It’s an old question, but one I love to hear people’s answers to: Living or dead, who would you want to sit down and have a conversation with?
Hands down for me, it would be C.S Lewis. He is my literary, philosophical and theological hero. He was a pioneer, forging new ways to convey old themes such as hope, loss, free will, and relationship.
One of his most quoted lines is from his book about friendship called The Four Loves. He wrote: “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one… it is then that Friendship is born.”
“What? You too?” Those are three very powerful words. Words I had desperately needed to hear.
I had the smallest bit of postpartum depression after my first baby was born, but after my second baby was born, I almost drowned in my postpartum depression.
Can I be totally honest with you?
I was completely unprepared for the bombardment of darkness, loneliness, piercing ache, and debilitating guilt and fear. I knew eventually the heavy emotions would fade, but I had no idea it would take almost 8 months for me to feel like my head was finally above water.
Every little thing felt insurmountable. I would look at the clock all day long praying that I could make it to bed time. Then after tucking my kids in bed, I’d look at their sweet faces and sob until I had nothing left in me. I felt like I had completely missed another day. Precious time filled with smiles, laughter and fun that I ghosted through and will never get back.
Anguish, hopelessness and exhaustion saturated my body and soul.
Does this sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way at times.
I desperately wanted to get better and to feel better. But I didn’t know how to climb out of the pit — I couldn’t even find a ladder, the darkness was so crippling.
Postpartum depression: Have you ever been there?
The scariest part was that I was so good at hiding it.
It wasn’t intentional; I didn’t mean to put on a brave mask. This was part of my self-defense, my life-jacket to keep me afloat. The mask was like a Band-Aid, it gave me a little relief and protection until nighttime came when it was viciously ripped off by the weight of my guilt and sadness.
One day someone came up to me and told me how cute my baby was, then unprompted, they bravely began to share how they had struggled with postpartum depression.
Ever noticed how you have these “random” interactions at just the right time?
My heart started pounding in my chest, my body rushed with adrenaline, and I immediately felt a piece of myself come back together. It felt like a hug from a sweet and distant memory. A feeling of lightness cascaded over my body and penetrated my soul.
It felt a lot like hope.
I remember fighting back tears, eager and desperate to hear her story, feeling like my life depended on it.
That moment of “What? You too?” began a domino effect of healing for me.
Slowly, very slowly, pieces of myself came back together. Now, close to a year postpartum, the sadness is just a whisper in my heart and someday maybe, it will go away forever.
Want to know a secret?
I feel I have no advice to share. I only have my story to share and simply want to say, my friend, that I understand and you are not alone.
Seeing hope through depression.
To be honest, I almost ended this post right there. I value authenticity and this is about as real as it gets. But I also value hope.
If I could step outside myself and my current situation for a moment — maybe even way back to before babies, before marriage even, here’s what I would say to a dear friend who was struggling with postpartum depression.
It’s easier to think of talking to a good friend versus yourself sometimes, right?
Here is what I would say … Ready, friend? Because this is for you too:
You are beautiful.
Seriously, I mean it! It might not feel that way right now, but your body just did a miraculous thing and you lived to tell about it! Wow, you are incredible. Captivating. The definition of beauty.
You are the strongest woman I know.
Seriously. I’m not just talking about the physical feat of carrying, laboring, and delivering a tiny human into this world (although that is seriously impressive). I mean the emotional strength. To knowingly give of yourself, your heart, your time, and your emotions as you take on this new role of ‘mom’. To offer your body as a safe place for new life to grow, to lend your strength to give way to that life, to nurture and care for this new baby while you are trying to heal and recover. (Not to mention still caring for your husband and family and a hundred other things.)
“The God who made the moon and the stars and the mountains and the oceans, the Creator who did all of those things, believed that you and your baby were meant to be a pair. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a perfect fit. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. It does mean that you need not fear failure because you can’t fail a job you were created to do.” – Rachel Hollis
Talk to me, please.
I know it’s scary.
You may not be able to name what’s going on right away, but please tell me if you’re feeling down, or lonely, or overwhelmed. I want to know. Maybe I can’t do much, but I’ll show up with flowers or coffee or keep you company on a walk. I’ll text you funny memes and check in with you at night. I care about you and I don’t want you to feel alone. I really want to know what you’re walking through and walk through the darkest part with you. And, I’m sorry I didn’t catch on sooner.
Ask for help with your depression.
Your family and friends (and the cute retired lady who lives across the street) would love to help you. Ask for help and accept help — not because you’re weak or can’t do it — those are lies! (reference point #2 as a reminder of your strength).
Accept help simply because you don’t have to do this alone. Laboring is more or less a solo endeavor, but even in labor you have people supporting you, monitoring you, and getting ready to catch that baby (pre-baby me doesn’t know how this works, remember?). So, let’s do this postpartum thing together, too.
Life isn’t just about the pretty moments of family members meeting the baby for the first time and bringing flowers and balloons. It’s about inviting people into the messy part. too. Sometimes that’s where the most meaning is. See where you could use some help and some company, I promise your loved ones would be so honored to help and just show up.
You are doing great and I’m so proud of you.
In the words of Rachel Hollis:“A new mother’s daily list of goals should boil down to:
- Take care of the baby.
- Take care of yourself.
Darn it, you didn’t get to the laundry today? Look at your list again: Did you take care of the baby? Yes. Did you take care of yourself? Also yes. Oh, I think you’re crushing this new-mom business then. I guess the laundry can wait. What’s that, you’re sad because you haven’t lost the baby weight? Check out your handy-dandy to-do list with exactly two items on it. Is the baby still alive? Awesome. How about you—are you still breathing in and out? Well then, it looks like you’re the greatest mom ever. Keep on trucking!”
Do something good for yourself.
This goes deeper than a “treat yourself” kind of moment, although please do treat yourself to something nice like a massage, mani-pedi, or your favorite dessert. Self-care is important, but soul-care is important too.
“I do think you should have something that helps you unwind. Running or watching HGTV or baking might be the thing for you. No matter what, find something in your life that feels like a treat or an indulgence. When you’re feeling extra frazzled, you should be able to go to your happy place and reset.”– Rachel Hollis
You’re not alone. But also, don’t do postpartum depression alone.
Sometimes we have to take the risk of getting out there and finding our people. They say “it takes a village” and they say to “find your tribe.” Maybe you’re lucky enough to have been born into your tribe, but other times (most times), you have to go find it, cultivate it, and invite others to be part of it. That takes time and courage, but I promise, it will be a game-changer.
“Join a church group, go to mommy-and-me yoga, or look online for a club to join. Look for a group of women who understand what it means to be a new mom too. There is so much power in solidarity. There is so much grace when you’re talking with someone who also has baby puke on her shirt.” – Rachel Hollis
So friend, if I could write you a letter of encouragement and bring it over with a bouquet of your favorite flowers or some cozy new slippers or a fun new book to read, it would look a little like this.
Just remember… You are:
- Doing great and I’m so proud of you.