There are moments you remember clearly because of the emotional impact they have on you. I always thought that my son’s first years of life would be a profound part of my memory landscape, but my lack of memories tell a different story.
My son and I slept together for the first year of his life and in the same room for the next. I nursed him and felt that connection you feel when nurturing your child. However, when I look back at pictures of him, there is a disconnect. Even though I was the photographer, no memory is recollected. It’s heartbreaking. I know its cause is the deep fog I was in because of depression.
I was a good mother. I did what any caring mother does for their child. I fed him, clothed him, sung him to sleep, played with him, laughed at his silly faces, cheered him on when he first learned to crawl and walk. I gave him baths and fixed his boo-boos with kisses. I know I did these things, but I don’t remember most of them.
PPD stole my son’s first two years from me. How many countless mothers have had their child’s first years taken from them as well? I imagine the number is more than we know. So many of us who suffer from postpartum depression/anxiety don’t even realize we have a problem until it becomes so exacerbated that we can no longer ignore it. We chalk everything up to the sleep deprivation all new parents experience. We think we will be ourselves again once the baby sleeps through the night. Then the baby begins sleeping well and we still find ourselves wired, anxious, overly exhausted and completely unable to sleep.
Had I known I was in a tailspin for two years because of postpartum depression, I would have done something about it. PPD is an insidious disease though, and oftentimes the person who is in its grasp has no idea they have unraveled until they can no longer function.
I knew I had passed the point of return when days would go by without one night’s rest. It didn’t matter how heavy my eyelids were at night, my thoughts were unable to settle to a point where sleep would befall me. Each night without sleep compounded and I became a shell of who I truly am. I was functioning, but I wasn’t present.
It took having heart-to-heart talks with my nurse practitioner about my inability to sleep before I finally started taking something that would help treat my depression. That was not an overnight fix by any means. It took many nights of restorative sleep before I began to feel like myself again.
I look back at pictures of my Sweet Prince and I can see a happy baby boy who seemed to have all his needs met. Were his emotional needs completely met though? I don’t think so. Now I know his soul and feel a love for him which expands far beyond this realm. There is no doubt in my mind that Asher knows how much I love and cherish him. I only wish PPD hadn’t diminished that connection our first two years together.
Anyone who has been depressed knows that your relationships are experienced through a veil. There is no clarity. Your life experiences become shrouded by feelings of worry and sadness. Even though it may be sunny outside, things seem dim, dull. It is difficult to admit to others that I didn’t have a strong connection with my child when he was an infant.
I worry about him reading this one day because I don’t want him to feel there was ever a day that I didn’t love him. The love has been there since the time I knew I was pregnant with him. Asher has always been my little man and my heart expanded to a point I didn’t know possible when I had him. I was unable to connect with him in the way I connect with him now.
I am so grateful to see in color again. I mourn the loss of Asher’s infancy, but I know that we are bonded in a way that cannot be broken by my days of depression. I can sometimes feel myself slip back into a cloud. Especially when I don’t prioritize sleep the way I need to. Luckily, I am able to recognize what is happening and speak about it right away.
With the support of my family and friends, I can stay in the light where colors are vivid and emotions run deep. I pray I never slide back into a space where my connections are on a surface level.
It is my hope that more women will learn to recognize the warning signs of postpartum depression so that they can get the help they need.
As for my relationship with my son, when my sweet boy sleeps, it is me he calls for. There is no greater joy than being present for him when he needs me.