January 19, 2010

Mothering and Depression

Lately I have been full with thoughts, with words, with emotions. So full I can not seem to find a way to spill them out here, or anywhere else. But afraid if I don't somehow capture this time it will slip away, out of my mind, my heart, my memories. Afraid to forget.

Motherhood is a hard thing for me to write about. It is ripe with contradictions and cliches. Everything I have felt, or feel, is unique and at the same time completely mundane. The experience is mine, and not mine. It is my story, and the story of millions of other mothers who have gone before me, walk beside me, or will come after me. There is nothing new under the sun.

I have never before loved like I have loved my child. I have never willingly suffered as I have this past year. I have never been so full, so whole, and so empty and broken at the same time.

As we approach Zane's first birthday I find myself constantly looking back and looking within. It has been my first year as "Mama". I still feel new at this. I still feel like I am in training. Sometimes I still can't believe it.

I look at Zane and I can still see that newborn, still smell him. I can still see the first time he rolled over, can still hear his first laugh. I still feel that first kiss, the weight of him in the sling when he was so much smaller, his soft fuzzy baby chick hair. It is all still there.

I can also still feel the weight of sleep deprivation, the frustration and anger of waking for the fifth time in a night, the pit of darkness that swallowed me in the worst nights of depression. I remember the thoughts that I was failing as a mother, that my husband and child would be better off without me, that I couldn't take it anymore. It is all still there.

Today, Zane is a toddler (or technically a "crawdler", if you will). He is rich with expression and opinion and independence. He is a delight, he is a challenge. He is my greatest joy.

Today, I am a Mama seasoned by my experiences, my small victories and failures, rich with both insight and questions, and filled with humility.

I have struggled with post-partum depression more often and to a greater depth this year than I have had the strength or courage to admit here, or to many people in my life. There were 3-5 months that felt like I was walking through darkness, feeling my way. There would be patches of light, of hope, and beautiful wonderful moments, whole stretches of days when I would breathe fresh air and feel the sunlight and love my life. But then a few rough nights without sleep, travel, illnesses, or various other disruptions would send me back into the cave.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets. I miss those months, weeks, days, hours, that ppd took from me. I am sad that although I fought hard to be present and whole with my son, I know I didn't fully experience him in the ways I longed to. I know I missed a lot of moments. I regret that I couldn't or wouldn't be more open with people who love me, or even just here for starters. I am sad that sometimes those who did know weren't always able to be there for me in the ways I needed, or just didn't understand. I regret that I wasn't always able to receive the help from those who did know and understand and wanted to be there for me. I wish that such a large portion of my first year as a mother and Zane's first year of life wasn't tainted by my illness. I wish I didn't still feel like I failed somehow.

All that being said, I have a lot I am grateful for and proud of as well. I am thankful that my partner and I (and a dear friend who watched Zane every week) made it possible and a priority that I had time with a kind and experienced therapist every week, which was truly life-saving for me. I am grateful for the night shifts my partner took so that I could get the sleep that was so crucial to my recovery. I am humbled by the prayers and support of an estranged friend who fought her own long battle with ppd. I am proud that even in the depths of the darkest hours, I fought hard and for the most part was able to stay present with my son, to celebrate him, to comfort him, to play with him, to teach him, to be consistent - and that when I felt unable to do so, I stepped away to recompose myself to come back to him more whole. I cherish that my son is so obviously well-adjusted, secure, and filled with joy and adventure, in spite of my depression.

I know there is no guarantee that my ppd won't resurface. I know for a fact that I still have much work to do to fully heal. But, for now, I am grateful to feel this recent freedom from it. I am looking forward to the year to come. And whatever regrets I have about the year that has passed, I look at my son, and I know I have mothered him well, as well as I am able. I know without a doubt there is nothing I would not do to be a good and healthy mother for him. That is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far. I am reminded that there is far more good in me and a greater capacity to love than I have ever given myself credit for.

Motherhood is a long journey. This was just my first chapter. What a way to start.


Anonymous said...

I have walked in a pair of shoes similar to your own many, many times. I am so sorry that PPD robbed you of such enjoyment during the first year, and I know firsthand the pain and regret of realizing that it has. I don't know that I will ever forgive myself for not doing what I needed to do to get rid of the darkness and despair, and 4 years later, I am still trying to make it up to my son (who, of course, has no memory of any of it.) I am beyond impressed with the lessons that you have learned from your experience and am moved by your words. You are right - it is a long journey!

poppy.f.seed said...

wow, thanks for your honesty! I have found being a mother to be much more challenging(and sometomes difficult) than I could ever imagine.
I am happy to read you've been seeing someone!

Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress said...

Watch my blog on Sunday. You might see yourself there. ;-)

Meg said...

This reflection is so amazing and I am both thrilled you can go to this place and reflect but also so sorry you even have to recap months of anguish and desperation. You are an amazing mom and Zane will forever be grateful for every single part of you.

The Steadfast Warrior said...

Meg sent me here. Thank you so much for this. I am in the middle of PPD and waiting for the appointment that will hopefully help me begin to climb out of the darkness. I hope by the time my daughter is a year old, I will have come to a better place with everything as you have.

Ivy said...

Thanks to Katherine Stone, I now know about your terrific blog. Hope you don't mind my posting a link to your blog from mine. I too went through IVF cycles to get pregnant.

Loyce said...

Something I have always said and tell my daughters, who are both moms now, that being a mother and wife are the two most challenging roles a woman experiences in life.

Rewarding, but at times very challenging.

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