When my first child was born, I was a mess. I had longed for the day I could hold him in my arms and yet, those first several weeks were filled with days we didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t put on regular clothes and I ate my meals in my bedroom. My husband would bring me my breakfast so I would eat but I often skipped lunch and just snacked on a protein bar, maybe.
Friends would come over and I would be in my nursing top, pajama bottoms, and hair tied in a messy bun. Dishes everywhere throughout the house. This went on for weeks, well beyond the first couple when you’re in the post-hospital haze.
I thought this was normal.
I thought that’s what you should do. Eat when the baby eats. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Right?
When my friends would ask if I was ok, I would respond, “Yeah! Great! Motherhood is awesome.” But deep down, I knew that wasn’t the case.
The thing is, I also just thought this was part of the postpartum phase.
No one told me that you should probably be able to walk normal after a week or so. Or that if you can’t find a way out of bed at your 6 month check-in, there might be a problem.
Somehow, I passed my postpartum depression screening just fine without anyone batting an eye, even after I revealed that I cried many days a week and that I was still meticulously tracking every ounce in and every ounce out.
Truth is, I wasn’t fooling everyone. Later, I would fall apart quite literally from the heavy burden I was carrying.
When I recall those early days, one distinct memory sticks out as a glaring sign of my postpartum depression. My good friend is a phenomenal photographer, who is especially gifted at working her magic with newborns. She came over to my house a couple of weeks after my son was born and I didn’t get dressed. My hair was tied back. No makeup. I might have brushed my teeth.
Her reaction to my appearance was unsettling. Shocked at what she saw, she politely said, “Are you going to get dressed? Aren’t you going to be in the photos?” I replied with an apathetic no. She tried to get me to budge but the truth is, getting dressed was too much that day. She got me to take a photo holding my son in my arms without my face in it. It still hurts me to look at that photo.
I didn’t realize it then, but I wasn’t ok.
I was deep in postpartum depression. Nothing was going the way I had expected it to and I was healing through the trauma of a birth injury. When I saw other moms at my new moms group a week postpartum, nursing their babies, crisscross on the floor, I had to fight tears. Not only did I face a ton of nursing challenges, there was no way I could sit down that way. No one knew how to console me as I struggled to sit, so I stood there, hands clenched to my stroller bar.
Then, when I’d see moms “clear their 6-week” to exercise, the thought nauseated me. I was still wearing maternity pants. The thought of stroller-strides, lunges, and squats terrified me more than anything. When my OB cleared me, I thought she was insane (she was), and actually asked to see another OB. I went round and round and round with her for weeks until I just gave up.
It took almost a year to receive the help I needed.
By then, I was having panic attacks daily. I even experienced sorrow on Mother’s Day, which should have been a day to celebrate. I was in another new moms group when we started talking about no longer feeling like taking pictures when that memory came up for me. It really pained me to think that I didn’t have many photos of me with my newborn son.
Luckily, I found help and met some incredibly resilient moms and some really awesome mental health professionals along the way.
Most of the moms I met with had experienced child-loss and infertility. Their anxiety was rooted in the fear of losing a child – again. Others had to have their child spend time in the NICU and weren’t sure if they had the strength to try for another. Some, like me, had experienced a birth injury and the excruciating physical pain coupled with the very real emotional pain of not feeling validated when trying to heal.
However, we found each other and we knew we were no longer alone in our sorrow.
We learned of tools beyond those provided by conventional medical doctors and those tools helped us overcome our challenges and grow into the new role our lives had in store for us. I was now surrounded by maternal health specialists, family therapists, doulas, midwives, and even herbalists. Together, they wrapped their soothing arms around me and my fellow hurting mamas and we started to heal.
This past weekend was undoubtedly difficult for those moms still experiencing sorrow on Mother’s Day.
For those moms, I want to wrap my arms around you who are still looking for answers, still searching for the reasons for their loss and pain. Even if you can’t hold your baby today, that baby loves you more than you know. And even if you don’t have photos of you and your babies for whatever reason, they live on through you.
I want you to know you’re not alone if you experienced sorrow on Mother’s Day and you will get through this. You are loved. And you deserve love. Happy belated Mother’s Day.