Jenni Chiu: On “Will it ever end?”

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postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthDear new mom,

It’s possible that there will be a time… several times… maybe even an incomprehensible amount of times when you will find yourself sleepless, swaying in the dark, crying, cradling your baby, and thinking, “Will it ever end?’

The sleep deprivation…

the feeling overwhelmed…

the sharpness of infant cries.

Not having claim to your own body

or space

or thoughts.

It can all seem endless at times.

Take it moment by moment, minute by minute, or second by second if you have to. Just make it to 2:30… then to 3:00… then to 3:30.

It won’t all be bad. It shouldn’t all be bad.

I want you to be fearless about asking for help. Find someone to help you get a nap, have some soup, or take a bath alone. The early months will be stressful, and consuming… but if they ever start to feel dark – if your gut tells you that you’re not acting like yourself – talk to your doctor. Be brave. You have absolutely nothing to lose by doing it.

We don’t live in villages like we used to. Most of us don’t have a team of other women who cook, clean, and shower us with support while we spend weeks and weeks in bed with our babe. Postpartum mood disorders are more common than people think.

I’ve been the woman pacing, rocking, and crying in the dark. I’ve squirmed with the certainty that I made a terrible mistake and was completely incapable of the life I was suddenly thrust into. I’ve looked up to the heavens with tears streaming down my face and scream whispered, “Will it ever end?”

It will.

Take it all as slow and as easy as you can…

Because the sounds of little baby slurps while feeding,

the moments of baby fingers squeezing yours,

and the gentle feel of your infant trying to eat your cheek…

Those moments will end too.

Take care of yourself so you don’t miss them…

And take heart…

Because though I’m only six years into motherhood, I can tell you the memories of the light will outlive the memories of the dark.

You’re going to be happy you did this.

~ Jenni

Jenni Chiu is a proud member of the editorial team at Postpartum Progress, and you can find all of her other internet places at http://JenniChiu.com. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and two lesbian dogs.

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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!

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Lesley Neadel: On the Journey through PPD 

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postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthDear New Mom,

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

 

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. 

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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!

DonateNow

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Andrea Bates: On Your First Mother’s Day

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postpartum depression, mental health, maternal mental healthDear New Mama,

Oh! It’s your very first Mother’s Day. It’s so special. So very very special.

And beautiful, too.

All of the emotions! The joy, the excitement, the anticipation. The thoughts that run through your mind that tell you that THIS, this will be YOUR day.

Finally.

Finally, you, new mama, have a day of your own. One where you’re recognized for all the work you’ve been doing this far.

The diapers. The feedings. The laughter. The tears.

Yes. The tears.

I know, I know. Nobody talks about the tears.

I’m here to tell you, new mama, that it’s okay. You’re allowed to have tears.

You know how everyone says, “Sleep when the baby sleeps”? It’s not that far off to imagine turning that into “cry when the baby cries.” It happens. To many of us.

I know you. I have BEEN you. I’ve felt all the feelings. I’ve cried. Hard. My eyes have flooded with tears. Heart aching. Body spent with exhaustion. I know.

You look at all of those moms at the park. The supermarket. Mommy & Me classes. Tumble gym. Maybe even the OB’s office. They’re all put together. Their hair is pulled back, not a strand out of place. You? You find yourself lucky enough to have been able to wipe out the peach puree from last night.

They’ve got wipes and diapers and snacks. And you? You left the house with a diaper bag and no diapers. Oh, wait, that was me. On my very first pediatrician’s visit. Yes. I’m totally serious.

New mama, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. And I’m here to encourage you to talk about how you’re feeling.

You may be one of the many moms experiencing the early days of postpartum. You may be living through what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues.” And if you are, they’ll pass fairly quickly. It might take a few weeks to feel normal again. Although your normal will have changed, your mind will feel yours again. You’ll have more control of your emotions. The constant weepiness will have passed. Things won’t seem so daunting.

