Love is so beautiful and so heartbreaking
You feel like you SHOULD be enjoying your precious new baby, and all aglow.
You might be feeling pretty anxious right now. You may feel completely out of control. You may feel like your child might die at any moment. You may worry you will irrevocably harm your baby, either in utero or out of it. You may walk down the stairs and see yourself falling, dropping your baby from the landing, half wondering what it would feel like, as if you were to stick your hand in a flame. And then reel with terror at the power you have over this little life.
You may wake up in the middle of the night sweating and in a panic, worrying about money, your health, your partner’s health, global warming, the national debt, toxic chemicals in your food, toxic chemicals in his toys, losing your job, losing your home. You will definitely be a bad parent and your baby will grow up to hate you. You may feel there is just no hope in raising a child and why did you do it and all of a sudden you’re having trouble breathing and it all feels too, too scary.
For me, much of my pregnancy and the first few weeks of motherhood were a time of terrors whenever I closed my eyes. I could only see bad things happening. Demons would come to me. I know now this was part of my sickness, of my depression. It didn’t make it any less real.
I imagine each new parent feels helplessness in the face of protecting their little one from the universe. When you have depression or anxiety, it can be overwhelming. When my first baby was born and I felt so helpless, my mother said, “You’re now a prisoner of love.” To me, this is the essential truth of motherhood. Just today, I was drawn to this comment from SueBobon BlogHer.com.She writes, “Love is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. The real truth is that we will lose everyone we ever love, either through their deaths or ours, and yet we do it anyway because it is worth it.”
I can read this quote now and just about cope with it. That doesn’t mean you should. For my dear new moms, scared to shut your eyes, here is my time-tested tip to overcoming the anxiety.
Create a bubble and live in it. You are allowed to censor yourself from bad news, scary stories, and the general awfulness of the world. Don’t watch the news or read the paper. It’s ok. Vet all your movies and reading material. I have a rule, even now: I never ever watch movies or read books in which children die. If someone tries to tell me a sad story I don’t really need to hear, I politely stop them. Watch happy things, read happy things, and act like Candide. It’s good for you.
When it gets rough, have some warm milk with a little B&B or brandy. If you don’t want to drink, have some hot milk and honey. It does wonders for the restless imagination. My mom made this for me and it felt like warm, velvety calm in a cup.
When you go to rest or sleep, ask someone you love and trust (your husband, sister, mother or friend) to sit with you. Let their spirit watch over you as you get some much needed respite (This tip, too, is from my mom. She struggled, too).
Draw on the wisdom of the ages and the law of averages. Chances are, you’ll probably be ok. Have a mantra and stick to it.It may be bizarre, but I like to think of the first line of this classic poem from one of my favorites, Philip Larkin: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”In this poem, Larkin acknowledges the classic conundrum of love: It’s too hard. But of course, we do it anyway.
You can do it. You will emerge. And it is so worth it.
This Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mother, who taught me it was possible to be strong while wrestling with life’s demons.
Donations to Postpartum Progress can be made here: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/