If you ask my mom about my battle with postpartum depression, she will tell you that she knew something was wrong immediately. That when I got home from the hospital with my son, I just disappeared. The light in my eyes vanished and her daughter was replaced by a shell of a human being she didn’t recognize.
My friends would all tell you the exact same thing. One close friend said she saw it in my eyes right away after viewing pictures from our infant photo session. Another could see it in my eyes in person on the rare occasion I would attempt to be social at a dinner. The comforting thing about all of this is that the people who know you the best know when something is off, they don’t pretend everything is okay, and they want to help you, even when there is nothing they can do but check in and wait until you get better.
During the first five and a half months of my son’s life, I tried to go through the motions of being a mom–changing diapers, holding him, reading to him–you know, the things you have to do to make sure your baby is healthy and happy. I’m not going to lie to you. I wasn’t very good at pretending. I probably spent more time in bed crying and sleeping than with my new baby. My husband and I ended up hiring our night nurse’s aunt during the day time for these months to care for our son. She was a blessing. My son always knew love even if it wasn’t coming directly from his mother. I’m tearing up as I write this. I will always feel those pangs of regret for missing out on those moments of infancy…moments I can’t get back. I’m just so grateful that he will never remember his crazy momma from back then.
At about five and a half months, I started to see glimmer of light. I remember when this happened so vividly because when you are suffering from postpartum depression, there is no light, only darkness, and you don’t believe that it will ever change. It was impossible for me to understand that I would get better and want to be my son’s mommy. I thought I would live in that hell forever.
In July 2013, my sister was visiting and helping me take care of my son when my husband was away for business. I still wasn’t capable of doing it alone. It was bath time and I agreed to do it with her. All of a sudden, when we took my son out of the bath, I smiled…a real, genuine smile. You can see it above. My sister documented it. The first real evidence that Jen was maybe coming back.
The next day while my son was with the nanny, we went shopping at a boutique my sister likes to go to when she comes down south. Until that moment, I had no desire to ever shop again. And if you know me, that isn’t normal. I am a shopping addict. I didn’t refrain from shopping because of pregnancy weight gain. In fact, and I joke about this because there really is no upside to PPD, but the only upside to my PPD was that the baby weight melted off. I didn’t shop because my desire for pretty new things had disappeared. But that day I bought a pair of sweatpants…way overpriced sweatpants. So overpriced, that in a normal setting, had my husband found out what I spent on these sweatpants, he would have been very unhappy with me. But on that day, he congratulated me on my first shopping since the postpartum depression rocked our world. I probably could have bought myself some Chanel and he would have been excited about it. Again, maybe Jen was returning.
The following weekend, I decided to take my little one for a walk to the park by our house because there was an art festival and I actually felt like seeing what was there. Upon entering the park, I found the perfect piece of artwork for my sons’ room. A canvas painted with mason jars with the title, “All In The Family.” Yes my son’s name is Mason, and I love anything mason jar because of it. In addition to buying the large canvas, I bought prints for all the grandparents. Who was this woman who was now walking to parks with her son and buying things for his room and family?
It was the first signs of me–the me that my mom said had disappeared when I arrived home from the hospital. And there I was walking back from the park to our house (uphill I might add), pushing the stroller with one arm, and carrying this oversized, heavy canvas wrapped in cardboard in the other. I was sweating, panting, and my arms and legs felt like they were going to give out, but I did it. I made it home from the first walk on my own with Mason and the perfect picture for his nursery. And I felt good about it!
The next day, I decided to go to my first hot yoga class since Mason had been born. This was a huge deal. Besides walking to try and calm the anxiety or when I was forced to by a friend, I couldn’t find the strength to do anything physical, even yoga, which I loved before I became a mom. Yoga was like shopping. Another thing that I loved pre-postpartum depression and didn’t care about during.
Halfway during the class, I had to leave the room for some cool air. My body needed to build itself back up to withstand such an intense workout in a 99 degree room. I was sitting outside on one of the chairs and when I looked to my left, my OB happened to be sitting next to me. The same OB who delivered Mason. The same OB who I went sobbing to three days after he was born because I didn’t want to be a mom. She asked me how I was doing and I remember exactly what I said. “I’m doing better. Mason is five and a half months old and I am starting to see myself again.” She seemed genuinely happy for me, maybe even wanted to say I told you so and replied, “Six months is even better.”
She was right…