postpartum depression, mental healthDearest Brave New Mom:

The first thing I want you to know is that I love you already. I think of how much you are doing, and tears fill my eyes when I see the determined warrior that you are.

Nothing stops you from being the best for your little one.

I have always felt, and will always feel, that mothers who suffer — and survive — postpartum depression are those that TRY so hard, to do their best, to give their baby the best. We set the bar so high and we compare ourselves to all the other moms around us and we want to be that best mom on the planet.

We work ourselves hard and push on with such fury, that our bodies have no choice but to say, “No more.” We have no more to give. Our minds cry, “Stop, rest and think about all that we think we’re supposed to be.”

The other moms around you aren’t sweating out every single decision and choice they make. They do what they can, and they’re fine with it.

But not us. We don’t even take into account how much about our baby impacts what is happening to us right now. Don’t be surprised when you read that many moms with postpartum depression also report having a high-need, colicky baby. Or a never-sleeping, fussy baby.

If there are moms that hit the ground running, they may have a child that sleeps four, five or six hours right out of the womb. But we can’t compare ourselves to someone else who appears to have it all together because we don’t know.

I can remember judging and deeming myself the worst of mothers because I cried all the time and had no joy at being a new mother. I was exhausted and had no idea what was happening, and I was supposed to be beaming a smile that could be seen from outer space. I would show up at moms’ groups and see women there who were showered, made up and dressed up, for cripe’s sake. Me? I would fly in the door, ten minutes late, my husband’s sweatshirt over my bare skin, with a screaming, red-faced baby on my hip.

I would sit in the middle of the group and spend the whole hour there trying to figure out how not to cry. I looked like heck, my baby never stopped screaming, and all the moms were not only at the meeting but were going out for coffee afterward. No way I could join them … look at me. Just look at me. And listen to my screaming baby.

I could barely survive the group’s hour. Then I’d rush home, and spend the rest of the morning with fat hot tears rolling down my cheeks while trying to get my baby to sleep. I’d make myself take a two-hour walk in the afternoon, and then I’d sit by the window, holding my baby, just watching for my husband.

What I want you to know is that IT DOES GET BETTER. Your baby begins to smile and play and say your name. Oh, the say they say, “Mama!” What a day.

It does get better. With determination, and in my case a prescription as well as a postpartum depression support group, I got better. I began to feel joy and hope. I began to see I am human, and forgive myself for my less than stellar moments.

My baby boy is seventeen now, and I went on to have two more after him, with no occurrence of postpartum depression. But the memory of my fight with postpartum depression, the intensity of those days I thought would never end, are the reason I have a PPD survivor button up on my blog and will never take it down.

PPD moms are warriors, ferocious fighters for their children, and survivors.

I am proud to be part of your club.

I love you.

~ Alexandra

Alexandra lives with her husband and three children in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. She speaks to womens’ groups, church groups, and school groups on Ways to Create Happiness in the Home. She is a survivor of postpartum depression and believes that community and support are the best predictors of successful recovery. She was named a BlogHer ’11 Voice of the Year as well as being part of The Moth’s national live story telling series. Her writing has been published on several national websites. You can follow her on her personal blog or on Twitter @GDRPempress.

The 4th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.