Bunmi Laditan recalls feeling like her son was ‘a stranger’
The line between the hormonal crash, also known as the “baby blues,” and postpartum depression is a very fine line, and figuring out which side of that line you may or may not fall on can take a long time and a lot of therapy. Many moms just keep chugging along, going through the motions for months, even years, before getting diagnosed and treated.
Bunmi Laditan, the writer behind Honest Toddler, wrote about her own experience with postpartum depression. And hoo boy, her words will truly gut you.
“Let’s talk about postpartum depression. I had it bad with my third born. My last baby, my first son. We all know about the anxiety, OCD, chilling thoughts, rage that sneaks up on you like a flash fire and then is drowned by your own shame-filled tears and all that fun stuff yay but what no one can prepare you for is how it feels to hold a baby and not feel like she’s yours.”
She recalls feeling that instant euphoria with her first two children: “You know what I’m talking about. That mama-bear-I will-kill-a-mofo-who-touches-this-stroller-primal-let-me-drink-in-your-euphoric-scent-Jacob-imprints-on-Renesmee-you-are-in-my-bones-realness.”
She didn’t feel that way with her youngest. In fact, she says she felt like a stranger waiting for his “real mom” to come in and take over at any given moment. She says while her body felt “distinctly postpartum” her mind and heart were struggling to process the new life she was now responsible for.
“In those early days, I’d sit up in the dark of night nursing him looking like the picture of maternal devotion, but there was something missing and one of my greatest fears was that someone would notice.”
I remember feeling this way during the first few weeks of my daughter’s life. I was just going through the motions, suffering from postpartum anxiety, and terrified someone would think I was “having a hard time” so plastered a smile on my face and put on an act for the benefit of everyone but myself and my child.
Laditan completely nails this feeling. She says once she was finally diagnosed and medicated, she began to feel better. But the connection with her son took time. Three years, to be exact.
“In that time, I loved my baby boy, took him to play centres, parks, we cuddled, I painted his hands and pushed them into soft clay for keepsakes, and snapped a million photos, but there was a valley between us that I prayed he didn’t feel. Then one day, or perhaps over several days, or maybe through each day of showing up, his real mother finally walked through the door and it was me. 100% me.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Laditan reminds moms who may be going through the motions of daily motherhood all while keeping similar fears at bay, that you’re not alone.
“Keep showing up. Keep rocking them to sleep searching their little faces for what you need. Keep wiping down that high chair and kissing their pillow soft cheeks. Every time you do you, the angels throw a handful of sand into the canyon between you. One day it will be full and you’ll walk across it to find you were always there somehow.”
Is it fair that some moms have to work for what is “supposed” to occur naturally in motherhood? No, it absolutely is not. But it’s not your fault if you do. Laditan leaves us with some parting words of wisdom that offer us some solace: “Have faith, sweet mother. Your efforts will be rewarded. Speak gently to yourself. Breathe. Ask for help. Dawn will come, girlie. Just stay.”
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