I had just finished teaching postnatal yoga yesterday when one of the mommas from class sat breastfeeding and asked if I'd participated in PACE (group counseling organization for new moms) when Stella was a newborn. My response shocked me as I casually responded, "Yes, and it was absolutely one of the best things for me as I battled postpartum depression." There I was publicly saying I suffered from postpartum depression. I've thought about it a lot over the past three years, but I've never publicly put the label of postpartum depression on myself. I was and still am pretty scared of it. It feels like weakness.
Its hard to say what postpartum depression really entails, but in that moment yesterday I felt confident enough to bottle my struggles of Stella's early years into the title postpartum depression. A small sample of why this label might be right for me...
1. I cried heavily the first weeks (perhaps months) every time I stepped into the shower when Stella was a newborn. The 10 minutes I would spend in the shower every few days were often my only time away from Stella and I'd feel both relief and guilt for the time away, as if I was somehow hurting her by not maintaining permanent contact.
2. I had a difficult time processing the story of my labor and delivery. I planned a home birth and after 2 full days of labor I transferred to the hospital where Stella was born. It wasn't ideal. I'll always be somewhat sad about this even though I know in my rational mind it was the best scenario for Stella's welcome.
3. Well meaning visitors were simply too much for me in the days after her birth and I had hives throughout her newborn stage. I couldn't admit to the stress myself, but my body was suffering.
4. Caring for Stella encompassed everything to me and I couldn't bare to be away from her although being with her always felt overwhelming. I certainly judged other mothers for the time they spent away from their baby at work, yoga, dinner, etc. while longing to be strong enough to have that separation.
5. I saw a therapist for months because I felt so stressed and yet I would go out of my way to tell my therapist this had nothing to do with Stella. Ha. Such denial.
6. I could go on and on, but from my point of view everything about having a child has just felt harder than I imagined it would be, and when peering into my friends' lives it sure seems like I've taken to being momma with a few more bruises than others.
Boy o boy is all that tough to write, tough to say I haven't been 100% with my precious child. But what if we all felt more ok exposing this piece of motherhood? Maybe postpartum depression wouldn't have to feel like weakness or shame and maybe I could have gotten 'over the hump' with more ease?
Thankfully I feel confident to write about it now. Writing is far and away my best process - all the grey matter becomes black and white. I have been quite afraid of getting clear but now after three years I feel ready to document how Betsy the mom fits into Betsy the whole. Its like walking out into the warm sunlight and it feels good. Perhaps this is the bravest, strongest thing I've done.