I talk to new mothers nearly every day. I get the privilege to help them as they begin this new journey called "Motherhood".
I hear them laugh and cry and I sit wherever I can find a spot -- oftentimes on the floor, sometimes, like today, sitting on top of a pile of dirty clothes.
When the tears start, I know how to respond. I know this because I was once the one with the laundry on the floor.
I had postpartum anxiety and depression after each of my three beautiful children. Actually, with my first child, it began when I was about 34 weeks pregnant. I remember feeling a little edgy before I went to bed, and then I woke up with a start, heart racing and short of breath. I felt that "fight or flight" response as adrenaline and cortisol coursed through my bloodstream, sending me into a complete panic.
My husband was alarmed and couldn't understand what I was feeling. I just knew I needed to get AWAY -- from what, I couldn't tell you. To where? I was clueless.
My healthcare provider was kind and told me about his wife and her experiences with depression and anxiety in the peri-partal period. He gave me the number of a wonderful counselor, Kathleen, who listened to me and assured me I would be a good mother and...well, she just listened. She gave me practical tips to utilize when the anxiety began to creep in. She told me to stay away from caffeine (the only thing I didn't like about her), and she was there,week after week, until well after my baby had come and I didn't feel I needed to talk quite so much.
I received a visit from an acquaintance who offered to sit with the baby while I took a shower. Of course I poo-poo'd her idea....I was capable of showering, for goodness' sake.
And then she began to open up with me. She just started talking....she told me about her depression and anxiety after her baby was born and how much a shower made her feel better. I took her up on the offer and stood under the running water, tears streaming down my face as I thought about my child and that I was supposed to be happy and why-am-I-crying-when-this-is-all-I've-ever-wanted?
Another neighbor dragged me to a La Leche League meeting. I had nothing in common with this library-conference-room full of crunchy-granola women who probably didn't shave their armpits and likely breastfed their kids until they were 15. And I bet they ate organic and made their own baby food.
But it was there, in that room, that I learned to become a mother. I learned to depend on my own instincts, to become better informed about anything and everything related to me and my baby, and to use cloth diapers and wear my baby in a sling. I learned that there was nothing special about mainstream. And I learned that I was not alone in the tearfulness, feelings of panic, in the depression that sat on top of me like a cloud.
I never knew that so many women struggled. I was frustrated, thinking that if I had known to expect it, I could have handled it better.
Come to find out, more moms have issues than we know about. No one wants to talk about anything negative when it comes to newborns -- they don't talk about how often newborns nurse, or how little sleep you actually get, or the tears and the anxious thoughts that clog your brain.
Our failure to discuss the hard things makes us our own worst enemies. We struggle with sleep deprivation and postpartum mood disorders but we don't say anything in an effort to be considered normal and on top of it. Why? Why must we be so concerned with appearances when we could potentially make each other's lives easier and more joyful?
We as women need to be like the Nadine's and the Ashley's in my story.
Be loving and helpful and kind.
And talk. Talk about your experiences and your struggles and your solutions.
It is through loving one another that we can all be healed.