I am finally in love with mothering. Finally.
It's been 14 months since my daughter was born and it is only now that I can say I enjoy and embrace my role as a mother. Only now.
But now I can honestly say I fall in love with motherhood a little more every day. I become more loving and grateful every day. I appreciate the simple things, like seeing my daughter happily play on the playground, so much. Everything in life is sweeter now - sweeter, I think, because things were so bitter such a short time ago.
At about ten months postpartum, I finally got on an antidepressant that started to work for me. It wasn't flawless - not by a long shot. My doctor and I had to play with the dose for many months before we got it right. At first, the medicine hyped me up - made my thoughts race, my mouth go 100mph and made me insanely hyperactive, but it did kill the feelings of depression I'd been experiencing.
And...then it stopped working very well, so my doctor recommended upping the dose. It worked and eventually I started feeling good again. Shortly before we found the right medicine at the right dose, I quit going to counseling because I didn't feel like it was helping me...at all.
At about that time the magic started to happen. I finally...loved spending time with my daughter. I appreciated her. I adored her every face and move. I'd always loved her, but I finally actually fell head over heels in love with her. I missed her when she wasn't with me, even if I knew I needed a break. I felt attached, connected and fully bonded with my child. I felt the kind of fierce love a mother feels for her babe -the kind of love that I knew would enable me to die for her if necessary.
But all this is only after a full ten months of excruciating suffering. During that long time, I thought I'd never feel well again and that motherhood was simply miserable. It had to be - that was the only answer to the way I was feeling! I was doing everything "right". I mean, I went to counseling, took an antidepressant, took steps to make a career for myself, yet nothing pulled me out of the angry, guilty, miserable cycle.
I got so tired of reading about postpartum depression. The classic signs and symptoms didn't line up very well with what I was experiencing. Instead of being sad, I was angry. Rather than being moody, I was hateful - guilty, not down. I was furious because I'd educated myself on the mainstream symptoms of postpartum depression, yet I didn't recognize my own signs as part of this disease because my symptoms weren't the "regular" ones you read about so often.
I felt crazy because counseling only made me feel worse and medicine would work for a month or two and then stop working out of the blue. I felt like no one knew what to do to help me. I felt like I had no one to turn to. I felt lost. It seemed like there was a sea of resources for and information about postpartum mood disorders, yet at the same time it seemed like no one knew what they were talking about or how to help me.
Despite that, I pushed through. I kept going to my doctor to touch base every month. I kept trying medicines and doses, even when I had no faith in them. I went to counseling every week for months. I pushed myself to clean the house, write for my blog and study even if it was the very last thing I wanted to do.
It paid off. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the fog of anger and depression lifted. I started to enjoy my daughter more and more. At some point, I finally realized that I was no longer angry at the hand life dealt me. I wasn't the same hateful, hopeless person I'd been during those ten months. Somewhere along the way I had learned to...love motherhood.
If anyone had told me that I'd struggle with a postpartum mood disorder for a full ten months, I'd have laughed them in the face. "People who have problems that long aren't getting the help they need. No one trying to get better has problems for that long," I would have said.
But obviously I was wrong. People do suffer for months, or years, even when they are trying with every fiber of their being to get better. I wish I had known this. I wish I'd been more aware of the myriad forms postpartum mood disorders can take, and I wish that there had been more mainstream knowledge about it.
Not knowing how long it can take to heal from postpartum mood disorders, not knowing how many different forms and symptoms these disorders can manifest under, not knowing that sometimes counseling doesn’t work and that you have to go through a lot of different medicines at different doses to find the right one was the hardest part of my struggle.
But now, having gone through this soul wrenching journey, I am a stronger, more feeling person. Sometimes the pure, simple joy of life overwhelms me. I treasure moments with my daughter not because I feel like I should but because I want to. I am here today trying to get the word out that postpartum depression doesn’t fit neatly into a list of typical symptoms, nor is its cure any simpler. Everyone has a unique journey through postpartum depression. Everyone has a unique cure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my journey, it’s that.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will find it.
Do you have a postpartum story to tell? Need some words of encouragement? Comment below!