As someone who struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, I was a prime candidate for postpartum depression.
I have three kids, and with every one of them I had postpartum depression to varying degrees. There was the postpartum anxiety with my first child, which was expressed by frequent trips to the doctor over every little sneeze and rash, the mild postpartum depression which probably could be better described as the “Baby Blues” after my second, and the crippling all-consuming guilt-ridden shamefest after my third.
The one thing that remained the same through every experience was the response from those around me.
“It’s just hormones. You are so blessed!”
Now, I know they meant well — they truly did — but hearing this hurt every time I heard it.
As a society we tend to dehumanize new mothers. “I am so tired” gets the response of laughter and nostalgic musings of how “every mother goes through it.” There are no more questions of how you are feeling, as there are in pregnancy. You are asked invasive questions about body parts that are otherwise off limits. Your choices and actions become perceived community property.
Postpartum depression is like being literally on fire, and winning the lottery. Everyone around you is celebrating and you know you should be happy, but it’s kind of hard to count your blessings when you are, ya know, ON FIRE.
The thing about PPD is that we know we should be happy, and yet we aren’t. The match has been lit.
We know that time is fleeting and precious, and yet it ticks past us at a lighting speed while we sit there tired, unshowered, disconnected. Our babies age before us and yet we sit there in our mountains of riches, burning. Invisibly burning.
So the next time you are talking to a new mom, don’t point to her blessings. She already knows. Instead make her feel like a person again. Remind her of all the things she is that aren’t simply “Mother.” Feed her, help her with the baby so she can shower or nap.
Plants don’t win the lottery, lampposts don’t count their blessings. So if you really want to help a new mother get to a place where she can appreciate her wondrous new role, acknowledge she is on fire and help her feel human again.