I never really knew just how dark it would be.
I never knew I would begin crying in the middle of the day for no apparent reason at all.
I never knew I would feel an emptiness that I couldn’t explain.
And I surely didn’t know I’d often feel incapable of mothering my children on such a deep level that I thought my kids might just be better off without me.
When we first begin dreaming about having babies, we don’t think about postpartum depression…heck I’m not even sure that word is in our vocabulary.
When we congratulate someone on being pregnant, it’s not something that is generally discussed.
I believe my OB mentioned it and there was some paperwork in my discharge package from the hospital after giving birth, but I wasn’t sat down and looked into the eye and taught that I may have to navigate these dark and lonely feelings.
And when I went to the baby’s first checkup, it felt more like a certain protocol of suggestions they were checking off a list rather than a heart to heart conversation asking about my emotions.
And maybe it is different today than it was 8 years ago, but I’m pretty sure when I was caught up in all my own dark feelings, I wasn’t thinking about what my OB or my baby’s pediatrician was saying. It was a blank stare and nod kind of conversation.
I was lost and I didn’t think anyone understood.
And even worse, I thought I was the only new mom that felt this way.
Oh, the shame….and holy freaking loneliness!
You may know the devastation of this darkness. This thing called postpartum depression. This thing that isn’t discussed much, but has such a heavy impact that it can bring on inconceivable thoughts.
Sisters, it is utterly terrifying to think back on. Thoughts of being afraid of your own baby. Thoughts of suicide that began to creep in.
But it was real.
It was dark.
And it was lonely.
I remember when people would visit, I was a ball of anxiety. Anxious my baby girl would wake up and they would see what a failure I was at being her mother. My mind was my enemy. In my depressed mind, everyone else was a better mom than I was. In my hopeless thoughts, there was a very scary notion that I may never get better.
At least that’s what I would tell myself… that I may not be able to function normally again. That this deep, dark place was where I would live forever. And that, is a very sad place to be.
Thankfully, I DID NOT stay in that space forever. I remember the day I had a very real “come to Jesus moment”.
We were on our way back from visiting my best friend. She had just gotten married. It should have been a joyous occasion, but I was stuck. I was a robot unable to feel emotions.
I was on a plane with my Mama, my 4-year-old son, and my newborn baby girl. It all happened in slow motion, and to tell you the truth it is a massive blur. But what happened next, would forever change my path and be a huge turning point for all of us.
The air hostess kindly asked me what I’d like to drink. I remember feeling exhausted, and numb. Coffee sounded like the right antidote to my melancholy mentality.
This is when the slow motion began to play out. As she handed me the coffee, I set it down.
I set it down as I was holding my baby.
I set it down in front of my baby.
I set it down without a top on it.
No matter how many times I replay this scenario in my mind, none of them sound like something I would do now. I was so absorbed with sadness that I was unable to think clearly. This is when the coffee spilled onto her arm.
The boiling hot coffee covered the top part of her little arm.
This is when my newborn began screaming.
This is when I remember grabbing the extra-large water bottle on the air hostesses’ cart.
This is when I remember giving her to my mom as I drenched her in the bottled water.
45 minutes later we were on the ground rushing off the plane and surrounded by fire rescue and paramedics. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.
My daughter was diagnosed with 2nd degree burns on her entire upper arm and bandaged up. That’s when I saw the sadness in my Mom’s eyes. A sadness that pierced my heart. She didn’t know what to do or say. She gave me a loving hug filled with grace and compassion. She knew I had been struggling and now this terrible event had happened. I could tell she had no idea where her, joyous, alert, fun loving daughter had gone.
I knew something needed to change! I couldn’t live like this any longer. This was my turning point.
I know this isn’t everyone’s story. I know not everyone has a drastic incident happen in order to snap out of it. But this is my story. It happened and I’m grateful for it. Now I am showered with compassion for people that are going through postpartum depression.
Ladies, I didn’t know it would be that dark. I didn’t know the magnitude of sadness or loneliness I would feel.
I wish I had known I wasn’t alone.
I wish I had known that I could raise my hand and ask for help. That is OK TO ASK FOR HELP! That asking for help doesn’t make you a failure, but rather an advocate for myself and my newborn.
I wish I had not kept all my dark feelings to myself.
If you are reading this and have zero clue what I’m talking about, you are among the few and I celebrate to Jesus you don’t know this kind of deep feelings of isolation.
Let’s all keep our eyes and hearts vastly open in search of those Moms out there that are struggling severely. I encourage you to lean in to her and tell her how loved she is because she may not be asking for help on the outside, but dang it, she needs all the support and reinforcement she can get!
Many of you know this darkness. It’s familiar to you. You may even be feeling it right now as you read this story.
If you are struggling in your darkness, please accept this as your permission to ask for help. Let this be your invitation to be real and not have to pretend anymore.
You are NOT alone.
You ARE going to make it out.
It is time to make that call. Call someone. Your friend. Your Mom. Your sister. Your doctor. ANYONE!
I wish I had reached out. It could have saved me heartache and months of shameful thoughts.
To everyone reading this, lets make a silent pact together to unite and congregate around new Mamas. Let’s reach out and ask if there’s any darkness creeping in. Ask them if they need a moment to shower. Ask them if they need a friend.
The beauty of experience is the strength that is gained and the ability to help others going through the same thing!
Cheers to stepping in to help all the new Mamas going through the darkness they never knew would be there!