What is having a baby supposed to be like? I don't really know. I thought I did. Serene motherhood. The Madonna. Look at that beautiful sleeping baby. I dreamed of nursing in the middle of the night, rocking my son and singing soft lullabies. I folded tiny outfits and imagined what it would be like to dress him. I started a scrapbook, took pictures of my growing belly and decorated the nursery in our apartment. I could not wait to have our baby.
And then I had him.
I should have waited, I thought. What was wrong with me? Was I just too young, at 20, to be a mother? Maybe I just needed more friends, more sleep, more time with my husband, or maybe I just needed to jump out the second-story window.
I slept 20 out of 24 hours most days. Corey, my husband, worked two jobs to make ends meet and also stayed up all night with our colicky baby. I lost weight from not waking up to eat. I stared at my son and didn't quite know who he was or how he got there. "Sleep, baby," I begged, my voice whiny. Which of us was the baby in the house?
A female voice comforted my son. I was lying in the dark, blankets all around me. Everything felt heavy. My limbs sank into the mattress. The female voice drifted down the hall, came under my door, needled me. My 14-year-old sister sat in the den, taking care of her 3-month-old nephew. Tears burned my eyes. The room fell with me in it. I didn't try to stop it. I was too weak, too alone, too scared of myself.
No great artist ever painted the Madonna sleeping while Joseph calmed the baby. "Mary, how did you do it?" I wondered. "Baby blues," people said to me. No, I thought, blue is a pretty color. I am alone in darkness. There is no color where I am. There is nothing where I am.
It took months for me to drag myself to a free clinic and breathe just a little of my fear to a doctor. His meds didn't help me. I came in and out of a terrible fog for a year before a medication seeped far enough into me to get me up in the mornings. That is what I needed, to get out of bed without being afraid. Slowly, life reemerged. I got to know my son. We were like strangers, but we fell in love. Strangers can fall in love.
No mother should be left alone with her own darkness. Doctors, friends and family should be looking out for the mom as well as the baby. People the world over need to know what postpartum depression is and how to fight it. Ignorance, in this case, is never bliss.
For more information on postpartum depression, post-adoptive depression, post-abortion depression and other mother-related mood disorders, visit http://www.outofthevalley.org
I adore this piece.
There are so many mothers out in the world feeling this way but being told that it's normal and simply 'baby blues' as stated previously, and sometimes help is not recieved in time and someone is hurt: sometimes the mother or sometimes the infant. It's a sad situtation but there is hope. I'm glad you did this article, I hope it helps someone.
Oh Heather, I absolutely loved this piece! It is absolutely something that needs to be talked about more. I know so many women who felt so alone with these feelings.
Thank you for the kind words. This was harder to write than I thought it would be.
Nice piece, Heather. I hope it reaches those who truly need it.