I am you.
I am either you three years from now, or five months ago.
I am hoping it is only the former, as the mother of the most incredible three-year-old girl, Bex, and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety, who is now halfway through her pregnancy with her second child.
Right now I feel great, and I assure you, you will too. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and time, talking to the right support network / therapist and perhaps medication will help you reach that light, I promise. Ugh, I know, I know… people said things like this to me – “Just get to the three-month-old mark. It all changes starting at three months!” – and it is of little solace when the days feel like weeks and the weeks like months and the months like endless years. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut, no way to get over or around how you feel, just the journey through it. So just get through one day at a time, then one night at a time, doing what you have to do for yourself and your baby and I promise, the light will find you.
Notice I only said yourself and your baby – forget the rest of the world for right now. You don’t need any more pressure than I know you already are putting on yourself. I encourage you to be open about your struggles to anyone you feel comfortable telling, and to have faith that they will give you the leeway you need. Your relationship with your husband / partner / fiancé / boyfriend / sperm donor can, will and must take a back seat during this time. (Show them this letter and have them reach out to me if they have a problem with that.) Your family and friends will want to help, and you should let them, in ways that truly ease your burden. And your home can survive a few weeks (or months!) of not being spotless (or even close), I assure you. Even Facebook updates can wait. Just.Take.Care.Of.You.
My journey into PPD was rapid, steep and impossible to ignore or deny. I sought the help of a therapist who started me on medication when Bex was only three weeks old. For me, recovery came slowly and steadily. One day, after weeks of not being able to, I realized I could hold my daughter and sway or bounce to comfort her just like the other moms I knew! Then, another day, I realized I was singing a lullaby when weeks before I actually Googled lullabies because my brain failed to produce the title of even one song to sing. Yet another time I realized I was alone with my daughter and laughing – a sound I had not made in months. And finally, when she was about ten weeks old, standing in my kitchen on an unremarkable Tuesday, I kissed the top of her head and whispered “I love you” to Rebecca for the first time. And I promptly burst into tears – of happiness – because I truly meant it.
That year for Mother’s Day my husband (and rock, best friend and lifesaver) gave me a slim Tiffany bangle engraved with the word Love in red enamel. I have worn it every day since, to remind me of that completely remarkable Tuesday in my kitchen.
This Mother’s Day, I am almost 20 weeks pregnant. I am hoping that this is my “do-over” and my coming months are as bright as I feel right now. But I am all too familiar with the darkness and fog that you are currently experiencing. I know what slogging through each day feels like, and how “going through the motions” of caring for your baby without actually caring brings on endless bouts of crying. I hope your journey through your darkness is as steady as mine turned out to be – that you suddenly find yourself continually achieving tasks that seemed impossible before. And that you have your very own version of my remarkable Tuesday.
And I know that if I find myself in that dark again, I will slowly and steadily find my way through and back out.
With love, compassion and complete understanding,
Lesley Neadel lives in Hoboken, NJ, with her husband and daughter. She works in PR in NYC and writes letters to her daughter at http://www.dearbex.blogspot.com. An open book about everything in her life, she is proud to be a Warrior Mom, and will do anything she can to help anyone she can to not feel alone, embarrassed or paralyzed by their PPD.
Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on all things related to emotional health around pregnancy & childbirth, is a service of Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of postpartum depression and similar illnesses. Please consider making a donation today, Mother’s Day, so we can continue and expand our work supporting maternal mental health. Thank you!