I spend a lot of time here talking about how great being a mom is – all the wonderful baby moments, the cuddles, the chubby cheek munches, the sweet things they say and do – and that’s the way I want it to be because these are the things I want to remember. It’s been almost 9 years of being a mom and I’ve accumulated a lot of amazing mom moments, for which I’m grateful.
When I first became a mom, I was not prepared for how hard it would be. And I’m not talking about the diaper changes, the explosive poops, the bathing of a slippery newborn, those are the easy parts. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much pressure it was to suddenly be responsible for another entire human being, having to come to terms with all my inadequacies, and the mom guilt that never goes away no matter how stellar a job I’m doing.
Then there was the postpartum depression, and the breastfeeding, which for me, led to more depression. I had just walked away from a job I could not afford to walk away from and gone ahead to have two needy babies 13 months apart.
I think the weight of all of it broke me.
For a long time during those early mom days, it was just dark and empty and lonely and scary. My two beautiful, precious, perfect babies were draining my soul from me and I didn’t know how to get it back. Each day felt like an eternity. I would wake up in the morning with the crippling weight of emptiness and the only thing that got me through the day was knowing that if I held on long enough, it would be bedtime and I could crawl back into bed and wallow.
After Kirsten was born, I spent the next 9 months just clawing my way to the end of each day. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, partly because I wasn’t even going to try to manage two babies alone in public, and partly because I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to smile at strangers or make small talk or cry like a baby and then have to have that conversation about how I was losing it. I wasn’t a talker who talked about my dark, scary feelings to people. I was a get my act together through sheer mental strength person and that is exactly the kind of person that gets a proper walloping by postpartum depression.
I tried to pull myself out of my misery but the thing about being in a deep, dark hole is that you can’t.
The best I could do during those days was to force myself to smile at my babies so that they wouldn’t grow up with an unexplainable sadness because mommy couldn’t get it together. I would sing to them and tell that that everything was going to be ok even though I didn’t believe it.
To be honest, I had a pretty low bar – I wasn’t even gunning for good days, my scale of days was between Very Bad to Utter Misery. If I had a below average day, I would reward myself with an extra dose of self pity.
I was thankful for a husband who was there for me even though he didn’t understand why I was broken or how to make it better. Every night when he got home from work, he would ask me how my day was and if I needed to cry. Which I did. I always needed to cry, and I would sob into his shoulders until I was exhausted enough to go to bed.
It was only when I stopped breastfeeding Kirsten that things started to get better. I felt like there was light in my life again and I could finally breathe.
With each subsequent baby, I got better at dealing with the postpartum depression. I still feel the darkness creeping in, but I’m better equipped to keep it at arm’s length so it doesn’t cripple me (too much). Over the years, I’ve figured out some coping mechanisms that help me manage. I learnt to brace myself for the hit and take it instead of letting it catch me off guard. I learnt to fake it until it becomes real, to find that little ounce of joy and focus on it and pour it out because that’s what my kids need.
Experience helps for sure, but if there’s one thing that I could tell my 27-year-old self struggling with postpartum depression, it would be that IT GETS BETTER. In big, shouty caps.
It may not seem possible for a long time, but just keep getting through one day after the next and you’ll eventually get to the good parts. And trust me, that part is better than good. It will be everything you dreamed being a mother would be like. They will bring you so much joy it will make up for all those dark, dark days.
So on this Mother’s Day, here’s to all the moms who just need to make it to the next day. We’re all rooting for you. :)