Tomorrow, Hayden will turn 6 months old, and I will have made it through the first 6 months of his life, free of PPD. The weeks after he was born, when I felt happy and at peace, there was always a thought in the back of my mind that I couldn’t count myself home free until he turned 6 months old. Living without PPD for 6 months would truly be a victory. There’s even a still teeny tiny part of me that thinks talking about it out loud will jinx it, and that tomorrow on his 6 month birthday I will wake up feeling sad and blue. But deep down I know that’s just me being silly.
For years after having Taylor and Syd, my experience with postpartum depression defined me as a mother, and my experience with having babies. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you, I was openly vocal about my distaste for those first weeks of living with a newborn. The crying, the constant nursing, the sleep deprivation, the swaying and rocking and patting and shhshhing. It was clear that I was not a fan. Sure, once I climbed out of the hole that is postpartum depression, I could see how much I loved my kids and each developing stage they experienced. But newborn and young infant stuff? I would joyfully skip over that part if I could, in large part because of the sadness and fear that was intesified by the PPD.
For weeks before Hayden was born I struck with bouts of fear and anxiety. Small, fleeting bouts, but fear nonetheless. Just days before I delivered, I remember thinking how terrified I was to give birth to another baby that I loved and treasured with all my being, but that I also did not like. I know that sounds so horrible to say, but with my past experience of dealing with my newborns, I remember vividly laying in bed wide awake at night thinking of all the scenarios of when and how I would protect them against the evils and hurts of the world, but I also remember the feeling of having to shed their weight with a quick thrust of their body as soon as Art walked in the door from work. It was a very visceral and surreal tug/pull feeling; one moment I would be hovering, and the next I would be saying through clenched teeth “get this baby off of me.” These experiences were my own and I realize not symptomatic of every single case of PPD.
After Hayden was born, there was only one moment of sheer and utter panic the first night we got home from the hospital. I was walking down the hall trying to manage bed time with the older kids while Art was holding Hayden, and I just thought to myself, “how am I going to do this?” I later cried, telling Art the PPD was already starting in. He held me and calmed me down and told me I was probably just tired. It turns out that I probably was just tired.
Because in these past 6 months I have been the happiest I can ever remember being. I have bonded with Hayden in such an intense way that it hurts at times. I yearn to hold him, I stare at him when he’s sleeping, I don’t mind (as much) when he wakes in the middle of the night for a feeding, I waste hours of my days just kissing his thighs and cheeks and head. I feel all those things and in all the ways I had always heard women talk. I am the woman that is sad each day as he gets older because he’s less and less a baby. My own baby has given me baby fever at times for God’s sake. These feelings are new and wonderful and a big like “whoa!” this is crazy. Crazy awesome.
For so long I felt guilt about my first few months of time with Taylor and Syd. Did I love them enough, hold them enough, smile at them enough? Or did those feelings of PPD creep into our every day too much, and I held out on them? For years now I’ve carried that guilt around because I didn’t remember as many times feeling happy in those first few months as I remember feeling sad and scared. But these past 6 months of being with Hayden and having this new experience has altered my memories in a way. I now know that I did love them enough and gave them all they need, even if at the time I wasn’t sure or didn’t know.
This new experience with Hayden has helped redefine so much of how I look at myself as a mother. It’s helped me see myself through a new lens. A lens not clouded by the sadness of PPD, not defined by PPD. In fact in many ways it’s been a new chapter of motherhood for me, one with a lot more patience and hopefulness and positivity. Of course we have our days, it’s not perfect, but it’s filled with a lot more joy. Motherhood no longer defined by a short experience with PPD. Motherhood redefined indeed.
If you have struggled with PPD in the past, or are struggling now, I pray that you seek help in any way you need to. For me I took what some considered a drastic step and encapsulated my placenta, which you can read about here. You can also read my drug free birth story, a first for me, here. If you have any questions about my experience with PPD and placenta encapsulation, you can ask me here in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.