When you have a baby, you expect joy.
It feels silly now, when I look back on what I thought motherhood would be like. I suppose my warped sense of reality was aided in further unrealistic expectations thanks to the persona that nearly every mother (at least those on social media) portrays. You know what I mean, the moms who have it all together. They have the perfect milestone pictures, breastfeed their babies while looking like serene life-giving goddesses, and only feed their baby homemade and organic purées if they’re not following a BLW style. These moms have it all together. These moms know what they’re doing. They feel nothing but joy. They are living a picture perfect life in their picture perfect world and I’m left sitting on the outside looking in. I’m left longing to be them. Longing for their joy; even just an ounce.
I am not that mom.
I’m the mom who was hit full force by the baby blues. I mean, at least I thought I was until I started digging deeper; but that wasn’t until I accepted that the feeling of loneliness and unhappiness were not fading, no matter what.
My midwife and I had talked about my increased risk for postpartum depression (PPD), so I knew to be on the lookout. There were symptoms to watch out for and knowing how difficult I found being alone and pregnant in a foreign country, I figured I’d have to be more vigilant once my son was born. Knowing all of this didn’t really help though.
Sure, I’ve gone through depressing episodes in my life, but I had never been diagnosed with actual depression. I had never done much more than a bit of self-care to fix whatever ruts I had found myself in. I was lucky because when depression actually hits, it’s like a train could be barreling down the tracks and you just stand there. You almost want it to hit you because you don’t have the energy to face the task of moving. Add in some postpartum hormones and you have an incredibly dangerous cocktail.
There’s no easy way to “fix” PPD and as much as I’d love to just avoid it and pretend it doesn’t exist in my life, I can’t. It’s so much easier to post pictures of my happy baby and smile and nod when people ask if I love being a mother than it is to tell the truth. It’s so rare for someone to post the nitty-gritty of life without sugarcoating it and yet it’s so easy to look at those around you and feel as if you’re doing something wrong. I’m guilty of only posting the good. I’ve only posted happy pictures of my son and I focus on the good aspects of the day/month/milestone online. Do I share the fact that my child screams randomly for no reason? No. What about the fact that I hadn’t showered in three days? No. I do share my son smiling in his swing or making cute baby sounds. I share the good stuff and I bottle up the bad.
As mothers and parents in general, we have to be more honest. We have to stop pretending that life is nothing but a fairytale. We owe it to each other to share our battles along with our triumphs, the good with the bad. Your kid slept through the night? Awesome, share it! Were you unable to put him down for more than 2 hours the night before? Share that, too.
Tell the truth because moms like me need to hear it. I need to know that your perfectly dressed child who smiles in every picture can throw a fit at the drop of a hat, just like mine. I need to know that you have piles of laundry to do and you’re down to your last pair of clean underwear, just like I am. I need to know the bad so I can see the good and know that one day, I’ll be there too. One day these battles will be behind me and I’ll be facing new ones – hopefully with a bit more sleep.
If you or anyone you know is battling with depression, please seek the help of a medical professional. Additional resources can be found here.