Today’s the day! Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience officially releases and is now available in paperback and e-book!
I stood surrounded by women, each one showered and dressed in fresh clothes, with smiling babies in their arms. I looked around me at the women in this playgroup, and so no one who looked like they were going through what I was going through, and what I was going through, I barely understood myself. All I knew was that I loved the three-week-old baby in my arms, but as for me, his mother? He deserved so much better.
For the past five days, I had been wearing a Tshirt that belonged to my husband, it was the only one that fit over my engorged breasts. My hair was pulled up and matted, in the same rubber band for almost a week. I knew I had to shower, but I couldn't find the energy. I had no appetite, I was too anxious to even swallow a bite, though I knew I needed to eat to stay healthy for me and my baby. That morning, among these women I barely knew, I was seconds from bursting into tears from the loneliness, isolation, and terror of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Nothing was the way I had been promised by the baby books, magazines, pamphlets and friends' stories about having a baby. I had one image: natural, easy bonding of mother and child. My first weeks home with my beautiful son were anything but that. Playgroups, diaper bag clubs, in supermarkets and baby stores--where I saw women so overtaken with their new role of motherhood that they couldn't help but smile and coo at their little one, I only had tears and despair. All of this made me hide deeper into shame and the isolation of my feelings. Instead of joy, I had panic. Instead of napping with the baby, I paced. Instead of laughter and giggles, I had sobs and hopelessness.
Where was anyone like me? Why wasn't there anyone like me? What was wrong with me? I was confused, and didn't understand. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Alec was five weeks old, and I hadn't slept in a month and had lost 13 pounds. At my postpartum check up, my doctor asked how I was doing. I told her I was afraid I was losing my mind. I broke down and sobbed how I couldn't quiet my mind to sleep, I couldn't eat because my throat felt like it was closing on every bit of food, and my heart pounded so that my breath came in pants. She put her hands on my knees and told me I wouldn't leave her office until I had help. At last, for the first time in weeks, I felt the rush of relief of no longer being alone in this whirl of a storm. Every morning, I was waking up, hoping that maybe today, I would open my eyes and things would feel normal. But every day, my life began again with the suffocating panic of what the hours were like since my son was born.
Even though my doctor arranged a visit with a therapist for me that afternoon, I still felt like the only person on the planet. Alone, lost, bewildered, desperate. It was through the postpartum group that my physician recommended that I found community. And within that group of women like me, acceptance. These women shared their stories with me and welcomed me. Together, we created the one place where we no longer had to hide what we were going through, either depression, insomnia, anxiety, terror, fatigue, anger, and more than anything: the loss of who we once were.
It was among these women, that I was safe in sharing my feelings. In the company of these women, I felt the first promise of recovery. Through therapy and medication, and the women who shared their stories of postpartum and maternal mental health who became my team, I began to see a light ahead. These women, so much like me, held the lantern showing the way, and they were what I focused on to begin my recovery.
If you are struggling right now with postpartum depression, anxiety, or any maternal mental health disorder, please seek help, ask for help. Then, read of the postpartum journey of others--because peri and postpartum mental health disorders, like depression, anxiety, tell us we're alone, but when we share our stories, we create community.
To provide support and hope, that is the commitment of the newly released anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness. This collection of shared stories on the postpartum experience hopes to explode the myth of peri and postpartum mental health disorders. When women open up about maternal mental health and well being, we help overcome the fear and anxiety of not understanding what is happening to us. We need reassurance, we need to see that we have a community. Together, we can remove the shame and stigma of postpartum mental health.
Every one of the stories in this anthology promises you that we are here, together. That's the power of social support--and support is one of the biggest predictors of postpartum recovery.
I am proud to be a contributor to this important collection of writings on the postpartum experience. I am giving a copy away here today, because I know how shared stories save lives. Please leave a comment for a chance to win.
Mothering Through the Darkness is also now available through amazon .
"Powerful and inspiring, Mothering Through the Darkness will comfort every mother who's ever felt alone, ashamed, and hopeless."
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