Nine months ago, I gave birth to my second child. I remember sitting pretty in my pink robe in the hospital, nursing her when there was a knock at the door. Two women affiliated with the hospital came in to chit chat with me and discuss the signs and symptoms of PPD. Enthralled with my newborn I barely listened as they reviewed situations that could arise in the ensuing weeks and what I should do if they occur. PPD was not going to happen to me! I never went through it with my first child, and I was bound and determined to enjoy the post-partum period basking in my new mommy glow. A few weeks later I found myself flat on the floor, the echoes of their advice swirling in my head. Exhaustion, anxiety, loneliness, and hormones were coursing through my post-baby body and I had nowhere to turn (or so I thought). It took me a few more weeks of attempting to ride it out, sinking deeper all the while to finally reach out for help. I joined a support group, spoke with my doctor, and headed for a course of healing-but I could not have done that without the helping hands of my friends-who at that time were the last people I wanted to see. I was humiliated, felt like a failure, and did not want them to see me in that state. Looking back my journey to recovery has been one of the most beautiful and refining experiences I have ever gone through. Here are five ways the helping hands of my friends brought me through.
1. Home Visits
I did not want to see anyone in my state. My home, my hair, my body, and my brain were a complete wreck. It was difficult for me to pick up the phone and talk. Once I admitted where I was at to my girlfriends, neighbors, and family members they ignored my excuses to stay away and just stopped by... in the middle of my mess. They came with coffee, flowers, onesies, and most of all conversation. In those moments, with me at my depths, I learned that many of them struggled with their own fears and insecurities. Be it about babies, relationships, or life in general; it seemed that each one of them had reached a crossroads at one point and time in their life, and because I was weak-they were willing to share their experiences with me. It made me feel that I was not alone in my struggle, I wasn't strange for these feelings, and that everyone emerges at some point.
2. Encouraging Notes
Along the side of my bathroom vanity I have taped up every card and note I have received in homage of my journey. Sticky notes with encouraging reminders, valentines, gift cards, dried flowers; all the tokens given to me are a constant reminder of the support I had through recovery. Every time I get ready for the day I look at them with gratitude as they are small blessings that brought be out and into the light.
Battling PPD can become a full time job if you go deep enough. And I was in deep. In order to recover I had set up weekly counseling sessions, doctor appointments, and attempts to get back to physical fitness. My support network reached out and let me know that they would take my children, guilt free, while I did what I needed to do to get better. It gave me the break I needed to speak uninterrupted with professionals, manage my medicine, get out for a walk, or just do a few loads of laundry. The amount of babysitting hours I owe in return is insane; but that is just it -- my girlfriends did this without the expectation of anything in return. Without those moments alone to gather myself back together; I am sure recovery would have been drawn out over a much longer period of time.
For most a meal train usually occurs after the birth of a baby. After all the excitement burns away, us mothers are eventually left to return to "doing it all." I had friends literally come over and cook for me as I sat crying. My kitchen was a disaster, I was a disaster, they did not judge-they fumbled around for utensils and cookware and made meals for me and my family; oftentimes sat down and ate with us; and brought comfort into my home when I could not. When I was well enough to return the favor, I would drop baked goods back at their door, along with their Tupperware.
No one gave up on me. I do not believe anyone is truly back to who they were right after a brand new baby. In my battle with PPD, I can barely remember who I was those first six months. I was exhausted, insecure, lonely, anxious, and unsure of the future. I had changed, and for a while; I thought "this broken person is the new me." These friends and family members did not give up on me, even when I gave up on me. They reminded me of who I was before, made me laugh about memories, teased the old girl out of me, and walked alongside me through the dark. They accepted me and my mess, and tidied up where they could; and eventually I was able to reconnect to my strength.
Postpartum depression is so difficult because it is so unpredictable. It creeps up on the strongest of women. And rather than alienating one another, or allowing our fears to keep up from connecting; the blessings and benefits of reaching out are innumerable; for the woman who is struggling and for the woman who is helping. There is plenty of time to give back, but the greatest blessing come from a humble and giving heart, who withholds judgement, and gently pulls us from the dark into the light. I could not have done it without the strong and loving women in my life, and I am full of gratitude.