Ever since forever (minus a small bout in my late twenties/early thirties) I wanted to be a mom. I have always been maternal. My mom's favourite story of my maternal nature is the time I breast fed my dolly when we had company. These days I run a home daycare, and my house is always filled with kids. Truth is, I love kids, they bring a joy to the day that you just can’t find in adults. They say hilarious things and they love to dance, just for the sake of dancing; kids are my kind of people.
Naturally when my husband and I started to date the subject of future kids was tabled. Would he have more kids? Luckily for me, he wasn’t opposed to the idea of more kids. He had two sons already, but one more wasn't out of the question. I was enormously relieved, since I pretty much had made up my mind that he was my person, and wanted to have all the babies. We waited a few years before trying, and then one day that happy blue line showed up! We were going to have a baby!
Baby girl was born and for the first few days I felt great. Then the darkness set in. By day 4 I felt sad, alone, desolate, disparity. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling. I knew that part of it was hormones leaving. But what was this other emotion I was feeling? Wasn't I supposed to be over the moon with glee that I had this beautiful baby? When I was told that is what I was experiencing the puzzle pieces fell into place. Postpartum Depression. I was sitting on the floor when my health nurse came around. My daughter in a bassinet beside me. But I felt nothing but detached. She recognized this, she's seen it before. So many mothers who had suffered the same way. To help with postpartum depression I was encouraged to get out of the house, go to groups, make sure I showered, make sure I was eating, and just generally taking care of myself and baby. Not just baby, and neglecting myself, as I had been doing.
I followed the advice of the health nurse. I went to the play groups and the baby-talk groups, they helped me get out of the house and feel less alone. I met other mothers with children the same stage as mine. We talked about development milestones. We boasted about our babies and how incredible they were. I would go and participate, and feel happy and a little bit connected at the group. But the group would disperse and I would be left alone, and uncontrollably sad. This was because what I needed in a group didn’t exist. I needed to have a group of moms who would talk openly about their postpartum experiences. Openly and without judgement. I needed a safe place to talk about the dark thoughts that followed me. This group just isn’t something the government wanted to fund; I suppose.
The health nurse asked me to write a letter to the ministry, outlining the importance of a Postpartum group and why they should fund one. One voice just isn't loud enough. The group never came, even years later.
The fact that Postpartum Depression isn’t even a thought on anyone’s immediate radar (as I were to find out) speaks volumes about how we handle it as a society. We don’t. We sweep that under the rug, and we don’t talk about it. Why is that? I feel like the answer is as simple as turning to the media and the way that motherhood is portrayed. Aren’t they all happy, and content, and have instant connections with their newborn babies? Don’t we handle all situations with poise and control? Aren’t we always cuddling with our babies? Kissing their toes and completely bonded. The fact is that version of motherhood doesn’t exist.
Instead of instantaneous fireworks between you and your new baby, you may not feel anything but detachment. The bond does come, but it takes months to show up. In the weeks after my daughter was born, I would sit and look at her, confused. Who was this baby? Who was this person? Where was this baby’s mother??? Oh wait, that’s me. Because none of these feelings are openly displayed and normalized, I felt like whatever this was wasn’t normal. Because it wasn’t normal it was bad. Because the way that felt was bad, I was a bad mother. The cycle of negativity continued. However, after the light was shone on the true culprit of these emotions was, I realize none of it was valid. I am a pretty normal mom, and I am a pretty good mom too.
Imagine if there was a group where women could gather and openly discuss our struggles?
I don’t think that a group is the only solution to help new mothers who have postpartum, but it does help pull in the attention that is needed. Maybe then the unrealistic portrayals of what it’s like to become a mother aren’t taken at face value. There’s a less appealing side to motherhood, the one the media doesn’t want to portray. That side is postpartum diapers, and the squeeze bottles they give you to clean after using the toilet. They don't want to show the gritty, emotionally draining side of motherhood. Then in turn, we don't want to show those sides either.
Moms, we all need each other. There are reasons that there are cultures in which the women co-mother. Because it literally takes a village to raise a child. When one mom is down the other women step in and take over. They look out for one another, and collectively they raise children. We unfortunately live in a society that encourages mothers to compete, and judge, and put on the perfect front when inside we all feel like we’re going to drown. I would love it if communities could start postpartum groups for new mothers. I would love it if we could recognize the signs of a mother in distress and rise to come to her aide. Mothers are a community by word alone, but we are not alone in our struggles. The space needs to be created for mothers to openly talk about them. Without any judgement, in a safe environment.
Maybe all we need is more voices. After all, a single voice may be quiet. But many voices make a choir, and a choir demands to be heard. Until that happens, for now, I am linking out a website on postpartum depression, if you want to read more.