What I remember most is waking up every day and counting the hours till I could go back to bed. My whole day, my whole existence for months was a countdown to when “it” would be over. Soon today will be over and I can go back to bed. Soon they’ll be sleeping through the night and things will get better just like they did with Dana. Soon it will be three months and we’ll be in a routine and I won’t have to count anymore. There’s nothing wrong with me this is just a very stressful situation. Anyone would have gone back to smoking and be smoking a pack of cigarettes a day if they had to live like this. I have three children under the age of three, anyone would be drowning in anxiety and wishing they could fall asleep and never wake up if they were in my shoes. These feelings are perfectly normal under the circumstances as is the inability to feel pain, or fear, or physical sensation of any kind. It’s also perfectly normal to feel enormous when I’ve never been thinner in my life, like an ever increasing weight has been strapped to my back and I can’t free myself. That’s why all the mirrors had to come down in those first few months. I can’t remember what I did with them, but I can still remember the face of the monster staring back at me through my reflection. The twins turned 10 last week. I am healed, but I have scars. I still flinch sometimes when I pass a mirror. Sometimes I catch myself ducking or covering my face with my hand as I once did whenever my reflection was unavoidable. There is a small part of me that is still scared, even after ten years, that I’ll look in the mirror and see the face of the monster that very nearly ate me alive.
When asked I have likened postpartum depression to Pennywise The Clown from It: an insatiable monster with the ability to turn itself into whatever you fear most: pain, inferiority, detachment or sorrow. I’ve heard time and time again, “Health professionals need to better educate new mothers about the symptoms of postpartum depression so they’re better prepared!” But in my case that just wasn’t true. I can remember the sweet, soft spoken nurse who came in to speak with me the day I took my twins home. She talked at length about postpartum depression, the various symptoms, how it can affect anyone, and the numerous supports offered by the hospital, and you know what? I tuned it all out. The whole time she was speaking (not lecturing) I thought, “Yeah yeah, blah blah, I know what postpartum depression is I had it with Dana a week of depressive thoughts and then it goes away I have plenty of support I’ll be fine thank you very much yes I’ve heard you can I go home now?” It wasn’t going to happen to me. If it did I would recognize the symptoms and ask my support team for help: but there are no words for how wrong I was.
Some mothers have admitted pain but I felt nothing. I can remember nights lying awake pressing a push pin into my skin thinking, “It’s OK you’re just doing this to FEEL something. You’re a redhead when the scars heal they will look like freckles.” Ten years later they do look like freckles but I can tell you which ones weren’t created by the sun. Like I said, I have scars. Some women who have survived post partum depression reported they were unable to move. Me? I couldn’t stop moving. Me? When everyone was napping I’d clean the house obsessively because a “good” mother has it all together and uses nap time to her advantage. My house was never cleaner than it was when I had three children under the age of three and I was dying.
My experience with postpartum depression has defined me. It taught me how good I am at hiding my thoughts and feelings. I managed to hide my agony from everyone save one friend, Pat, who saw through me and saved my life. So many people don’t have a Pat and they’re drowning, begging for someone to see through the lies they’re telling themselves.
If you love someone who just gave birth please watch them closely. Postpartum can happen to anyone. If you ask them if they’re OK and they tell you yes but your heart tells you otherwise please pursue it. I can’t tell you how many friends looked at me in my agony and asked, “Do you need help?” To each request I answered, “No I’m fine but thanks for offering!” I wasn’t fine. I was drowning and too ashamed to admit it. I was raised by a mother who taught me that asking for help was a sign a weakness and weakness was inexcusable. A GOOD woman solves her own problems. A GOOD mother doesn’t need help.
I’ve tried, so hard to educate my daughters about what happened to me and why. I honestly didn’t understand what was happening until it was almost too late. I’ve told them to be braver than I was. Fuck inferiority and anyone who might judge you for not being strong enough to face the monster alone. Postpartum can happen to anyone and for everyone the symptoms are different, debilitating, and manipulating. I was manipulated by my own mind. “This is perfectly normal under the circumstances.” only deep down I knew…………. it’s not. “ I’m suffering, I need to be honest, I need help, I’m imperfect.” Thankfully I had a friend to tell me, “No one is.”
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