I'm winning. We're all winning--my support system and me. But the battle is not over, and this won't be the last thing I write about the topic of perinatal mood disorders. I need to leave that door open because if it gets me again, I don't want to feel like a failure. I don't want to feel like I've let people down.
How am I really doing? I think I'm really doing OK. My mood fluctuates a bit from day to day hour to hour, but overall? Overall I am actually doing pretty well. I would put my mood waves in the "probably pretty normal" camp. I'm definitely not in the "all systems down/red alert/panic time" camp. Nor am I in the "devastating sadness" or the "pulsating with anxiety" camps. I've visited there. It's awful. Not recommended.
I think about that first postpartum period often now. I compare how things are going now to how they were back then. Gosh I was having a rough time. I had such high expectations of myself and my little baby. Neither of us lived up to them. She had the colic and couldn't sleep very well...ever. And I had to fill every spare moment with job applications and job searching, and I would inevitably become interrupted, hungry, tired, and then sad. I would start the day will all kinds of hope and possibility, and end each day in tears and disappointment and a sense that things would never get better. Things would always be hopeless and we would surely go broke.
One sign that things are better this time: I know that all that hopeless despair self-talk is a lie.
If I could say a few words to my old new-mama self I would tell her that. Depression lies to you. It is not hopeless. You are a hero, and you deserve to take a break.
Sometimes I wonder why didn't anyone else tell me this? Why didn't someone ask if I was OK?
The fact is, people did reach out. They did ask, how are you doing? I didn't hear them. They would ask, "how are you doing?" and all I would hear was "Tell us about how grateful you are for your new baby." I was grateful, I really was so very grateful that it killed me to be having a hard time emotionally. I was also so tired of failing at life (it seemed) that I wanted to succeed at this one thing. Admitting anything else felt like admitting that I was a terrible mom.
Oh, old me, all of that was a lie. No one was expecting you to be grateful at all times.
Other new moms (if you are out there listening), hear this! Please, open your ears and your heart to the well-intentioned questions that people are asking. Try to focus on the voices that are reaching out. They may be muffled by the all-encompassing sound of doubt and criticism and the fear of looking like a bad mom. But the voice that is criticizing your every move, the one that tells you this crap:
...that you didn't try hard enough
...that other moms' babies don't cry this much
...that other moms don't cry this much
...that you really need to be grateful that you even get to be a mom at all
...that you need to smile more because you're going to make your baby sad.
That voice is lying. Even if that voice is your own.
Listen, mama, even if you don't believe it quite yet...trust me, you will some day soon:
You are enough.
You are the best mama for your little one.
For your baby, the sun rises and sets with you, just the way you are. Just your sweet presence warms that baby's heart.
The love will grow.
You can cry.
You can tell people that you don't feel well.
You can get help. Any kind of help you need.
Resist the urge to judge yourself and your need for help. We all need help.
You are enough, mama. Yes, yes you are.