Silence of Sadness

Having been staying home with my kids for the past two or so months, I have caught myself often reflecting on how different this go-round has been since when I first stayed at home with my kids. I've had three stints of being a stay at home mom: when my son was born for nine months, when my daughter was born for about a year and a half, and now, going on about two months.

The differences are drastic. I do not believe that any mother can consider herself a "professional" or "seasoned" because we all know kids love being exceptions to the rules and will throw you in a tizzy just when you think you've gotten the hang of things. So I do not think things are easier now because I consider myself a pro. Far from it. I think things have gotten immensely easier because I am no longer afraid or guilt-ridden to talk about all of the feelings that go along with being a mother.

Perhaps you've heard the moniker "baby blues." Or maybe the not so cutesy term "post-partum depression." Or, if you're like me, you've heard of it, doubted it existed, became ashamed of yourself, and refused to consider that this all-encompassing sadness is taking you over when it's supposed to be the happiest moments of your life.

Ladies and gentlemen: I have experienced little of all that parenting has to offer. I have not yet broached the teen years, much less the elementary school years. But what I have experienced is post-partum depression and the silence that surrounds this sadness. That silence makes things so much harder to cope with all the changes happening, and rapidly, in your life.

So, let's talk about it. I am no longer ashamed. When my son was born, I fell in love. There is nothing like holding your newborn baby for the first time. I thought I knew love until that little bean was nestled in the crook of my neck, sleeping away. I was on an extremely exhausting high. Life as I had always known it was over. In the matter of hours of contractions, an epidural, and two and a half hours of pushing, the book entitled The Life of Molly: Not the Mother Years was closed and finished. A new book started being written, this one called The Life of Molly: In Love, Exhausted, and Clueless. Somebody Please Help Me. Please.

You can see the exhaustion seeping out of my pores
That high I was riding came crashing down once we got home, family left, my husband went back to work, and my pain prescriptions had no refills. And I felt abandoned and lower than I ever had in my life. My survival instincts of asking for help failed like they've never done before. If I asked for help, or told anybody, then that means I am failing as a mother, right? All I could think was "what is wrong with me?!" I had this beautiful, healthy baby boy, a great bond built through breastfeeding, yet I was so extremely depressed. It became a vicious cycle-- I'd get depressed, then feel guilty about these feelings, refuse to admit these feelings, which made me feel even more alone and depressed.

There are two defining moments that I will never forget that helped me come to the realization that I had post-partum depression. I have only shared these exact moments with a handful of people because they are hard for me to relive. But, the silence and stigma surrounding this sadness needs to stop, so here are my two huge realizations:

  1. My husband was home and the baby was crying. I had been up all night with him and home alone all day with him, until my husband got off work. I couldn't take the crying anymore. I felt like a failure and desperately needed my husband to take over. I was sitting in the laundry room floor, up against the open dryer. And I was ugly-crying, heaving, snotting. It wasn't pretty nor was it graceful. Imagine, having the greatest gift that can be given in this world, and knowing how truly lucky and blessed you are, and you're becoming more and more depressed, no matter how hard you try not to be. You begin to feel like a real ungrateful piece of shit, honestly. I loved that baby so much but I was so tired, so overwhelmed, still in so much physical pain (I had an episiotomy that didn't heal correctly and was breastfeeding for the first time-- so, literally scabs, blisters, and bleeding), and felt abandoned because no other person was going through what I was going through at the moment. And I surely wasn't going to admit these feelings because, good God, how un-maternal of me. I remained on the floor crying well after my husband handled everything. Once there was calm in the house, he came upstairs and told me he was worried about me. That was clue number one.
  2. The second incident was at my 6 week check-up. I had to take the baby with me and if you know anything about infants, their schedules are far from regular. Going out in public always started with anxiety because you can literally never predict an explosive diaper, screams of hunger, the pacie-fell-out-now-let-me-panic fit, or any other myriad reasons babies cry. So, I'm sitting on the table with the carseat next to me on the floor, anxiously waiting for the doctor to come in. All is well and the baby is sleeping. I, too, am tired so I start to fall asleep. I try my damnedest to stay awake because I'm pretty sure it's some sort of social faux pas to be passed out and drooling anywhere that is not your own bed. Ten minutes go by, then twenty... my baby starts stirring a little, and here comes the water works. I waited for over 40 minutes in that office and cried for over half of them. Putting aside that I then had to have an internal exam with a wide awake and fussy baby and a more than tender nether region, I was a hot mess. Literally and figuratively because, you know, emotions and hormones will do some crazy things to a body. And that's when I had it. I sobbed to her how I felt. Then she told me how absolutely normal these feelings are.
 I feel like we as a society stigmatize mental illness, including depression. It's looked upon as a weakness, a parasite of the mind that makes the person suffering inferior. And it's kind of bullshit. And this "weakness" is carried over and post-partum is perceived similarly. It is not a weakness. Your body went through something traumatic, your hormones are all over the place, you alone are experiencing this first-hand, you're sleep deprived, and now you have this teeny being who you don't even really know yet-- but you love him or her with all your heart-- that is dependent on you every single second of every 24 hours of every week of every.... Again, your whole entire life-- how ever many years until you had a baby-- is no longer. It's an extreme and abrupt change that you cannot truly prepare for. You have to find a new normal, a new self, and that's hard. Of course, OF COURSE, you're going to have negative emotions during this transitional phase. So why the hell does nobody talk about it?!

I'm not here to say I'm proud that I suffered post-partum depression. But I am here to say that I am not ashamed and will proudly talk about my experiences or offer advice to those going through something similar. Becoming a mother is hard and suffering through an all-encompassing sadness, one that people remain silent on, makes you feel like a failure. I assure you, in my not-an-expert opinion, that you're not.

Cuteness level does not predict depression level
So, momma, shed those tears. But do not feel that guilt. There's nothing to be ashamed about-- and welcome to motherhood. I can say it gets easier-- being in my third stint of staying home with the kids, I no longer feel those feelings like I did post-partum.

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