I know we don’t know each other, but in a way, we do. At some point in our lives, motherhood was something we looked forward to with innocent anticipation – excited to see what this next chapter would hold — looking forward to experiencing creating life from love alone.
And then we got pregnant. For some people, hopefully for you, this was a time filled with excitement and joy. For me, it was a time when the rug of reality was pulled out from under me and everything I thought I knew about myself was challenged.
In May of 2009, at 22 weeks pregnant, I was so deeply and thoroughly imprisoned by antenatal depression that I told my obstetrician that I no longer wanted to have my baby. I didn’t deserve her. I was obviously unfit and already failing her. This baby that my husband and I had planned for and dreamt about and this baby whose heartbeat we heard on ten years to the day after the first time he kissed me. Our baby. I couldn’t go through with this.
My brain started to tell me lies as early as 22 weeks. But an unfit therapist labeled me a major depressive and told me there wasn’t anything to be done until I gave birth. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and tried to pretend like everything was going to be okay. And I did a decent job. I designed the nursery. I tried to convince myself that meltdowns over lime versus ochre were normal and that I was NESTING. I was about to have my first baby with the love of my life — everyone around me couldn’t stop telling me how glowing and happy I was, so it must be true. Right? And then, on October 8th, 2009, Delilah George was born. The first thing I remember learning about her is that she has a dimple. Just one. Like me, on the left side. And she was beautiful. Not squished like I expected. I did a lot of staring at her in the early days. I kept waiting for the rush of emotion and tears. It didn’t come. In fact, I was feeling so “stable” we left the hospital a day early. And when my doula called to check in and told me “don’t worry, a lot of people spend the first few days thinking what have I done?” I thought, “How sad. I don’t feel like that at all.”
The problem was, I didn’t feel anything at all. I didn’t want to hurt my baby, so certainly there was nothing wrong with me. I just wasn’t one of those women who was going to look at her newborn and weep.
* * *
I could tell you the story of the five months it took me to finally be diagnosed with postpartum depression (actually antenatal and postpartum depression). I could tell you about my decision to breastfeed until Delilah was a year old and how that affected my ability to get proper psychiatric treatment, and how I don’t regret it a bit. I could tell you about the day I finally realized I was starting to feel better, but instead, there is one thought that I want to leave you on this Mother’s Day.
I’m falling madly, madly head over heels in love with my child. Everyday. I feel it now. That heart swelling “HOW COULD SHE POSSIBLY EVEN EXIST” that I dreamt about as we charted and planned for this baby to be born. I get up on Sunday morning and make pancakes. I taught her how to count to ten. In the mornings, when I get her out of her room, I creak open the door while humming the tune from Jaws and she laughs hysterically.
Me and my girl, we’ve had a hell of a year. We had to fight for the bond we have, but I wouldn’t give back the lessons I learned about life and love and parenthood during the year it took me to come to terms with and conquer my peri-and postpartum depression and anxiety.
And when my OB put her hand on my knee at our yearly visit last week as I filled her in on having finally weaned off my Zoloft, leaving only two drugs in my brain chemistry cocktail, she grinned at me and she said “one day you’ll wean off those, too.” And as Delilah pulled all of the cord blood pamphlets out of the stand in the exam room while singing E-I-E-I-O at the top of her tiny lungs without sending me into a sweaty panic, I realized I undoubtedly believed her.
Life is good. These days, I’m floating along, happily enjoying my family — working hard to heal the scars the past year has left on the lot of us. But life is GOOD. This too shall pass. And next Mother’s Day, all of this will be, well … but a dream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily …
Morgan Shanahan blogs at The 818, is a Momversation Fresh Voices of 2010 winner,and is the entertainment section editor for BlogHer, the world’s largest community of women bloggers. She is a survivor of postpartum depression. Follow her on Twitter at @the818.
Donations to Postpartum Progress can be made here: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/