It's no secret or surprise - babies bring such anticipation, such joy, an unexplainable love upon their arrival. They bring a whole new meaning to your life's happiness and touch places deep in your heart that you never even knew existed.
But it's not always smiles, happy tears or a walk in the park. How badly I wish it were, but it just isn't the case. When we begin this journey of becoming pregnant, right then and there we are turning our bodies over. Right then and there we are living, breathing and eating for someone else. Every decision we make, everything we do, everywhere we go, we are not alone and it's a safe assumption to make that from this time forward, there will never be a day that goes by that you don't worry.
After the baby arrives you will feel such pride that this little perfect person came from you and now belongs to you. But with that, comes constant apprehension on how and what you're doing, continual questioning about each move you make and endless worry that something is or will go wrong. And for some, without warning, you may slip to an unfamiliar, earth-shattering place.
I'll never forget the words echoing throughout the doctor's office. It was almost as if I was ready to turn around to look for a woman being diagnosed behind me. I had researched it, I knew it, I certainly felt it, but to actually hear the words out loud, being said to me, it was crushing. I felt defeated. I felt so small. I felt helpless. I almost felt as if I was ruined. But most of all, I just felt lost. Postpartum depression. Me?
One of the biggest challenges I had faced was, "So when is 'this' going to be gone? I'm done with it already and just want this nightmare to be over with, for good."
Unfortunately, there was no magic wand that could be waved over me or a magic pill, for that matter, to make this hurt disappear. Everyone kept telling me I was fine. "You're OK just try to snap out of it. Just be happy. You are going to be fine." If one more person tried to dismiss or underplay not only my pain but more so, devastation, I thought I would snap.
One of the biggest frustrations I faced was the stigma attached to postpartum depression. Half of me was plain humiliated for anyone to know what I was facing every single moment of every single day and the other half of me had felt such anger, resentment and self-pity, I was ready to go up and share my sob story with the woman behind me checking out at the grocery store.
I remember the first time an acquaintance of mine had questioned my diagnosis. "Well isn't that where you want to hurt your baby?" To be completely honest, I can't quite remember how I responded. I do know that I paused for quite some time and had to try to lift my jaw back up from the floor as I was in such disbelief that someone could have the audacity to say such a thing because for me; it was the farthest thing from truth. But as unfortunate as it is, society is so misinformed between the levels of this and the gaping difference between postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. And because of this, so many women silently suffer for fear of humiliation and being judged as crazy, or even worse, a bad mother.
I never had one single thought or urge to shake or hurt my baby in any way, shape or form. In fact, I was the exact opposite; I suffered such severe anxiety being away from my children. I agonized even over the thought of separating from them. And then it came time to go back to work and pass over my new baby, and had to peel tiny arms off of my neck and from around my leg while my toddlers begged and pleaded for Mommy to not leave. I would never wish these feelings on my worst enemy. One would think childbirth is painful - but this, the emotional and physical trauma I felt encompassing my entire body, was by far, the deepest pain I had ever endured.
My days had varied. Sometimes I had tried to put on the happiest facade that I could force and other days, anyone who had seen me could understand the turmoil I was in. And I have to say one of the most unnerving places of this entire experience was when I encountered a mood and couldn't decipher if I was putting on a front or if that was actually my true feelings. I found myself internalizing, "I am smiling right now but is it even sincere? Am I actually somewhat complacent?" Or there were times I wondered if I actually even wanted to get better. There are points you are so down and so low that you feel as if there is no getting better in sight. You have totally lost grasp of any of the positives in your life and every negative, no matter how tiny, seems more significant than any good thing within your reach.
Almost 14 months later after giving birth to my third child, I naturally still face tough days, just as every other human being on this planet does. I hurt, I cry, I vent, I get angry and at times, bathe in the hideous self-pity of asking, "Why me?"
For so long I had questioned and prayed and begged for this hurting to all be over, but for such a long time, another day came and "it" was still there. I can't tell you the exact turning point I had or the defining moment that swept me off of this desolate island that I felt I was living on, but I do remember starting to see, feel and experience more good days than bad.
As any woman who has gone through this can relate, to feel normal and whole once again, takes quite some time. But the time I noticed that I hadn't even thought about feeling bad and reviewing and focusing on my daily battles, was when I knew I had bravely beaten the "beast."
I actually stood in amazement thinking to myself, "Oh my God, I did not even think about being sad or defeated once in the past couple of weeks!" When I began to enter a place of feeling like ME again, it felt good.
It felt good to smile and not force it. It felt good to laugh because I wanted to laugh. It felt good to realize and seek out so many of the incredible, positive things in my life.
But it felt amazing to see my babies look at me as if they recognized a new person. A familiar yet happier person they hadn't seen in such a long time.
To have ME back was awesome. But for my children to have MOMMY back, there simply are no words.
Long is a local author and mother of three. Her column is published on the first and third Sunday of each month. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.