I’m holding my newborn baby girl in my arms, rubbing her soft head and watching her slowly drift to sleep. I can’t seem to get enough of her. I think of how much my heart aches with love for her. Then I think of how I now feel that way for my son….and how I did not feel this way about him as a newborn. I tolerated him. I felt anxious and unhappy at having to ‘deal’ with him. I would get mad at my newborn for needing to be on me constantly. I resented him taking away all of my sense of self. When he was older I began to enjoy parts of our day, but that overwhelming, constant compassion and love was not there.
It breaks my heart to write this, or even think of it. This lasted almost a year until I was properly treated for my condition. When I started to feel better I noted to my doctor “I really feel so much lighter. I actually enjoy spending time with my son” She held my hand and looked at me seriously, “This is the way it’s supposed to feel right from the start. This is how healthy moms feel.” I broke down in tears because I knew what she didn’t want to say, that my depression got in the way of my bonding. My mental state completely hindered our attachment.
During that first year, there is no knowing just what we missed out on, or the long term affects of our struggle. I felt guilty about this for a while and then got hit with another huge wave of guilt when I felt love for my new baby. But I decided not to dwell on it. What has passed has passed. I saw what we missed out on and worked for us to heal. My son and I have such a special and loving relationship and now that I am out of the clouds I can actually offer both of my children love, compassion and understanding in a way I never could during my first year as a mother.
I will never have that precious time back that I lost to postpartum depression. I can’t go back and take away the anger and resentment I felt for my sweet baby. I can’t take away that small part of my heart that still aches for that missed early bond. What I can do is learn from that horrible year. I have learned to make myself a priority; to take care of my needs and not get lost amongst the needs of others. I have learned to keep myself mentally healthy and recognize the warning signs. I have also learned, above all, not to be silent when I struggle. I now find the courage to reach out when I struggle. It’s not that I am being selfish by practicing self care, I am being selfless by making sure I am a strong and solid ship for my children to sail smoothly on. When I suffer, my whole family suffers. This time around I am actually enjoying motherhood. I was so afraid of this stage because of my severe PPD last time and thanks to medication and all of the community surrounding me I am on the other side again and I am actually thriving; we are all thriving.