The old kindergarten adage is true again this year: “March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.” We see it around us and feel it in the air that yes, spring is coming in all of its humid, rainy glory. I love a good analogy, and this changing season has me thinking about a time in my life when I thought winter was never going to end.
I should have seen it coming, but suffice it to say that with my firstborn I was the poster child for postpartum depression and anxiety.
We had only been back in Memphis for three months before my son was born. I wish I could say we adjusted well to being parents, and those first few months were magical, but that’s simply not true. It was isolating and it was hard. Really hard. My baby was well-cared for and I adored him, but I struggled to do daily tasks. I would fly off the handle at the most insignificant things, couldn’t cope with the lack of sleep, and couldn’t seem to make it past showering and getting dressed. I’d sit on my couch with my baby and there I’d stay, until 5pm rolled around and I had nothing to show for my day. I thought it was “just stress,” or that “this is what those first few months are like...after all, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep, right?” I wasn’t crying all the time, so I couldn’t be depressed, right? My precious husband picked up my slack the best he could but while he was my safety net, there wasn't anyone catching him.
It was six months before I got help. Six months before I couldn’t take it anymore. Six months before my husband said, “This isn’t normal.”
I felt like I was losing my mind. I was overwhelmed and wracked with guilt. I was terrified of what people would think of me. Nothing sent me running faster than the Standard Southern Greeting of “How are you?” I didn’t know how to answer that question- what if they didn’t actually want to know? Even after I started counseling, it took me more than a year to feel normal again. There were pieces to pick up after months of going it alone. As I was living day to day with a baby to care for, it was hard to see any sort of growth. Some days I wondered if I would ever get better. If I would ever feel like myself again...who was I again, anyway? I couldn't pinpoint a day where I magically felt better, but over time things didn't seem so difficult anymore. The coping skills I learned in therapy became second nature. My relationship with my husband improved and I was doing a lot more giving and a lot less taking. That time was a lot like little glimpses of spring near the end of a long winter.
It may not always feel like it, but spring is coming.
Maybe you're in a season of your life where you've planted the seeds but can't see the blooms yet. Maybe it's still raining, raining, raining, and you can't seem to catch a break. Some days are warm with tastes of sunshine to come, but others are dreary and gray. Nobody flips a switch and turns spring on. March has to come first, in like a lion and out like a lamb. Maybe it's not today, but one day the flowers will come out. The grass will be green. The chill will leave the air. Spring is coming!
If you're struggling right now, please know that there is help for you. Don't wait! You may not hear about postpartum depression and anxiety while you're out running your errands, but there are warrior moms all around you. You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom. It's not your fault. You are not alone. I'll say it again: You are not alone!
If you want to learn more about getting help with postpartum depression and anxiety, visit Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International. For dads, visit http://www.postpartummen.com. If you need help locally, reach out to us and we'll help you get connected.