But you might find that you’re not among the many whose emotions return to normal after your baby is born. You may be one of the other many. The many of us who experience postpartum mood disorders. The many of us who think things like, am I crazy? What on earth is happening to me? Why do I have these racing thoughts? Why am I afraid to let my baby out of my sight? I shouldn’t be a mom. I should never have been trusted with a child. Where is the manual for this kid? WHY won’t s/he stop crying? How can anyone STAND listening to this day after day? Night after night? If I could just get ten minutes of quiet…

There are so many thoughts. I can tell you, no, I can guarantee to you that someone reading this right now has had each one of these and more. And if that’s you? If you’re one of those someones? You’re absolutely not alone.

There is help. Love. Unlimited support. There are so many support groups. In real life. Online. There are books. Doctors. Therapists. Support groups. Blogs. People just like you who have found their way to the other side. You will, too. You will find the light again. You’ll experience the joys of motherhood without being overwhelmed by all the rest.

So please, new mama. Don’t sift through this alone. Find a friend. Talk to your partner. Tell your OB or your child’s pediatrician. Find support. It’s out there for the taking. Reach out. Grab it. Remind yourself that you’re not alone. Know that you truly never, ever have to feel alone. Because you’re not. You have me. Us. Postpartum Progress. We’re here for you. We’re here to listen.

And a small note to the seasoned mamas out there like me who are reading this. If you see a new mama sitting there, frazzled, children running around the grocery store while she tries to juggle the baby, the stroller, the toddler and the bags? Hold the door for her. Help her to her car. Give her a smile. Buy her a chocolate bar. A cup of coffee. Offer her an ear. She probably needs it. Remember how much it would have meant to you? I know for sure that I do. Remind a new mama that she’s never, ever alone.

~ Andrea

Andrea is a native New Yorker who relocated to North Carolina in 2006. After working with children and families as a licensed social worker she took some time off to start her own family. A mom of one, she has recently returned to the field as an LCSW. Andrea has volunteered for a number of organizations supporting women in all stages of motherhood in both, “real life” and virtual environments. She is an avid reader and writer and can be found writing about everyday life, motherhood, mental health and more over at her blog, Good Girl Gone Redneck

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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!

DonateNow

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Lighthouse

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It’s my week for content on Postpartum Progress. My week, as a member of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, to share something about postpartum mood disorders and help you feel less alone. I’ve known this week was coming for a while, and yet on this Monday night I’m sitting here staring at a blank screen. I don’t know what to share with you because I’m hiding under my vulnerability cloak at the moment. 

I think of this cloak as being kind of like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, except it hides my power rather than freeing it. Instead of letting me go where I need to go, my vulnerability cloak covers me up like an invisible blanket, weighing me down while I hide underneath it.

I’m having a hard time writing lately, no matter the topic. I’ve barely written on my own blog because when I’m struggling I like to write about that, and right now I don’t feel like I can. I’m just feeling too vulnerable.

So why am I telling you that? Mostly, I think, because I need a little reminder that being vulnerable is okay. Telling you that I’m feeling vulnerable is sort of like throwing off the cloak just to see what happens. Just to see if it will be okay. 

lighthouse light

Logically, I know it will be okay. But even more importantly, I know that sharing our hard stories is worth it. I was reminded of that not too long ago when I got an email from someone who had read my story. I want to share a piece of that email here (reprinted with permission) – both for you and for myself.

I really did feel so incredibly alone, and reading your story was a bit like seeing a light from a lighthouse when you’re a lost ship in the fog, about to crash into the rocks. I was drowning. It really did save me. You sharing your experience saved me, and let me know there were others out there like me, and it was ok, I wasn’t a failure, or a horrible mother. I was suffering, and needed help. I do feel a little bit stronger as each day, week, month passes. I think, someday, I’d like to put it into words, on paper, and share what I really went through, am going through, and maybe help other women through telling my story. It’s so important to know that we’re not alone. I was so ashamed, and so afraid… I lived in absolute fear that I would be condemned as a terrible person and a horrible mother and other mothers would screech and point fingers at me as I walked by. That shame and fear were part of the reasons I didn’t reach out for help. It makes me wonder how many more women are out there silently suffering.

Anyway, thank you. Thank you for being brave and courageous enough to share your story, it couldn’t have been easy. Thank you for putting it out there and most likely saving my life.

Being vulnerable is hard. But being a light for someone floundering in the darkness? That’s worth it.

I need to remember that it’s worth it.

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