Weeping, panic, rage, and shame were not exactly the words I was expecting to define my grand entrance into motherhood. But expecting is itself a tricky word.
Postpartum depression is one of the cruelest battles your body can undergo. It takes what you were expecting and flips it upside down. It steals joy, leaving behind anxiety, contempt, anger, and dread—at least that's what it did to me. I could give you the statistics and outline the symptoms, but that's why God gave us Google. Instead, I'm going to tell you my story.
How it began
We'd been home from the hospital for just a few days. Our tiny blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty was healthy, squirmy, and delightful. Ruby was every single thing I had prayed and longed for. Now here she was, real, in our home.
And then, one night, it happened.
While my husband cleaned up the dishes and my mom held our girl, I sat alone on the edge of the bed and had my first terrifying panic attack. I could feel the electricity dancing just beneath my skin. My hormones had launched an aggressive and cruel onslaught against my nervous system. The same thoughts looped over and over through my mind: I can't do this. I'm not ready. We should have waited. I need out!
I buried my face in my hands and let out a desperate wail. What was wrong with me? And who could I even tell? If I said aloud all the things I was really thinking as I sat on the bed, I would sound crazy. And crazy is scary. I was ashamed and scared to death. I trembled, tapping my fingers on my knee, anxiously trying to talk myself down and reason myself back to sanity. But the truth is, it's hard to be in your own skin when you're not in your right mind.
Beyond the "baby blues"
Being a new mom is challenging enough, even in the best circumstances. There's the crying infant, the endless, sleepless nights, the shocking lack of personal space, and all that being needed 24/7 business. And then there's the terrible moment when you feel utterly naked because being a mom actually reveals what a little girl you still are in so many ways. You expected (there's that word again) motherhood to be beautiful and healing, revealing your deepest desire for innocence, intimacy, wholeness—the stuff of creation. And it is—unless, of course, your insides are buzzing like a madwoman and not enough oxytocin is rushing through your brain, smoothing out exhaustion into joy or churning your emotions into a buoyancy that is born of sleepy gratitude.