The healing process from postpartum depression and anxiety was long and difficult, but I did it. I survived.
When it came time to trying to get pregnant again, I was scared. So was my husband. We both wanted another child, and a sibling for our firstborn. But we were terrified of enduring the pain off PPD again. Because it’s not just a mom’s disease. It’s a family disease. It can steal husbands and wives away from each other, the sufferer away from her or himself, and most certainly, the sufferer away from her or his child. It steals away the joys of parenting, and in its place lays heavy doses of shame and guilt. “I should be enjoying this”. “I am so blessed. I know I’m so blessed. Why can’t I get it together and feel as blessed as I know I am?” “My children need a happy, Whole mom. Why can’t I be that and model that for them?” “My husband needs a wife who wants to be touched, and a partner who keeps up her end of the bargain in parenting, household duties, support, and LIFE…. why can’t I be that for him?” “I am such a total failure. Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I feel happy and grateful – like I SHOULD feel?”
And so it goes. The thoughts are endless. They spiral through my brain, instigating panic and tears. They make me feel less than; not good enough. And that my family deserves a mom who can vividly see and feel life’s bright sides; who can enjoy the moment and go with the flow, even just a little bit.
And I try. Believe me when I say, I try. I try so damn hard, each and every day, to be positive, to feel the joy, and to go with this so-called flow. But it’s hard. Harder than anything I’ve ever tried to do. This job? Parenting three small kids, while trying to be a good wife and maintain my own identity and life and self? It’s so hard. And I am not good with just “going with it”. I like schedules and routines. I thrive of checking things off a to-do list. Kids and their unpredictable ways throw a wrench in all that.
And so I’ve come to accept, in the darkest hours as I’ve laid awake with tears staining my face, that PPD has once again gotten the better of me. I have been fighting it- shielding myself from its grips- since before the twins arrived. And for some time, I was doing amazing. So much better than I ever expected. But now, in recent months, things have started to feel heavy and dark; unmanageable and unbearable. Why? I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s because I am one person and simply can’t attend to everyone’s needs at once: there will always be a crying baby or screaming four-year-old who needs something that, in that moment, I just can’t provide. This makes me feel awful. Even though I know this is how life works and it’s teaching my kids to be patient and resilient, it also makes me feel like I am failing them and not meeting their needs. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Not necessarily mine, but the kids’. And when they aren’t getting the rest they need, I feel responsible. Because it’s a basic need in life, like water and air, and as their parent, it’s my job to create healthy sleep hygiene so they can get the restorative rest they need. Or maybe it’s because I feel sad that my oldest misses me, and I’m constantly shooing her away because she loves the twins so much she squeezes them until their eyes bulge and uses them as her pillows. Or maybe it’s because I’m a highly sensitive soul who needs her space and quietude to rejuvenate, and in my house, these days, both are impossible to come by. And I get overwhelmed easily. I like one thing at a time. But there is no focusing on one thing at a time. It’s a hundred things at once, and go! Now! Starting at 5 am every. single. day.
And though many told me two wouldn’t be that much harder than one, they were wrong. It is harder. Because it’s TWO! Two babies! With distinctly different needs and personalities and sleep schedules and health issues. Plus a four-year-old, who wants and deserves her mommy to be there for her and play with her too.
And I’m a mom who wants to give it all, to all the kids, to my husband. And who doesn’t want to lose herself in the process. But that’s just what’s happening. I’ve lost myself. And I’m definitely not giving it all- or even half of what I would want- to my family. So there’s that.
I know the answer is in finding balance. I’m working on it. It’s hard. I know it’s also in perspective. This is a moment. It will pass. The kids will grow; the family will grow, and we will all move along together and experience new things, and different stages. And there’s the gratitude thing. Feeling grateful every day for what I have. And believe me, I do. I feel so infinitely grateful. Every night before bed, my daughter and I talk about all the things during our day and in our lives we are grateful for–the list is long. And so I will continue to fight. Challenge the thoughts; make time for each child, my husband, myself. Drink water. Seek self-care. Put my own oxygen mask on so I can assist others.
I am down, but I will not stay down. I clawed my way out before, and I will do it again. And the joy, hope, laughter and sunshine will return. Life is good. And I may be small, but I am powerful; I am a fighter who will beat the sh$t out of PPD again.
***please know, I don’t write about these personal topics for sympathy or due to any self-pity. On the contrary, the process of writing about the pain is cathartic and therapeutic for me. And it is my hope than in sharing these words, I may help reduce any stigma or shame that surrounds perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (and any mental illness or issue) so others may feel less alone, and perhaps even more understood. We are all in this life together!