When I became a mother, I hadn’t felt more alone and isolated in my entire life. It floored me. I had postpartum depression and anxiety but didn’t know it. I was on maternity leave, recovering slowly and painfully from a C-section. Add to that the approaching brutal Northeast winter, and isolation was unavoidable.
After the longest, hardest winter, literally and metaphorically, I found Postpartum Progress and Living Self-Care. Then I discovered #ppdchat on Twitter. I started reading blogs written by women like me, only they weren’t afraid to share their stories and I was. I didn’t know I would soon be blogging myself and how much that would influence my recovery and change my life.
Reading about PPD from those women’s viewpoints corrected the course of my PPD journey. Each day, the isolation and loneliness melted away and I headed in a new, better direction. I found solace in those voices, belonging to women I didn’t know but to whom I felt so connected. Those women described the same things I’d been feeling—things I thought were happening to only me.
From the bottom of my heart, if you’re blogging about your perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, thank you. If you’re sharing it with your family, friends, neighbors, doctors, thank you. If you’re reading this blog, thank you. It might not seem like much but sharing your story changes lives. You’re creating awareness. You’re creating a village where women can find refuge.
This past weekend, I participated in a training for Mother to Mother, our free volunteer phone support program for pregnant and post-birth moms in Missouri. One conversation which stood out for me was how surviving postpartum depression (PPD) can help us become stronger and more confident. Not that anyone would willingly choose this, but sometimes it chooses us.
Experiencing mild depression after my first baby, took me by surprise. After completing my doctoral degree, getting my psychology license, and seeing 30 clients a week, I thought I could handle anything. Certainly, motherhood couldn’t be more challenging. How wrong I was!
As a new mom I doubted myself about many things, including if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I felt incompetent, inadequate and that I wasn’t “good enough” to be the mom my daughter deserved. I thought sleep, self-care and sex were permanently gone. On bad days I was convinced life as I knew it was over and I’d be trapped in motherhood hell forever.
But gradually, the landscape changed. Surviving the ups, downs and uncertainties of new motherhood, I emerged feeling stronger and self-assured. More capable of meeting life’s changes. Empowered with renewed strength and confidence.
For all moms, including those with PPD, listen now to “The Princess Who Saved Herself. It is a reminder and affirmation that while others may help us through challenging and stressful times, making our way through the darkness is ultimately what saves us.
I was listening to a mother in our postpartum support group as she described small victories; she was recovering from postpartum depression (PPD) and was feeling good about herself and how far she had come. I wondered why more women don’t celebrate recovery and victory over depression, anxiety, grief, and other emotional challenges.
A few years ago while offering phone support, one mom mentioned that after recovering from PPD, her Mother-in-law said she didn’t like who she’d become. Why was that? What was different about her? She’d emerged a stronger, more confident woman, able to voice her needs and take care of herself. A well-fought victory! We laughed about her mother-in-law’s reaction and celebrated the woman she is now who is so different than when I first spoke to her.
After two personal experiences with PPD, I like the woman and mother I have become. I feel strong for fighting and winning against PPD, to date it is the most difficult thing I have experienced in my life. Now I ask for what I want and take care of my needs. I have self confidence in who I am and my abilities as a mother. That terrible experience molded me into the person I am today. Today, celebrate the woman you are becoming and have become!
Linda Meyer is the Executive Director of Mother to Mother in St. Louis, MO. Mother to Mother offers telephone and group support to women experiencing emotional difficulties during pregnancy and postpartum.