When my twins Benjamin and Chloe were born, back in July of 2010, I went through the darkest period of my life. What was supposed to be a time of joy and new beginnings was instead a time of utter despair, terror, and loneliness. Postpartum Depression will do that, without discrimination. It will rob you of the very essence of love, your ability to truly mother your children. For many women, the darkness is all consuming. I was lucky. I was able to soldier on… to mother in the sense of duty. I put on a happy face. I tried to ” just wake up happy”.
I wrote this mantra, and I lived by it.
“I will rub your back, despite the icy chills that crawl across mine. I will calm your tears, though behind dry eyes I am sobbing. I will speak to you in soothing tones, though I find it almost impossible to keep from screaming. I will hold your hand and pray mine stops trembling. I will hold you and rock you, though I want nothing more than to be held and rocked myself. I will love you through this agony because I am your Mommy, and I promise I am coming back to you. Mommy always comes back.”
My PPD story is long, and for another time. * What I want to say here, though, in this post, is that I DID come back. I hung on to my love like a lifeline in the darkness, even when it was just a whisper in the shell of my heart, and I found help. Slowly, I found my way back.
And, here’s the thing that I’ve since discovered.
Love, like gratitude, is felt all the more strongly after you have suffered.
Suffering is different for everybody… we all have different life experiences, and we all have different highs and lows. When we start to compare our suffering to that of others, in the name of having “perspective”, we can rob ourselves of the experience of our own grief, which is important for healing.
When I was still in the hospital after Ben and Chloe were born, I discovered that I was unable to solely breastfeed. I was devastated… it was so very, very important to me. While the nurses buzzed around talking about supplementing with formula, trying different sized nipples, I tried to hide my innermost feelings… instead I berated myself. How DARE I be so sad? How could I be so hung up on something so trivial? There were babies who were really sick, babies who didn’t make it, women who couldn’t HAVE babies, after all!! Have some PERSPECTIVE, Sarah, I told myself.
Then, my pediatrician walked in. I put on my happy face for him. I told him that I was OK with bottle feeding, because all that mattered were the twins were healthy. He must have noticed the tears streaming down my cheeks while my mouth pumped out this happy story. He told me that he thought what I was saying was bullshit. This is why I love my pediatrician. He told me that not being able to solely breastfeed my children was a loss, and that I was allowed to grieve that loss. In the experience of my own grief, it wasn’t my business that others have losses that are much more significant, or terrible, or life altering. I was allowed to grieve for what I lost. What a concept.
Through the grief of my PPD, and the losses that I experienced, gaining perspective was one of the end results of the process. Perspective was part of the healing, not the beginning of it.
Love is grief. It’s pain and sorrow and beauty and happiness. It’s gratitude for what you’ve experienced, and for what you will always remember. Love is motherhood, and motherhood is love.
Love is your three year old son’s little hand curved gently around your cheek, while his other hand holds his sock monkey pal…the one he can’t sleep without. Love is hearing his little voice say “I just want to snuggle with you, Mommy.” There are beautiful moments in Motherhood…and then there are moments like these, which take my breath away. That’s when I take a picture with my heart, so I will always remember.
* An old blog I started, way back when, on my PPD experience. Someday I’ll finish the story. http://mommystrength.wordpress.com/