To all my friends and family who have taken the time to read my story, thank you. I know that these posts haven’t been short (or very uplifting). But while I find myself in a particularly delicate season of life, it has been a comfort to know that I have updated so many that I care about without having to retell my story over and over. While at first it was slightly thereputic to tell people how I was really doing (when asked), it quickly turned to exhausting. So I find myself answering with the always socially acceptable “fine” or if I feel like getting deep “good not great” is a trusted standby. This will be my final update. My Part 3/3 in this postpartum depression series. I lit the end of Part two with a less than rosy glow. Part 3 is here to reflect on healing I’ve received and also how I’ve worked toward healing myself.
I called my therapist the week that we returned from Hawaii. She starts each session the same way: “So, how are you doing?” I think I managed a few sentences before being swallowed by tears. Thank goodness for this woman. I’m so grateful that I began seeing her before Lucas was born. I feel like the trust was already well established and now that my baby is nine months old, I’m realizing that I’ve been seeing her for about a year now. If you find a therapist that you connect with, hold on to them with all you’ve got. In our session we talked a lot about loss. I still hadn’t emerged from the shadow of my low milk supply and the possibility that breastfeeding was ending sooner rather than later. Even though Lucas had cut back on his biting habit, I was too nervous to get my hopes up that we were in the clear. At this point, I had completely dried up on one side (I was devastated) and was unable to produce more than a snack’s worth of milk on the other. One thing that my therapist said that wasn’t helpful initially, but something that now I keep coming back to: “Motherhood is full of loss.” We talked about how some losses are little. Some are giant. Some seem small to others, but mean so much more to us. Some are sneaky and we don’t know that we are about to experience a loss. Then we realize that we sang our child to sleep for the last time weeks ago- and it hits us. A loss.
We talked about how difficult this has been on my marriage. I am a processer who married a fixer. We all have a little of both in us, but as a general rule, I want to feel everything that comes with motherhood. The good and the bad. The easy and the trying. It has been my commitment to this that has been hard for Dayna. While I want to go through each feeling and really let it settle (ie process), she has wanted to help with solutions to the tough stuff (a really great visual is this video that my therapist recommended. It is under two minutes long and you will laugh). But the problem is that I don’t want solutions all the time. The band Johnnyswim has a song that really sums this feeling up:
Run baby run
Don’t you know I’ve tried
But escape is a waste ain’t no use in hiding
you know the best way over’s through
So if it matters let it matter
If your heart’s breaking let it ache
Catch those pieces as they scatter
Know your hurt is not in vain
(excerpt of Let it Matter from their album, Georgica Pond)
The best way over is through. This is so true for me. I don’t think that I need to be medicated right now. I don’t think I need to find ways to distract myself or to focus on just the happy thoughts. I’ve made space for the sad bits. They have a place. It matters to me, so I’m going to let it matter. I’m not staying home, listening to the blues and pouring through boxes of tissue. But I’m also not in the mood to act like the feelings that I’m having are showing up just to be suppressed. I think that they serve a purpose and I’m just going to keep feeling all of them. A lot of well-meaning people have come forth and tried to provide words of comfort and normalize my story. I am not uncomfortable with grief. So if it’s all the same to you, I’m going sit with this for a little while longer.
I love you, you are my best friend.
I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle. I promise to love you in good times and bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple and when it is an effort.
This is just a peek at our wedding vows. We have them framed in our entryway, ever present. Postpartum depression has challenged these vows. Honestly, parenthood has challenged these vows. We have had plenty of good since Lucas was born. So before I receive any messages about how a solid marriage is built on love, open communication, and patience for each other, blah blah blah. Please save me the sermon. I know. I know the recipe for a strong marriage. And I believe that at the core of our relationship, we are solid. But when my wife the fixer feels like she is being silenced with little to no negotiation from my end, it’s hard. It’s really hard. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to her (sometimes kindly, and sometimes screaming) “Please don’t try to fix this.” I’m processing and healing in my own way. If you can give me time and space, that is what I need.
Dayna was recently part of a two week class given by the army that focused on resiliency. She chose to use it as a marital experiment. It could not have come at a better time. She came home every day, fired up about some new exercise for us, and her new found passion was contagious. I won’t go into all the details of her class, but I will say that it has made a huge difference. I have required a lot more patience and compassion in recent months, and this course gave my wife the skills to do so. It’s also not a perfect solution. We still disagree on the regular and have to work through our communication breakdowns. But we are working on it, and that’s what matters.
I’m still here. Some days I feel better. Some days I recluse and pull my hair till my scalp bleeds. But slowly the good days are taking over the bad. Writing has been a surprisingly effective release. This little series that started as a way to update loved ones turned into it’s own little therapy session. Once I started writing, things just sort of worked themselves out on the page. I will probably always cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and trich. I believe that at times, we are all working through our own demons. But since I am so set on feeling all my pain fully (similar to childbirth), I’m taking my sweet time. So if you know me and live life with me, be patient. If I haven’t called or texted you back, just give me space. I’m coming around. I want to leave you with a quote by another mama who is also an author. Her words are good.
To every mother up all night, eating the bits off your kids’ plates and longing for a hot shower: You are brave. You made a tiny human, or several. You are creating a legacy.
To every mother flying out the door to work with dry toast in one hand and backpacks in the other: Fret not; you are doing a good job.
To every woman with a child who doubts her abilities and is doing the very best she can: Take heart, for you are creating a generation. Your love won’t ever go unnoticed, and your shortcomings will be forgiven.
I’ve heard it said the days are long, and the years are short. Revel in these years. These are your training years. You are being refined and tried and tested for a purpose. Motherhood is messy and unscripted, and you will fail, but you will soar. Embrace your flaws, and forgive yourself. Those tiny people want only you, your love, and your time. They don’t want perfect, and they don’t need pretty; they just need you. Cook them all the food from scratch that you can manage. They won’t forget. Play with them, and hold them always, no matter what the books say. They want the real you.
To every mother: You’ve got this. You were made for hard things.
Danielle Kartes, Rustic Joyful Food